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 February 2023

Dear zen friend

1)   March mini sesshin:   03/10  to. 03/12 

      April mini sesshin:  04/07/  to  04/09

2)  At 7 am in the morning of February 4th, I looked at the thermostat outside the window and witnessed that the temperature was -30 Fahrenheit (-35 Centigrade). 

Low temperature (-17F) was predicted through internet.  The forecast was scary, so I wanted confirmation by my eyes. It was the record low temperature for Valley Zendo. 

Usually air temperature drops to -10F (-25C) one or two times during winter. I was ready to handle such coldness.  Room temperature was 70F (20C) thanks to a wood stove. 

Mercury is used for a thermostat. Mercury is the only metal which is liquid in ordinary temperatures in our lives. Its fusing point is -39C. The bottom temperatures shown for commercial mercury gauges are -40F (-40C).  Thermostats might have been broken if the temperature were 10F (5C) lower than the new record. 

3)  Two Indian Americans (not native Americans) have announced their candidacies for president. 

America is not a small country. A presidential candidate must have a certain view of the world. America is not a young country either. Ideas and experiments were executed and many of them seem not to work well. A fact that the  president runs the nation based on a reliable vision has become ever more important. 

I have learned Indian ideas and people through Buddhism and Bollywood movies. Buddhist Sutras explain deep philosophies  whenever Sutras are open. They are products of an ancient Indian civilization. Of course Buddhism teaches a view of the world. 

Bollywood movies are mainly made for ordinary Indians, Hindis. Bollywood produces two times more movies than Hollywood. They show dynamism of Indian civilization in ancient times as well as in modern society.  Their masterpieces are highly refined and entertaining.  A film full of dancing and singing indicates how smart Indian civilization is. Those movies transmit another view of the world from Indian subcontinent. 

Hinduism is not monotheism. There are multiple saints in Hinduism.  Shakyamuni Buddha is regarded as one of their saints for Indians.  Buddhism and Hinduism are fused. 

I do not know religion for the two presidential candidates. I guess they likely know the treasure of Indian traditions. They hold some values and visions of Indian civilization addition to American  capitalism and democracy. 

An Indian American claims that many Indian descendants have become too Americans by losing Hindustan spirits. These arguments are spoken in movies and in real lives. In reality most of them keep a taste of their great civilization.  

Will Indian American factors change American politics? British prime minister is already Indian British. We may be seeing an unprecedented  movement in American history.  


Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in January 2023

Dear zen friend

1)  February Mini Sesshin;   from  02/10   to   02/12

     March Mini Sesshin:    from   03/10   to  03/12 

2)  Last November,  when I came back from a trip, a big porcupine was lying on the driveway. It was already cold. A big porcupine had been seen from time to time for two decades. It must be the same animal. I moved the heavy body into woods. That was a rare experience. 

There are many animals around the Zendo. Deer, bears, birds, chipmunks play around. However, dead bodies of them were not seen. While walking in woods, I did not see remains of dead animals. 

There was an abandoned apple orchard near zendo decades ago. I liked to take a walk among apple trees. The orchard was pretty and clean despite of human work. I looked for an apple sprout for planting. There was no baby apple tree there. in Autumn after a strong wind I visited the orchard  looking for an apple seed. Not a single seed was found. 

Last fall I waited for peaches becoming ripe. I checked their color and softness few times a day. Abruptly one day all peaches were poked  by birds. When I found peaches were eaten, the rest of fruit was covered with ants. No remains were found next morning. The field below was clean. Where had peach shells gone? 

It seems that in nature fruits and animal bodies are eaten up and cleaned up as natural function. Nature takes care of sprouting, growing, fruiting, and dying. 

There are three major gods respected in India.  Siva is one of them. Siva is said the god of destruction. In Bollywood movies Siva is respected by many people and occasions. Respect for destruction? Ultimate destruction is death. Why is Siva so popular? 

Ancient Indians must have known that nature takes care of aftermath of destruction. Nature brings disasters like tsunami or earthquake. It also heals damage and helps recovery. Volcanic eruption is dangerous for humans but natural phenomenon for animals and plants. Siva is regarded as the god of not only destruction but for cure and care. 

We do not know how to rightfully dump plastic products nor prevent pollution from used batteries. Solar panels are sold without thinking where to dump them in ten years. 

We do not know the prayer of Siva.   


Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma for the year of Hare, 2023

Dear zen friend

1) January Mini Sesshin:   from  01/20  to  01/22 

February Mini Sesshin:  from  02/10  to  02/12

2)  Once upon a time Uchiyama Roshi mentioned that Sawaki Roshi did not fully grasp zen until the age of 65.  Uchiyama Roshi was under 60 at that time. 

I was stunned at hearing such words. Sawaki Roshi was a hero and a saint forever to me. Sawaki Roshi must have been enlightened in his twentieth since he was  genius. And his enlightenment must not have been defiled ever. 

Those days I only was concerned about spontaneous enlightenment, which has nothing to do with time nor aging. Enlightenment was supposed to solve all the problems once for all. I was desperate to look for clues to get enlightened. It must have been eternal and instant.  I was young. 

As sitting practice went on, i learned that  things are connected with time. For example young people tend to ask who I am. Usually teachers try to explain what the self is. When they think about self, time is often excluded. Their answers are hardly found.  

My answer?  I, the self is established and reinforced in time. Lionel Mecci or Tom Brady have established their self after long time efforts. Without hard work in length their self was not made up. 

In zen there is gradual enlightenment as well as instant accomplishment. While I worshiped  instant enlightenment due to my preference,  Soto zen has regarded gradual enlightenment as key teachings. So Sawaki Roshi became wiser as he continued zen practice while aging.    

Today I chainsawed a tree for saving baby maples in snow. These actions may reinforce self of mine a little. Such small cumulative efforts would contribute bringing a beautiful forest. 

In this new year I wish all would leap and jump around like a hare.  


Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in November 2022

Dear zen friend 

1)  December Mini sesshin:   12/09,  10,  11. 

     Year end Mini sesshin:  12/29, 30, 31.   

     January Mini sesshin:   01/13, 14, 15. 

 2)  At Zenshuji Temple in Los Angeles Jukaie (Receiving precepts) was held from 11/16 to 11/20/2022. It was a part of centennial anniversary events for Sotoshu mission. 

More than eighty priests and lay people received Mahayana Bodhisattva Precepts. For receiving important precepts, receivers must understand what precepts are and practice rituals during five days. Thus teachers and teachers helpers gathered. Those who take care of various functions such as accommodations, transportations, public relations were necessary. 

Addition to traditional roles Covid test department and baby sitting priests were organized. As a whole about two hundred people worked for one purpose, completing ceremonies for giving and receiving Bodhisattva precepts. In the end not a single grave accident was heard. The event  successfully went through. 

At the very end the abbot of Zenshuji announced that Zenshuji was officially established on 11/20/1922. Jukaie was completed on 11/20/2022. Jukaie was the celebration event  for exact centennial anniversary of Zenshuji Soto mission. It was also the beginning of  development of Soto mission for next hundred years. Then he said that his birthday was November 20th. All participants sang Happy Birthday to You.  Congratulations!  

A big event needs years of planning, researching, and simulations. I did not take part in such important activities. I was sick for  those years. In June I could decide to join the event since my health was restored. The success of the ceremony was totally up  to those who worked hard for the project during corona pandemic.    

The event was full of entertainment. Serious and joyful performances were done in series. Thank you for the host, young and old friend priests, and all participants. 

I was fortunate to witness the historical and the last event. Last Jukaie was held twenty years ago. In twenty years many friends and I would not be able to gather. So, would be at two hundredth anniversary.    

I was not familiar with precepts. Precepts and Zazen were said independent each other in academic terms. In the lecture paper this time, the name of Rev. Meiho Sotetsu (明峰素哲)was seen. He is known as the fifth patriarch after Dogen zenji and one of the sincerest zazen practitioners. The text of precepts might be compiled by Rev. Sotetsu. Precepts and zazen must be newly inquired.  


Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in October 2022

Dear zen friend

1)  November mini Sesshin:    11/04, 05, and 06.  

Valley Zendo is closed on 13th Sunday and 20th Sunday in November.   

December mini Sesshin:  12/ 09,  10,  and 11.  

December Year End mini Sesshin:   12/ 29,  30,  and 31. 

2)  One of founders of Valley Zendo passed in August. Memorial service was done, secular ceremonies were formally finished. Yet the feeling of loss has stayed. He cannot be forgotten. We do sitting practice in the house he built.    

He was a hippie, a sustainable hippie. He made living by wood crafting and gardening. Many vegetables were grown in his land. Chickens and pigs were his friends. He avoided chemical sprays from his foods and land. He had been constantly aware of environmental disturbances. 

He sang, played french horn. He built a studio for rehearsing music for his band. Friends gathered around him.  His memorial was filled with music played by his teacher and his sons. A noble hippie has gone. An age of hippie is fading. 

Uchiyama Roshi was interested in Hippie movement. He said Siddhartha was the first hippie in human history. He was a prince, the throne was promised. He was given all power and honor. Pricey materials were already gained. He was supposed to be satisfied.  He escaped his castle and looked for the dharma in woods instead. 

Uchiyama Roshi discussed with hippies and found what they were interested in. They seemed to look for something outside secular values. Young Americans did not have to worry about survival. America conquered the world, became the richest nation. Money and power were not attractive for hippies. They were drawn to something spiritual. 

Hippies brought zen into the US culture. He was a part of that zen boom.  He met Uchiyama Roshi in Kyoto and enjoyed sightseeing Japan. Zen was mystery for a hippie. Mystery draws attention of those who look for truths.  

He had reason to lead a life of hippie. He was born in New York. Why did he move to country side?  He kept dreams in his youth and realized a comfortable life style. He was one of creators of hippie culture.

In a sense he lived in a happy time. We have to eat more and more gene modified foods. Big businesses sell oil products and batteries while they do not know how to handle them ten years later. People are watched by surveillance cameras and through electric communications. How does a person find a path toward true self? 

The possibility to realize hippie dreams seems to come true less and less these days. 


Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo 

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Dharma in September 2022

Dear zen friend 

1)  October Mini Sesshin.  7th, 8th, and 9th.   Sitting period:   from 8 am to 5 pm. 

November Mini Sesshin.  4th, 5th, and 6th. 

Valley Zendo is closed to public on 13th and 20th in November. 

2)  Leaves are turning red day by day. 

Foliage color is beauty of life. 

Harvesting in autumn is gift of nature. 

We don’t need to over struggle. 

3)  I had chance to watch “24” few weeks ago, a popular TV show televised more than ten years ago.  Actions are done hour to hour within 24 hours. The show was known internationally.  

Season Three was a story about bio terrorism. A terrorist spread virus in a hotel in Los Angeles. Eleven more places in the US were planned for the same virus to spread. Arrested terrorist was contaminated with his virus. His nose began bleeding and his symptom indicated quick death with agony and pain. 

The hotel was locked down at dawn. Those who stayed there were panicked. A man who tried to get out was shot. A front manager was infected while working for the hotel and guests. Testing people with medical devices began. Another man who sneaked out early morning was biologically traced at a drug store and a bar, so that an infection route was specified.  

The TV drama reminded me that Americans were not in messy confusion during the last pandemic. TV dramas like 24 must have educated people how to think and how to behave when facing virus problems. A show was popular means that many people became knowledgeable. 

Virus must multiply thousand or million times in number in human body for harming. (I do not know exact number.)  Multiplying takes time and needs food. This is why bioweapons must expect periods of incubation. Infection is different from symptom. Symptom does not equal to death. 

In real life human body has many layers of protective function against virus invasion. After the invasion, immune system fights back and restores health. How our body repairs ourselves are not exactly known because it is the same as creation of life. The complication of life is better to be respected. Humans are not too fragile. 

Few decades ago ebola epidemic was reported in Western Africa. Warning was on alert worldwide. 

A journalist visited the Western Africa, ebola infected areas. He made schedule flying back to Canada via Tokyo. He landed Tokyo and walked around in shopping malls and busy railway stations. Soon his suspicious behaviors were recognized. He was asked to leave. 

Not a single case of ebola infection was found in Tokyo at that time.  I felt odd because I watched movie “Outbreak” before. Ebola was supposed to be most dangerous and spreadable. Why did nothing happen? 


Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in August 2022

Dear zen friend

1)  It is planned to hold mini sesshin   on 9th, 10th, and 11th in September.

Participants sit from 8 am to 5 pm. 

The session is held for 3 days. 

Easy schedule is good to start zen practice again. 

If this worked, mini sesshin in October on 7th, 8th, and 9th would be in sight. 

2)   A horse owned by a neighbor walked in and ate grass these days. 

It ate weed, not cucumbers or tomatoes nearby. 

I allowed it eating since our lawnmower was in trouble this summer. 

Is a horse restricted to eat one kind of grass? 

My image of horse has been made through movies. 

Horses run fast like machine and look great. 

The real horse was gentle and nervous. 

It stood with feet slightly outwardly. 

The horse runs fast not by straight structure of feet but by subtly bent posture made by bones and muscles. 

It is interesting to see a big animal.   

3)  A YouTuber spoke about a problem on semiconductor industry this morning. Taiwan companies produce more than 70% of microchip worldwide and plan to increase their capacity. TSMC is the biggest among these chip makers.    

US government tries to get microchip production back to US soil. Intel was asked to build factories and expand its production lines. Things looked simple. CEO of Intel visited TSMC. Since then Intel became reluctant to realize the offer of the US government. If Intel did not work, which company would do with government money. 

According to the YouTuber, the most advanced microchip (TSMC wants to produce) is made using the most expensive precision machine made by a  company in the Netherlands. The machine can draw 2 or 4 nano lines on a chip. 

The process of making microchip requires lots of electricity and water. TSMC already uses 6% of electricity in Taiwan. Power outage  has happened many times. Lots of water was used by TSMC, so that farmers did not get water enough for farming. Some toxic liquids were suspected not to be treated. Health problems near factories were reported. 

If the most advanced factory of TSMC were built, 11% of the electricity in Taiwan would be used. And the water would be consumed more than double now. Where is power, where is water? 

One company would use 11% of electricity in a nation. Unbelievable! I did not know a tiny chip in my macbook might contain such an environmental problem. Intel CEO knows the situation. 

Is the bigger the better? Is think big good? Is faster internet access necessary? I do not want to chase after a new thing, nor the most advanced artificial product. 

A few months ago a ship with 6000 electric vehicles was on fire and sank into Atlantic ocean. I worry about chemical deterioration of batteries in the sea. We do not know how to correctly treat plastic wastes yet. I hope the Rockefeller would find a way of cleansing the earth.  


Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo 

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Dharma in July 2022

Dear friend

1)  In the middle of July two weeks ago, it was hot and humid. 

Basement was the only place to feel relieved. 

It is cool in the mornings in the end of July. 

Summer is about to go. 

2)   In the afternoon at a mall,  a fancy restaurant put a sign which says there are gluten free menus Become curious about new menus I entered the restaurant. 

I ordered lunch size fried fish. When delivered, it looked brightly yellow. What kind of flour was used?  Corn flour, a waitress answered.  Ah,  corn contains no gluten. Yet, corn flour fry was out of my imagination. The meal was tasty. 

I cooked tempura with fine corn meal. It was not successful enough. There must be a secret. There are quinoa flour, rice flour, and tapioka flour on the shelf. They are worth trying soon.   

3). I used to mow grass every other week. I did not know rules for mowing, nor never mowed in my country. in spring and summer grasses grow quickly.  If being lazy,  a garden would’ve become a jungle. To keep garden low,  two time mowing a month  was necessary. To mow whole garden took more than 4 hours.  

Beautiful grasses in England are well known.  They are products of mowing for centuries, a teacher said. They are green, clean,  and  comfortable. Likewise, Zendo had green grass surrounded with green woods. 

Tired of mono color environment,  this year I tried not to mow grass throughly or frequently. As a result many kinds of flowers were seen born and dead.  Colorful plants in the garden were recognized. Red, yellow, white, purple colors rose and fell one after another in large and tiny patches. Nature already has supplied abundant varieties.  I did not need to buy flowers.  

We have two lawn mowers. Each did not work well by different reason. Machines sometimes stop working. On the other hand nature never stops working. 


Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in July 2022

Dear zen friend

1)  There was a nest of a couple of phoebes a foot above my head in the woodshed.  

It was sunny with breezing air on 14th of June. 

When I entered the woodshed at around 1 pm,  4 baby phoebes flew away just before my eyes.

New lives were born. 

2)  Shohei Ohtani fever has not ended. Winning MVP last year seems not to be the best result for his baseball career. Not only Americans are watching his games, but also many Japanese fans are awake at night to watch his plays. All his pitching and hitting are reported to Japan through YouTubes instantly. 

Ichiro was one of the best Japanese baseball players Americans know. He was talented but not powerful due to his body size. Ichiro always faced his own limits on the field. Ohtani is powerful enough to win counter parts. He cannot be a Japanese. 

In a year of 1930s NY Yankees with Babe Ruth traveled Japan to play baseball games. At that time there was only one professional  team in Japan. Japanese challenged Americans forming all Japan team and or a local specialist team. Yankees won all games with big margin except one. 

At one game Sawamura, a high school student pitched. His pitching was almost perfect but lost 0-1. A solo home run was struck by Lou Gehrig. Sawamura, a loser pitcher became a national hero. I know a feeling of the era that Sawamura was the only hero for decades. We were far behind the US.

Japanese baseball team won gold medal at the last Olympics. Athletes must have studied theories of game, trained themselves, and improved all skills about the ball game. They have grown big as physical size and their playing technique has been highly refined, Ohtani is standing out among them.  

While Ohtani being a school boy, education department lowered requirements in public school. Knowledge learned at school was lessened to 70%.  The policy was seriously argued and some ministers resigned. Many people worried that the easy curriculum  would produce less knowledgeable adults, so Japan would decline. 

Athletes belonging to Ohtani’s generation have gained most medals at Olympics, have broken new records after another at many

competitions on fields and in the pools. Now people are not sure what good education is. 

On TV screen with a home run of Shohei Ohtani, children show full excitement and pleasure. Their joy may be a liberation from frustration of strict education. Adults look delightful freed from lock down.    


Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in May 2022

Dear zen friend

1) We have been under perfect weather. 

Flowers have decorated gardens. 

New phoebes are about to born. 

A deer and a fawn were walking along the road. 

I attended a memorial service on Sunday. 

Memory of corona looked fading away. 

A year ago at a burying site in large field, people were wearing mask.  

Normal life is coming back. 

2) There is news in which Elon Musk and Bill Gates are arguing. Elon tries to open the twitter for everyone and every speech. Bill wants Twitter company to keep current regulations. Big money is moved around about the case.  

Isn’t America a nation of free speech? What does Constitution say? 

Their arguments may be a good chance to clarify free speech. To logically clarify freedom would have given a great contribution to American civilization. 

Buddhism had experienced logical pursuit of the Dharma more than 2000 years ago. A view of continuity was studied for centuries. The movement was named Hinayana. The ultimate continuity showed that all things are permanent and all time, past, present, and future  exist. 

A view of discontinuity began with impermanence. Time does not exist but flows. So flow things. Is the idea of impermanence established truth? No,  Impermanence  must flow,  too. That impermanence discontinues is named emptiness. Emptiness is the ultimate truth. These ideas and movements are names Mahayana. 

Buddhist Sutras say there are 18 emptinesses. Emptiness must be ultimate. Are there multiple ultimates?  I could  not figure out those emptinesses.  Indian scholars and priests must have understood the logic. This might have been an attempt to explain varieties of the world. 

Both continuity and discontinuity were sincerely and honestly studies. As a result, it is known permanence is not ultimate truth,

and impermanence is not ultimate truth. Each idea does not fulfill conditions of  truthfulness? 

Free speech should be sincerely and honestly argued and studied.


Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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