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 June 2018

Dear Zen friend
1)       July sesshin        from  07/06  to  07/10
          No sesshin in August.
2)        Summer Lecture:  At 11 am on 12th (Sunday) of August.
           Guest speaker:   Rev. Eve Marko from Green River Zen Center
3)        One day Zazenkai: On 25th (Saturday) of August,  from 9 am to 5 pm.
           Place:  At  Shantigar;   63 Davenport Rd.  Rowe     413-339-4332
           Discussion:     Buddha Dharma and the Dharma Transmission
4)       Wisdom in ancient times often amazes me. There is a place named Himuro ‘Ice Room’ in northern Kyoto. The village has existed for centuries with a shrine for ice. There ice was made and stored for summer time. In summer it is hot in Kyoto. Ice was used for ceremonies at the palace. People knew how to get and use ice in summer a thousand years ago.
Ten years ago there was about a ton of soil in a wooden box in the basement. It was originally used for storing vegetables. It was an innovation at a time without a refrigerator nor a freezer. Basement is cool, soil does not use electricity.

The soil in the box stayed there for 30 years, not used for decades. When bathroom was mended, the box had to be moved. I carefully looked at the soil. There was no hint of life activities. There was not an insect, not a worm, not a root. It was like soil on the moon, having stayed there with nothing happened.

I put the soil on the driveway. For two years weed did not grow. In the third year, the spot became greener. I remembered phrases ‘The basics of gardening is making rich soil.’
Making rich soil is a way of zen. How can we do it?
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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Dharma in May 2018

Dear Zen friend
1)    June sesshin        from 06/08  to  06/12
       July  sesshin         from 07/06  to  07/10
2)   The last winter was long, last snow fell on April 30th. Wood stove heating was necessary for 6 months.
      In Los Angeles it rained yesterday, air is chill.
3)   In Little Tokyo new restaurant serving ‘Okonomiyaki’ is open. That was my favorite meal in Japan. I have been waiting for the taste in the us. If successful, likable restaurant would spread as sushi has done.
4)   There are concepts human beings and nature. And we think humans stand on the same ground of nature. We encounter, handle, and struggle with nature. Some try to live with beauty of nature, some try to change nature for humans’ sake.
How about Buddha dharma? It seems that the dharma is over both human beings and nature. So the Dharma has survived either global warming or cooling in nature, either peace or war among human beings.
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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Dharma in April 2018

Dear Zen Friend

1)         May Sesshin             from   05/11  to  05/15

            June Sesshin            from   06/08  to  06/12

2)         Baika Lesson          9 am  on May 24th  with Rev. Shumei Kojima

            Dharma talk           11 am  on May 24th by Rev. Ryugen Ogasawara

The schedule is subject to change.  Please see the posting at  valleyzendo.org,  or email back, or phone call  at  (413)339-4000  for sure information.

3)    It snowed at valley zendo in the morning of 30th of April.
Air was chill.

I have not experienced a long winter like this.

Worldwide efforts to prevent global warming may have worked too well.

4) New movie about practice at Eiheiji by NHK was on youtube. It was filmed last autumn and winter, was reasonable and enjoyable. Narration was nice.

A big institution has many gates for people to take part in. Sotoshu  began with strict zazen practice with the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha and Dogen Zenji.

As time went on, some became seriously interested in sitting itself, some liked to study sutras. Some liked ceremonies, some liked buildings and arts. Some composed, some became poets, and some liked performance.

I used to think of one activity alone while I stayed there decades ago.
Now I enjoy various events.
Originally the area of Eiheiji was considered as being too harsh to live. To build a temple was a crazy idea. Now a road to the temple is open and 100 buses a day at a time bring visitors. It is one of the most popular tourist spots in Japan.

It snows 10 feet deep every winter. The temple covered with snow is a beauty. Snow also breaks hundreds of tiles on the roof. The replacement of damaged tiles is an important task. You see it if you go there.
Regards.

Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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Dharma in March 2018

Dear Zen Friend

1) April sesshin: from 04/06 to 04/10

May sesshin: from 05/11 to 05/15

2) Spring Cleaning

April 28th Saturday is the day of spring cleaning.
Work starts at 10 am, light lunch at noon, and ends around 3 pm.
There will be house cleaning, zafu and zabuton beating, and stacking fire woods.
If interested, please join us.

3) I think I wrote this before, the issue still stays in my mind. In my lifetime in Japan, archeologists have dug thousands of remains. Their relics are recorded and categorized. Having studied them from many angles, lives of ancient times have become gradually apparent.

Lacquer products are found all over in the remains 15000 years ago. Rice fields were made 5000 years ago. Rice seems to be traced back to around 10000 years ago. From vestiges of stone arrangements, it is said that rules of running of the sun were known. Chestnuts, fish, and seashells were eaten every day. They built a tall houses with big trees. Precious metals were traded in large areas, even found in the continent, too.

In the texts at school while I was a student, rice, lacquer, and many things were brought from the continent. Such was a history and common sense, then. Now, due to archeological findings, view of history is changing. Many things might have been taken from the islands and carried back to the continent.

The best thing about these relics is that all of them are natural. Researchers do not have to worry about any pollution.

Look at bath tissue, we buy thin paper rolls at a super market. I guess Krazy Glue like product is used for making tissues. Glue is chemically made. While billions of people enjoying soft bath tissues everyday, plastic pollution is spreading to earth and oceans. “Nausica in the valley” is not fiction.

We regard language as civilization. We discuss written things as if everything has been written and understood. These concepts, however, could be said extraordinary. We are living in extraordinary age, so that we increase pollution.

My original concern about ancient times has been how people in the old times communicated each others. The first document was made in 604 AD in Japan. It was written in Chinese letters with Chinese grammar. People at that time knew both the time of no letters and the time of letters.

Use of letters might have meant destruction of a previous civilization. People were happy without letters. After 604 AD, people had to learn how to use letters. Was the change good for them?

Regards.
Eishin ikeda
Valley Zendo

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Dharma in February 2018

Dear zen friend

1) March Sesshin from 03/09 to 03/13

April Sesshin from 04/06 to 04/10

 

2) On the 19th, I found 3 feet long crack in the front glass on my car. From inside it looks beautiful especially in the morning sun. Reflections of seven colors through cracks are impressive.
There was a small crack when I bought the car 10 years ago. It has always been a concern. The crack did not extend until that Monday morning.

The crack may become cause for a dangerous situation, so I made an appointment for replacing the front glass on 27th.
Yesterday morning, the garage called and said that the person in charge of replacement had heart attack. My appointment was cancelled.
The cracked front glass remains intact in the month of February.

 

3) Maple sugaring is going on. Walking near a sugar house, sweet air is sensed. It is a sign that spring is coming. And it is a gift from Indians.

When we receive a gift, we think about return. If it is a big lasting gift like Maple syrup, we may build a shrine and pay respect. Are there any shrine near or inside a sugar house?

In Japan there are shrines for rice, needle, calligraphy brush, fox, racoon, horse, pigeon and more. New shrines are built every year.
When an interstellar satellite was launched, the general manager of the project visited a shrine for receiving blessings for the safe running of the engines. Because of his prayer and sincerity, ‘Hayabusa’ completed its mission.

Italians may build a tomato shrine thanking for pasta industries. Irish may respect a potato temple for having had millions of lives saved. Spanish must have had enough money to build a golden shrine for the sake of Incan treasuries.

Zen is a teaching for personal understanding and practice. Having studied deeper enough, practitioners become aware that an individual cannot live without countless gifts. This is why Sotoshu has many ceremonies to express gratitude.

Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo

 

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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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