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
Dear zen friend
1) Baika Lesson will be held from 9 am to noon on 9th (Thursday) of June. Rev. Moriyama Yuko from Japan will teach us with help of Rev. Ito Yuji of SFO office.
Those who want to participate in the event may arrive at zendo 10 minutes before 9am.
Pot luck lunch follows. They will leave zendo around 2 pm, so you may find time to ask and discuss music, zen, or Japan with them. (In the cases of last 3 visits they left around 11.30am.)
Baika is sotoshu songs. Why is a song sung at a zen temple? By accident I found close relationship between singing and zen in 2009. By request of Ikuko san in 2011 Baika department in Sotoshu was spotted. After our contact, CDs, texts, and music instruments arrived from nowhere and somewhere. I talked about singing, chanting at sotoshu conferences. Sotoshu started sending Baika teachers since 2013.
Last October I stayed at a temple in Japan. Before a ceremony about 10 women beautifully sang Baika. I was impressed with its tones and harmony. (I know how hard and long they practiced, because we practiced the same thing with slight result.) I am still discovering a secret in Baika singing, which would be a life long practice. There is a general understanding among Soto priests; Baika practitioners live long.
2) June summer time sesshin: from June 10 to June 14.
3) I had ignored website and all hi-tech communication technologies. Dogen Zenji, Sawaki Roshi, and Uchiyama Roshi recommended just sitting, which should not have any connection with any technology.
In May I purchased 3 apple trees to plant not from a local store but through internet. The items were sent by fedex with little cost. When I bought baby trees I used to have a difficult time to find a truck. Now I just wait for delivery of fedex. I have to admit that internet has changed a business model and a social structure. We can live in a rural area without truck as long as holding ID. The world has changed!
The same thing has happened to our website valleyzendo.org. Long story short, the site is under new management since the end of May 2016. Maintenance will be done by valley zendo and a team. It requires a lot of change since it has been ignored for more than a decade. It is terribly incomplete. Well, we will work.
If you search something about valley zendo, please first check the website. From now on monthly dharma mail will be posted in valleyzendo.org as well.
1) May sesshin : from 05/06 to 05/10.
2) I have spent whole April with my right leg dragged. Pain of lightly twisted ankle has lingered almost 6 weeks. Sheer pain in the beginning was sharp. As days passed, slowly normal movement has come back. I expect I can use a chain saw after May sesshin.
The healing process has reminded me of my shoulder frozen 6 years ago. Tendons and muscles were swelled. The inflammation of any part of body takes long time to heal. That experience has given me a certain perspective this time and kept me calm. The best doctor is time. Curable, yet we should avoid all injuries.
During April sesshin, I could not do kinhin. I heard from friends and practitioners that they could not sit. But never heard anyone could sit, at the same time not walk. I was exceptional, a pioneer. Any pioneer or #1 is something.
Then I remembered my first day of zazen. I was eighteen, visited the second well-known temple in the city for seeking a place for zazen. An old priest with crutches aside was talking to his friend. He said he could not do zazen, and instructed me to go to a small temple where zazen kai took place.
I left saying thank you. That was the turning point of my life. I am not the number one, I just followed the same way that priest walked. It was a sweet reminder. I did not ask but could guess what happened to him.