Encouraging Words

Robert Aitken 1917-2010

A brilliant and incisive mind and words I return to.

"When I was a teacher of creative writing, I had a hard time persuading my students to treat their first drafts as something preliminary. They thought of them as something sacred that could not be touched. With this emotional investment, they were unable to finish their work.
We all have this problem. When we do something, we feel obliged to defend our action. when we say something, we will then argue from those words as though they formed an irrefutable premise.
Yet our teacher Shakyamuni is still doing zazen and really is only halfway to complete enlightenment. Keep yourself open to correction, open to change. This is the Buddha Tao."


"Do you deplore waste? Live by cultivating. Cultivating begins with the agent of realization, the one drawing this breath. Use this breath.
Do you deplore violence? Live by nurturing. Nurturing begins with this spoon or with this friend.
Thus you ground yourself in awareness and compassion. Decisions about Right Livelihood and social action arise here".


When your eye is upon joy and misery, you are a person of joy and misery. When your eye is upon realization and ignorance, you are a person of realization and ignorance. But when you see clearly that all these concepts are transparent, with nothing to them at all, then you are a person of torch ginger.

From Encouraging Words by Robert Aitken, Pantheon Books, 1993

Robert Aitken Website


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