As efforts continue to contain California’s devastating wildfires, Buddhist monastics who had to evacuate their temples are now back home.  

At Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in California’s Redwood Valley, monks voluntarily evacuated on October 10 after nearby flames lit the night sky a smoky red.

Abhayagiri’s residents, who practice in the Thai forest tradition, were provided housing at The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, an international Chinese Chan Buddhist community in the town of Ukiah. One week after evacuating, Abhayagiri’s monks received word that they could return to the monastery.

“While the fire had encroached the property, the firefighters were very vigilant in protecting it,” reads a post from the monastery’s website.

Abhayagiri’s monks return to their monastery after a week of evacuation. Photo courtesy of Abhayagiri (www.abhayagiri.org/news)

On Thursday morning, Abhayagiri’s abbot, Ajahn Pasanno, released a short talk titled “Back to Normal, But Not Too Normal.”

“We’re just extraordinarily fortunate that we’re coming back to an intact monastery,” he said.

For now, Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery remains closed to the public.

Other Californian Buddhists vacated their homes as well. North of the Redwood Valley, near the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, residents at Tibetan Buddhist monastery Chagdud Gonpa Rigdzin Ling evacuated the center in late August due to the rapidly spreading Helena-Fork Fire.

In a conversation with Tricycle, Chagdud Gonpa staff member J.T. Trigsted recalled the summer evening when, after emerging from a puja (prayer ceremony) in the center’s shrine room, he saw flames scorching the nearby hills. Several hours later, the majority of the center’s dozen residents decided to leave.

After a week, Trigsted and company returned to the monastery, which was spared the fire’s destruction. Multiple homes on the same road weren’t as fortunate, Trigsted said.

According to NBC, as of October 17, 12 large wildfires still burn in California, which have damaged 245,000 acres of land in a single week.

Prayers are being offered by Buddhist sanghas like Rangjung Yeshe Gomde California:

If you’re a Buddhist in an area of California damaged by the wildfires or are traveling to help those affected, we’d like to hear about your experience. Please email gabriel@tricycle.org.

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