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

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  142 ratings  ·  36 reviews
In June 2008 more than two thousand wildfires, all started by a single lightning storm, blazed across the state of California. Tassajara, the oldest Zen Buddhist monastery in the United States, was at particular risk. Set deep in the Ventana wilderness north of Big Sur, the center is connected to the outside world by a single unpaved road. If fire entered the canyon, there ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published July 7th 2011 by Penguin Group (USA)
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RH Walters
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 ...more
Duff
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 ...more
Jennifer
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
...more
Nick Klagge
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 ...more
Barry Graham
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
...more
Brendan
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 ...more
Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com
“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 stayed behind to try and save
...more
Patty
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
...more
Julie
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
...more
Jack Young
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 ...more
Sher
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 ...more
John Christensen
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
...more
Lydia Presley
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
...more
Maryann
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 ...more
John
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 ...more
Kayla
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
...more
Jenny
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!
Holly
This was an interesting book...the 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.
Jacqueline
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.
Tom
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
Chris Aylott
Turns out Zen monks make excellent firefighters, as demonstrated when the monks of Tassajara Monastery had to face the California wildfires of 2008. Necessarily a little slow at times, since it took several weeks for the fire to arrive and most of the time was spent preparing and waiting. But there are some nice insights into the role awareness plays in the Zen, firefighting, and life in general.
Peter
like into thin air, this book provokes a reader into ethical thought. I practice buddhism. I don't understand why property was worth risking five lives. The monks lived by God's grace, not by any thing they did or thought or believed.

The writing is very skillful, the segues between description of the events and commentary and so on elegant at times.
Jbs


A very good book. Actually one of the best I have read in a long time. The book not only let's you into the life of a Buddhist community and gives you insight into how they live and conduct their lives, it shows you their heart and how they overcame a most destructive incident and ended up saving their community. I highly recommend this book.
Marion
I really liked this book about the Zen monastery in CA and the work to save the monastery from a devastating fire in July 2008. Very well-written, by an author who clearly understands the monastery community and is able to articulate the Zen tenets at play in each step of the decision-making/actions taken to save the monastery.
Karen
What would do if a fire was bearing down on your home? This book tells the story of five brave monks that return and defend the Tassajara monastery whenofficials tell them to leave, that it isn't safe. They'd prepared and felt compelled to try after two fires decades earlier were kept at bay.
Sara
The story of the fire monks is amazing but the way it was intertwined with stories of other wildfires, USFS and CALFIRE was just a mish mosh mess and if she wanted to include them, they should have been separated by chapters.
Anne-Marie
successfully walks the challenging balance of adventure, personal story, and buddhist practice. both a great read, a great story about practice and an inspiration. Thanks to colleen and everyone involved in tassajara and the book
Ted
Interesting book about the fire at the Tassajara Zen center - a bit too obvious throughout on imparting the Zen lessons in every element of the events, but nicely written and, of course, a dramatic tale.
Beatrice
It is a bit strange to think of five monks who are supposed to be unattached to physical things risking their lives to save buildings. I admit that I mainly read it to see if Bob was mentioned. He wasn't.
Jon Mills
I didn't get into much of the Zen stuff in this book but as a firefighter in Calif. and having been involved on this fire, I enjoyed the recounting of the defense of the monastery.
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Colleen Morton Buschs nonfiction, poetry, and fiction have appeared in a wide range of publications, from literary magazines to the San Francisco Chronicle and Yoga Journal, where she was a senior editor. Busch has been a Zen student since 2000. She is the author of Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara.
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More about Colleen Morton Busch...
Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire Furchtlos durchs Feuer: Wie Zen-Geist ein Kloster vor den Flammen rettete (German Edition)

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