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 2019

Dear zen friends
1)        March Sesshin          03/08  to  03/12
           April Sesshin             04/12  to  04/16
2)  I expected this winter would be long. The first snow fell in October. Yet I did not think the weather would be hard like this. We experienced power outage many times. Having walked in town, gusty wind reminded me of walking on Mt. Washington.
There fell little snow first. Then snow has fallen continually little by little and it did not melt due to low temperatures. It is one foot deep around zendo now and looks to stay here for long.  Adjustments of daily activities must be made.
3)  We do not call words in civilization into question. We do not doubt about the power of language. Countless books and magazines have been published. We become exciting by reading novels and newspapers. Even internet is backed by computer languages and words are seen everywhere.
It is said that ancient civilizations began with writing systems. Many scholars believe historical events must be verified by written records. Many of them do not accept past events as historical facts if they were not recorded.
Now a prominent scholar says that there had been a civilization without records of languages in ancient times. You may imagine Mayan or Inca civilizations.
His view explains why Japan did not import Chinese writing system till 7th century. People knew Kanji for centuries before but did not accept it. In the meantime big monuments and beautiful relics had been made, which we can see.
He also said that by writing and reading, we have lost the ability of memorization. Memory and memorization is an important function of human life. Why don’t we use it?
In fact almost all people think knowledge is recorded and stored in websites. People rely on search engines. They do not need to memorize anything. It is obvious that modern minds are different from ones in civilizations without records.
I feel somewhat being spoiled by thinking, writing, and reading, Maybe because these conscious actions exist outside myself. Memory and memorization must be a major part of our identities. How shall we get it back?
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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Dharma in January 2019

Dear zen friend
1)        February Sesshin         from  02/08  to  02/12
           March Sesshin             from  03/08  to  03/12
2)  Mr. Yuichiro Miura is a professional skier and a climber. He was known to have acted on an adventurous challenge on high mountains. He skied down from Everest, crossed glaciers in Alps valleys, won many Nordic and Alpine ski competitions.
He retired around 60 years of age. Since then he enjoyed gourmet foods, drinking, and night lives for a few years. At around 65 year old, he was fat, had been in cardiovascular disorder and diabetes. He lost youth and health. A doctor told him he would have lived for less than 2 years.
Having faced his own annihilation, Mr. Miura thought about present, future, and a meaning of life. He desired to survive and bring normal life back. He set a goal to climb Mt. Everest at 70.
He started training himself by hiking a 500 meter high hills, which was hard due to decreased physical strength. He continued training and gradually restored health. He climbed Mt. Everest as planned in 2003. He was the oldest person who stood on top of the highest place on earth. His adventure was filmed and televised.
5 years later Mr. Miura climbed Mt. Everest again for the second time successfully. And he was on the same spot at 80 years of age for the third time in spring of 2013. He became again the oldest person who climbed Mt. Everest.
Now there is news saying Mr. Miura is aiming at standing the same place at 90 years of age in 2023. His father was a pro skier and famous for his adventurous spirit, who died at 104. So the attempt of Mr. Miura to conquer the highest point for the 4th time is not necessarily fake news.
What is buddha dharma in this story?
One of The Eight Fold Paths, which was taught by Shakyamuni Buddha is the path of The Right Resolve.
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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Dharma in 2019, the year of Boar

Dear Zen friend
A Happy New Year!
1)    January Sesshin            from  01/18  to  01/22
       February Sesshin           from  02/08  to  02/12
2)   On last day of the sesshin 31st, we found a big owl perching on a white birch and watching us. Each sesshin gives us something more than we expected.
Last year was windy. Strong wind broke tree tops. Many branches fell. On each windy day numerous leaves and twigs were blown off . Too many twigs were on the land, so cleaning driveway became a daily job. Power outage occurred frequently.
First snow was on 10/18. I expected a long winter. So far we have had little snow and mild temperatures. This weather pattern was new to our community. When I take a long walk, I bring an umbrella with me on days of cloud. We seem to have moved to London in England from New England.
Looking at broken tree tops and fallen countless twigs, a theory came across. In windy areas trees cannot continue growing because wind blows tops. Leaves and flowers come out of twigs. Fewer twigs mean fewer leaves. Fewer leaves mean less nutrients for a tree. Little nutrients result in smaller trees and leaves. An existing big tree dies due to few leaves.
A maple leave would change under a severe condition. If a windy season continued, the size of a maple leave would become closer to the size of Japanese maple, which is one tenths of American maple. We might be witnessing the change of woods. A mammoth on a small island was the size of a donkey. .
New year is the year of Boar. By astrologists violent things happen this year. We do not need to believe in such thousand year old knowledge. Have we, however, truer knowledge?
Wish to be a good year for all.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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Dharma in November 2018

Dear Zen friend
1)         December sesshin:           from 12/07   to   12/09
             Year end sesshin:             from 12/27   to   12/31
             January sesshin:               from 01/18   to   01/22
2) November is in winter with half foot snow. Snow this year is wet and heavy, fallen near 32 degree temperatures . Many branches and tree tops were broken. How long would this season last?
Snow used to be dry and light here under cold temperatures near zero Fahrenheit. The difference between heavy snow and light one may be caused by the warmth of air.
3)  10 years ago, 3 adult deer ran around the land of Valley Zendo. They were young, healthy, and strong. Their violent running was noisy and somewhat harmful. They were shot one by one by a neighbor hunter.
In the meantime a baby deer, fawn is born every June in the zendo land. A fawn is middle dog sized and accompanied by its mother deer. They eventually walked away in a month.
This year a fawn was born in June. A sesshin participant took a picture. In a month I found the fawn hiding in fern. Fern may be favorite food and a shelter for a fawn.
In August two fawns came to eat grass together while two mother deer were watching them. Since then the four deer have been seen frequently. They look good friends and enjoy calm environments.
They eat grass while looking outwards. If they were anxious, their heads turn towards zendo with caution.
Once met a mother deer on the road, she greeted me by waving her tail.
Now is hunting season. I wish they would survive.
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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Dharma in October 2018

Dear Zen friend
1)       November   Sesshin::    from 11/09  to  11/13
          December   Sesshin:     from  12/07  to  12/09
          Year End     Sesshin::     from  12/27  to  12/31
2)   I used to start stove in the beginning of December. This year stove has been used since middle of October.
      It used to be fine in Autumn for a month. It has been many rainy days this autumn.
      I used to stack firewood in the shed at the end of November. This year firewood are wet.
      I used to drive country roads for seeing beautiful foliage. This year I see ugly foliage.
      Why was foliage beautiful? Because all leaves of mountains turned red and yellow at the same time.
      This year some turned red, some remained green. Colored leaves were blown off by wind while green ones sticking to branches.
      Sporadic foliage is seen ugly in dark light under clouds.
3) Zen is said as a way to find the Self.
So everywhere and any time questions “Who am I?” or “Who are you?” have been asked and discussed.
Especially for Koan zen, a student has to show his answer for his teacher. It is ceremonial at the same time is essential.
I have a question. Why are they asking by present tense?
I have a feeling now that a person is growing with aging.
Aging is not only a matter of time but also identity for a person.
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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Dharma in September 2018

Dear Zen friend
1)     October sesshin         from    10/12   to    10/16
        November sesshin     from    11/09   to    11/13
2)  There are many rainy days. Stacked firewood does not look dry. A worry for winter.
3)  There are many steep hills covered with woods in Japan. Anyone can start climbing training in his backyard.
One day a friend of mine and I challenged to walk a middle class mountain. As we proceeded, I found a piece of paper with haiku written on it.  We read it and walked further. Then another paper with haiku was found. Hundreds of yard after that, another note was attached to a tree. Then we came to expect where is next paper.
After 5 or 6 papers were seen we wondered who stuck these notes to trees. Immediately we recognized that we did not climb but look for notes. While looking for a note, we forgot tiredness and effort. We thanked somebody who stuck notes for helping climbers.
In Iowa or Nebraska I do not desire to walk. A flatland does not give us motivation to walk or climb.
Warner Hill Rd goes through 3 steep hills. I walk down to a bus stop one or two times a week. It takes 50 minutes to arrive. It is the same time for sitting one period. Who built the zendo here and began a local bus stop there? I thank all of them.
A hundred years ago, almost all people walked in daily life. They walked for shopping, school, church, and work. We drive now and even forget how to walk.
If I could not walk, it would be  the time to completely retire. If  I were born I would like to  become a logger.
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo

 

 


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Dharma in August 2018

Dear Zen friend

1) September sesshin: from 09/07 to 09/11

October sesshin: from 10/12 to 10/16
2) “Alan Watts – in the Academy” compiled by Peter Columbus and Donadrian Rice, published by Suny Press won the Gold medal of the year in the category of academic publication.
3) New novel, “T.T.Mann, Ace Detective” by Gerald MacFarland was published in August from Levellers Press.
4) It has been hot and humid at valley zendo. There were many rainy days in July and August here. Flooding disaster in Japan happened near my home town. Hottest temperatures there were record breaking. Something unusual must be going on.

I was not an advocate on global warning nor climate change. But finally become worried about extraordinary weather.

I have watched DVDs from library about environmental matters. Among them a movie showed fracking shale gas. Fracking is done deep under the earth. Logically released gas would go up any place, leak into air. The movie says leakage is not only logical but real. Natural gases are found in many places around the fracking field.

How much gas has been leaked? Corporate agencies and research firms do not inform of data. Fire at faucet or on a pond did not open their minds. We even do not know if they have gathered data.

When global warming was talked about, carbon dioxide was hated as major factor. How about natural gas? Isn’t it helping the warming?

America is No.1 on oil and gas production thanks to fracking technology. Mass production always changes environments in a big way. Has fracking not brought free natural gas into air in a big way? The fact should be checked.

Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo

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