Robert Aitken, fully Robert Baker Aitken

Aitken, fully Robert Baker Aitken

American Zen Teacher, Co-Founded the Honolulu Diamond Sangha and One of Original Founders of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship

Author Quotes

The word Zen means ?exacting meditation,? which describes the central practice of the Zen Buddhist and from which emerge certain quite profound realizations that can be applied in daily life. Most practitioners come to a deep understanding that all life is connected and that we are each a boundless container that includes all other beings. The application of this kind of intimacy can be framed in the classic Buddhist teaching of the Four Noble Abodes: loving kindness, compassion, joy in the attainment of others, and equanimity.

Watching gardeners label their plants I vow with all beings to practice the old horticulture and let plants identify me.

Old age ain’t no place for sissies. Yes, that’s true. One must cope with a range of afflictions from incontinence to macular degeneration, not to mention peripheral neuropathy, strokes and cancer – and memory loss! Yet I don’t mourn my loss youth. What a confused mess I was! What time I wasted! All in all, I am really quite comfortable in these last years. Pass the marmalade.

With dignity and freedom we can collaborate, labor together, on small farms and in cooperatives of all kinds

The Universal is always the same, the specifics are always different.

What is it that caused your great-grandmother on her meeting with your great-grandfather to recognize him as her future mate and the future father of her children? You can call it a mystery, but it is a mystery that does not imply doubt. We can presume she felt something definite. She felt affinity.

Beginning students commonly ask how they can honestly vow to save all beings. It sounds like missionary arrogance. Hui-neng [the Sixth Zen Patriarch] offers a response: “You are saving them in your own mind.” It is bodhichitta that you are cultivating—your own aspiration for wisdom and compassion, and your determination to practice it in the world as best you can.

The metaphor of movie for life is an interesting one. The frames go by so quickly that we retain the illusion of continuity and are distracted from the light that shines steadily through each frame.

It seems to me to be peculiarly unethical to be displaying foreign otters under a banner of educating people about the park. My view is that this is deeply inauthentic.

My birth and yours were unique, each birth is unique, and every incident across the world and across the great nebulae is unique--and every event unfolds the universe.

I was struck again by the need to collaborate and to work together strategically among churches in a city. One of the speakers really challenged me when he asked what other organization would have 1,200 franchises in one city that never talk to each other?

It is time to turn to the traditional teachings, if you are so inclined, or simply to search on your own. Take heart, and from your own heart and mine we can weather this war that ranges all round us, and together we can embody and present the Way.

How about the complex of affinities that bring you to a bank just as a robber comes in? Are you responsible for this situation? Lots of incidents led up to it, and once their results are in train, you might have no control. There is such a thing as world karma. I as the world am responsible, but there might be no way for me as an individual to help once the crisis has become acute.

Death is treated as a teaching in Zen Buddhism. It reveals and enriches the truths of impermanence, compassion, and interdependence.

Everything just as it is, as it is, as is. Flowers in bloom. Nothing to add.

Buddhism is anarchism, after all, for anarchism is love, trust, selflessness and all those good Buddhist virtues including a total lack of imposition on another.

Chance and destiny are not adequate concepts for explaining karma. It's really a dance, isn't it!--a dance of sisters and brothers who come together by mysterious likeness and attraction. Their dances in turn come together with all the dances across the world. For some this can be joyless, even the dance of exploitation and murder, but for the Bodhisattva it is the great cotillion of intimacy.

Affinity, affinity. All beings are made up by affinity. The whole universe, through every dimension, forms a vast net of affinity that is all of a piece--a multi-dimensional web. With any movement within the web, everything moves. Each gesture, each blink brings a new kind of equilibrium and new kinds of interplay throughout the net. This is a never-ending process from the unknown past to the unknown future, and through all other dimensions including the eternal present. Touches that bring joy and harmony bring new interplay and new equilibrium. Touches that cause suffering and death bring new interplay and new equilibrium as well.

Our practice is not to clear up the mystery. It is to make the mystery clear.

The Buddha's original teaching is essentially a matter of four points -- the Four Noble Truths: 1. Anguish is everywhere. 2. We desire permanent existence of ourselves and for our loved ones, and we desire to prove ourselves independent of others and superior to them. These desires conflict with the way things are: nothing abides, and everything and everyone depends upon everything and everyone else. This conflict causes our anguish, and we project this anguish on those we meet. 3. Release from anguish comes with the personal acknowledgment and resolve: we are here together very briefly, so let us accept reality fully and take care of one another while we can. 4. This acknowledgement and resolve are realized by following the Eightfold Path: Right Views, Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Recollection, and Right Meditation. Here "Right" means "correct" or "accurate" -- in keeping with the reality of impermanence and interdependence.”

The Buddha and all his successors warn us against intellectual structures that confine us to an artificial environment, and against concepts that smear over the living fact of things in themselves. Even the idea of the Buddha must be forgotten.

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American Zen Teacher, Co-Founded the Honolulu Diamond Sangha and One of Original Founders of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship