Skip to main content

Fire Monks? Me?



We live in the Ventana. Ventana means window. So you could say we live in the window. Right now the window is open and fire is moving toward it. In someways it feels slow moving, like it's creeping, decimals of a mile on a map everyday. But the news and intel and rumors make it feel a little faster moving. Refraining from reactions becomes a challenge, while knowing what's appropriate and timely looms on your conscience.

 Big Sur Kate can tell you the details of the fire. Basically, it's a big a fire and it's fairly certain to come to Tassajara from the north west end of our temple grounds. It might arrive in 5 days, or 10 days, or even 2 weeks. In 2008 there was The Basin Fire, and a similarly placed head of fire took 2 weeks to descend on Tassajara. Back then, only 5 monks stayed to fight the fire, which was a bit more complicated. It had three heads approaching from different directions, and each head arrived on the same day. It passed in about 30 minutes. We lost one, or maybe two buildings and there were no injuries. You can read about that fire in this book: Fire Monks.

So the odds are in our favor this year. We have 25 monks who have had wildland fire fighting training. One of those monks is Joe, who is a retired Cal Fire Captain and he's been training us all summer on hose lays and fire theory. In addition to the fire brigade, we still have about 50 monks who are doing prep work. About 50 people were evacuated due to health, age (my baby girl!), or a "This is not what I signed up for" status.

I feel very alive. I was talking with my friend Aaron and said do you think our lack of fear means we might die first if it gets to dying? And he remarked that he wished we could always feel this sensitive to the beings and situations of our lives that need attention. Essentially, there are these opportunities everyday, all day. I could feel very alive all the time. Wouldn't that be nice?

After a long day in town buying pumps, chainsaws, and fuel, I'm heading home. Much love to everyone. Zazen in the morning. (We have kept the schedule completely. Bells and chanting can be heard, and the hammer striking emptiness resounds in ten directions.)

Comments

  1. Also great name for a band! Love to all who stay to face the fires of life. And love to any who were wise enuf to know they needed to go. Life-death-life is a fascinating thing.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

We Are The Ones Who Can Die

This is me hunting hogs with a semi-automatic weapon. This was a past life( about 8 years ago.)

A lot can change in 8 years.

I grew up around guns. I received my first when I was 10 years old. I went to a high school with a shooting range in the basement, for the high school competitive rifle team. My dad, a career Marine, gave thorough instruction, you better believe. And for most of my life I could take them or leave them. I wasn't into guns like a lot of my friends, but I knew how to shoulder a carbine so the shell didn't eject and hit me in the eye.

That was in Pennsylvania. New Orleans was a completely different scene and the reality of gun violence really hit home (sometimes too literally). I have friends who have been shot in street violence and in combat zones. I have been threatened with a weapon and I have loaded guns with a notion of self defense.

And I used to believe that it was my right to do so.

But today I'm sad and I want to touch that sadness. I lost my …

The Transformation of Ceremony

Ordination Day

I want to say something about the transformational aspect of a ceremony. Like wine to blood, from person to priest, practice enlightenment as transmogrification. Like cucumbers to pickles, surprise! 
I underestimated the ceremony. After pursuing ordination for nine years I had visualized it into nothing. Having junior monks pass me by, then disrobe, then put the robe back on before I even got to wear it once lent a sobering perspective. Imagination dispensed. I sat and stitched and lived practice in a way where oryoki wasn't a treat, Zazen wasn't something I could talk about, and robes started to have gravity- they were not without weight. 
And I think that's the first element of my ceremony: a period of discernment and someone to discern with. In the case of ordination, my teacher, our tanto, and other priests served as mirrors and sounding boards for these two questions: Why do I want to be a priest and what is a priest? It was about as clear as wine tran…

How To Become A Zen Monk (or die trying)

"Now, if you have decided to become a monk because you think that life in this world is too hard and bitter for you and you would prefer to rather live off other people's donations while drinking your tea - if you want to become a monk just to make a living, then the following is not for you." -Kosho Uchiyama
So you want to be a Zen monk or priest? Unsui, which means clouds and water? Good on ya. Me too. 
Having googled that very aspiration for the first time in 2003, I was convinced it was impossible. I'll admit I am as thick headed as they come. I was also resistant to meet some figure in a robe. I heard my father's voice when I begged him to get my fortune read in Jackson Square, New Orleans, "I'm not paying some fat asshole in a bathrobe to tell you lies." Instead, for the first four years of my Zen practice, I committed as little as possible to my local sangha, left when they started chanting, and never talked to the teacher. I was so unapproacha…