If you’re in L.A. and seek a respite from the traffic and stress, there's a place that just may restore – at least temporarily – a sense of tranquility to your being.
The Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine Meditation Gardens in Pacific Palisades, located on Sunset Boulevard just off Pacific Coast Highway, is an urban oasis – one of the best places in L.A. to escape the traffic and bustle. Here’s a space designated for contemplation and serenity.
An L.A. escape
Upon walking onto the Lake Shrine grounds, it’s difficult not to be soothed by the aura of calmness permeating the area. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with trees and flowers from around the world. The 10-acre site, surrounding a manmade lake, was once used as a film set for silent movies. It was acquired and dedicated by the Hindu yoga master and founder of SRF, Paramahansa Yogananda, in 1950. Best known as the author of the spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda was one of the premier ambassadors of Indian spiritual philosophy to the West.
An inclusive spirit prevails at Lake Shrine, and its Court of Religions honors the world’s five great religions: Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. Symbols of each of the religions are at hand, including a cross for Christianity, a Star of David for Judaism, a Wheel of Law for Buddhism, a crescent moon and star for Islam and an Aum symbol for Hinduism. Yogananda explained, “We are one people living on one world, and we have one God and we call that God by many different names.”
Benches dotting the grounds welcome visitors to sit, relax and meditate, or simply enjoy a moment of silence. As you walk around the lake or relax on one of the benches, time seems to stand still. Appreciate the beauty, transcend the mundane or commune with the divine in your own way, on your own terms. No one will preach or lecture to you.
Lake Shrine points of interest
A visitor’s center with a gift shop and museum mark the entrance to the grounds. You can pick up a free informative brochure there. The museum exhibits artifacts from Yogananda’s life, including photos of him with Mahatma Gandhi. When Yogananda visited India in 1939 he initiated Gandhi into Kriya Yoga. The Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial at Lake Shrine includes a brass and silver coffer that contains some of Gandhi’s ashes.
A waterfall and several graceful swans leisurely floating on the lake add to the ambience of peace. The lake also contains ducks, koi fish, and lotus flowers.
Some other points of interest at Lake Shrine include a Dutch windmill chapel where services were formerly held, and a houseboat where Yogananda lived and meditated for hours while working at the lake. Fans of the Beatles may be interested to know that after George Harrison’s death, his family and friends gathered for a private memorial service at the windmill chapel.
The temple where SRF services and meditations are held is on the hilltop overlooking the lake. Visitors can ascend a stairway during visiting or service hours. Docent-led walking tours of Lake Shrine are normally on Sundays at 3 p.m. You can also go to one of the evening kirtans that are sometimes held and sample the hot chai.
Everything is free, including parking, but donations are appreciated. Visiting hours for the Meditation Gardens are 9-4:30 Tues.- Sat. and Sun. 12-4. Closed Mondays. Visit lakeshrine.org for more information.
Signs with spiritual messages such as “Be still and know that I am God” dot the grounds. A statue of Krishna stands before a small waterfall, and there are also statues of Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi.
But you don’t even need to be religious to enjoy and appreciate Lake Shrine. Atheists are welcome too. An atmosphere of peace and serenity is something we can all agree on.