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Thread: Aitken: Taking the Path of Zen

  1. #1
    Senior Member JeffreyB's Avatar
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    Aitken: Taking the Path of Zen

    I just scored a copy of Aitken's Taking the Path of Zen. WOW. Where has this book been all my life? He explains things with incredible lucidity to western students. The zazen instructions alone are worth the price of the book, which I got for 2 whole dollars. It's really like the companion book to The Mind of Clover, down to having matching covers. This is one I'll be carrying in my man-purse full time.

    Gassho, Jeffrey
    "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
    Henry David Thoreau, Walden

  2. #2
    Hey Jeff,

    It has been many years since I read the book, but Aitken Roshi was a teacher of Koan Zazen who often explained Shikantaza through such lens. I will try to find a copy of his instructions. As I recall, there are some small, but important differences in approach.

    As I often say, "Just the Same, but frequently quite different. Very different, yet always the same".

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Thank you.


    Gassho,
    Edward
    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to prajña from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    "Just the Same, but frequently quite different. Very different, yet always the same".
    Oh the song for life. Thank you Jundo.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  5. #5
    Hi Again,

    I do not seem to have my copy of that book, and can only find some pages online. So, I am going from memory.

    If I recall, Aitken Roshi emphasizes breath counting as the centerpoint of Shikantaza. In fact, that is fine, because (as we have discussed elsewhere, one must place the focus somewhere, and many do follow or count the breath) ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...l=1#post113379

    What may be lacking is that Aitken does not present Shikantaza as sitting in Vibrant, Sacred, Whole and Complete, Non-Seeking, Buddha Sitting Buddha in the manner of Dogen. Robert Aitken's description, as I recall, is very functional ... presenting "Shikantaza" as just a way to build concentration, a stepping stone on the road to enlightenment and Satori. This is very common among many of the Rinzai, Sambokyodan and mixed "Rinzai-Soto" teachers who emphasize Koan Centered Zazen, and tend to present Shikantaza as just a preliminary or secondary Practice to that.

    But I am going from memory.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Hi Jeffrey, thanks for the recommendation, I am going to see if my library has a copy. And I think it's totally awesome that you have a
    man pursue!!!


    Treena

  7. #7
    Robert Aitken roshi is one of my favorite authors; re-reading a book of his has the feeling of unexpectedly meeting an old friend and going for a long walk together, talking. "The Mind of Clover" was one of the books my teacher used for jukai.
    I'd be very interested in hearing (well, reading) Jundo's critique.
    May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind
    quickly be freed from their illnesses.
    May those frightened cease to be afraid
    and may those bound be free.
    May the powerless find power
    and may people think of befriending one another.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    I read it recently and Shikantaza is presented fairly toward the end. Still, I love that book.
    迎 Geika

  9. #9
    Thank you for the recommendation, Jeffrey. I am enjoying Mind in Clover so interested in reading more of RA's writing.

    Gassho
    Andy

  10. #10
    Oh, Aitken Roshi was one of the great Koan Zazen Teachers of modern times, and simply a great Zen Teacher.

    It is just that the approach of Aitken Roshi and quite of few of the other Koan Zazen Teachers to Shikantaza is a bit different, in keeping with their emphasis on Koan Zazen, Satori and the like.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    A good recommendation both from Jeffrey and Jundo...
    Shikantaza is sitting in Vibrant, Sacred, Whole and Complete, Non-Seeking, Buddha Sitting Buddha in the manner of Dogen.
    Gassho.
    Heisoku
    平 息

  12. #12
    Senior Member JeffreyB's Avatar
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    He does go on at some length about breath counting but also states that you can begin each session with it as a focusing tool and then letting it go. He tends to present it as a tool for beginners who may have trouble just abiding on the cushion but also states that many students use breath counting throughout their lives. The maiin thing I enjoy about his writing is that it is very conversational, as if he is right there with you. Either way I think this book would be an excellent intro for a rank beginner who may have trouble sorting out some of the basic yet complicated concepts within Zen as a whole.

    I also finally got a copy of Living by Vow. The chapter on the Heart Sutra is incredible. Discussing emptiness is in itsef a contradiction to emptiness but this chapter does it quite well without confusion. All great stuff on my road to Jukai.

    Gassho, Jeffrey
    "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
    Henry David Thoreau, Walden

  13. #13
    Senior Member JeffreyB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emmy View Post
    Hi Jeffrey, thanks for the recommendation, I am going to see if my library has a copy. And I think it's totally awesome that you have a
    man pursue!!!


    Treena
    OMG I would be lost without it. I have a lot of crap I carry around. I tend to just call it my purse because it disarms people from teasing me about carrying one. haha

    Gassho, Jeffrey
    "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
    Henry David Thoreau, Walden

  14. #14
    Cool, will check it out!

    Gassho
    Shōmon

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