AMONGST the various cut-throat industries of Los Angeles, it is comforting to know that one can still escape to a place like the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine. Many Angelenos don’t even know about it, though it has been been located right off the PCH on Sunset Boulevard for over six decades.
Paramahansa Yogananda, who was well versed in Eastern philosophy and educated many Western peoples in the value of meditation, founded Lake Shrine in 1950. Nowadays, Yogananda is remembered primarily because of the peaceful location he created, although he served as a mentor to many in his time. Lush gardens surround Lake Shrine, a body of water richened by the swans and koi that call it home. There is a Dutch windmill right against the lake that still serves as a chapel to this day.
One of the biggest modern attractions to Lake Shrine is the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial. This “wall-less temple” is the only location outside of India where you can find a portion of Gandhi’s ashes. Lake Shrine got these bragging rights because of the deep spiritual connection between Gandhi and Yogananda, although the donation of ashes irritated some of Gandhi’s family members. The Gandhi Memorial reminds the disillusioned and sacrilege that there still is a place for spirituality and sacredness in Los Angeles.
Lake Shrine beams like a beacon of hope in comparison to the rest of the smog-cloud that is LA. It has always served as a place where souls can find peace. Aside from Gandhi’s connection to the land, there have also been a slew of celebrities who found solace in the Fellowship and used the location as an escape from ordinary LA. Elvis Presley loved Lake Shrine and developed a spiritual relationship with the current president of the Fellowship. From their conversations together, the King of Rock and Roll learned about Eastern philosophy. Members of The Beatles also retreated into the Eastern lifestyle here and the memorial service for George Harrison was even held at Lake Shrine.
I go to Lake Shrine periodically when I need to be reminded of a greater meaning. When I go there, I am reminded to hope, I am reminded of beauty and belief. I am reminded of historic LA. I imagine seeing Elvis sitting on the opposite side of the Lake, or George Harris meditating in the windmill chapel. I love Lake Shrine because it reminds me of all the important stuff that LA might want me to forget.-- Carey Uhl
Photos 1 & 2: Self-Realization Fellowship Website
Photo 3 Credit: Bruce Stinshoff