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Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara Hardcover – July 7, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; 1ST edition (July 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202915
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202919
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #701,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"This day-by-day account of the defense of Tassajara Zen Mountain Center against massive wildfires in summer 2008 brings a Buddhist twist to the age-old preoccupation of humans living with--and trying to control--fire."
Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)


"...vivid prose as electrifying as any beach novel you're likely to find this summer."
San Francisco Chronicle


"...an absorbing account of how two priesthoods -- professional wildland firefighters and Zen monastics -- confronted the fire's threat."
Los Angeles Times


"This book reads like a hair-raising adventure novel."
Shambhala Sun


"Fire Monks demonstrates the clarity of thought and action that can spring from Zen practice."
Tricycle


A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year


"Vivid prose as electrifying as any beach novel you're likely to find this summer."
    --San Francisco Chronicle

"This day-by-day account of the defense of Tassajara Zen Mountain Center against massive wildfires in summer 2008 brings a Buddhist twist to the age-old preoccupation of humans living with--and trying to control--fire."
--Publisher's Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)

"An absorbing account of how two priesthoods -- professional wildland firefighters and Zen monastics -- confronted the fire's threat."
    --Los Angeles Times

"This book reads like a hair-raising adventure novel."
    --Shambhala Sun

“Not only a gripping narrative of the 2008 wildfire events, but also how Zen allows people to meet such colossal crisis with a focused mind.”
    --Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Fire Monks demonstrates the clarity of thought and action that can spring from Zen practice."
    --Tricycle

About the Author

COLLEEN MORTON BUSCH'S nonfiction, poetry, and fiction have appeared in a wide range of publications, from literary magazines to the San Francisco Chronicle, Tricycle, and Yoga Journal, where she was a senior editor. A Zen student since 2000, Busch lives in Northern California with her husband and two cats.

www.colleenmortonbusch.com

More About the Author

COLLEEN MORTON BUSCH received her M.F.A. in poetry but writes and publishes fiction and nonfiction as well. A yoga student and Zen practitioner, Busch has worked as a college instructor--in New Orleans and Beijing--and as a magazine editor.

Her work has appeared in Yoga Journal, where she was a senior editor, Tricycle: A Buddhist Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Huffington Post, and numerous literary magazines.

Busch lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband.

Customer Reviews

Busch's book ties in nicely the dis­ci­plines of Zen and fire­fight­ing.
Man of La Book
I'm halfway through and can't put it down -- I'm staying up too late in the light of the full moon because I keep wanting to know what happens next.
Katy Butler
In Summary: This book manages to be both a poor introduction to Buddhism and a poor introduction to fire mgt issues in the Am.
Jack Young

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Man of La Book on July 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"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 Tas­sa­jara. They risked life and limb to stand in the way of the immense wild­fire which sur­rounded them and became and inter­na­tional sensation.

"Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wild­fire at the Gates of Tas­sa­jara " by Colleen Mor­ton is not only a grip­ping nar­ra­tive of the 2008 wild­fire events, but also how Zen allows peo­ple to meet such colos­sal cri­sis with a focused mind.

The Tas­sa­jara Zen Moun­tain Cen­ter, near Big Sur in Cal­i­for­nia, is well known in the Zen com­mu­nity. The cen­ter is not only famous for med­i­ta­tion and train­ing, but also for their bread bak­ing and veg­e­tar­ian cookbooks.

The 2008 fire, started by light­ning, con­sumed more than 240,000 acres. While the small group of defend­ers in Tas­sa­jara watched for three nerve-wracking weeks while the fire con­sumed every­thing in its path towards them. Watch­ing the weather care­fully before the order to evac­u­ate came, five senior mem­bers of Tas­sa­jara decided to stay behind.

The book is not only the story of the fire, but also the his­tory of Tas­sa­jara, intro­duc­tion to Bud­dhism, and track­ing of the destruc­tion the fire cause on its path.

I used to be a vol­un­teer fire fighter for about four years.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Katy Butler on July 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I don't think you need to be interested in Zen to love this book. I'm halfway through and can't put it down -- I'm staying up too late in the light of the full moon because I keep wanting to know what happens next. It's the story of five ordinary people -- not saints, athletes, or Zen caricatures-- who defied the state & put their lives on the line to save the oldest Zen monastery in America from a massive wilderness wildfire. I love the way the author lightly weaves in her sense of zen practice, without making the book precious. And I love that each monk is a person, with his and her own vulnerabilities and life histories. It's not hagiography. And it is inspiring, reminding me to be stable and alert and meet my life without turning away.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jack Young on August 21, 2012
Format: Paperback
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 going to let the facts get in the way.

1) The author missed a great opportunity to discus the complex issues of fire in the west from a place of "don't know mind." She admits that the landscape at the site is made to burn but fails to go anywhere with that fact. Instead she rants about the USFS not wanting to protect buildings and on a RED FLAG day. Meanwhile she spends a lot of time chattering away about what's for breakfast. Fire is a key part of this western landscape that we have removed. As a result we are creating a time bomb. Tassajara is physically sitting right in the middle of this dilemma...let's talk about that.

2) There is a sense of glorification about the monks walking back into the site on a RED FLAG day. Let's talk about attachment! The place could easily have blown-up (and with a little more wind probably would have) on that day and they just got lucky...no zen super hero stuff pa-lEAzzze. It was a very stupid thing to do and any attempt to remotely suggest that it was in anyway honorable lacks understanding about what could have happened. Tassajara will be threatened by fire again...is there now a precedent for a core group to stay behind should another RED FLAG day occur? It's like surfing a category 5 hurricane.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By E on April 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I wanted to like this book, but I never even made it to the fires. The author uses a nonfiction accounting style made popular by Erik Larson and Richard Preston, but I found the overall account sort of repetitive and also jarring. More specifically I felt like the book kept jumping away from information about the fire to dwell on people's backstory.

For instance, if the director of the Zen center is on the phone with the firefighters, you will get about 3 pages explaining the rotten childhood he had, before you will get to go back to how the phone call turned out. It didn't work for me. I think this book could benefit from more editing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marvela on March 24, 2013
Format: Paperback
Fire Monks is a well-written book, with just enough details presented about the Zen practice, fire-fighting, fires, the history of Zen Center, and the individuals involved to flesh out the story nicely.

I did get impatient with all the waiting, waiting, waiting for the fire to come (as some of the people involved were also impatient)and skimmed some during that part. But once the fire arrives things really heat up and I couldn't put the book down.

As a Buddhist and someone who lived at SFZC for one year, it was a relief to read a book about Zen that didn't include any big misunderstandings about Buddhism or Zen practice. It's good that Busch has some insider understanding, because lay people who try to write about Buddhist practice from the outside often get it wrong. In describing this particular brand of American Buddhism, in my opinion, Busch has painted an accurate portrait.
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