A group of five monks from the Gaden Shartse Cultural Foundation on Sunday performed a restoration and healing ritual in Paradise, a town in Butte County, California, after most of the village and the neighboring Magalia, Butte Creek Canyon, and Concow communities were destroyed in a major wildfire, known as the Camp Fire, last November.
“We came here to do a short blessing,” said one of the monks, Shanu Bodh. “We want to pray for those who have lost their lives—not only human beings, also animals. There are many beings who have lost their lives and lost their everything.” (Chico Enterprise-Record)
The monks, from Gaden Shartse Monastic College in southern India, have been traveling in the United States for 22 months and have visited 30 states during their journey. For the last two weeks, the monks have been performing blessings and holding workshops in Grass Valley, California, about 1-1/2 hours’ drive from Paradise.
The ceremony was organized by members of Sierra-Placerville Friends of Tibet, an organzation that has been hosting traveling monks for 15 years, at the request of the monks. According to one of the members and organizers of the ceremony, Wendy Wood, the monks were at her home several weeks ago when they mentioned that they would like to visit the town of Paradise to perform a blessing.
Following the ceremony, which was attended by around 100 people, the monks walked around the pavilion of Bille Park, a neighborhood park, performing blessings in all directions and blessing the waters of the local creek. “We will make a prayer to consecrate this whole land and the whole area so that everybody can start a new life or start a new thing,” Shanu Bodh explained. (Chico Enterprise-Record)
Woods was very happy with the high turnout and that she could contribute to the healing of Paradise in this small way: “As someone who didn’t live in this area, many of us felt helpless in terms of what we could do to be helpful and this turned out to be something that all of us in the community could do to be helpful somehow.” (Chico Enterprise-Record)
She added that the presence of the monks from India showed the people of the town that the rest of the world is there with them through their hard times: “I think so many of us around the world, and me personally, are in solidarity with the people of Paradise and the environment and the community. I think for us to be able to do whatever we can that can bring healing and peace to this community, we’re here to do that.” (Chico Enterprise-Record)
The Camp Fire of November 2018 was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the history of California. Within a day, much of the town of Paradise and neighboring Magalia, Butte Creek Canyon, and Concow were destroyed. Eighty-five people died in the fire, 18,804 buildings were destroyed, and many tens of thousands of people were displaced.
Four months later, the town is still struggling to come to terms with the aftermath of the wildfire as its inhabitants try to restart their lives. So far, 74 out of the 85 victims have been identified and local businesses unaffected by the fire have reopened, but most of the town remains covered in debris as clearing work has been postponed until later this month due to adverse weather conditions.
Camp Fire news and information (Chico Enterprise-Record)
Butte Country Recovers
Monks perform healing, restoration ritual at Bille Park (Chico Enterprise-Record)