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 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. 

Regards.

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.    

Regards.

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.

Regards.

Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in April 2022

Dear Zen friend

1)   The bridge of flowers is open.

People are enjoying magnolia in breezing air.

They forget they were saying wearing masks are permanent etiquette two months ago. 

New life is coming out. 

Daffodils are in full bloom in zendo gardens.  

Birds are busy preparing nests for next generation. 

2)   In the woods a spectacularly looking hemlock is losing leaves. 

Its skin looks red. 

It is dying due to disease. 

Death of one hemlock is possibly leading to a big change of eco system. 

3)  While I was a college student, I commuted to the library and read books. 

‘War and Peace’ by Tolstoy took 36 hours to read through. 

‘The Brothers Karamazov’ by Dostoevsky was too long to keep track of events and personalities. 

‘Sin and Punishment’ was easy to understand, yet deeply psychological expression was impressive. 

‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘Swan Lake’ by Tchaikovsky with various compositions became one of my favorite music.’Swan Lake’ is performed in almost all major nations. It is interesting to see differences expressed in from a nation to a nation.  I bought 4 DVDs of ‘Swan Lake’. 

I knew Russia through these masterpieces. Masterpieces represent best spirits of people and a nation. I admired Russian glory for decades. 

Communism is a foreign idea for Russians. While USSR was a communist country, I always thought Russians must not be communists. Whenever Putin mentioned Russian glory, I thought he was referring to the days of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Tchaikovsky.

After invasion to Ukraine, Putin said the glory of USSR and Stalin was his hero. My admiration was betrayed. 

What did Putin intend to do for twenty years? The restoration of military power was his priority. But are 5000 nuclear bombs necessary to protect his nation? What moved him to hold weapons of overkill?  It may be fear, greed, and,  or ignorance. 

Why didn’t Putin try to wake up the potential for Russian culture?  He might be one of victims of communist ideas.  

Regards.

Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in March 2022

Dear Zen friend

1)  Birds are singing in the morning. 

Deer are walking around the zendo.

Daffodils are budding out. 

Crocuses are blooming. 

Spring is springing day by day. 

I did not worry about firewood during this winter. 

Abundant firewood are unburned. 

Winter was relatively warm.

It did not snow much. 

Spring thaw was not flooding. 

Yet there were a few windy days.

Power outage occurred from time to time. 

Huge trees were broken. 

Paths are blocked by fallen branches. 

It is time for Spring Cleaning. 

2). Two years ago around  this time, Governor Cuomo and President Trump argued about respirator. Having a respirator sounded critical for treatment of a corona patient. A military hospital ship which had many respirators was sent to New York. I had impression that a respirator could cure corona symptom. 

In Japan  a member of government medical council had corona symptom and was hospitalized. He had strongly recommended vaccination on TV,  was a kind of celebrity. But he himself was revealed unvaccinated. That fact drew nationwide attention on his speech and action.  

After the restoration to his health he issued statement that in hospital he was almost unconscious for about ten days and had difficulty to walk when he was out of bed. His ordeal was disastrous. He newly recommended vaccination more strongly. How he was infected was not known. 

A YouTuber explained what happened in the hospital. When a respirator was used, a tube was equipped  to lung areas through throat. A human cannot stand that uncomfortable pain. One tries to take that tube away either consciously or unconsciously. To avoid such incident, a patient must have general anesthesia and his hands must be tied to bed. 

He was unconscious because of general anesthesia. Corona viral activities are most vigorous for ten days. Thus his unconsciousness lasted ten days. He was difficult to begin walking due to lack of motion in bed. His statement explained how normal corona respiratory treatment proceeds.   

I recalled words collateral damage for his throat and legs, and side effects for narcotic drug. Was the respiratory treatment worth for a doctor who was sixties of age? Medical treatment sometimes is more painful than natural healing  or struggle. 

Regards.

Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in February 2022

Dear zen friend

While being sick during winter, I learned something new about sickness. The followings are ideas to share. 

1)  On YouTube a prominent doctor said too strong immunity becomes cause of sickness like allergies. I did not experience an allergic disease,  just heard some people are seriously ill under the name of allergy. People generally become sick due to their weak immunity. We may be living  between the extreme immunities. Health may be a balancing act. 

I get flu when I feel cold. Keeping myself warm is good for prevention from flu and recovering. In summer too hot temperature is a danger for people. From ancient times the balance of bodily conditions has been key to our survival. 

2)  In the recovery process, I went to gym for regaining breathing and muscle power. The idea that the stronger, the better was too simple. Each muscle needs blood circulation. If gained too much muscle mass, my heart must work harder. With too little mass, I cannot shovel snow. How much is good for me?

3) Each of us is made of billions of cells. In our body each cell wall is glued by pectin, a kind of  protein, with adjacent cell wall. This is how our  body is kept one, protected from outside attackers. 

Virus or bacteria dissolve pectin, then invade into a cell. When millions of  viruses gathered, the dissolve would become destructive. So a symptom of sickness appears. I felt my lung cells were floating like a balloon in the beginning of my last symptom.  Pectin must have been dissolved. 

For health recovery from viral sickness cell walls must be glued again in use of  pectin. For reconstructing pectin calcium is useful help. Diet is important, resting is recommended, patience for mending time is necessary. 

4)  Flu is common. Millions are infected each year. A few become seriously ill. 

Maybe flu viruses are everywhere. Hundred viruses are not powerful enough to bring disaster by dissolving pectin. Thousands or millions of viruses can dissolve certain amount of pectin. Like human, a virus is born, ages, and dies. In its life, it can give explosive cell-cleavage with its favorite conditions. The rapid expansion of viral population leads to symptom.    

If number of viral population does not exponentially increase, we are healthy and safe. .  

Regards.

Eishin Ikeda

Vaalley Zendo

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Dharma in the year of Tiger 2022

Dear Zen Friend

On 12/13/21,  Monday, constant coughing suddenly began.  I conversed with a friend on Sunday without any bad omen. I fell to hell from heaven within twenty four hours.  I had a feeling that lung cells were moving and vulnerable. I had never had trouble in lung  before. 

Sleeping was most bothersome. When I tried to sleep, coughing attacked me. A quiet posture seemed to attract coughing. So I tried to walk around and do chores to the limit of my ability for avoiding thinking of sleep. . 

After a walk for 10 meters to bring firewood,  I waited for recovery of breathing for five minutes. I spent in bed most of the time. I could not shovel snow on the driveway.  

To my surprise, there was no pain. no fever, no cold. in spite of hundreds of coughings, my throat was not hurt. Losing appetite and weight was comfortable. So I was always optimistic about the recovery of health.  Staircase looked wider, my body must have been thinner. I lost 20lb. 

The symptom was harshest around 20th of December. The trend  turned toward easier conditions as time went on. Number of coughing was slowly decreasing. The worst was over around Christmas eve. 

Friends and neighbors extended their hands. Thank you. 

On the fifth week, I went for shopping.  When tried to speak to a shop keeper,  cough was about to burst. I walked away silently. I could not speak with people, nor phone, nor sing, nor chant. 

On the seventh week I visited to a fitness club to test myself.  There was no problem in exercise and walking.  While rowing, coughing almost came out. Rowing was connected to lung function. My chest was a little heavy. As a whole my health was recovered about 90% of capacity. 

Was it corona, flu,  pneumonia,  or bodily adjustment for old age?  I became slim. 

A happy New Year!

Regards.

Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in November 2021

Dear Zen Friend
1)  Zendo is surrounded with half an inch snow. 

Winter is here. 

Anything happens in snow. 

A truck crashed into woods just before my eyes during last season. 

We should be cautious at every movement in winter. 

2)    Many YouTubes are uploaded daily. Among them, a fishing YouTube has been attractive these days. Fishing is new to me. It is fun to know a new thing. 


A group of people fish in the sea, on a river, at a pond as sports. They try to catch all kinds of fish, squid, octopus, crab. They use a rod and line, a net, a trap. There are many different items to use. New invention comes out every year. They can explain an item after an item endlessly. Fishing is a treasure of variety. 


When a person catches a big fish, his or her excitement is maxed. Such sentiment is shared among people on board. Even I am moved. That is why they are friends or we are friends. Sometimes a monster fish is caught. Pulling such a fish takes an hour. In the sea a danger comes out at any occasion. They do not need plan nor calculation to make up a panic situation.  


Not like a movie, a mistake is a good material. They challenge a new thing without fear. Collaboration among groups are often made. There is plenty of room to explore a fishing YouTube.  


Some often appear like a movie star. Everyone knows they did not take an acting class. Yet those stars are seen million times. Professional musicians, singers, or actors rather approach to them looking for their own appearances. 


10 years ago, there was M9 earthquake and huge tsunami in Japan. At that time few YouTubes were uploaded. YouTube, however’  was instantly acknowledged worldwide due to the disaster. 


Now anybody can upload YouTube or Twitter any time anywhere. TV stations and News corporations are watching YouTube network for getting news. What a change ten years have made! 


Movie was the greatest entertainment in 20th century.  My collection of DVD and VHS are full of its.masterpieces. We used to talk about famous movie stars whom we never met. Many movie scenes were socially memorized. In reality, movie is motion picture. It became more and more virtual. Special effects became CG ,  ultimate virtuality. I wondered how far we would be walking toward one virtual world.


Circus was the greatest show on earth in 19th century in America. Circus was a complex of big tents, big animals, and great performers. They traveled American continent. People saw beautiful swingings and gymnastic movements in a huge tent. Children fed and  touched big animals.  Everyone loved circus. Animals were real, performers were real, tents were real. 


YouTube is becoming the greatest entertainment in 21st century. It does not need a super star. It is not as costly as movie making. YouTube can show real lives more than movie did.  Those who have digested virtual reality may come back to real life through YouTube.  Real life is abundance.  


Regards.

Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in October 2021

Dear zen friend
1)  On one sunny day I hiked a nearby mountain 1200 feet high with a friend. Zendo is located about 800 feet high. 


We took the shortest and steepest route (unknowingly) to the summit. Slow and steady climb lift our comfort level in the woods. 


Near the summit there was a ledge from which hundreds square miles of areas are in sight. Autumn foliage was bright and awesome.  We sat there for a while and enjoyed imbibing colorful hills and mountains. 


Suddenly my breath was becoming fast and air was flowing in and out swiftly for a few minutes. I had a feeling that my lungs were expanding and shrinking with full speed. Blood circulation increased. 
The symptom calmed soon without harm.

 Not only colors of leaves were spectacular but also my physical experience was amazing. I understand why hiking and climbing are popular. 

2)  We had to dig a 30 feet trench for preventing flood at the wood shed. A huge maple stump was on the way. 

A difficulty of making a trench through the complicated root system was expected. Frequent rain may ruin newly dug trench.  Frozen soil and spring thaw must be avoided. So the situation was urgent. 


Having watched forecast, the digging started on 19th. The stump resisted against our way with roots and stones. We struggled for 6 days to throw all obstacles. 


Since rain was forecasted on next Monday we had to continue working.  Sunday 24th was decided as a day of just digging. Before dark at 6 pm on that day, the waterway was finally completed. Heavy rain started midnight. 


The rain proved how well the water ran. The project was successfully done. We worked with picks and shovels. 

Both digging and hiking as physical work are recommended. Motion is source of life. 
Regards.

Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in September 2021

Dear zen friend


1)  We have had the longest rainy summer this year as long as I remember.Rain, shower, hail, thunder storm happened any time, any day. Outdoor works were often disrupted. Weeds outgrew mowing. 

Rainy weather is predicted as of today. It is interesting to see color of foliage in coming months. 
If the same trend continued, we would have a lot of snow.

Neighbors have stacked more firewood earlier than usual. 

2) There was a political meeting in Tokyo and new prime minister was elected yesterday. 

This election was most excited in Japan in many ways. Not like an American politician, a Japanese candidate does not speak loud People do not exactly know what he or she would intend to do on an elected seat. For the first time in its history, agenda were publicly debated. 

Debates were started by a woman contender. More than 80% of YouTube viewers were in favor of her. She declared the candidacy first, but was ignored by so called media. Among old media like newspapers and TVs, her popularity was reported less than 20%. 

As debates went on, the mood in the whole country changed. Her running remarks were viewed five million times, while other’s were viewed about two hundred thousands each.  One was kicked out due to inadequate comments.  Another guy changed his positions in policies pressed by her straight viewpoints. 

The prime ministership had never been challenged by a woman there. She was sincere, courageous, smart, and pretty. I hope she would win next time. A current situation needs her vision, gut, and presence for the nation. 
Regards.

Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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