A group of eight Buddhist Monks has joined the efforts to battle the Willow Fire, which has burned nearly 3,000 acres in a remote area of Big Sur, California. The fire forced most of the monks living in the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center monastery to evacuate, but several stayed behind to help get the fire under control.
The monks have been clearing away brush and running a sprinkler system to protect the monastery from the flames. The monks have received training from professional firefighters but also rely on their Buddhist teachings.
“These kinds of situations require equanimity and patience, a lot of the things we try to cultivate in our practice,” Sozan Miglioli, the president of the San Francisco Zen Center, which runs the monastery, told the New York Times. “So it’s both a big service that these monks are doing for the Zen Center, and it becomes an expression of our practice.”
As of Wednesday (June 23), the fire was about half a mile from the monastery, and officials said it was not considered an immediate threat. The fire is just 13% contained, but favorable weather conditions have helped. A low-pressure system brought cooler temperatures and increased humidity, but warm, dry conditions are expected to return by the end of the week.
Efforts to put the blaze are being hampered by its remote location. There are very few access roads, and the steep terrain makes it difficult for ground crews to operate. Helicopters and planes are being used to transport firefighters to the area and dump water on the flames.