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 April 2019

Dear Zen Friend
1)               May  Sesshin:            from  05/10  to  05/14
                  June Sesshin:            from  06/07  to  06/11
2)  Spring Cleaning:  On May 4th  (Saturday)   from  9am  to 3 pm.
     Pot luck lunch at noon.
     If it rained, the event would be rescheduled on May 18th (Sat.)  There are too many things to clean up.
3)  Baika (Sotoshu songs)  practice  at  9 am  on  June 20th   (Thursday).
     Baika Teacher  Rev. Kuga from Japan will lead the event with attendant Rev. Kojima from Lax.
4)  As you may know, Japan enters new era on May first,  tomorrow. The name of the era is “Reiwa.”  Reiwa is translated by the department of foreign affairs to “Beautiful Harmony.”  “Rei”  also means elegance, nobility,  transparency. “Wa” also means peace and unity. You may remind these meanings when you hear “Reiwa.”
The new era begins with the ascent of the new emperor.  The change from “Heisei” (Current era)  to “Reiwa”  is a real example of words “A ruler rules time.”  The emperor is not a ruler but a symbol.  So we may say: A symbol rules time.
This kind of event happens once three or four decades. Now Japanese are enjoying 10 day holidays. Schools are closed, government facilities are shut. Stock market is not open. Trading companies and customs are on vacation. Public transportation is minimally on schedule.
Ichiro retired in March. He would be called the symbol of Heisei in the future. All his colorful activities and baseball record makings were done within the era of Heisei. He can not continue playing in “Reiwa.”  It is said that his eyes could not catch a speed ball any more.
On TVs and newspapers, many lasts are seen like last event, last bout, last talk in Heisei. After tomorrow many firsts will appear like first trip, first laugh, or first youtube in Reiwa.
Already Reiwa party in politics is organized. In Tokyo Reiwa candy was sold in the afternoon on April 1st when the name was announced at 11:30am.
We see many related ceremonies and gatherings on TV this year.  President Trump would be the first foreign statesman to greet the new emperor in May. More news about the ascent is expected later. These events are being done based on the rules established more than two thousand years ago.
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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Dharma in March 2019

Dear Friend
1)      April Sesshin:          from   04/12  to  04/16
         May Sesshin:           from  05/10  to  05/14
2)   These days I take bus to go to cities. Bus stop is 2 .2 miles away, which is a walking distance. Bus runs about 50 miles by the same fare rate.
From a bus things are seen differently from a driving car. Passenger cars and commercial trucks are running all the time. Local roads were newly paved and expanded last year.  Paving jobs were well done, so more cars are attracted. 10 years ago roads in the country side were not busy.
New houses are clinging to steep hillsides. They were not apparent while driving. Houses need bent driveways, need extra care for snow and trees. I wondered why houses were there for a while. Building a house on flatland is safe and easy.
One day I noticed electric wires around new houses. It is rather said that houses were built along electric wires. Electric power was a major condition to build a house. We are living in the civilization of electricity.  Even on flatland a house is not built unless there were access to the power.
Each house has a chimney. Yet smoke rises from one in ten chimneys or fewer. Firewood is not burnt at many houses as used to be. Oil, gas, or electricity are more popular for heating.
Firewood is heavy, requires many hands and time to dry. It is not preferred by quick and easy life style.
I like wood stove, which is independent from power outage (happened a few times this season.)
At sugar houses more firewood looks to remain than usual. Unstable weather may not have worked for maple syrup industry this year.
I used to think driving a car is a must in the US, and the faster the better. Half the tasks like shopping or visiting library are done by use of bus. Bus is safe, quiet, and cheap. Automobile civilization may be reconsidered.
And I’ve found that walking to bus stop is healthier than paying for a fitness club.
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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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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