Robert Aitken Roshi died yesterday evening in Honolulu, Hawai’i, at the age of 93 … he was truly one of the guiding lights of socially engaged Buddhism.
May we carry on his legacy in a way that would honor him.
We are born in a world in which all things nurture us. As we mature in our understanding of the Dharma, we take responsibility for pratitya-samutpada and continually divert our infantile expectations of being nurtured to an adult responsibility for nurturing others.
from “The Morning Star: New and Selected Zen Writings” by Robert Aitken Roshi
I've been practicing and studying the Buddha way since 1994, and exploring the question "What is engaged Buddhism?" since the late 90s.
As former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and editor of its journal, Turning Wheel, I had the honor of meeting and working with many practitioners of engaged dharma, including Roshi Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, Alan Senauke, and Robert Aitken Roshi.
I write about socially engaged Buddhism on my blog, "The Jizo Chronicles," as well as on the theme of personal and collective freedom on my website, "The Liberated Life Project." Through my Five Directions Consulting, I offer support to individuals and organizations who aspire to integrate awareness into their work.
I am overwhelmed with memories of Aitken Roshi. He was my family member for 21 years; he used to babysit my son, who is now an adult. He once wrote that he was pleased to have had the opportunity to participate in the spiritual maturation of so many of his students. We never had a teacher-student relationship, but he was always there for me as a loyal friend. I remember calling him one morning, in tears, when my mother was dying of cancer. Roshi reminded me to keep the focus on Mom’s dying. “This is her time!” he declared. He also told me to call him anytime I needed support. He was one of the most generous practitioners of the Dharma I have known, and he exemplified what it means to be a good friend.
Mushim, thank you for sharing this memory of Roshi. I met him in person only once — over a three-day span about four years ago when we interviewed him to make a film on socially engaged Buddhism — but I always felt his fierce kindness present for me after that, both in support of work at BPF but also in my personal life. He’d drop me an email every now and then to remind me what was truly important.
I agree with you that he was an amazingly generous dharma practitioner, and a genuinely good human being.
Never meet Aitken Roshi but will not forget him.. nine bows
Thank you for your post about Robert Aitken Roshi’s death. The photo you used was taken by me. If the photo is used in any way, please give me photo credit or a link to my blog – http://robinscanlon.typepad.com/ramblings/. Thank you.
very nice…. 😀
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