Dharma in March 2017, Spring Thaw 3

Dear Zen friend
1) April Sesshin    from 04/07 to 04/11
2) Spring Cleaning:  April; 29th (Sat.)   from 10 am to 3 pm.
    Activities:  Zafu and Zabuton beating, Stove pipe cleaning, Firewood stacking, Inside and outside house cleaning.
    If interested, please email back.
3) After last article released, some sent me useful advice. Thank you.
When you visit Japan in spring and summer, you would see rice growing in paddy fields everywhere. Middle sized birds are flying on the fields and fish swim in ponds. You may not see shell-fish. I was surrounded with such scenes and worked for farming. Walking around in muddy fields was not so uncomfortable. Kids like mud.
Paddy fields are artificial water pools. In spring every year farmers make millions of pools laying earth on the ground and maintain them to the end of summer. Water is led into the each pool from ponds or rivers. Whole process requires physical work and constant care.
Chemical spray and fertilizer were added into water when I was a child. This modern method looked temporarily. Many farmers have developed organic rice growing methods since then. Birds and fish you are seeing add natural fertilizer in the fields. Natural water contains nutritious ingredients. People have been using the rich ingredients, the power of nature in other words for growing rice for thousands of years.
I was learned at school that rice growing method came from East Asian continent about 3000 years ago. Rice is a plant found in tropical areas. It is logical to think its origin is a hot area. It was a change of civilization, so new term Yayoi was given. I was also told that the new method was brought by new people, too.
Recently relics of paddy fields were found in Japan. They were made about 7000 years ago. Archaeologists say climate in Japan at that time was cooling from semitropical to temperate. So people began to make tropical conditions artificially in the paddy fields to keep growing rice. Origin of rice was in tropical land, but origin of rice growing method was in peoples’ hands. Did Yayoi people come? Unlikely. Not necessarily in other words.
Rice is a product of technology as well as a gift of nature.
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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Dharma in February 2017 Spring Thaw 2

Dear Zen Friend
1)  March sesshin:      from 03/10 to 03/14.
2) It snowed 2 feet deep for two days in February. It had been wanted for long. The snow was extremely light, sweet, and beautiful. I shoveled it 2 times faster than usual. (easy snow)
Last year I planted three apple trees. I dug holes and put the trees into them. I did not put fertilizer because those trees should get used to new environment. (This is my idea, which had worked well. Garden catalogs and instruction books recommend big holes and plenty of fertilizers and watering.)
Watered few times, I watched how they would start growing. They did not. Growing tree takes time, but something seemed to be wrong. I dug soil here and there to check. The garden soil looked dry. And the grass in the garden looked poorer than before. The soil itself might change.
For eight years the garden only absorbed heavenly rain and snow fall. Rainfalls are not plenty enough for garden soil. Additional water from the hills behind kept the garden moistened for centuries. At the same time ingredients from hills were added at each flood. I cut those water and ingredients away. I gained dry land and poor soil as a result.
It was easy to plant fruit trees before. All trees grew. We used to harvest abundant tomatoes without giving fertilizer. I thought I knew how to grow them. In reality century long natural watering and accumulated ingredients made good gardening possible. Constant addition of natural water was cut, one has to depend on artificial fertilizer and a sprinkler.
Many civilizations are ruined to deserts. One of the major reasons of their failure may be little knowledge about water. My experiences show its first stage.
To be continued.
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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Dharma in January 2017, Spring Thaw (1)

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Dharma in the Year of Bird, 2017

Dear zen friend
1)  January sesshin:     from 01/20  to 01/24 for five days.
2)  There will be a tour planned by Sotoshu for Baika festival from 05/21 to 05/24 in 2017.

      It is scheduled to gather at Kyoto on 05/21.
      Application deadline is January 31st.
      If you are interested, please email me back.
3)   Last winter was the warmest and easiest in my memory. There were few snowfalls with less than three inches each. Deep snow was talked about but never came true. It was so warm that firewood shed was not emptied. I worried about the consequences of little water and springlike winter.
Last November I had to cut a few trees, mow leaves, and get propane gas delivered. I waited for the best timing for those works. Then It rained for two weeks. I waited days for land being dried. I still have time, I thought.
Then it snowed late November. Snow did not melt quickly. A propane gas truck failed to come close enough to the tank due to slippery driveway. Leaves were covered with snow. Trees were not cut because of cold temperature. I have been frustrated with my own incomplete operation.
I knew winter would come soon and it might be very cold while waiting for the best timing. Even though cold winter was imagined in November, a sense of urgency did not come out. Memory of the easy winter overwhelmed me. I was simply lazy.
In Buddhism there are four lands, they are named North, East, West, and South. Former three lands are paradises with great Buddhas. But the land of South is the land of suffering, samsara. All humans are living in the land of South with Shakyamuni Buddha. This is why our lives are full of sufferings and pains.
Dogen Zenji often wrote ‘Fortunately we were born in the South Land.’ For long I wondered what was ‘fortunate’ while longing for paradise.
Warm winter gave me a false sense of timing. I forgot that nature is often hard to survive. The preparation works were not finished, as if I were in a land of paradise.
2017 is the year of Bird, and many also say the year of hope.
A Happy New Year!
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo
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Dharma in November 2016

Dear zen friend
1)  December sesshin:      from  12/10  to 12/12  for three days.
     Year-end sesshin:          from   12/27  to 12/31  for five days.
2)  There will be a tour planned by Sotoshu for Baika festival from 05/21 to 05/24 in 2017.
      It is scheduled to gather at Kyoto on 05/21.
      Application deadline is January 31st.
      If you are interested, please email me back.
3)  Autumn is a season of foliage.  Zendo is surrounded with beautiful leaves in October. People drive highway nearby just for sightseeing colored hills and mountains.
I used to take a walk on hills of northern Kyoto. Unforgettable scenes of foliage are still remembered. You may have seen a picture of the golden temple with Japanese maple.
Foliage falls. Rotten leaves become ingredients for soil. But they first cover grass, garden, and country roads. They become troublesome for daily life, must be removed. Removing leaves is not an easy job. My shoulder pain I wrote about several times was triggered by raking leaves. So I make careful plan for the raking each year.
To my surprise, there were few leaves this fall. About half the amount of leaves than those of ordinary year was given from trees. It was easy this year.
There was little water from heaven for a year. Last winter was warm with less than 5 inches snow. It never snowed deeper than 6 inches. In spring and summer, it rained sporadically. Few apples, no peaches were harvested in adjacent areas.
While I was focusing on fruit, trees produced fewer leaves than usual. Leaves are engines to bring solar energy into trees and plants. Fewer leaves mean less productivity. We may become poorer.
Climate change or climatic cycle?
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valle
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Dharma in October 2016

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Dharma in September 2016

Dear zen friend
1)   October sesshin:    10/07 to 10/11.
2)  Soto zen is based on Buddhism. Buddhism is based on the teachings of Shakyamuni, which is called Buddha dharma. The Buddha dharma is the teachings about life, aging, illness, and death. So we should know what death is. In reality things are not simple.
For last two years few close friends including my teacher died. I newly had to think about loss of life.
I did funeral ceremonies few times this year. Each time I said the deceased now is in Buddha’s house and watches us how we live. Funeral service is expression of respect and entering ceremony for the membership of Buddhas’ house. He is not alienated, so that memory on him comes and stays. We are not separated from her, so that we feel intimacy with her legacies. Where is he or she? They are in the Buddhas’ land.
Where is Buddhas’ land? It is unseen. Isn’t it illusion or fiction? What is merit for funeral service? Isn’t Sotoshu local truth? We look for the universal answer. Buddhism is a story when science was nonexistent. In the modern age, soul, spirit, and tradition are not trendy. Our bodies and the world are matters, only matter exists. When a person dies, both body and mind die out. That is it. It is not worth thinking of the meanings of death.
I know these arguments because I had modern education. Modern knowledge is based on materialism and logic of reduction. I was just like you arguing about death and life in a philosopher’s room. I understood it well. At the same time I was uncertain about such clear knowledge. My anxiety did not go away.
When death was discussed, nobody had sure answer. All the philosophers avoided to have spoken about death by saying like ‘Death is the last issue for philosophy.’ Philosophers are experts for handling logic and understanding the world. We understand the world through logic. Death may not solely be understood through logic accordingly.
I have been surprised at unexpected gifts bestowed by Sotoshu after having jumped into Antaiji. Funeral service is one of them. The service at least has given me hint in which death cannot be grasped by ordinary thought. This does not mean we must cease thinking about death, but find the certain way to search the true dharma in Buddhism. Remember that Shakyamuni explained death in his original teaching.
Having read Shobogenzo, Dogen Zenji was sure that the understanding of death leads to the understanding of life. My search began again.
Regards.
Eishin Ikeda
Valley Zendo

 

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