Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara

Fire Monks Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara The vivid and electrifying true story of how five monks saved the oldest Zen Buddhist monastery in the United States from wildfire San Francisco Chronicle When a massive wildfire surrounded Tassajara

  • Title: Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara
  • Author: Colleen Morton Busch
  • ISBN: 9781594202919
  • Page: 110
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The vivid and electrifying true story of how five monks saved the oldest Zen Buddhist monastery in the United States from wildfire San Francisco Chronicle When a massive wildfire surrounded Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, five monks risked their lives to save it A gripping narrative as well as a portrait of the Zen path and the ways of wildfire, Fire Monks reveals wThe vivid and electrifying true story of how five monks saved the oldest Zen Buddhist monastery in the United States from wildfire San Francisco Chronicle When a massive wildfire surrounded Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, five monks risked their lives to save it A gripping narrative as well as a portrait of the Zen path and the ways of wildfire, Fire Monks reveals what it means to meet a crisis with full presence of mind.Zen master and author of the classic Zen Mind, Beginner s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi established a monastery at Tassajara Hot Springs in 1967, drawn to the location s beauty, peace, and seclusion Deep in the wilderness east of Big Sur, the center is connected to the outside world by a single unpaved road The remoteness that makes it an oasis also makes it particularly vulnerable when disaster strikes If fire entered the canyon, there would be no escape.More than two thousand wildfires, all started by a single lightning storm, blazed across the state of California in June 2008 With resources stretched thin, firefighters advised residents at Tassajara to evacuate early Most did A small crew stayed behind, preparing to protect the monastery when the fire arrived.But nothing could have prepared them for what came next A treacherous shift in weather conditions prompted a final order to evacuate everyone, including all firefighters As they caravanned up the road, five senior monks made the risky decision to turn back Relying on their Zen training, they were able to remain in the moment and do the seemingly impossible to greet the fire not as an enemy to defeat, but as a friend to guide.Fire Monks pivots on the kind of moment some seek and some run from, when life and death hang in simultaneous view Novices in fire but experts in readiness, the Tassajara monks summoned both intuition and wisdom to face crisis with startling clarity The result is a profound lesson in the art of living.

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      Published :2019-08-13T02:18:12+00:00

    One Reply to “Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara”

    1. Morton Busch quotes the Buddha, who said "the world is on fire," and this steady meticulous books charts the decision-making process of a Buddhist community in California preparing for and meeting a wildfire. I was sometimes impatient with the names and opinions of the many local officials and firefighting experts, but I appreciated the back-stories of the Zen residents and the sense of communal Buddhist living. By no means is it a romantic telling of saints in the woods; it's a book about peopl [...]

    2. Surprisingly, it is a page-turner. I learned not only about the event, but much about how individuals practiced their beliefs by responding to the situations, both physical and personal. I do agree with other reviews that question the decision of the monks to stay and try to save the Tassajara, but the book is about the reasons for their decision, what happened and how they viewed it post-fire. It definitely is not a manual for how to go against the advice of the "authorities", but it does have [...]

    3. If I could give a book 10 stars, this would be it. Non fiction, about how the monks at the Tassajara Zen Monastery in California prepared themselves and the monastery for the great fire of 2008 and how Zen prepared the monks to meet the fire, it is a compelling and thoughtful book. I read it in 24 hours - could not put it down. The author's close familiarity with Zen Buddhism is clear in the skillful way she introduces the reader to elements of Zen Buddhism that made the monks uniquely qualified [...]

    4. I saw this on the $2 shelf at a bookstore, and couldn't pass up getting it. It is the story of the defense of the Tassajara Zen monastery, which is near us in northern California, from wildfire in the summer of 2008--primarily by non-professionals, mainly the monks themselves. I didn't love it at first, but it really grew on me. The author is herself a student of Zen, and often tries to draw connections between Zen practice and the events of the story--with mixed success, I think. But I really e [...]

    5. Look up at the night sky. Blackness, and fire. The Vedic tribes knew not only of how fire burns in the forests, creating pasture, but of how it burns in the body: digestive fire, sexual fire, emotional fire, spiritual fire, lightning bolts of illumination. The Buddhists borrowed this lightning-vajra image and also the important word loka(heaven, realm), originally meaning 'a clearing in the forest.' For those engaged in nomadics, clearings are good. Grasses, flowers, the light of heaven shining [...]

    6. An interesting account of how a Zen monastery in coastal California fought wildfire in the summer of 2008. But the writing just wasn't very good.

    7. This was an interesting read for a number of reasons. In the last 7 years I have gotten to know the Big Sur area through someone who spent some of her formative years growing up there, who's family homesteaded and was an integral part of the history of Big Sur. Not just from the "tourist" perspective I had had before that. So I learned about the wildness of the place, the difficulty of navigating the local roads and driveways on good, clear weather days, let alone when dealing with fire or rain. [...]

    8. This is an excellent read. One one level there is the chronological narrative of the cataclysmic fire. The book also has excellent portraits of various members of the Tassahara/SFZen Center Zen Community. Finally the book has insights on the political infighting between federal Forest Service firefighters and Cal Fire firefighters. One would hope that those interactions would be smoother now — an unrealistic hope in the Trump era

    9. Fabulous book.Gripping day by day account of preparing for and meeting the intense fire at Tassajara.A wonderful mixture of Buddhist thinking woven into this story.Human relation elements as well.Excellent writer.Well researched.

    10. This book made me think about meditation, nature, and the intersection between what we love and what we do. Recommended.

    11. In June, 2008, when wildfires threatened Tassajara Zen Mountain Center - the oldest Zen monastery in the U.S founded by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi - monks and guests were evacuated. Five monks turned around and went back to fight the fire, and this book tells a version of their story.Before proceeding, it is important to note that this book is not what it claims to be. It is presented as a work of nonfiction, but it is actually fiction. Although it is based, perhaps closely, on actual events, it is no [...]

    12. I'm a Buddhist, an avid long trail backpacker, I've lived almost all my life in the western US and I've read a lot of books about wildfire. Zen Mind, Beginner Mind is probably the most important book I've ever read in my life and a friend of mine use to be the Tenzo at Tassajasa. So naturally I was primed to like this book after a friend of mine who does fire mgt for the USFS here in CA was reading it. I was soo disappointed. The author has an ill-informed agenda and it's clear that she ins't go [...]

    13. Fire Monks is a book about the California wild fires that swept through the state in 2008, and the defense of a Zen retreat called Tassajara by the small group of monks that remained behind even after they were ordered to leave by authorities.Tassajara is a retreat maintained by the San Francisco Zen Center, one of the oldest Zen Centers in the United States. Founded by Suzuki Roshi when he came over from Japan to teach, it is probably one of the most renowned as well. This particular retreat is [...]

    14. “Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wild­fire at the Gates of Tas­sa­jara “ by Colleen Mor­ton Busch is the non-fiction account of the 2008 Cal­i­for­nia fire which almost destroyed the Tas­sa­jara Zen Moun­tain Cen­ter. The story is told from the per­spec­tive of those who stayed behind to pro­tect Tassajara.A mas­sive wild­fire has sur­rounded Tas­sa­jara Moun­tain Cen­ter. So mas­sive that even the fire crews have decided that it would be wiser not to fight it.Five monks sta [...]

    15. Hm. Well, this was an experiment that just did not work for me. When I saw the book listed in an offering from the fine folks at TLC Tours, I decided to take a chance, because I do like to challenge myself and try things that are out of my normal comfort zone. Earlier this year I read, and thoroughly enjoyed a non-fiction tale of a plane crash and I had hoped that I would have the same enjoyment from Fire Monks.Unfortunately, for someone like me who knows next to nothing about Buddism, who has n [...]

    16. I was drawn to this book for two reasons - I live with a Buddhist and fire is a big, big issue in these parts. In the summer it sometimes surrounds us. When you live in the forest you learn to live with fire. Hubby is going to read it now that I'm done.The book tells the tale of the big California wildfires in 2008 that were all over the news. I remember watching them from here and thinking there but for the grace of God and all that. Lightening strikes and a dry forest and all hell breaks loose [...]

    17. Great book covering several interesting topics. I read the book as one who is interested in Zen Buddhism and also as a former firefighter. It was fascinating to get the inside view of decision making in a Zen monastery while the residents were facing potential tragedy. Ms. Busch does an excellent job at capturing many aspects of wildland firefighting - foremost that oftentimes the theme of any major wildland fire is "hurry up and wait." Although I appreciate the monks' desire to protect their pr [...]

    18. Heartpounding account of the events leading up to the great fire of 2008. I picked up the book near the area, the Ventana Wilderness, which is the range that spills into the ocean near Big Sur. Being a Californian, I am aware of the threat of fire season, a necessary feature of the environment with plants that require fire to rebirth. The title refers to five who turned around during evacuation of the Tassajara site to confront the fire.The writer is a San Francisco Zen Community member, yet she [...]

    19. My home state saw more than half a million acres hit by wildfire this year, so when I saw "Fire Monks" at the library, I picked it up. In addition to a longtime fascination with how wildfire is portrayed in the media, I'm interested in how groups of people make decisions. I am also interested in Buddhism, but I'm not a practicing Buddhist. This book is at the confluence of those interests.The author interviewed dozens of people after a California wildfire nearly destroyed Tassajara Zen Mountain [...]

    20. I enjoyed this book, but felt that the organization of the novel really hindered the reading experience. Physically, I had an issue with the pictures all being in the center of the novel. As someone what knew nothing of the events that took place during this wildfire I found that by having the photos in the middle it ruined any suspense that the first half of the novel had built. I understand that for budget reasons all the pictures were printed together and not throughout the story but if they [...]

    21. Interesting. The monastery where this fire happened is the place where the famous Tassajara book of bread baking came from. And this fire chronicled (2008)in this account wasn't the first fire to threaten the monastery and it wasn't the first time monks stayed to fight the flames. But, the first full written account. The book is a blending of accounts from past and present fires; it also gets inside the heads of the monks who stayed to fight the fire. Being more familiar with Buddhism than firef [...]

    22. California, 2008, a great wild fire started by lightening swept through the Tassajar Basin. Over 162,000 acres were burned and 23 lives lost. It is the 2nd largest fire in California history.Due to a similar fire, 1988, the Tassajar Zen Monastery practices for just such a fire as a part of their Buddhist life.When the fire came, the guests were evacuated. Later, the monastary residents and monks were also evacuated down the mountain. But against the advice of the California fire fights, five mon [...]

    23. What an interesting book! This is a NON-Fiction account of the 2009 fires in California,particularly those in the Big Sur area, especially near the Tassajara Zen Center. Not written in especially grand fashion (written by a practitioner rather than an accomplished author), the story line and development of characters and situations is very well done. Busch has her heart in the story, she knows the characters, and her attachment made the reading intimate and connected. I found myself anxious to k [...]

    24. A great story about the Basin fire that raged through California in 2008 and became the 3rd largest in history. What sets this apart is the fight to save the Tassajara Zen Center in the center of the inferno, despite the Forest Service's refusal to prioritize structure protection. You learn a great deal about Zen in America, the politics of small businesses, Fire policy & politics, and the personalities of the people at the core of the fight to save Tassajara. It occasionally reads like long [...]

    25. The present is the only actionable moment, but it is not a moment alone. The 2008 fire came into being because of previous conditions that prepared the forest to burn. The fire left its mark - on people, a place, the land - some more lasting than others. It's difficult to pinpoint when it ended or when it began. Even before the lightning strikes, the seeds of fire existed in the dry tree branches and roots. I could say there was fire, then there wasn't fire anymore, but the Buddha's words feel m [...]

    26. This is an interesting book about 5 monks who defy an order to evacuate their Zen retreat center and instead stay to protect the center against the onset of a massive forest fire. The fire envelops the mountain and they successfully protect most of the structures with a system of "dharma rain." (a sprinkler system that needed manual support to run).Many metaphysical questions about impermanence but the take away for me is if I'm caught in a raging forest fire, Zen monks are not bad companions fo [...]

    27. This was an interesting booke true story of how a small group of Zen Buddhists stayed behind at their monastery. to battle the California wildfires in the summer of 2008. Very informative concerning the nature of fire and firefighting. Long lead up to the actual fire hitting the monastery though riveting description once it gets there. The book itself was a bit dry but still a good account of a truly amazing stand by five monks in the face of a devastating fire.

    28. Ok, so this book reads from different perspectives and gives lots of "tense style" news flashes that really aren't that tense. If you get past the style - it is a good read on how monks fight to preserve their temple, and how their Zen teachings have prepared them for it. I am always amazed by other religions or schools of thought. What a good way to understand their dedication and I kinda want some of those values myself.Not an easy read - not a gripping novel. But enjoyable!

    29. Suzuki Roshi is someone who plays in my mind, knowing I will never meet him. I am envious of those that were in that right place at the right time. I never, although I lived right there, visited Zen Center - I was too shy, but I felt good knowing they were there. Green Gulch and Tassajara seemed for those that were serious students and the rich who play at being serious students - both not me. I read this because I relish Zen, adore Suzuki and was curious. It satisfied that.

    30. An enjoyable read, nice view into how some long time zen students from the San Francisco Zen Center think and work. The author does zazen and had done retreats at Tassajara, her understanding of how Tassajara normally operated was beneficial in helping me to see the fire through the eyes of a person that was familiar with the center. I would recommend it as a read for someone wanting to read a "lite" zen book, as nice break from reading sutras and teaching books

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