Valley Zendo

zendo history-1

Zendo History

Valley Zendo was created cooperatively by priests from Antaiji, Valley Zendo’s home temple in Japan, and North American lay practitioners. In 1974 Rev. Koshi Ichida and Mr. Stephen Yenik arrived from Kyoto. The following year land was purchased with donated funds in forested hills near the Vermont-Massachusetts border. Rev. Ichida was joined by  monks from Antaiji, Rev. Shohaku Okumura and Eishin Ikeda and several American practitioners. Together the group cleared the land and built a simple structure that served as residence and zendo. Thanks to the support and labor of monks and lay practitioners over the years, Valley Zendo has been able to function as a zazen center for four decades.

Set in the woods of the Berkshire mountain foothills, Valley Zendo provides a quiet atmosphere in which to practice zazen. Reached by a narrow dirt road, the facilities at the zendo mirror its rustic setting. In order to preserve the integrity of the Antaiji tradition, from the beginning life at the zendo has been simple. In winter the zendo and residential facilities (where the resident teacher lives) are heated by wood stoves. Drinking and bathing water are drawn from a well located at the edge of Valley Zendo’s land. Each summer vegetables and herbs from the zendo garden contribute to meals in daily life as well as during sesshin. Through the work of its residents and donations from lay practitioners Valley Zendo continues to provide its services to individuals interested in the practice of Zazen.

Valley Zendo hopes to continue to provide instruction in shikantaza and to encourage people to integrate zazen practice into their daily lives. The Zendo does not intend to create a hierarchical structure, but has been run with help of board members as regulated by government. We envision the zendo’s sangha as a network of independent practitioners.

–Eishin Ikeda, Resident teacher

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Dharma in January 2018

Dear Zen friend
1)         February sesshin:       from 02/09 to 02/13.
             March sesshin:           from 03/09 to 03/13
2)   On the day of Spring Cleaning, we found a scroll in the basement. Inside the scroll there was calligraphy of Sawaki Roshi. Sawaki Roshi was the greatest zen master for last 150 years. The scroll was somewhat damaged by stains and molds.
I asked a few people for advice how to handle it. And heard there is industry of paper preservation. Universities have lots of books to be well kept, national and local archives must be carefully treated. Some are valuable, some not. Quality of paper is different on age and even a place of production. Restoration and preservation of these documents requires professional knowledge and skill.
Museum level treatment was recommended at valley Zendo after restoration. To avoid sun ray and moisture is possible. Museum level is a dream, though.
I asked an institution to work for the scroll. It took about 2 months to finish with lots of money. And I was disappointed with its result. The calligraphy did not look much different from 2 months before. What did those guys do?
Later I thought just whitening was possible and simple. For restoration, however, looking aged is valuable. I did not buy a new picturer, but an old picture which looked aged.  Wanted a bright picture, preservation institution is a wrong place.
I sent the picture for a friend to frame. He brought the picture in January. I was surprised at seeing beauty of the framed picture.  Unbelievable! He said the back ground color fit best for the calligraphy.
Most of the time at valley zendo I think about woods and flowers. Document conservation was a totally different world. It was fun to have a glance at a different industry.
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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Dharma in the year of Dog 2018

Dear Zen friend

A Happy New Year!

1) January sesshin : from 01/19 to 01/23.

February sesshin: from 02/09 to 02/13.

2) It was coldest during the year end sessin. We experienced a feeling of sitting in a freezer. Most of the time, cold weather went away from sesshins. This time that luck did not happen.

3) This year is the year of Dog by Chinese yearly chart. They pick 12 animals. Recent order is Monkey, Bird, Dog, and Boar. The characters of animals are said that Monkey starts manipulation, Bird implicitly keeps manipulation, Dog brings a big event and new trend becomes apparent, Boar pushes the new trend without hesitation.

On TVs and in youtubes, there are many discussions about big events for the year of Dog. Many shows take an hour, some take 3 hours. To watch their predictions in the world was interesting. I wanted to gather information as much as possible so that I would understand the world before anything big happen.

They talked about politics, economy, international relations, war, philosophy, literature, psychology, Olympics, and AI. A big event like 9/11 may happen in the Far East. To think about global issue is fun.

At the same time the weather forecast warned severe snow storm with record low temperatures in this weekend. This may be a big event. I could do little for preparation but brought a kerosene lamp nearby.

In the morning of the 3rd, water in the sink did not lower. Something went wrong with water pipe. It was a small sink, but real problem may not be so simple. It was in cold winter, snow was about to fall. the fixing could not be postponed.

In the telephone directory there was not a single plumber listed in the village. I called few people. Some refused to work, some helped. For two days I had to be with the water pipe problem.

Possible candidates of the problem were ice, clog, or design flaw. It was hard for plumbers to find exact cause for the trouble. The team brought a vacuum cleaner, snakes, hair dryer, electric saw, flash light, paper towel. After trials and errors, they managed to make temporary fix at the time of snow fall.

New year for zendo started with a big event.
Regards.
Eishin ikeda
Valley Zendo

 

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Dharma in November 2017

Dear Zen Friend

1) December Sesshin from 12/08 to 12/10

The year end Sesshin from 12/27 to 12/31

January Sesshin from 01/19 to 01/23

2) A middle sized tree fell just before my eyes in the back yard. An explosive sound was scary. I heard falling sound many times at night, this was the first time to see a real tree falling.

There was no wind when the tree fell. Looked at broken parts, particular reason why the tree fell was not seen. A frame of tree collapsed, The existence of the tree (cause), ended (effect).

3) Winter is fast coming. Heating has been a serious question for valley zendo. Survival here means overcoming freezing temperature. Since the challenge is inescapable, I have had to learn many things about heating. If I lived in a city or in southern part of the US, I would never have attained knowledge related to heating.

This year I learned a new thing. In winter a stove must run through all night. Every night I got up once for adding firewood into the stove. Every night I calculated when to sleep and get up around certain time. I did it. The activity became my second nature.

After November sesshin I could not get up at one night due to exhaustion. That made me scared by thinking what would have happened in the middle of winter. I visited a stove shop in the following day.

New stoves are much different from old ones. An old style wood stove was a place for bonfire in a house. There always is danger of real fire. A new stove seems to contain the danger as much as possible. The control of temperature and direction of heating has been substantially improved.
At the same time all impurities in the wood are designed to burn. There has been a problem of creosote from the wood stove. This is why all chimneys must be cleaned every year. New products look to burn even creosote in smoke. A chimney sweeper may lose job if all stoves are replaced with new products.
A new stove is supposed to consume 30% less firewood than current one, and the burning of one load lasts about 10 hours. This is the most attractive feature for me.

We used to read ‘Discovery of Fire,’ ‘History of Fire,’ History of Fire and Humans.’ These concepts are based on fire in the forests. An old stove was an iron box in the house. So people talked abut distance of stove from wall.
The back of a new stove is not hot, so the distance is no more big issue. Finally modern technology has pushed a wood stove to a higher level.

I desire to sleep without worries about getting up at night.
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo

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Dharma in October 2017

 

Dear zen friend

1) November sesshin: from 11/10 to 11/14

December sesshin: from 12/08 to 12/10

Year end sesshin: from 12/27 to 12/31

 

2) Almost all foliage has fallen. It looks a quarter less than usual. Less productivity of leaves is possible for this year.

3) September sesshin took place under low temperature. Rain added misery to chill air. I was sad and uncomfortable wondering when to start stove heating.

During October sesshin It was fine for five days. For two days air was hot like summer. Sitting is hard for both in cold and hot temperature.

On the fifth day it was hot and humid in the morning. We were supposed to be exhausted. After noon time, suddenly I had a feeling of doing perfect zazen, desired to have five more days of sitting. It was very comfortable.

At the end of the session, everyone looked happy. One participant said ‘This sesshin was one of the best.’ I was pleased all practitioners ended October sesshin with comfort.

Uchiyama Roshi said that the enlightenment depends on temperature and humidity. He is right. Comfortable sesshin is not necessarily a good one.The comfort may be a product of air and vapor.

At the same time I have to say that we should have nice and comfortable sesshin for hundreds of times. 10 years of practice means 120 sesshins. If most of them were nice ones, a practitioner would become confident on zazen. Those who have confidence on zazen are likely to understand what Shakyamuni said.

Comfortable sesshin is a gate for the mystery of zen.

Regards.
Eishin Ikeda

 

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Dharma in September 2017

Dear Zen friend

1) October Sesshin: from 10/06 to 10/10.

November Sesshin: from 11/10 to 11/14.

 

2) I made a lot of apple sauce. Freezer is filled with cans. They are two kinds, red delicious and mackintosh.

3) We have study group on the third Sunday every month. I started the event thanks to Uchiyama Roshi’s suggestion. He said just sitting is not good enough, right understandings are must for a Buddhist.

Participants take turn to lead discussions. Since brain power is limitless, any topics and ideas are welcome. I have mainly presented the laws of cause and effect as Buddhist idea at the sessions.

The pattern recognition was also presented several times. We are able to recognize things as pattern. We see red or blue instantly, we know triangle or square at once. It sounds easy to function. Does a pattern need cognition theory to sense?

The laws of cause and effect contains a long chain of relationship of all things. Since the chain is long, a way of understanding tends to become variable. Each Buddhist school was established due to a specific cognition theory.

Cognition theory is boring and painful to study. I often lost patience to keep learning. Pattern recognition may not need a long chain of words.

I recently sent an essay to a popular blog. It was accepted as excellent. And it happened to be about pattern recognition in a totally different context. I am from a culture of a pattern recognition language.

Today was a day for mushroom hunt. Most of fungus are not seen nor known. Is it worth classifying millions of fungi by color, form, smell, location? To know all million kinds of fungi seems to be out of human power.

And mushrooms are too variable to exactly categorize them. It may be good enough to classify them by the patterns, edible or poisonous.

Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo

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Dharma in August, 2017

Dear zen friend
1)   September sesshin:      from  09/08 to 09/12
      October Sesshin:    from  10/06 to 10/10
2) Zendo is on vacation mood in August. We enjoyed Summer Lecture and Zazenkai at Shantigar.
Somehow it has been rainier and cooler than usual.
We almost needed heating on 27th.
3) I presented the Eight Awareness at the Zazenkai. It was excerpts from Shobogenzo Eight Awareness written by Dogen Zenji. It also was based on the record of the last days of Shakyamuni in The Great Nirvana Sutra. Shakyamuni left guidance on how to live for his students. In it he said ‘Live according to not others but the Self and the Dharma.’
‘The eighth Awareness is not to be engaged in hollow discussions.
(It is to be free from conjecture by realization. To thoroughly study real forms of all dharma is named no hollow discussions.)
About the line above (the eighth of eight awareness), endless discussions were spoken, however. Is awareness better suited than awakening? Isn’t it free from realization by conjecture instead? What is dharma? What is hollow discussion?
When I came to the eighth awareness, I became silent and sat, it was clear and simple.
Here is America, language and experiences are different. Things are not simple.
I used to love arguing ideas like emptiness, impermanence, Buddha nature, enlightenment, or nirvana. Looked back those days, they were hollow discussions for me.
In the meantime, I noticed perfect logic was not powerful enough to bring enlightenment, and abstract words ignored both a fact of physical body and a matter of good and bad.
My suggestion was bow and respect would be necessary for studying the all dharma.
We should discuss Buddhism until we know what is hollow.
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo

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Dharma in July, 2017

Dear Zen Friend
1)  No Sesshin in August
     September sesshin :   from 09/08 to 09/12
2)  on August 13th Sunday, Summer Lecture will take place at 11 am.
     This year’s guest speaker is Mr. Pike Messenger.   I personally met him and found him interesting. I asked him to share his wisdom with us. The following is his message.
        Here is my background.    I was raised on a subsistence farm in Salisbury Massachusetts, a coastal town. We raised vegetables, dairy cows, chickens, hay, and apples. I worked for my grandfather and uncles.  We used horses as well as tractors.
         After high school I studied botany, chemistry and agronomy  at UMass in Amherst from 1952 to 1956. From 1956 to 1963 I served on two Navy ships in the Pacific. In 1961 I married Chitose Yamaguchi a seamstsress from Kyushu. We moved to Middleton and  raised 3 children.  I taught high school biology from 1963 to 1993. From 1995 to 2009 I was Middleton’s conservation agent. For the last 20 years I have been an active member of the Middleton Stream Team and the Ipswich River Watershed Association. These groups protect our waters and wetlands. In 2011 I published a book of 300 essays entitled The Water Closet.
       My talk will be about major changes in the land from after the last continental glacier up to the present. The subject is way to large for a one hour talk so I will just hit important points in my time.   The changes have been very dramatic and long  very interesting to me.  A couple of centuries ago  your Warner Hill was probably without many trees. There were no plants or animals 12,000 or so years ago before the ice melted.

 
3)  On Aug. 26th, Saturday, there will be one day zazen kai at Shantigar (Peaceful Home) at 63 Davenport Rd, Rowe.
     The event starts at 9 am and ends at 5 pm.
      I give a talk about ‘Buddhism in daily life’ in the morning and Mr. Jean-Claude van Itallie leads a meditation walk in the woods in the afternoon.
     For signing up and more information, please contact Peter Columbus at email@shantigar.org.  or  call  (413)339-4332.
     No cost, donation is accepted.
     For directions, please see     http://www.Shantigar.org
 
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
 
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