Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine

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The visitor center (left) and windmill chapel (right) are beside the lake

The Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine lies a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean, on Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades, California. It was founded and dedicated by Paramahansa Yogananda, on August 20, 1950 [1] and is owned by the Self-Realization Fellowship. The 10-acre (40,000 m2) site has lush gardens, a large, natural spring-fed lake which is framed by natural hillsides, and is home to a variety of flora and fauna, including swans, ducks, koi, water turtles, and lotus flowers. The entire property is a natural amphitheater.[2] Many thousands of visitors come each year to enjoy the scenic beauty and serenity of this spiritual sanctuary.

Overview[edit]

Looking toward the Dutch windmill from houseboat

The visitor center provides information about Lake Shrine and are there to answer any questions. There are rushing waterfalls, fountains, colorful flower beds, inspirational statues, white swans gliding across the lake, lacy fern grottos, lily ponds, and even a picturesque, old Dutch windmill which is used as a chapel. To the left of the entrance is a small Court of Religions, honoring five principal religions of the world, that displays the symbols of these religions: a cross for Christianity, a Star of David for Judaism, a Wheel of Law for Buddhism, a crescent moon & star for Islam, and the Aum symbol for Hinduism. Yogananda believed in an underlying harmony of all faiths that unites us all.[3] Along with a few statues of Krishna and other Hindu deities, there is also a life-size statue of Jesus Christ, above the large waterfall, as well as Saint Francis of Assisi and the Madonna and Child.

One noticeable landmark here is the huge golden lotus archway, a towering, sleek, white arch trimmed with blue tile, and topped with enormous gold lotus blossoms, which is visible from all parts of the grounds. The archway frames the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial, an outdoor shrine where an authentic 1,000 year-old Chinese stone sarcophagus holds a portion of the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi himself.[2]

The gardens are filled with numerous little brick paths and short stairways which lead from the main trail to hidden alcoves where meditation or simply sitting and taking in the view is possible. There is a gift shop featuring arts and crafts from India which is adjacent to a museum focusing on Paramahansa Yogananda, the founder of Lake Shrine. There is a quaint Dutch windmill converted into a chapel, a houseboat, a bookstore and a newly built temple sitting on a hilltop overlooking the lake.

Features[edit]

Gandhi shrine[edit]

Sarcophagus of the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial

The Lake Shrine is home for the picturesque Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial, the "wall-less temple" erected in honor of Mahatma Gandhi, architect of India's freedom through nonviolent means. The focal point of the memorial is a thousand-year-old stone sarcophagus from China, in which a portion of Gandhi's ashes are encased in a brass and silver coffer. The sarcophagus is flanked by two statues of Guanyin.

The ashes had been sent to Yogananda by an old friend, Dr. V.M. Nawle, a publisher and journalist from Pune, India. Following the dedication of the memorial, Dr. Nawle wrote:

Regarding Gandhi ashes, I may say that they are scattered and thrown in almost all the important rivers and seas, and nothing is given outside India except the remains which I have sent to you after a great ordeal ... You are the only one in the whole world who received Gandhi ashes outside India.[citation needed]

For some, enshrining Gandhi's ashes at Lake Shrine is controversial since the Hindu cremation ritual ends with immersion of the ashes in water. One report states that Gandhi's relatives want the ashes at Lake Shrine to be immersed in water.[4] Another report states that the descendants of Mahatma Gandhi do not want to have the ashes removed because it would entail breaking the shrines.[5]

Windmill chapel[edit]

The previous owners, the McElroys, built an authen­tic reproduction of a 16th-century Dutch windmill. Though the mill was never put to use, its sails are functional and capable of turning in the wind. Then came a boat dock and landing, whose peaked roof, carved figure­-heads, and benches added yet another charming touch to the unusual setting. Yogananda converted the windmill into a chapel were meditations and services were held.[6] Due to the erosion caused by the elements, including termites, and the Northridge Earthquake of 1994, the chapel is currently going though a seismic renovation which will take a year. It's expected to be completed by August 2014. As a result of the retrofitting, the chapel is closed to all visitors.

Lake, waterfalls and animal life[edit]

Two waterfalls feed into the Lake Shrine, one that falls approximately 25 feet (7.6 m), and another series-waterfall, that falls approximately 10 feet (3.0 m).

Large waterfall with statue of Jesus on top
The small waterfall with a statue of Krishna
Looking toward the golden lotus-topped Gandhi memorial, with swans in foreground


Yogananda (Paramahansa means supreme or highest swan) encouraged swans to live on the Lake Shrine. Their large nests can be seen in this locale. Anandamoy said in the recording, Is Peace Possible in Today's World that when he was a minister at the Lake Shrine, they had three pairs of swans: one white, one black, and one white with a black necks. The lake was big enough for everybody but the swans fought, fighting for the kill. They had to be separated, by dividing the lake into three sections. Anandamoy continues saying that swans are like people and as long as one party wants the "whole cake" there will be war. If people follow the laws of God, overcome selfishness and consider the welfare of everyone, we will have peace eventually.[7]


In popular culture[edit]

Elvis Presley loved the shrine. According to his friend, Jerry Schilling, he walked around the lake and picked up some brochures, and later sent away for information about Eastern philosophy. Elvis developed a 12-year relationship with Sri Daya Mata, the woman who was then the president of the Self-Realization Fellowship, and would often call her for advice when he was troubled.[2]

George Harrison's funeral was held at the Lake Shrine. Anne-Marie O'Connor of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "After the death of George Harrison, one of the most high-profile members of the Self-Realization Fellowship, his family and friends gathered at the Lake Shrine's small Windmill Chapel for his funeral. Ravi Shankar was there with his wife."[8]

Dennis Weaver was a member Self-Realization Fellowship[9] and spoke once a month at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine for seventeen years,[10] while Gerry, his wife, played the organ. He said, "We called it our "mom and pop" church and it was one of my great blessings. It was life-changing."[11]

The actress Linda Evans was invited by Dennis Weaver, when she was doing a guest appearance on McCloud, to the SRF Lake Shrine, to hear one of his monthly Sunday sermons. Weaver gave her the Autobiography of a Yogi, saying that it changed his life. Linda wrote, "Because of Dennis I took the first in what would become a life long spiritual journey. After years studying the Self-Realization Fellowship at Malibu, I went on to learn from books and other teachers".[12]

Gary Wright was frequently involved with the Lake Shrine.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine". 
  2. ^ a b c "Seeing Stars: Churches of the Stars". 
  3. ^ Leyva, Ellen (09-19-12). "Ellen Leyva's favorite spot: Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades". Los Angeles News (Los Angeles, CA). 
  4. ^ "US ashram hesitant to part with Gandhi ashes" Philippine Times
  5. ^ "Gandhi's ashes to rest at sea, not in a museum" The Guardian.
  6. ^ "Early History and the Dutch Windmill". 
  7. ^ Anandamoy (1983). Is Peace Possible in Today's World. Self-Realizaiton Fellowship. ISBN 9780876125465. 
  8. ^ O'Connor, Anne-Marie (March 25, 2004). "Inner Peace Movement". Los Angeles Times
  9. ^ "Dennis Weaver: A Renaissance Main (book review of Weaver's book "All the World's a Stage"". 2001. 
  10. ^ "Dennis Weaver Official Website". 
  11. ^ Weaver, Dennis (2001). All the World's a Stage. Hampton Roads Pub. Co. ISBN 9781571742872. 
  12. ^ Evans, Linda (2001). Recipes for Life: My Memories. Hampton Roads Pub. Co. ISBN 9781571742872. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°02′35″N 118°33′07″W / 34.043°N 118.552°W / 34.043; -118.552