In June 2008, more than 2,000 wildfires swept across California. Isolated in the wilderness, the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center near Big Sur found itself facing fires on three sides. A small group of residents and firefighters prepared for the flames. But as the fires came closer, the order was given to evacuate. Firefighters and monks piled into cars and took the only road leading out of the canyon. But halfway up the road, five monks turned back, putting their Zen practice to full use in staying to face the flames.
Colleen Morton Busch, herself a Zen student and a regular visitor to Tassajara, recounts the tale of these courageous monks and their community in her new book Fire Monks. Busch, who reads from her book Thursday at the San Francisco Zen Center, tells SF Weekly how Zen practice enabled these novice firefighters to deal with the crisis.