The Lake Shrine and Meditation Gardens, located on Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades, is a hidden gem that offers visitors a retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. The ten-acre site, founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1950, is a spiritual landmark that showcases the ancient Yoga teachings of India.
A spring-fed lake with a history
The centerpiece of the Lake Shrine is a natural spring-fed lake that was once part of a private estate owned by the Ince family, who were prominent in the early Hollywood film industry. The lake was used as a location for several movies, including The Adventures of Robin Hood and Marie Antoinette. In 1942, the property was sold to H. Everett McElroy, who transformed the lake into a shrine for world peace and brotherhood. He built a replica of a 16th-century Dutch windmill, a houseboat, and a golden lotus archway on the lake. He also collected soil samples from all over the world and placed them in a brass coffer at the base of the archway, symbolizing the unity of all nations.
In 1950, McElroy donated the lake and its surroundings to Paramahansa Yogananda, who was the founder of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), a worldwide spiritual organization that teaches the science of Kriya Yoga meditation and the art of balanced living. Yogananda envisioned the Lake Shrine as a place where people of all faiths, and no particular faith, can come to experience quietness of heart and mind, and feel like they are tuning in with their higher self.
A court of religions honoring the five principal world religions
One of the features that Yogananda added to the Lake Shrine was a court of religions, consisting of five monuments honoring the five principal world religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Each monument displays a symbol or an image representing the essence of each faith. Yogananda believed that all religions are expressions of the same underlying truth, and that by respecting and appreciating the diversity of spiritual paths, we can foster harmony and peace among all people.
A temple with weekly inspirational services and meditations
Another feature that Yogananda added to the Lake Shrine was a temple, which was completed in 1996. The temple is located on a hilltop overlooking the lake and offers weekly inspirational services and meditations for SRF members and guests. The temple also hosts special events throughout the year, such as lectures, concerts, retreats, and celebrations. The temple is open only on Sundays.
A retreat for silent renewal
For those who seek a deeper immersion in the spiritual atmosphere of the Lake Shrine, there is also a retreat for silent renewal. The retreat consists of four cottages that can accommodate up to 12 guests at a time. The retreat offers an opportunity for guests to practice meditation, prayer, study, and contemplation in a serene setting. The retreat is open from Wednesday to Sunday by reservation only.
An ashram for monks of Self-Realization Fellowship
The Lake Shrine also serves as an ashram for monks of Self-Realization Fellowship, who live on the premises and maintain the gardens and facilities. The monks also conduct the services and meditations at the temple and provide guidance and support to visitors. The ashram is not open to the public.
A Mahatma Gandhi memorial containing a portion of his ashes
One of the most unique attractions at the Lake Shrine is a Mahatma Gandhi memorial containing a portion of his ashes. The memorial was dedicated by Yogananda in 1950, shortly after Gandhi’s assassination. It is one of the few places outside India where Gandhi’s ashes are enshrined. The memorial consists of a marble sarcophagus with a brass plaque bearing Gandhi’s name and dates. It is surrounded by a garden of roses and jasmine. The memorial is a tribute to Gandhi’s life and legacy as an apostle of nonviolence and universal love.
A visitor center and gift shop
The Lake Shrine also has a visitor center and gift shop where guests can learn more about SRF and its teachings, purchase books and gifts related to spirituality and India, or simply relax and enjoy the view. The visitor center is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm. The gift shop is open from Thursday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm.
A place for everyone
The Lake Shrine welcomes everyone who wishes to experience its beauty and tranquility. Whether you are looking for a place to meditate, pray, reflect, or just admire nature, you will find it at the Lake Shrine. Admission is free, but reservations are required due to COVID-19 restrictions.