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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment