Tassajara, a Zen temple and retreat center in Big Sur that welcomes guests in the summer, will complete the installation of an ingenious roof sprinkler system designed to keep the center safe from wildfires.
The center was in the path of a massive fire in 2008 that burned 162,818 acres of Los Padres National Forest in and around Big Sur.
This new system taps water pumped from the creek that runs along the south side of the remote enclave.
An early, jury-rigged version of the system, affectionately known as “Dharma Rain,” was tested by a contingent of monks and practitioners who stayed at Tassajara to prepare for the approaching Basin Complex Fire. That inferno raged through the center on July 10, 2008.
“Dharma Rain was the single largest factor that saved Tassajara,” director Linda Galijan said.
The story of how a handful of Zen practitioners stayed at Tassajara to protect it from that conflagration is “Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire,” by Colleen Morton Busch, published in 2011.
Tassajara is known for its remote Santa Lucia Mountain setting, thermal springs, gourmet vegetarian cuisine and rough 14-mile dirt road that is its only physical connection to the outside world.
Summer guests are offered accommodations in rustic, meticulously maintained cabins, some of them historic. Rates for doubles range from $221 to $407, including meals, copious bag lunches, swimming pool, bath house, boccie ball court, hiking, meditation, events and lectures (and skinny-dipping spots at the creek’s beautiful Narrows).
Discounted rates are available for scheduled retreat participants, and day visitors are allowed to visit between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. for $30 per person.
Other ways to experience Tassajara include the Summer Work Practice and Guest Practice programs, requiring work and Zen meditation periods alongside the center’s residential community.