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Robert Baker Aitken

Robert Baker Aitken

American zen teacher, political activist
Robert Baker Aitken
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Intro American zen teacher, political activist
Was Activist Peace activist Teacher Political activist
From United States of America
Type Academia Activism Politics
Gender male
Birth 19 June 1917, Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii, USA
Death 5 August 2010, Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii, USA (aged 93 years)
Star sign Gemini
University of California, Berkeley
University of Hawaii
Peoplepill ID robert-baker-aitken
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For others similarly named, see the Robert Aitken navigation page

Robert Baker Dairyu Chotan Aitken Rōshi (June 19, 1917 – August 5, 2010) was a Zen teacher in the Harada-Yasutani lineage. He co-founded the Honolulu Diamond Sangha in 1959 together with his wife, Anne Hopkins Aitken. Aitken received Dharma transmission from Koun Yamada in 1985 but decided to live as a layperson. He was a socialist advocating social justice for gays, women and Native Hawaiians throughout his life, and was one of the original founders of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.


Robert Baker Aitken and Anne Hopkins Aitken

Robert Aitken was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1917, then was raised in Hawaii from the age of five.

Living in Guam as a civilian working in construction—at the onset of World War II—he was detained by the Japanese and held in internment camps for the duration of the war. In one such internment camp in Kobe, Japan in 1944 he met the scholar Reginald Horace Blyth, with whom he had frequent discussions on Zen Buddhism and anarchism. At the conclusion of the war he returned to Hawaii and obtained a B.A. in English literature and an MA in Japanese from the University of Hawaii.

In the late 1940s, while going to classes briefly at the University of California in Berkeley, California, he met Nyogen Senzaki. Originally in California hoping for an encounter with Krishnamurti, he began to study with Senzaki in Los Angeles. It was during this period that his commitment to leftist social issues - such as pacifism and labor rights – became more vocal. As a result of his advocacy, he was investigated during this period by the FBI.

In 1950 he went back to Japan, under a grant to study haiku and followed Senzaki's recommendation that he study Zen there. There he took part in his first sesshin at Engaku-ji, a temple in Kamakura, Japan. Soon after, he met Nakagawa Soen, who persuaded him to come for a stay at Ryutakuji for the next seven months. During this period Soen took over for the ailing abbot of the temple, Yamamoto Gempo. Aitken then came down with a case of dysentery, and returned home to Hawaii. He married his second wife Anne Hopkins in 1957 and made occasional trips back to Japan. In 1957 Aitken met Hakuun Yasutani and sat with him for the first time.

In 1959 he and Anne began a meditation group in Honolulu at their residence, which became known as the Koko-an zendo. The community that gathered at this zendo were then named the Diamond Sangha by the two. The Diamond Sangha has affiliate zen centers in South America, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Europe and is known for making the rigors of traditional Zen accessible to lay practitioners.

In 1960 Soen Nakagawa Roshi asked young monk Eido Tai Shimano to travel to Honolulu to assist at the Diamond Sangha center.

In 1961, Aitken made an extended stay in Japan to study under Haku'un Yasutani, eventually ending his studies with Soen. He then worked in various capacities at the East-West Center and the University of Hawaii until 1969, when he and Anne moved to Maui, Hawaii to found the Maui Zendo in Haiku-Pauwela. Koun Yamada Rōshi was invited to lead the Diamond Sangha and he moved to Hawaii in 1971. In 1974 Aitken was given permission to teach by Koun Yamada, receiving full Dharma transmission from him in 1985.

Robert Aitken was a social activist through much of his adult life, beginning with protesting against nuclear testing during the 1940s. He was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, and became a strong opponent of the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. He was among the earlier proponents of deep ecology in religious America, and was outspoken in his beliefs on the equality of men and women. In 1978 Aitken helped found the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, an organization that advocates conflict resolution globally.

Aitken Roshi died after a brief bout with pneumonia on August 5, 2010 in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii.

Dharma heirs

Robert Aitken appointed a number of successors, several of whom also appointed successors:

  1. Alcalde, Augusto Nyo'ei Gen'un Roshi (born 1950). Teacher at the Vimalakirti Sangha, Shobo-an, Cordoba, Argentina, and a visiting teacher at the Melbourne Zen Group, Melbourne, Australia. In April/March 2001 he has formally resigned from the Diamond Sangha, has discontinued most of his teaching engagements and has given up the use of the title "Roshi."
  2. Barzaghi, Subhana, Gyo Shin, Myo-Un-An Roshi (born 7 August 1954); also received Transmission from John Tarrant. Teacher (Diamond Sangha) at the Sydney Zen Centre, and visiting teacher at the Melbourne Zen Group, Melbourne, Australia.
    1. Burke, Sexton Roshi (1944–2011)
    2. Coote, Gillian, Jitsu Mu, Yo Un An (Temple of the Nourishing Cloud) Roshi (born 1944)
    3. Davison, Ellen, San Gyo, Etsu Do An (Joy Way Hermitage) Roshi
    4. Farrin, Barry, Ku San (Empty Mountain) Roshi
    5. Gluek, Maggie, Seiryu, Sho Un An (Luminous Cloud Hermitage) Roshi
    6. Maloney, Paul (Blue Mountain) Roshi (born 1939)
      1. Andino, Jane, apprentice teacher (Diamond Sangha) at the Sydney Zen Centre, Australia
    7. Marett, Allan, Kyo Un (Resonant Cloud) Roshi
    8. Rankin, Wayne, apprentice teacher
    9. Mayer, Justine, Mu Gen Kai, (Limitless Ocean) Roshi
    10. Ward, Jeff, Kagetsu Kikai Ken (Hazy Moon, Joyful Ocean) Roshi
  3. Bobrow, Joseph. Teacher at the Deep Streams Zen Institute (formerly known as The Harbour Sangha), San Francisco, US
  4. Bolleter, Ross Roshi (born 18 July 1946). Also received Transmission from J. Tarrant. Teacher at the Zen Group of Western Australia, Perth, Australia. Teacher at the Maitai Zendo Nelson, New Zealand.
    1. Jaksch, Mary Jise Roshi (born 1947). Teacher at the Maitai Zendo, Nelson, NZ
    2. Joyner, Robert G. Roshi (born 9 Apr 1937). Teacher at the Adelaide Zen Group in Adelaide, South Australia.
    3. Murphy, Susan Myo Sei Ryu'un An Roshi (born 17 June 1950). In 2001 she also received Transmission from J. Tarrant. The founding teacher of Zen Open Circle group in Sydney, Australia [96]. Together with Subhana Barzaghi, teacher of the Melbourne Zen Group since 2001.
      1. Fisher, Kirk (born 1962) – Assistant teacher appointment by Susan Murphy Roshi in April 2016
  5. Sweetman, Ian. Teacher at the Zen Group of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.
  6. Wallis, Glen Roshi – Dunedin, New Zealand
  7. Wells, Arthur – Teacher at the Christchurch Zen Group, Christchurch, NZ
    1. Weaver, Sean Sensei (born 1965) Teacher at the Golden Bay Zen Group, New Zealand
  8. Henry, Michael Danan Roshi (born 1939). This appointment follows that by Philip Kapleau. Founding teacher at the Denver Zen Center, currently teacher of Old Bones Sangha.
    1. Kempe, Karin Sensei. Teacher at the Denver Zen Center. In 2008 the Head of Zendo at Zen Center of Denver.
    2. Morgareidge, Ken Sensei. Teacher at the Denver Zen Center. In 2005–2007 the Head of Zendo at Zen Center of Denver.
    3. Sheehan, Peggy Sensei. Teacher at the Denver Zen Center. In 2001–2005 the Head of Zendo at Zen Center of Denver.
    4. Martin, Rafe Sensei. Teacher at Endless Path Zendo, author.
    5. Holmgren, Hoag. Authorized as an apprentice teacher by Danan Henry Roshi on April 26, 2018.
  9. Dawson, Geoff. Assistant teacher within R. Aitken Line, gone independent. Following the separation from R. Aitken Roshi and J. Tarrant Roshi, Geoff Dawson became, in late 1990s, a student of Joko Beck Roshi. Received Dharma Transmission from Joko Beck in 2003 [257]. Teacher at the Ordinary Mind Zen School Sydney, Australia.
  10. Drosten, Rolf Rev. Roshi. Teacher at the Leverkusen Zen Group, also known as the "Wolken und Mond Sangha" (Clouds and Moon Sangha), Leverkusen, Germany.
    1. Zill, Burkard Roshi.
  11. Duffy, Jack Kenzan Kan'un Ken Roshi (born 1951). Teacher at the Three Treasures Sangha, Seattle, US.
    1. Bolling, Madelon Yamane – Teacher at the Three Treasures Sangha, Seattle, US
    2. Shields, Lee – Teacher at the Three Treasures Sangha, Seattle, US
    3. Zeedyk, Jana (born 1953) Teacher at the Anchorage Zen Community, Anchorage, AK
  12. Foster, Nelson (born 1951). Teacher at the Ring of Bone Zendo, California, and at the Honolulu Diamond Sangha, Hawaii, US.
    1. Kieran, Michael. Co-teacher at the Honolulu Diamond Sangha, Hawaii, US.
  13. Hawk, Pat Seisho Shin'un Fr. Roshi (1942–2012). Teacher at the Zen Desert Sangha, Tucson, AZ US. Teacher at the Mountain Cloud Zen Center, Santa Fe, NM, US.
    1. Dorsey, Dan Roshi. Teacher at Zen Desert Sangha, Tucson, AZ US.
    2. Larson, Kristen Roshi. Teacher at the North Olympic Sangha (NO Sangha), Port Angeles, US.
    3. Marcel, Leonard Roshi, Dharan, Saudi Arabia, Guest Teacher at the Leverkusen Zen Group, Germany
    4. Saalfeld, Joan SNJM
    5. Walker, Robert (Bob) Roshi
    6. Weimer, Susan Roshi. Teacher at Zen Desert Sangha, Tucson, AZ US, The Flagstaff Zen Group, and Empty Sky Sangha.
      1. Sanders, Paul. Assistant teacher
  14. Gyger, Pia Jinji Sr. Roshi (born 1940) Teacher at the One Ground Sangha, Luzern, Switzerland.
  15. Morgan, Marian. Assistant teacher. Founder and teacher of Clear Spring Zen in Charlottesville, VA, and teacher at the Zen Center of Reading, PA.
  16. Steger, Manfred B. (born 1961) Assistant teacher, gone independent in mid-1991. Co-teacher, together with his wife, Perle Besserman (a Robert Aitken's student, did not receive from Aitken Roshi a sanction to teach) of the Princeton Area Zen Group, Princeton NJ, US.
  17. Tarrant, John Nanryu Ji'un-ken Roshi (b. 1949) Left the Diamond Sangha in the late 1999. Head and teacher of the California Diamond Sangha, an organization renamed in January 2000 as the Pacific Zen Institute, US.
    1. Atwill, Allison (born 1959) Teacher at the Coral Moon Zen in Santa Barbara, CA
    2. Barzaghi, Subhana Gyo Shin, Myo-Un-An Roshi (born 1954); also received Transmission from Robert Aitken (see entry above)
    3. Bolleter, Ross Roshi (born 1946) Also appointed by Robert Aitken.
    4. Boughton, Rachel – Director of the Santa Rosa Creek Zen Center, CA.
    5. Ford, James Ishmael Zeno Myoun Roshi (born 1948). Also a Soto teacher appointed by Jiyu Kennett Roshi. Taught at the Desert Lotus Zen Sangha, US. An adjunct teacher at the Pacific Zen Institute in Santa Rosa, US, and the teacher at the Boundless Way Zen.
      1. Bartok, Josh Keido Jiyun Munen Rosenthal (born 1971) Abbot of the Greater Boston Zen Center
        1. Hartland, Kate Kagen (born 1952) Assistant teacher at Greater Boston Zen Center, Cambridge, MA
      2. Blacker, Melissa Keido Myozen Roshi (born 1954). A co-teacher of the Worcester Zen Sangha, an affiliate organization within Boundless Way Zen.
        1. Cordova, James Myōsan (born 1966)
        2. Fitzgerald Diane Ryūdō Shōshin (born 1955) Member of the American Zen Teachers Association and the Soto Zen Buddhist Association
        3. Kulakowski Dominik Hōzan (born 1972)
        4. Waldinger, Robert Ryūdō Tetsumu (born 1951) Guiding Teacher at Henry David Thoreau Sangha, a Boundless Way Zen in Newton, MA and psychiatrist in charge of a psychotherapy teaching program at Massachusetts General Hospital
      3. Gilna, Desmond Keido Gando (born 1964) Guiding teacher at the Sacramento Zendo [386]
      4. Phillips, Douglas Keido San'un Kaishin (born 1947) Guiding Teacher of the Empty Sky Sangha
        1. Gates, Mary Keido Koshin
      5. Ross, Lanny Sevan Keido Sei'an Sensei (born 1951). Also holds the Dharma Transmission in the Philip Kapleau lineage bestowed on him in 2001 by Bodhin Kjolhede Roshi.
      6. Port, Dosho Roshi (born 1956). Also holds the Dharma Transmission in the Daicho Hayashi lineage bestowed on him in 1984 by Dainin Katagiri. Abbot and head priest at the Nebraska Zen Center.
      7. Rynick, David DaeAn (born 1952) Senior guiding teacher of Boundless Way Zen and serves as abbot of Boundless Way Temple (Mugendo-ji), Worcester, MA
        1. Fieleke, Michael Shōryū (born 1970) Guiding Teacher for the Morning Star Sangha Boundless Way Zen in Newton, MA
      8. Weik, Jay Ryudo Rinsen (born 1969) Abbot of the Great Heartland Sangha and the Buddhist Temple of Toledo,
    6. Gaudry, Guy – Lead teacher and Director of the London Zen Centre, in London Ontario
    7. Grant, Steven – Director of the Rockridge Meditation Community in Oakland, CA
    8. Joseph, Jon – Practice leader for Pacific Zen Institute (PZI) and Director of the Portola Camp Zendo
    9. Mansfield-Howlett, Rachel. Head teacher at Santa Rosa City Zen, US. Teacher and at the Desert Lotus Zen Sangha in Phoenix, CO, US.
    10. Murphy, Susan Myo Sei Ryu'un An Roshi (born 1950). An adjunct teacher at the Pacific Zen Institute in Santa Rosa, US. Also received Transmission from Ross Bolleter.
    11. Saint, Deborah. Sensei. A teacher at the Desert Lotus Zen Sangha, Phoenix, AZ. and at the Pacific Zen Institute.
    12. Sutherland, Joan Roshi (born 1954). Co-founder of and teacher at the Pacific Zen Institute, Santa Rosa, guiding teacher of the Springs Mountain Sangha in Colorado Springs, CO. and a teacher of the Mountain Cloud Zen Center, Santa Fe, US.
    13. Bender, Sarah Masland Sensei (born 1948). A resident teacher for the Springs Mountain Sangha in Colorado Springs, CO., and also a Cadet Chapel Buddhist Program Leader at the United States Air Force Academy. A teacher at the Springs Mountain Zendo, CO.
    14. Tenney Nathanson (born 1946) Resident teacher of Desert Rain in Tucson, Arizona
    15. Palmer, Andrew Sensei (born 1971) Teacher at the Springs Mountain Zendo, CO
    16. Terragno, Danièl Ki-Nay (born 1947) Teacher at the 'Rocks & Clouds Zendo', Sebastopol, CA, US. Also, the visiting teacher for the Yellow Springs Dharma Centre and the Columbus Zen Corner in Ohio, and in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    17. Parekh, Antoinette Kenjo Shin (born 1959) Apprentice teacher.
    18. Twentyman, Craig. Independent teacher
    19. Weinstein, David Onryu Ko'un (born 1949) Roshi. The guiding teacher of the Oakland Zendo of the Pacific Zen Institute. The guiding teacher of the Fair Oaks Sangha, Menlo Park, Ca., an affiliate of the Pacific Zen Institute. A teacher of the Springs Mountain Sangha, Colorado Springs, CO.


The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 09 Jun 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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