Zen Master Scandal Talk

Y’all will definitely enjoy our friend Joel Whitney’s “last interview” with the late Zen master Aitken Roshi in Tricycle, complete with sex scandals, wordplay, and mortality.

On the first Monday in August, a day overcast with fog, I’d scheduled a 10 a.m. interview with the legendary teacher, who—at 93 and now quite frail—was, I learned, in the midst of a kind of war. Aitken had started a blog in May. On Thursday, May 20, Tom Aitken posted a letter signed by his father that read, “This is an open letter to Eido Tai Shimano Roshi: Dear Tai San, There are many reports of your abuse of women published on the web which indicate that you have been involved in breaking the precepts over a period of more than 40 years. I would like to urge you to come forth and make a statement in response to these accusations.”

A bit of their conversation:

Me: You’ve written on your blog recently about Eido Shimano.

Aitken: Oh, that’s like asking a question about a hippopotamus when we’re really discussing a leaf frog.

Me: I’m just wondering if there’s a regret in the fact that this has been going on and in the fact that you—

Aitken: Damn right it is.

Me: —that you’ve been trying to clear it up.

Damn right it is.

Me: Is there anything you’d like to say about that?

Aitken: He’s a crook.