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 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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Dharma in August 2021

Dear zen friend
1). Summer is almost over. 

We had a long rainy season, weeds and flowers grew quickly. 

Under the corona epidemic I have been busy for weeding.

 It was fun to have a butterfly and a humming bird. 

2)   Years ago Olympic slogan was faster, higher, and stronger. Athletes just ran, swam, threw a javelin., fought boxing and wrestling Rules could be clear and simple, 


Tokyo Olympic games had many kinds of event. 

Skating boards were street plays, balance and maneuverability may become new slogan for Olympics. 

Synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics belong to new category of sports. 

Soccer needs a sense of team work as well as individual athleticism. 

Field hockey showed unique techniques for penalty shootings. 


Having started with simple ideas, Olympic games has been developing toward complication.This way may be how human culture improves. 


3)  Past TV shows and classic movies are broadcasted through internet. Having watched those masterpieces, nostalgic feelings have come up. 


We had a society without iphone, internet, and, or computer 50 years ago. Typewriter was the fastest way of printing letters those days. Slow life was common. People respected quality over quantity. 


How chaotic our society has become! 
Regards.

Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in July 2021

Dear zen friend
1)  My car was at a body shop for 2 weeks. On day one I was at a bus stop.


“How much is bus fare?”

“No, do not pay.” 

“Because is today Tuesday?”

“No,  bus fare has been free for long time. You are only required to wear mask for riding bus. You need not to pay.”

“Oh, can we go for distant malls free any day?”

“Yes. You must wear mask for the ride. That is it. “

 “What a policy you have had!  How long will the free ride continue?”

“I do not know. The condition is dependent on corona epidemic. Managers make decision.”

It was my surprise that regional bus fair had been free.

Things in society have been changing due to the pandemic.

 Some people enjoy free rides. 


1′)   It rained almost every day during those 2 weeks. The food stock quickly lowered. Eggs and fruit were gone. Only fruit I had were wild blueberries and raspberries. 

Where was vitamin C?

While enjoyed gorgeous food shows by netflix, my meal went simpler and poorer.  

2)  Everything is impermanent.

No living beings are immortal. 

Viruses may die in boiling water, in strong acid, and in the woods. 

We do not know birth, aging, sickness, and death of a virus.

Regards.
Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in June 2021

Dear zen friend
1)    July sesshin:    from  07/17  to  07/18
  The re-opening is slow.   Also it is very hot in July.    If joined us for two days, please enjoy quiet environment.   


2)  One day after weeding, my hands became red-yellow colored.  Licked that color, it was bitter. 
A few days later, the origin of red-yellow bitter color was found. It came from a weed, which is green with soft leaves and grows taller than  6 feet. It does not have pretty flowers,  and grows everywhere like weed.  When its stalk and stem are broken in hands, red-yellow liquid comes out. 
Deer eat broccoli and pepper, do not eat garlic, onion, or tomatoe. They seem to know which plant is sweet. Bitter liquid is a protector,  immunity from deer. 


3)  In June, email had irregular activities for 4 days. Several conversations randomly disappeared. I guess the disruption was caused by software updating.  We do not live on a solid earth. 

4)   I am a frequent repeater to a fitness center, where wearing mask was required. The counter person said that not a single corona infected person ran in the gym since June last year. There must be healthy people there.  I am not infected with corona virus, must have been lucky.    
I play around with deer, birds, and fire flies in summer. This is a life like Ryokan san or Rev. Ananda Daiosho had. And I can concentrate on  study of Buddha dharma. I am satisfied with this peaceful environments.  
Yet there is demand for sitting practice together at zendo. This is a time and a place for a buddhist to communicate with people and take part in social activities. Normal life should be returned soon. 


Regards.

Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in May 2021

Dear zen friend

1)  June Sesshin :  from  06/19  to  06 /20  for 2 days. 

Sitting starts at 4:10 am, ends at 9:00 pm on Saturday. 

Sitting starts at 4:10 am, ends at 5:00 pm on Sunday. 

Many things have changed since March last year. 

Reopening is better to be slow I think. July sesshin would be for 3 days.  

2)   ‘Demon Slayer’ is one of the best masterpieces in the movie history.      

I went to a local movie theater to watch first time for more than ten years.      

And I was just overwhelmed. 

3)    A neighbor recommended me to have gluten free diet for years. His arguments were persuasive due to various scientific proof. But  I ignored his advice. I like pasta, bread, and baking show. 

Recently I recognized that he was absolutely right. Having had gluten free diet with rice, beans, and potatoes, my stomach worked well.  When I ate gluten stuff, I was in discomfortable mood and in dizziness. Perhaps my power of digestion has dwindled.  

4)  A topic about corona things: In India rapid rise of number of patient and death toll was news a while ago. The epidemic in the second most populous country scared the world. Quick decline of both patients and deaths in India is reported now. What has happened? Ivermectin (medicine which has  lengthened pet’s life) was widely used for people there. Some countries banned Ivermectin for treatment of patients after corona pandemic spread. 

Another corona related news: Some people died after a vaccine shot. A doctor said those people who died were small persons, so that shots possibly became overdosed.

I am a small person. Average quantity of medicine even aspirin is too much.  

Regards.

Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

P/S  Taking a walk to the hut, there was a fawn lying in fern. It did not move an inch. I have never seen a still deer. Have to see if it is all right tomorrow morning. 

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Dharma in April 2021

Dear zen friend

1)  The first notes about Daffodil 200 were sent on 21st of March. I wrote that they would fully bloom soon. My expectation was wrong.

Today 95% of daffodil finally have bloomed.  They are in full bloom this weekend. Cherry, magnolia, tulip, and peony will follow. 

2) There is a Japanese youtuber which is majored in investment.  They act like a comedian, so sometimes I watch them,  

They talk about various topics because investing involves with many factors. They mention in each movie, “We cannot talk about corona pandemic due to YouTube regulations. Please see movies in another SNS in which we have uploaded corona related topics. We are letting you know other serious matters there, too.”  

In disguise of smooth comedian talks, they implicate that Youtube is imposing censorship. As a result, people gain disinformation about the pandemic. 

A Japanese executive document which instructs to artificially increase number of corona patients and death tolls was  found. The government has tried to spread the pandemic while speaking about prevention methods.  Although there exists good medicine, (All diamond Princess patients were treated by medicine.), Abe bought so-called new vaccine instead. There are many irrational policies in Tokyo and in Japan. 

Youtube has business worldwide.Has censorship been practiced in Japan alone? Who makes profit through the pandemic? Conspiracy theory may not be so fictional these days..

Regards.

Eishin Ikeda

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Dharma in March 2021

Dear zen friend
1)  It is spring. A week ago daffodils started coming out. I thought they would have bloomed last Sunday. I was wrong.Not a single flower appears yet. 
Temperature will go down below zero for the latter half of this week. They may bloom next week.I cannot wait. 

2)  Corona Pandemic began last March here. It has changed social and individual life style. I did not imagine the sudden prosperity of mask industry. The change of my life style was difficult access to a doctor and having longer time of thinking. 
There are too many entertainments these days. We do not have enough quiet time. Since social distancing has been advocated,  I have had more quiet time than usual. 
I used to look for the core of myself, that is true self. The question who I am remained all the time in my young and middle ages.  I was not alone. All philosophy, religion, and psychology call true self into question.  Enthusiasm to look for the true self does not easily end. 
Buddhism as well as science handles nano seconds. Nano seconds resembles momentary impermanence. I learned Christianity has  had the same argument for centuries. 

I could not find the core self nor the true self but faced a matter of impermanence. Any self, core or true is impermanent moment by moment. This is why the self could not be grasped. How could I were exceptional? 
Walking on the snowy road one day this winter, inspiration came across: Isn’t true self a whole life? People live for 50 years, 70 years, and for some over 100 years. Isn’t each whole life true self? 
We live out a life of John Smith. When died, people speak about John Smith, a whole life of John Smith. These concepts and feelings have been common understandings. In Buddhism this is called continuum impermanence. Life is continuum, death is impermanence. 
There are two impermanences. 
The difficult access to a doctor has pushed me to take care of my body and mind by myself. Consequently and surprisingly  I found a way to become healthy. The situation reminded me of the principle of self help. That is a common understanding all the time for all. .   
Regards.

Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in February 2021

Dear zen friend

1)A foot deep snow remains around valley zendo. It is snow white as far as eyes can see. Maple sugaring begins. Daytime becomes longer and brighter. Spring has come. In a few weeks daffodil and more flowers will bloom. 

2)   Since 2018 visiting a clinic and meeting a doctor became norm.  For three years I have been intimidated by doctors about sickness and injuries.  Most of the time I was advised to have blood test and take medicine.  Then I felt depressed. 
Two weeks ago  “Fitness Program” drew my eyes in brochure of an insurance company.  I used to think such program was just a business promotion. Discomfortable conditions have persisted enough, I applied for membership at a fitness club. 
I visited the club 2 times last week first time for years. I walked, rowed, and did stretching. Caution and slow motion were priority. I could not sweat, which I used to love. 
On Sunday today, knee pain has gone, sciatica has almost not sensed. Fitness preventive program has worked well so far. 
We should know how to correctly walk and stretch before work out. Many YouTubes show a lot of hints. If correctly exercised, our bodies seem to recover their functions for some extent. For restoring to health, we may try to do motion or action first, and changing or correcting diet second.  

Regards.Eishin Ikeda

Valley Zendo

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Dharma in January 2021

Dear Zen friend
It was -6 degree Fahrenheit this morning, coldest this winter.
The stove needed 2 times more firewood to heat zendo.
One foot snow has stayed for 2 weeks.
Yet, mild weather is expected to be back after Monday.
The bottom is over, spring is near.

Naturally life is normal, somewhat bored, and peaceful.
We adjust ourselves to cold winter by skiing and skating.
In spring blossoms are spread and humming birds are welcome.
Swimming and camping are fun in summer.
Maple foliage and serene moonlight calm our minds in autumn. 
Nowadays abnormality is everywhere.
Town is quiet like silent spring. Kids run wearing mask.No more hugging nor shake hands.
Images as Americans may be changing.

Why do people look for vaccine rather than medicine?
Why do people talk about climate change rather than stove heating?If a stock price were rigged, many kinds of numbers would have been manipulated.
Mathematics was supposed to be pure science.Facing unusual crises, we should step back and sit.

Regards.Eishin IkedaValley Zendo
P/S  I had chance to have corona virus test on Christmas eve. Its result was negative.
Should I feel good because no virus was caught? Or should I be afraid that I am not immune? Things are complicated.

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