Thursday, August 5, 2010

Goodbye Dad, Grampa, Papa, Friend, Teacher, Scholar, Educator, Author, Roshi ....

Aitken Roshi passed away today, Thursday, August 5, 2010, at around 5:30 pm at Straub hospital in Honolulu. He was 93.


  1. Thank you for being my Teacher.

  2. Aloha Aitken Roshi. Our thoughts are with you Tom during this challenging time with the loss of your father. Our thoughts are also with the teachers, the students, and the sangha. I will always remember how he liked his Jizō statues in the garden(s) and how he had a natural affinity with the bodhisattva. Aloha with Love, D & R Inaba (Hawaii Island)

  3. R.I.P. Good Way!!!

  4. Roshi-You will be missed. My condolences Tom

  5. I and many others who work for justice will be forever grateful for the wonderful support Robert Aitken Roshi gave to Bernard Baran, a wrongfully convicted man who spent 23 years in prison for crimes that never occurred. Roshi not only helped financially and spread the word, he also corresponded with Baran while he was still behind bars.

  6. Roshi,
    Thank you for your wonderful life and the inspiraion you have inspired in countless beings.

    Nine full bows,

  7. Thank you very much for your teachings and practice.

  8. I only knew Aitken Roshi through his writings. I thank him for his teachings.

  9. Thanks for all you have done for us.

  10. Good bye my dear Roshi. You will live in all the people you taught and loved.

  11. A Great Teacher is out of view. And his teachings pervade us.

  12. Thank you for the hard work, the kindness and the honesty of your life. May you be at peace.

  13. Dearest Rodaishi, Your life is an inspiration in walking the path of this great way and to us all. Thank you for bringing the seed of The Buddha Dharma home to us. Your teachings will last forever.

    Thank you for supporting Kobutsu all these years. Your gracefulness and candor as well as your hospitality was extremely incomparable for Kobutsu and the World. You will be greatly missed.

    My condolences go out to The Aitken family, friend, students and the Zen community.

    So long, Dharma Brother.

    The deepest bow, Ryushin

  14. he is not gone.... he will always be with us

  15. gone
    gone beyond
    gone beyond beyond
    bodhi svaha

    three very deep bows

  16. Lani (Olson) DearminAugust 6, 2010 at 7:36 AM

    Aloha, Aitken Roshi.

  17. Falling asleep at last

    I vow with all beings

    to enjoy the dark and the silence

    and rest in the vast unknown.

    I pray these words everynight before I go to sleep.
    My blessings, my love, my thoughts, and I'm very thankful for your kind words. Aloha.

  18. Dear Roshi,

    I knew you through your dharma heirs -- the best of you was passed down and the branching streams flow on in the dark.

    Thank you.

    Nine full bows.

    Carol hearsbirds Spooner

  19. Thankyou Roshi, be well always.

  20. Gassho
    A lifetime will not be enough to repay your kindness.

  21. Aloha, Roshi.


    tears melting into
    mountain snow

    Soen Nakagawa (Roshi)

    --Joe (Tennen) Montani, Founder
    Ch'an Activity Center of Tucson (Universal Sangha)
    Tucson, AZ

  22. What from an Old Buddha dies is not the Old Buddha.
    Remembering you in my heart and walking, with deep gratitude for your teachings and all the good times together.

    Mahalo Nui Loa
    A hui hou kako'u

    Nine Bows
    Augusto Gen'Un Alcalde

    August 6, 2010 2:42 PM

  23. As well as being a Zen master to students in the Diamond Sangha, Aitken Roshi also was a mentor to hundreds, maybe thousands, of dharma students who were not formally his students. In this, I believe he was unique, as the influence of other Buddhist teachers, on a personal level, tends to be confined to their community. But Aitken Roshi filled a role--in fact, he more or less created it--as an elder friend in the dharma to all who sought him out. This was hugely important to countless Buddhists, and I was surely one of them. Today, there are many Buddhist teachers in the West, but Bob Aitken was also our Good Friend, our kalyana mitra. I hope someone can step forward to fill that role, for it is much needed. Blessings to Robert Aitken Roshi.

  24. After returning from the hospital then sitting with everyone last night, I opened Zen Master Raven to "Giving":

    Grouse spoke up at a gathering and asked, "Mole said that a while back you said that you give away your belongings when you die. I've been brooding about this, but it still isn't clear to me."
    Raven said, "What isn't clear?"
    Grouse asked, "Is there anything left?"
    Raven said, "Oh lots: the moon, the wind, the crickets."

    You are missed, Dear Roshi, and you live on in our hearts and practice. May Tom, Gina, Stephanie, Amy and all the rest of us find deep peace and carry on your work in each of our unique ways.
    May you rest in deepest samadhi, dear Roshi,

  25. I've never had the pleasure to meet Aitken Roshi personally. Nevertheless his wisdom and kind-heartedness has permeated my own practices. Thank you always.

  26. What from an Old Buddha dies, is not the Old Buddha...

    Heard Roshi died, and i send a heartfelt Hug and gassho to you Tom & all friends.

    And i write to him from my heart full of gratitude

    Dear Roshi:

    I remember the 40th anniversary of the Diamond Sangha, when i was there at Hawaii.
    I remember it with good and deep memories of the place, the group, the Aina and your presence and teaching and interaction in the Dokusan room for so many years.

    And i want to express my gratitude to you for that and your help in so many ways during those years that i appreciate and cherish so much, and have left so many teachings and memories in my heart and my walking. Deep thanks.

    No doubt what you started as the Diamond Sangha will echo in time forever, and i hope will be a good seed for the new horizon that is so badly needed these days in this wounded earth.

    I remember Koko An and Manoa Valley, as well as Palolo and the times we shared together. I remember, and feel grateful to life for them.

    And i remember you quoting:
    "A monk asked Ta-lung, "What is the 'minutely subtle?'"
    Ta-lung said, "The breeze brings the voice of the water close to my pillow;
    the moon carries the shadow of the mountain near to my couch."
    And indeed this breeze here in distant Cordoba City brings the voice of the gecko, of the bells, and the smell of the Dojo so close that seems the ocean is right here in the backyard.

    I also remember you saying:
    Ta-lung said, "The mountain flowers bloom like brocade;
    / the river between the hills is blue as indigo."

    I do not know about the mountain flowers blooming, neither i do about the river between the hills, i have so much to walk and lean that maybe for the 100th anniversary i will be able to say i know something.

    But i do know in my heart the meaning and importance in my life and walking of your presence and the Diamond Sangha in those days we walked together the Dharma Aina.

    I offer heartfelt and deep mahalo nui loa, respect, gratitude and love to you for all this.

    Aloha O'e
    A hui hou kakou

    Nine bows.

    Augusto Alcalde

  27. Dear friends at Palolo Zen Center,

    Your wonderful teacher will be sorely missed by so many people. I did not know him well, but his presence in our Zen world has been a comfort to me. As the last of our founding teachers slip away I feel their loss all the more acutely, and today I am surprised by the impact of his passing. We will remember him and honor him.

    With palm joined,

    Kyogen Carlson
    Dharma Rain Zen Center

  28. From my brief time with the man, I learned this: talk a walk with your friends every day, and stop to get a scoop of mango ice cream along the way.

  29. Will continue ringing seamless bells in the midnight sky. Off to tending the garden that you contributed so much to! Thank You!

  30. My life is deeply affected by Bob Aitken's teaching, his manner, his kindness, and his spiritual friendship. Our local sitting group has adopted one of his gathas as the echo we chant after reciting the Heart Sutra.

    It goes like this:

    may the heart of this practice pervade everywhere
    and may we together with all beings
    touch receive and convey
    the mind of rivers and stars.

    with deep gratitude.

  31. Robert Aitken Roshi
    Thank you everywhere and always
    a very deep Gasshò
    and three bows

    Zendo de los Tres Tesoros
    Montevideo, Uruguay

  32. Having been enlightened and touched by his books, I feel my own loss with the passing of Robert Aitken. My condolences to his family.

  33. Not gone, only the death of this vessel. What a great gift he made of himself for all of us.

    In Gassho,

    Nobody Special

  34. You guided me with your words and your teaching - thank you deeply.

  35. I knew you, Roshi, only through your writings. They were waiting for me when I returned from near-death. Those words shone as a beacon, they helped me set my feet on the way of Zen.

    Thank you, and well done!

  36. Thank you, Uncle Bob, for giving what you could to your son, for taking me to my first bon dance, for working hard for what you believe in. Tom and I will still have the moon, the wind, and the crickets.

  37. Thank you. I'm deeply grateful I had the privilege to read some of your books.

  38. My dad's homage to "Papa" Aitken

  39. Wow, This man was there for me when no one else was. And he never stopped. I LOVE YOU Roshi. X,X,X,X,X, and O,O,O,O,O.

  40. My heart is with you Tommy. I'm so happy my girl was able to meet your dad and him to meet her again as a young woman. He made quite an impression on her. - you both did. you all did! (thank you.) -kris

  41. thank you thank you for everything

  42. dear roshi, thanks for being my teacher, for spread the dharma lovely in so many places, and for support me in difficult moments. you are always in my heart.

  43. My life would not be what it is today had I not met Robert Aitken. I am grateful to Aitken-Roshi for his contribution to my life and to the world. And I thank the Diamond Sangha for helping him to live out his last days with love and dignity. Aloha Friends.

    Gloria Nudelman (Gloria Coffey)

  44. Roshi,
    I wish I could says something worthy of you.

  45. With overflowing gratitude and love for you dear Roshi, for your compassionate and playful showing of the Way to me and so many others. For your inspiration with words and actions as an engaged Buddhist - not turning away from the hard places - and for your contribution to Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Recalling going with you on to the main street in Waikiki just after the first Gulf war in 1991, holding up banners, 'Muslims are our brothers and sisters'. A great honour to be your student. You live on deep in our hearts, in all beings.
    With nine deep bows,
    Jill Jameson

  46. I never met you but your books have supported my practice for many years. I'm happy to say that I'm now beginning practice with one of your dharma "grandsons" Ford,Roshi. Thank you for your teaching and life of service.

    Betty Spargo

  47. I did not know you personally Roshi, but know you through your NZ dharma heirs and through your writings. I feel blessed to have known you such.

    Special to me currently in my practice are your words "Mu Breathing Mu".

    Gassho and God bless

  48. Querido Roshi,

    When we were in the celebration of the 50th Aniversary of the Diamond Sangha in Palolo, I asked you: "How are you with all this party?" You said: "It´s not about me, it´s about all this people"... Like a short dialogue of Zen Master Raven it was a direct and complete presentation of your life, of your teaching.
    It's not about me, it's about Sangha, about Dharma, about Buddha...

    Thanks Roshi for your efforts to bring Zen to the West.
    Thanks for Diamond Sangha.
    Thanks for Socially Engaged Buddhism.
    Thanks for travel to Southamerica.
    Thanks for your love, humor and support for so many people.
    Thanks for your writings.
    Thanks for Wisdom and Compassion embodied.

    We'll continue enjoying translating your words into Spanish.

    Con lágrimas, amor y eterna gratitud,
    Sonia y Ricardo
    Viento del Sur Sangha

  49. Bernard F. Baran freebaran@verizon.netAugust 8, 2010 at 12:58 AM

    Tom, I wanted you to know that your father was wonderful and kind to me. As a wrongfully convicted man his letters and books were inspirational and a welcome distraction His words of encourgament will always live in my soul.

  50. My deepest sympathy to the roshi's family, friends, and students; my deepest respect to all those who looked after him in his final years; and my deepest gratitude for his teachings.
    May all be well,
    Paul Gardiner

  51. Roshi - I only knew you thru your books but they were wonderful and continue to touch and influence me and many others - thank you and peace

    10 Bows

  52. Margot and I just sat together here in Maine, chanted sutras in the old way, offered incense and spoke to Roshi--as he did in Koko An all those years ago, offering incense to his teachers and speaking to their living presences.

    As I spoke, I appreciated his commitment to work for peace in the face of the militarism that pervades our world, his solidarity with the native peoples of Hawaii, his embrace of gender equality and his painstaking removal of patriarchal language from the chants and sutras recited at the Diamond Sangha.

    Most of all, I appreciated his grandmotherly way of sharing the dharma, "removing all the pips."

    My (and our) lives were forever changed by how he guided me back from a dualistic renunciation of the the world to a full embrace of life. Dragons and snakes intermixed!

    A deep, tearful bow of gratitude, and love to all our Dharma brothers and sisters.

    Roger Milliken
    Cumberland, Maine

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


    Completely freed from yes and no;
    great emptiness charged within;
    no questions, no answers;
    like a fish, like a fool.


    I beg to urge you everyone:
    life and death is a grave matter;
    all things pass quickly away.
    Each of you must be completely alert;
    never neglectful, never indulgent.

    Thank you. Nine Deep Bows _/|\_

    Val Killpack
    Boulder, Colorado

  54. Dear Roshi,

    here I am again tripping over my words. Go in peace. You will be ever present in our practice.

    Three deep bows


    Mexico City

  55. Roshi, aunque no te conocí personalemente guiaste mis primeros pasos a través de tus libros.- Gracias Viejito por tu generosidad.-
    Otra nueva estrella en el cielo.-
    Vamos vamos del otro lado de la orilla
    Adriana Vicente, Bs As, Argentina

  56. Many opportunities missed in this life. One was to meet Roshi Robert in person. However I have heard many warmly remembered stories of his work; first on Kauai, then on Maui and always in the Dharma. He has opened up the pathway for myself and many others to the Dharma.

    Now I have come home to the Dharma and am very grateful for that.
    My deepest gratitude to Roshi and sincerest condolences to Roshi's family and Sangha.

    Prem Dawson
    Maui, Hawaii

  57. Dear Roshi,

    I'm unhappy that I never actually took the chance to send you my gratitude before now. Well, better said late than never! The Diamond Sangha family that spread from your life and heart has become a true home for me, as for so many others - a practice-shelter without end. So thank you from the bottom of my own heart and life.

    Deep gassho.

  58. You live on through your teaching and to those who connected with you or those you connected with. Welcome to the Ancestors. A life is precious in its coming and going and throughout eternity.

  59. The only words he addressed to me personally ¨You must find your own answer¨

  60. just hearing this sad news

    The lotus flower closes.
    The monk bows.
    The lotus flower blossoms.

  61. Aitken-roshi so heavily influenced by earlier years, adrift in his writings. I am certain he has touched the lives of millions. Awash in his wisdom, we offer prayers.

  62. 108 bells ring in my heart

  63. I remember reading The Mind of Clover when preparing to receive the precepts in 1994. Much gratitude for one of the great American Zen teachers and his guiding light.

  64. Thank you for your teaching, and peace and healing to your friends and family.

  65. Eh...easy come, easy go, Roshi, yah? No hu hu.

    Well done!

    Condolences to Tom, family, and sangha, me ke aloha.

    -- MLGC

  66. To Aitken Roshi

    Cloud of the bright
    immense sky,

    In routing night
    looking I

    See by moon light
    passing by.


  67. The moon of mind, flowers of eyes, are bright and beautiful; opening since time beyond kalpas.

    Thank you Roshi

  68. More than 50 years ago, I encountered Aitken Roshi's article on Zen before I became a monk. It impressed me so deeply that I can still remember the sensation I felt at that time. It was a great honor to meet Roshi early this year in person after so many years. I am thankful and really enjoyed every moment of the meeting.

    My deepest condolences to Roshi's family and Sangha.

    Nine vows

    Daigyo Moriyama
    Hatsukari, Japan

  69. Robert Aitken was my oldest friend, both in his own venerable age and in that I'd known him longer than anyone else outside my immediate family. I first met him 55 years ago, when he visited Happy Valley School to look into taking a job there; as he told me recently, I was the first student he encountered, and apparently my twelve-year-old self had much to share with him about Mad Magazine.

    Of my few memories of my time at HVS, two in particular stand out, as evidence of "auspicious influences from previous lives" that brought the first hints of the Buddhadharma into my life at a time when few in American had heard anything about it.

    The school, founded in the 1940s by Krishnamurti and Aldous Huxley (the famous Oak Grove where K gave his talks was on the grounds), was run by Theosophists; every morning the 75 students and 15 teachers would gather in the common room for 15 minutes or so of quiet sitting time (my first experience of "meditation") followed by a reading from some World Spiritual Tradition. Many of the readings were from what I later learned was the Pali Canon, and the knowledgeable reader was always careful to pronounce "Buddha" correctly, with the double-d and following aspiration, which caught my attention.

    And one day I overheard someone remark that "Bob Aitken is into Zen" -- with the clear implication that was something impressive. Of course, I had no idea what "Zen" was, but it stuck in my mind until some years later I began to hear more about it. Thus did Buddha and Zen first touch my life.

    The Aitkens (Robert met Anne there) and I left HVS in 1958, they to Hawaii to start Diamond Sangha, I home to Santa Barbara. I saw them again in 1973 when they appeared one afternoon in the zendo at San Francisco Zen Center. They kindly remembered me, and we had a great reunion. In the years since I've seen them only a few times, and never practiced/studied with them, but have always thought of them as my Dharma uncle and aunt. And I've much enjoyed and learned from Aitken Roshi's many writings.

    A full life well-lived, benefitting all beings, a gentle passage; what more can any of us ask? Go with Buddha, Uncle Bob...

  70. Thank you Roshi for your abiding love, encouragement and steady determination. Your living presence will always guide and inspire us in this dream of existence. Tom, I thank you too and hope you know my condolences are with you and your daughters!
    Janet Runeson

  71. I am very saddened in reading this - like a sudden wound - his great teaching...

  72. My first sesshin on Maui, then a couple at Koko an, still I hear the geckos and the rustle of the breeze through the trees waiting on the porch for dokusan...Great thanks Teacher! Robert Rose

  73. Winter Song: for Roshi
    from your student, Gillian Coote,
    with infinite gratitude

    O mist-struck morning river,
    shifting your complexion
    to such strange effects
    after your long, cold night.

    O soft white river clouds
    unfolding and arising and dispersing
    towards the sun.

    O shadowed mangroves
    harbouring a wild variety
    of forms
    and birthing
    wisps and pillars,
    moving in mysterious inexorable
    towards the light
    struck by the sun,
    carpeting the river white,
    streaming on the water.

    O winter sun,
    drawing the wraiths
    towards your bright light,
    until, becoming air,
    their merging and extinction
    is concluded.

    O river, once again
    a river colour -
    - mullet jumps!
    the echoing enso widens,
    black on green,
    encompassing the sun,
    the dark,
    the river
    and the night.

  74. Aloha Aitken Roshi.

    Where have you gone?

    Who has departed?

  75. Roshi
    I have only recently learned of your leaving us in body, but the spirit will last forever. The animals were probably your greatest way to introduce some of us to the way. As said before, a thousand lifetimes cannot abosorb all of your wisdom.

    Samurai Monk

  76. I very much enjoy his books, Taking the Path of Zen in particular. I come back to that book regularly.

    I am grateful he decided to share his great insights into Zen practice as widely as he did.

    Best to all.

  77. 99 Full Bows

    Thank you for your teaching.

    I would say goodbye,
    But what would be the point?
    I meet you wherever I go.


  78. It's been some time since I learned of Aitken Roshi's passing. To his family, allow me to add my most heartfelt condolences at his passing, I wish you nothing but peace in the wake of his absence. I also wanted to say that Buddhism in general, Zen in particular, and all beings are poorer for his loss. He was a masterful teacher, and a poetic writer. His "Taking the Path of Zen" is what first brought me to the Way. I would like to remind everyone who reads this, that the best way, in my humble opinion, to remember Aitken Roshi is to bring our practice fully into the work-a-day world. Aitken Roshi was a stalwart supporter of Engaged Buddhism, and I believe that he would be most happy to be memorialized with every dollar you give to a charity, every sandwich you make at a homeless shelter, every can of food donated to a pantry. As Roshi himself once said, "sentient beings cannot survive on merit alone", so let us redouble our efforts and try to fill some small piece of the vast hole left by the passing of a giant.