Robert Aitken Roshi (1917-2010)

Robert Aitken came to Zen while in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. He became (somewhat reluctantly, I’ve read) one of the guiding lights of Zen in America.

When I first started sitting with Heart Circle Sangha, his book Taking the Path of Zen was on the recommended reading list. It remains one of my favorite books on Zen for it’s clear and orderly presentation of Zen basics and what it means to practice.

It may also be the only book of its kind that I have come across that actually addresses how to approach your Zen practice with your children:

. . . if your children show interest, explain that they may sit with you if they wish but that they should not feel any compulsion. Tell them they may come in and sit at any time, and leave at any time. Make a game afterwards of having them tell what they thought about. If they ask you about your practice, tell them about breath counting, but don’t make a big point of it. They should feel they can try it or not, as they like. If they choose not to sit at all, show them special attention after you have finished, so that they will feel all right about not doing it. Children too should be made welcome at Sangha socials and outings.

I have taken this advice with my own children, and it works well. And they have always been made to feel welcome at the sangha.

You can read an appreciation of Aitken Roshi’s life and work here.

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