Many readers will know that Ananda Village was mostly destroyed by a huge forest fire in 1976. Devi and I were new parents with an eleven-day-old infant when the flames devoured our home, our clothes, and virtually all our possessions. In meditation this morning I was remembering that day and contemplating some of the cherished lessons I learned.

It was June 28, 1976. Our first awareness of danger was when we saw smoke arising from a nearby road. The summer was upon us, and the fields and forests had already begun to dry out. The hundred or so members of the community were at first merely vigilant, then concerned, and finally aroused into action. The winds were blowing the fire uphill through knee-high grasses, and in our direction. About twenty of us gathered on a road at the crest of the hill with rakes, hoes, and whatever firefighting equipment we had at our disposal. I had a small water-tank backpack with a pump and nozzle, which we kept handy in case a chimney fire broke out in our house.

The fire was creeping steadily up the hill toward us, waist-high flames spread across the terrain. For some inexplicable reason I decided that it would be a good idea to go down the hill, meet the flames head on, and slow them down with my pumper. As I approached, however, I realized that the flames were moving much faster than I’d thought, and much faster than I could run up the hill. In a moment I realized my safest bet was to jump through the wall of flames into the already burned area. This may have saved my life, and it also steeled my determination to fight.

devi talks about early years of ananda village and the fireI then returned to our house. It was a small geodesic dome with a leaky roof, but it was home for our little family. I was completely focused on digging a little perimeter trench when a young member of the community drove up shouting, “You have to leave. The flames are in the trees. There’s no chance to save your house.” Only then did I realize the unstoppable force of nature unleashed. Devi, meanwhile, had taken our infant son to the doctor for his first checkup. That morning she had packed up the items from our meditation room, intending to clean it when she got home. In the few remaining moments, this was all I could save.

When I finally emerged from the smoking hillside, I found Devi standing there, obviously alarmed, not knowing whether I was alive or dead. My first instinct was to comfort her and do what I could to de-escalate the alarm while still letting her know that our home was gone. My first words, some of the best I’ve ever spoken, were, “Well, we don’t have to worry about those leaks anymore.” We comforted each other and soon realized that our baby’s real home was built from the threads of love in our hearts.

As I contemplated that fateful event I realized that there were different approaches to working with the challenges presented by the fire, each of which was valid. The same is true for the spiritual tests we face.

jyotish and his son in early years of ananda villageConfront it head-on. If the challenge seems small enough to overcome, our growth lies in confronting it. Spiritually, it may be the fires of anger or the fear of loss that has to be faced. We will each draw our own test to conquer, sized just right for us.

Accept, surrender, and move on. Many of life’s issues are too big for us to change. Politics, economics, pandemics, and weather are all things that we can’t fight individually. The best approach here is just to accept conditions as they are, surrender ourselves to the goodness of God, and move on. This is harder than it seems, since it involves overcoming the reactive process. It will help if you can remember that it is all a dream of God.

Think of others. Finally, the best spiritual approach in almost all situations is to forget about yourself and your “needs.” Think about the welfare of others. Self-forgetfulness broadens the human heart and opens up space for the all-healing flow of love. It then becomes possible to offer up the little love that is in us into the infinite love of God.

In the fires of devotion,

Nayaswami Jyotish

Listen to Jyotish as he reads the blog, then expands on it, often adding special behind-the-inspiration stories and answers to common spiritual questions. Subscribe to the podcast or download the audio recording by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (9:59):


  1. Thanks for sharing this experience. I got goosebumps while reading it, I don’t know why but felt emotional. I have been subscribed to the email for an year or so, may be more but never really paid attention. I always archived it even without reading it. Today was different, may be I was consciously reading my Inbox or otherwise, can’t say. But, truly inspiring life experience from 1976 and thanks for sharing the photos. I think I will be reading your emails from often henceforth, I felt there is so much wisdom in your emails and I am happy that I am made aware of this today. Namaste! and God bless you both.

  2. I get so much from your writing, so thank you for sharing. This morning I had a dream about confronting a problem I’d rather ignore, but now your story has boosted me to do the right thing!

  3. Thank you, Joytish. You and Devi always inspire me to be better. I remember the fire.

  4. Thank you for sharing such a difficult experience.
    So much to reflect about this situation.

    Beautiful photos!


    Aldo Benedetti

  6. Thank you for sharing.

    Have heard what happened & it has ALWAYS been a strong source of great inspiration for me – that all of you @ ANANDA VILLAGE had to endure that. You came out VICTORIOUSLY!!
    The thing I remember the most was that that the Village shared all your savings w/ those in the Village that had decided to move away & not live there any more ! – It was like the first Christians with Jesus. That has impressed me & instilled a great respect & FIRM admiration for all of you @ ANANDA – that you could be so lovingly giving. It is something very marvelous & EXTREMELY GOOD NEWS that is worthy of my deepest admiration for the heart of your Village. I have thought of it with the glorious thought that there is still miraculous loving people in the WORLD TODAY – HOPE & encouragement for everyone of us – that maybe in some small way – we also can be worthy of doing something similar in our lives.

    THANK YOU for all the BEAUTY & LOVE & LIGHT
    your Village gives the world.


  7. Precious pictures and powerful insight. We lost our home three years ago. My husband and I walked through the experience with grace and ease. We now have a beautiful ,calming ,peaceful new home. God and guru were with us every step.Blessings abound

  8. I love those photos. You and Devi still look the same!

  9. What beautiful advice! We have heard this so many times – (God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.) yet I personally need to hear it again and again.

    Thank you for sharing this and also the heart-full photographs.

  10. Thank you Jyotish Ji for sharing your experience during forest fire of 28 June, 1976. Your inner strength kept you calm during the devastating fire. You have rightly said that self-forgetfulness brings in smooth flow of universal love for other beings.
    Thank you for sharing the photographs. You look like Joseph and Devi Ji like Mother Mary with a divinely smile!!

  11. A poignant reflection on a harrowing and momentous day. I especially appreciate the photos of you three. Thank you for sharing the light 🙏

  12. Dearest Jyotish,

    You have no idea how pertinent this is for me right now. Thank You.

    In the care I give to others, we talk about Awareness Acknowledgement and Acceptance as the AAA formula. And this blog helped me to AAA myself!

    I became Aware of a deep fear I have and now I will Confront it head on.

    I Acknowledge that I am afraid; and will, as you stated, Accept – Surrender and Move on. If I continue to resist this fear, it will just keep rearing it’s dragon head. I must move forward even in the face of this fear.

    I ACCEPT that God is the Doer, and that when I am in a place of self-forgetfulness and THINKING of OTHERS that is my true motivation… so that I can continue on, persevere, progress, grow, and EVOLVE!!!

    God Bless You.

  13. Dear friend. You have the uncanny, God given ability, to identify, for each and all of us, like a flawless mirror, that which is most important to remember for our highest spiritual growth. You do this with the deepest clarity and love. Swamiji taught you well as he was taught by Master. My deepest gratitude for passing on what you have learned to all your fellow gurubhais. Namaste

  14. Dear Nayaswami Jyotish Ji,

    Thank you for sharing your reflection on the Incident and its lessons. This is very helpful and to be put into practice.
    Such a beautiful photograph. Thanks for sharing:-)


  15. By this talk you have given me the strengt to confront me with my problemm and I will work on this. I will visit Ananda Village in April for a stay for 3 weeks. I look forewart to meet a lot of my friends in The Village. In Joy, Gyandevi.

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