Role Models

With the passing of Robert Aitken, the Zen Community has lost more than a venerable teacher.
It lost a living role model, and in that sense, he lives on.

Even though his writing style did not appeal to me so much, Robert Aitken struck me as a guy who would never be compelled to use weasel words to make excuses for his behavior. I have the impression that he was not deluded about good and bad, and endeavored to avoid doing bad in order to allow the many good things.

How many people today have the stones to be upright?

How many people can look directly at their shadow and not be afraid?

Heck, how many people today even have the courage to look at their shadow?

20 years ago when I was being interviewed by the Marine Recruiter, one of the "benefits" of being a Marine I chose was Courage, Poise, and Self Confidence. I never met Robert Aitken outside of his books, but I imagine he embodied those things pretty well.

Courage is not stupidity.

Poise is not posturing.

Self Confidence is not denial or delusion.

On this Zen path, I think it is important to look deeply into our own stupidity, posturing, and delusion.

High or low, we should question our sitting.

The second law of thermodynamics may get me down, but I'm determined to go up.

Exhale, smile.

Yours in practice,


Barry said...

This is wonderful, Jordan. Thank you.

Sean said...

I don't know if I've read anything by Robert Aitkin, before, but I see now that I could look into it.

Your statements, Jordan, I see that as it being Pure Dharma :Win: - even in a sense of winning that goes beyond losing/winning

Gassho, Jordan-san

SlowZen said...

Thanks Barry, glad your still keeping your dharma eye on me.

Thanks for the kind words.
I edited to correct spelling and add a link to what I consider the best of Robert Aitkins writings. I am amazed by what I can do from my phone nowadays.

Mumon K said...

Great post. Aitken probably single-handedly helped save Rinzai Zen in the US. OK that is an exaggeration, but not by much.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jordan,

What you've written about courage being 'not stupidity' has struck a chord with me this week. I've been reflecting on it a lot. I noticed something else though. I had a moment of weakness yesterday where I did make a stupid move and can see that courage would have served me a much better result. But in that moment, I knew the move was stupid and did it anyways! Argh. Next time around I'm hoping I have the strength to feel weak. So I guess I'm feeling that sometimes courage can be that - being strong enough to feel weak.

But reading on, I sense that you've captured this in the next line about poise not being posturing, and further self-confidence not being denial.

Really great post. Thank you.

MyoChi said...

Roshi's passing away is surely a loss, but I know the show will go on. I read the Raven book a few months back and I will be honest - most of it did not make sense to me. Then I went back to it, precisely for the reason that it did not make sense to me. I still did not get all of it the next time I read it, but I realized that I did not need to get it. It is fine as it is.

Thanks for looking!