Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine

Jump to navigation Jump to search
Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine
LakeShrineTempleSRF 20140908 (15043884639).jpg
Main Temple of the Lake Shrine
AffiliationSelf-Realization Fellowship
StatusTemple and Retreat Center
Location17190 Sunset Blvd.
Pacific Palisades, California 90272 United States
Geographic coordinates34°02′34″N 118°33′08″W / 34.042738°N 118.55235°W / 34.042738; -118.55235Coordinates: 34°02′34″N 118°33′08″W / 34.042738°N 118.55235°W / 34.042738; -118.55235
StyleCombination of Eastern and Western
FounderParamahansa Yogananda
Capacity400 (sanctuary seating)
Height (max)58 feet (18 m)

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 [2][3] and is owned by the Self-Realization Fellowship.[4] The 10-acre (40,000 m2) site has lush gardens, a large spring-fed lake framed by natural hillsides, and a variety of flora and fauna, swans, ducks, koi, turtles, and lotus flowers. The property is a natural amphitheater.[5] Thousands of visitors come each year.


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

The visitor center provides information about Lake Shrine. There are waterfalls, fountains, flower beds, statues, white swans across the lake, lacy fern grottos, lily ponds, and a Dutch windmill which is used as a chapel. The Court of Religions, honoring five principal religions of the world, 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 and star for Islam, and the Om symbol for Hinduism. Yogananda believed in an underlying harmony of all faiths that unites us all.[6] Along with a few statues of Krishna and other Hindu deities, there is also a life-size statue of Jesus Christ,[2] above the waterfall, as well as Francis of Assisi and the Madonna and Child.

The golden lotus archway, a towering, sleek, white arch trimmed with blue tile, and topped with gold lotus blossoms, 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.[5][4]

The gardens are filled with little brick paths and short stairways which lead from the main trail to hidden alcoves where meditation or sitting and taking in the view is possible.[7] The gift shop features arts and crafts from India which is adjacent to a museum focusing on Paramahansa Yogananda, the founder of Lake Shrine. There is a Dutch windmill converted into a chapel,[2] a houseboat, a bookstore and a temple overlooking the lake.[4]


Court of Religions symbols (from left to right, top downward): Dharmachakra, Star of David, Christian cross, Star and crescent, and Om.

The site of the present day Lake Shrine was once part of a 460-acre parcel of land in the Santa Ynez Canyon, called Bison Ranch. It was purchased by the silent film producer and director Thomas H. Ince in 1912 to serve as his studio and was subsequently named Inceville. After Ince founded his new Triangle/Ince Studios in Culver City in 1915, the site was taken over by director William S. Hart and eventually renamed Hartville.[8] The land was later purchased by Los Angeles real-estate magnate Alphonso Bell, Sr. In 1927, the surrounding hillsides were hydraulically graded to fill the canyon with the intention to level it for future development. The earth-moving project was never completed, which left a large basin in the portion of canyon that eventually filled with water from the numerous springs within the vicinity. The water body became known as Lake Santa Ynez; the only natural spring-fed lake within the City of Los Angeles.[9][10]

The lake was owned by the superintendent of construction for 20th Century Fox during the 1940s when it was again used as a film set, where a two-story Mississippi houseboat was imported and a replica of a Dutch windmill was constructed. The property was subsequently sold to an oil executive who had the intention of developing the lake into a resort until he purportedly began to have a recurring dream where the site was converted into a "Church of All Religions". When he looked up this name in the telephone directory, he came into contact with Paramahansa Yogananda who eventually accepted the property and hence constructed a temple, meditation garden, and the Mahatma Gandhi peace memorial.[4]


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[2] 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.[11] Another report states that the descendants of Mahatma Gandhi do not want to have the ashes removed because it would entail breaking the shrines.[12]

Windmill chapel[edit]

Looking toward the Dutch windmill from houseboat

The previous owners, the McElroys, built an authentic reproduction of a 16th-century Dutch windmill.[2] 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.[13] Due to the erosion caused by the elements, termites, and the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the chapel was closed to the public in 2013. Cost overruns delayed the completion of the Windmill Chapel for another year. The reopening of the chapel took place on July 27, 2015.

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.[14]

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.[5]

A peaceful romantic view of a Lake Shrine
A peaceful romantic view of Lake Shrine

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."[15]

The memorial service for Lux Interior, lead singer of the Cramps, was held on February 21, 2009 at the Windmill Chapel.

Dennis Weaver was a member of the Self-Realization Fellowship[16] and spoke once a month at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine for seventeen years,[17] 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."[18]

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 lifelong spiritual journey. After years studying the Self-Realization Fellowship at Malibu, I went on to learn from books and other teachers".[19]

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

Tom Petty's funeral was held at the Lake Shrine in October 2017.[20]


  1. ^ "New Temple". Self-Realization Fellowship. December 2015. Archived from the original on February 23, 2015. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  2. ^ a b c d e Yogananda, Paramahansa (2004). Autobiography of a Yogi / Chapter: The Years 1940-1951 / Page:528-530. Self-Realization Fellowship. ISBN 978-0876120798.
  3. ^ "Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine".
  4. ^ a b c d Larsen, Leif (July 23, 2018). "Finding Yourself in Los Angeles". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2019-03-13.
  5. ^ a b c "Seeing Stars: Churches of the Stars".
  6. ^ Leyva, Ellen (2012-09-19). "Ellen Leyva's favorite spot: Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades". Los Angeles News. Los Angeles, CA.
  7. ^ Basheda, Lori (June 9, 2019). "In Pacific Palisades, a meditation retreat lets you escape from yourself". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  8. ^ Stephens, E. J.; Wanamaker, Marc (10 Nov 2014). "Early Poverty Row Studios". Arcadia Publications. Retrieved 6 Mar 2018.
  9. ^ The Lake Shrine. Pacific Palisades, California: Self-Realization Fellowship. 1989.
  10. ^ Hemmerlein, Sandi (August 5, 2016). "Six Great LA "Lakes"". KCET. Burbank, California: Public Media Group of Southern California. Retrieved 10 Jan 2019.
  11. ^ "US ashram hesitant to part with Gandhi ashes" Archived 2011-07-15 at the Wayback Machine Philippine Times
  12. ^ "Gandhi's ashes to rest at sea, not in a museum" The Guardian.
  13. ^ "Early History and the Dutch Windmill".
  14. ^ Anandamoy (1983). Is Peace Possible in Today's World. Self-Realizaiton Fellowship. ISBN 9780876125465.
  15. ^ O'Connor, Anne-Marie (March 25, 2004). "Inner Peace Movement".Los Angeles Times
  16. ^ "Dennis Weaver: A Renaissance Main (book review of Weaver's book "All the World's a Stage"". 2001.
  17. ^ "Dennis Weaver Official Website - About Dennis Weaver". Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  18. ^ Weaver, Dennis (2001). All the World's a Stage. Hampton Roads Pub. Co. ISBN 9781571742872.
  19. ^ Evans, Linda (2001). Recipes for Life: My Memories. Hampton Roads Pub. Co. ISBN 9781571742872.
  20. ^ Pasquini, Maria (2017). "Tom Petty Laid to Rest in a Private Service Held at Lakeside Shrine and Meditation Garden". People.

External links[edit]