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Anne Hopkins Aitken
Anne Hopkins Aitken.JPG
School Zen Buddhism
Born February 8, 1911(1911-02-08)
Cook County, Illinois
Died June 13, 1994 (aged 83)
Senior posting
Based in Diamond Sangha

Anne Arundel Hopkins Aitken (February 8, 1911 – June 13, 1994) is considered by many to be one of the modern mothers of Zen Buddhism in the western world. Named Anna Stinchfield Hopkins when she was born in Cook County, Illinois on February 8, 1911 (birth certificate #6407), Anne told her husband, Robert Baker Aitken, that her name was later changed (when she was old enough to remember the event, perhaps six to eight years-old) because Stinchfield did not provide positive numerology readings. Her mother, Marian Stinchfield Hopkins, was born in Detroit, Michigan, and was 25 when Anne was born. Her father, Lambert Arundel Hopkins, born in New Mexico, was a 29 year-old "Railroad Supply Man" when she was born.

Anne spent two years (1929-1931) studying abroad as an undergraduate at Oxford University and graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, California with a B.A. in English in 1932. She then pursued a Master's Degree in Sociology, first at Stanford University in 1933, and later at Northwestern University (1940-1942). In addition to her Oxford years, she also lived in England from January to June, 1937. She traveled to Sweden, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, Italy, México, and much of South America before becoming a teacher and Assistant Director at Happy Valley School in 1949. There she met and in 1957 married English teacher Robert Aitken.

Her new husband introduced her to Zen Buddhism, and her long relationship with the Buddhist community began with their honeymoon to Ryutakuji in Japan. She went on to study the Dharma with Haku’un Yasutani, Sōen Nakagawa and Koun Yamada. She was given the Japanese Buddhist names An (Peace, peace of being at home) Tanshin (Single mind). She and her husband moved to Honolulu, Hawaiʻi to be closer to Thomas Laune Aitken, her young stepson. There they established the Koko An Zendo, which led to the establishment of the Diamond Sangha, an international Zen Buddhist society, in 1959.

Many of the changes that made Zen practice and leadership more accessible to women can be attributed to the efforts she made within the Diamond Sangha. She was neither a prolific writer nor a frequent speaker, but she is remembered fondly around the world for her dedication to the Dharma and support for the Sangha. She was living at the teacher's quarters of the Honolulu Diamond Sangha in Pālolo, Hawaiʻi, when she became ill with flu symptoms. Two days later, on June 13, 1994, at the age of 83, she died of a coronary heart attack, with her husband, stepson, and a few close friends at her hospital bedside. At her memorial, many recalled how she had touched them individually and made each one feel as if only they were special to her.



See also


  • Aitken, Anne. In Spite of Myself. "Kahawai" 1(2), Spring, 1979, pp 2–9.
  • Aitken, Robert.1982. Willy-Nilly Zen. pp. 115–132. In: Aitken, Robert.1982. Taking the Path of Zen. San Francisco: North Point Press.
  • Tworkov, Helen. 1989. Chapter 1 - Robert Aitken. In: Zen in America: Profiles of Five Teachers. San Francisco: North Point Press. pp. 23–62.

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