Talk:Robert Baker Aitken

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Former good article nominee Robert Baker Aitken was a Philosophy and religion good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
January 28, 2008 Good article nominee Not listed
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Hello Friends,

I've added a couple neutrality-related tags at the top in hopes this article will be re-written in a more neutral tone. Robert Aitken may indeed be a wonderful man, as this article would apparently have us believe. But a gallery? Some portions here lean clearly in the direction of hagiography. And a gallery of this kind has no place here. My sense is that, as it stands, this article not only promotes a religion but a particular religious figure. Thanks. --Gunnermanz (talk) 09:20, 4 June 2009 (UTC)

After many moths of no response to the above note, I've deleted the gallery. A gallery has no place on Wikipedia unless for an artist to provide examples for viewers. I like Robert Aitken and knew him personally. He was a modest man. I do not believe he would want his images to be used in this way. --Gunnermanz (talk) 18:12, 28 October 2011 (UTC)


Note: I removed this article from Category:Zen Buddhist monks and priests and put it in Category:Zen and Category:Buddhists instead. This is because, unless, I'm wrong, Aitken is layman, not ordained. I believe that this is the only article that needs to removed from the new category for this reason. - Nat Krause(Talk!) 19:30, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

GA review (see here for criteria)
  1. It is reasonably well written.
    a (prose): b (MoS):
  2. It is factually accurate and verifiable.
    a (references): b (citations to reliable sources): c (OR):
  3. It is broad in its coverage.
    a (major aspects): b (focused):
  4. It follows the neutral point of view policy.
    Fair representation without bias:
    Parts of this article read more like hagiography than biography. Are there any critics or criticisms of his teachings?
  5. It is stable.
    No edit wars etc.:
  6. It is illustrated by images, where possible and appropriate.
    a (images are tagged and non-free images have fair use rationales): b (appropriate use with suitable captions):
    Are there any images which could be used for this article? A GA should have at least some images.
  7. Overall:

Fun Fact[edit]

Robert can take off his hat with a double back arm. TheThingy TalkWebsite 01:01, 25 February 2010 (UTC)


I've edited the page with an eye towards addressing the neutrality concerns. I'd like to help resolve this of respect for Roshi's recent passing. Thanks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Acciavatti (talkcontribs) 13:46, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

HI Acciavatti, it looks that with present form the page is much more neutral than before. I am sure there are many other information which should be included for balance but I do not know acceptable references at this time. Perhaps you can think about this, or they may materialize in the future.Spt51 (talk) 02:32, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

NPOV Flags Removed[edit]

I contacted the user who added the neutrality flags, but have received no response. Out of respect for Roshi's family and students, I've taken the liberty of removing the flags. If there is any objection please feel free to reinstate them. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Acciavatti (talkcontribs) 01:09, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

It is difficult to be objective and neutral while being student of Aitken Roshi or a part of this group. According to a policy of WK if you have any connection with the person you should not edit or write a page about him/her. Someone asked, if there are no controversy about Robert Aitken. The Biography should be balanced. Reading Koun Yamada page I see there are some questions, like what is a true date of Dharma transmission? How long did he practice in Japan? Also, some of Aitken's Dharma Heirs left the Diamond Sangha after some disagreements, as well as Aitken himself had long life conflict with another teacher. It would be good to add these information too, not only the great things he has done. But thank you for trying to improve the biography, I can feel you love the man.Spt51 (talk) 13:52, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

"According to a policy of WK if you have any connection with the person you should not edit or write a page about him/her." This is simply wrong. WP guidelines acknowledge that editors often write about what they know and care about - duh. Guidelines provide rules by which editors can measure and check their own and others biases. As has been battled on the Eido Shimano page, by Spt51 among others, there aren't sufficient accepted secondary sources to describe any of these "conflicts" you allude to, in particular Aitken's attempts to have Shimano held accountable for misconduct. You didn't want Aitken's differences with Shimano mentioned there. I'd sure be curious to see how you'd like to interject them here. A peculiar shift in tone, I'd like to add.Tao2911 (talk) 20:19, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

Maybe it is impossible to make this page neutral and balanced. From the banners which were removed this seemed to be an issue for long time... and maybe this is why this page was not given status they requested. Maybe you can help to improve it so it is more balanced. Those who have a conflict of interest issue should not edit pages, as I was informed, but if someone can be objective especially when there is conflict than of course it may be OK.
There are some references in books as you can see in Eido Tai Shimano page about rift between Aitken and Eido Shimano. I also know that John Tarrant for example, left Diamond Sangha and founded his own Institute abandoning traditional way of teaching. Aitken Roshi was a great man but he also had some conflicts with a few people. It may not be possible to add this here due to lack of references so this page will remain "hagiography" as someone pointed out above. I am not planning to include anything. The authors of the page have an interest to make it a great page I hope. Spt51 (talk) 01:03, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
I agree with removing the tags at this stage. The article is much improved and more balanced. The tone seems about right and is comparable to other biographical articles. It would further strengthen the article if more sources were included. There is a lengthy obituary in the Los Angeles Times. I have added it as a reference for the "founding the Buddhist Peace Fellowship" fact but it could be used again in several places.Lasairdhubh (talk) 08:50, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
The third paragraph in Biography needs two important citations for facts: when Aitken met Nyogen Senzaki and investigation by FBI. Please, include the sources if possible. Thanks.Spt51 (talk) 14:04, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

"John Tarrant for example, left Diamond Sangha and founded his own Institute abandoning traditional way of teaching." This just shows ignorance about Zen. Once students are fully "empowered" as lineage holders and teachers, they are free to develop their own traditions and approaches, even sometimes encouraged to do so. I have never heard of any falling out between Tarrant and Aitken, and don't believe there have been any. Tarrant is an innovative teacher, and is developing his own approach, having long since received Aitken's blessing. There are dozens of similar examples, even just in American Zen, much less possibly thousands historically.Tao2911 (talk) 20:10, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

"This just shows ignorance about Zen." To me this statement shows a lot of arrogance and your need to argue. I did hear about disagreement years ago when Tarrant left Diamond Sangha, though with time I am sure Aitken did accepted this. If you know so much about Zen than help improve this page providing some needed citations.Spt51 (talk) 22:41, 11 August 2010 (UTC)


I see contradiction in dates in this passage: "Under invitation from Yasutani and Soen Nakagawa, Koun Yamada became roshi there in 1971. In 1974 he was given the title of roshi by Yamada Koun in Kamakura, Japan, receiving full Dharma transmission from him in 1985.[3][5]" Reading the sources and what is said in Koun Yamada page it looks that in 1974 Aitken became sensei receiving full Dharma transmission later.Spt51 (talk) 17:23, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Factual material[edit]

I reinstated passage with important facts based on material from cited source. Please look at link from the reference. The same book was used in Shimano page, and other pages to cite many facts. Please do not remove it. If you do not like wording than confront author of the book.Spt51 (talk) 00:19, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

Your phrasing is the problem. Awkward, and slanted, with your clear which to simply include defamatory material due to some errant sense of justice (you are insisting on including something negative, no matter of what marginal importance.) You made at least some basic changes to normalize your peculiar dated English ("the West" etc) - though your use of "thereafter" is totally weird. I do not agree with how you are phrasing and characterizing Aitken's realtionship with Soen. If this source (which I know but don't have access to at moment since I am on the road) says that Aitken had a significant split with Soen, then I simply question the source's veracity or accuracy. Soen distanced himself from all aspects of the American sangha when Shimano's behavior became too abhorrent for him to deal with. They did not have a "split" that warrants mention in this short bio. It's not proportional. Mention of issues with Shimano should be more explicit. You came to this page with one stated wish - to include negative information regarding Robert Aitken. Very poor editing.Tao2911 (talk) 16:00, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
I am trying to improve this page so it is not categorized as "hagiography" as it was before. And yes, certain facts were excluded before and no references provided for many. There is a link to the page in Ford's book in References, so please take a look. In the end this is exactly as James Ford states this. You may argue with him about what he meant, he is still alive. I believe he did thorough research so what he says may differ from commonly held rumors. To make this biography objective I believe this passage should be included. If you have good sources and facts to contrary, please include them. We may have two versions of the facts. Doesn't surprise you that this page did not have this source before? Please, read the opinions of editors at the top of discussion page...Spt51 (talk) 16:59, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

Recent reverts by Tao2911[edit]

{{help}} As you can see editor Tao2911 has been vandalizing this page recently , erasing valid facts from Biography based on reliable source. He has been accusing me of changing the source. There is a link to page in book from which it was taken and now I included the original passage in the reference. Please, block him from changing this again.Spt51 (talk) 01:11, 17 February 2011 (UTC)

It isn't "vandalism" to disagree with your biased edits and correct them. I think you are biased and potentially evil, but i don't think what you are doing is "vandalism." It's just biased and poor editing. You have fought to keep mention of "lasting allegations" against Eido Shimano off his page, and yet you insist on including them here. that single sentence is clearly placed here to impugn this figure. It makes no real sense, and has no larger context. If you put it in the Shimano page, thereby paving the way for a more accurate page there, I will be happy to collaborate on a fair inclusion of that material here, which would also include mention of his decades long attempts to get Eido Shimano held accountable for his abuses.Tao2911 (talk) 03:54, 17 February 2011 (UTC)
Assuming you both haven't been warned yet. Let me take a moment to remind you that edit-warring is a blockable offense. Please try to reach a consensus here first.
Spt51 using subjective descriptions like "lasting allegations" is highly discouraged under WP:NPOV. Please keep the language neutral. Potentially damaging information, in particular, need to be independently verifiable in more than one source as this is a biographical article. Information like that aren't taken lightly. If unproven by reliable sources like a court of law, it should be made clear that the information is not fact. The adjective 'lasting' is unnecessary and adds undue weight to the allegations.
Other than that, helpers can not help with content disputes. Please settle this among yourselves civilly without edit-warring or resorting to insults.--ObsidinSoul 09:22, 17 February 2011 (UTC)
Tao2911. So you believe that it is OK in Shimano page to include info about some kind of rift between Eido Shimano and Aitken, but here not even mention that Shimano was sent to Diamond Sangha, as the page was without this info before? You of course prefer to defend Aitken as wonderful man, because you do have bias against Eido. You do not know the truth about what was his reason to pursue Eido for entire life. Some do know...Of course here we need to follow sources and there are only two sources at this moment. James Ford writes in his book, which I am quoting here, these are not MY words, and also Aitken himself writes in one of his book about his split between himself and Soen Roshi, and how painful it was for him. I am sure you never read what Aitken wrote nor what Ford writes, or you refuse to accept this facts.
Aitken did not have a good felling about Eido, apart from Eido problems; there are many other reasons you do not know about... One day it may be published. Objectivity is not what you have as adding info without sources or from blogs to many pages shows, and as history shows many editors stopped to communicate with you. What I am trying to do is only states facts based on sources. It seems that the only person who has biases and add materials not sourced or your own interpretations is you. So, please stop accusing everyone else and look honestly at what are you doing. The way you communicate with everyone causes that none wants to discuss matters and communicate with you! Be civil, and stick to facts without labeling and attacking, and accept the fact that maybe you do not know as much about Zen as you imagine you do. But honestly I do not care what is written here, everyone knows that it is not objective... Spt51 (talk) 15:05, 17 February 2011 (UTC)

This entire rant simply explicitly displays your bias against Aitken and for Shimano. Another editor already blew your cover, so we know why. So, oh gee, I'm sorry, i see now that YOU know the truth and I don't - not to mention your pyschic abilities to know not only my motivations, but Aitken's. A real miracle man. Golly, I'm just abashed... But oh wait: there are numbers of subjective truths, and our jobs as editors is not to use psychic powers or personal rumors, but to find tertiary sources that report on situations, and then through a process of deliberation work out a compromise version that splits POV differences into neutral reportage worthy of an encyclopedia. I don't have any direct association with either Aitken or Shimano. I am acquainted with numbers of Zen teachers and practitioners, and know them ALL to be flawed, as all human beings are, Aitken no less that anyone, including Shimano. the main difference would be that Shimano has been dogged by allegations (and more than allegations) of misconduct for decades, and his own organization has admitted in the New York Times that they find most of them credible; he's been fired because of them, for god's sake. The difference in these men's faults is perhaps simply one of scale - on the one hand, your slanderous implied rumor, on the other well documented reports and disciplinary actions. But you are a partisan, so you wish to have none of that material, even the most basic and factual, on the Eido page, and yet you want to put it here - and your motives are clear. You wish to make Aitken seem "less." Thanks for making your bias clear for all to see. Now let it go. You can't have it here if you won't put it there. If you allow it on the Eido page, as it should be since reported in the NYT and in this text, then it opens the door to have that page be more accurate and fair. If you want it here, then it needs to be mentioned what those allegations were, and what Aitken's subsequent activities were regards them. Frankly, I think its too slippery a slope, the consensus will go against any of this material be included. And i certainly won't stand for you slimy inclusion of that line here.Tao2911 (talk) 18:29, 17 February 2011 (UTC)

So you imply that what James Ford wrote in his book is rumor and what Aitken himself wrote in his book about his feeling about Soen Roshi is a rumor? Well, what can I say? Judge yourself on this. As far as making people "less" YOU are the only one who does it here in Wiki. Look at what you are doing and how are you doing it... Not only you are the only one who engaged in adding unsourced material to many pages about any "scandal" as it started, to demean the person, at the time when there were not reliable sources available yet, or you changed the content of source to your own liking, but you also assaulted many editors, admins in edit subject line and discussion pages. It seem now you are doing it again at Merzel page or act out of revenge to discredit editor who did not agree with you on other pages. Of course it easy to accuse everyone, who confronts your misdoings. It is clear who follows the rules and who does not. You bias is very clear... I do not care about this page as any other but violating BLP rules and RS rules is not what I will allow, and you know it. Perhaps this is what bothers you the most. So relax, and enjoy you wonderful personality! Maybe some learning about civility? What is appropriate, what is sensitive, what is acceptable. Good luck! And thanks for accepting the fact that: "Eido Shimano was sent to Hawaii" and allowing it here. History will take care of the rest. Spt51 (talk) 16:21, 19 February 2011 (UTC)
and you enjoy your self-righteous Zen smugness! It's gotten you so far!Tao2911 (talk) 16:55, 19 February 2011 (UTC)


A gallery is not neutral. It is visual hagiography. The number of photos has been reduced, but it should be totally eliminated. A gallery of photos does not conform to Wiki standards unless it it is about nature, animal species, anatomy or a historical or similar sites. I say this though I believe Robert Aitken was a decent man.

To avoid misunderstanding, I disassociate myself with the comments here defending Shimano in his sex-abuse scandal. I believe Shimano is guilty. My tag was placed only regarding the gallery issue. Shimano will not be convicted by galleries on Wikipedia but only by evidence before a government inquest. Unfortunately, it appears that Aitken had such evidence but chose not to act. --Gunnermanz (talk) 15:13, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

Harada-Yasutani lineage support for Japanese military aggression and imperialism during WWII[edit]

This article says that Aitken was a Zen teacher in the Harada-Yasutani lineage. It also says that Aitken was a social activist through much of his adult life, was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, became a strong opponent of the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet , was among the earlier proponents of deep ecology in religious America, and helped found the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

It is well known that the Harada-Yasutani lineage supported Japanese military aggression and imperialism during WWII.

See [[1]] and [[2]] and [[3]]

The article should include an explanation and dicussion of this discrepency. --- Dagme (talk) 20:58, 21 November 2011 (UTC)

no, it shouldn't. "The Harada-Yasutani lineage" didn't do anything. Individual's within that lineage may have - though there is much dispute about the claims made in that book. Aitken himself, who is the subject of this entry mind you, has a clear and incontrovertible record of having been passionately socially and politically active, progressive, pacifistic, and peace supporting. take your axe to the Sanbo Kyodan (the actual name of that lineage) page if you wish to to grind it.Tao2911 (talk) 16:36, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Robert Baker Aitken/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

Comment(s) Press [show] to view -->
I've just made a correction on this page: Robert Aitken's birth date is June 19, not July 19, 1917. An external "authority" was cited for the latter date, but it has it wrong; I do not have a similar external authority to cite, so thought I'd put a note here. I've known Robert Aitken for over 50 years, since he was a teacher and I was a student at J. Krishnamurti's Happy Valley School in California. I've shared with him a lifelong interest in Zen Buddhism, and so have seen him now and then over the years, though I've not been closely associated with him. As a student also of astrology, I tend to remember people's birth months, so was surprised to see the article giving his birth date as July 19, as I remembered him as having been born in the month of Gemini. The Wikipedia article led me to the "Dana for Aitken Roshi" site (, where I found corroboration of my suspicion that the given date was incorrect, on that site's "About Robert Aitken Roshi" page (, which mentions a gathering on "June 24, 2007 to celebrate Roshi’s 90th birthday, which was June 19th." So there's the "authority" for my change to the article, if anyone wonders. Homohabilis (talk) 23:48, 30 October 2008 (UTC)

Last edited at 23:48, 30 October 2008 (UTC). Substituted at 04:33, 30 April 2016 (UTC)