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Plants transpire, the moisture evaporates and returns as rain. The earth is dampened, allowing rootlets to absorb nutrients in the soil. The nutrients themselves are released by worms that eat the earth, and by the casts of countless other beings as they give themselves in death. People, animals, and other plants flourish, and give themselves in turn.
—Robert Aitken Roshi, from “Dana: The Practice of Giving,” Tricycle Summer 2003
Robert Aitken Roshi died yesterday. Fully embodying the spirit of dana, he gave his life to teaching Zen in the Harada-Yasutani lineage and advocating for social justice. In addition to co-founding and leading the Honolulu Diamond Sangha with his wife beginning in 1959, he was also one of the original founders of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship in 1978.
To honor a life well lived, and a man that would help define Zen in America, please enjoy these articles and interviews from the late great Robert Aitken Roshi.
"Authority and Exploitation: Three Voices," A discussion between Robert Aitken, David Steindl-rast and Diane Shainberg about the tension inherent between egalitarian imperatives and the authority required in order to pass on spiritual teachings.
"The Roundtable: Help or Hindrance?" A conversation about psychedelics with Robert Aitken, Ram Dass, Joan Halifax, and Richard Baker.
"The Teacher in Everything," A Zen essay by Robert Aitken.
Image: Robert Aitken's website