The Lake Shrine Self-Realization fellowship (SRF) in Pacific Palisades was dedicated by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1950. Author of the best-selling spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi, this beloved world teacher came to America in 1920 from India, and was the first great master of yoga to live and teach in the West for an extended period (more than 30 years). He is now widely recognized as the Father of Yoga in the West. He founded Self-Realization Fellowship (1920) which continues to carry on his spiritual legacy worldwide.
Nestled in 10 acres surrounding what’s called Santa Ynez Lake (more like a large pond) 1/4 mile from the Pacific Ocean just up Sunset Blvd from the coast. It honors the five major world religions and includes a memorial to Mahatma Ghandi where a portion of his ashes are said to be enshrined. The grounds have been compared to a Disney version of a botanical garden with everything manicured and pristinely perfect.
There are plenty of benches throughout the loop around the lake-- which is a quick loop. It’s really meant for you to pause and reflect. It not a park so don’t sit on the grass. If you struggle with reflection, there are a variety of plaques surrounding the path that offer meditation points. Reading is also an acceptable activity
Preparation - Paramahansa Yogananda said, "Meditation is the ability to take the mind away from every object of distraction and put it on God alone." Correct posture, focusing the eyes gently upward, and focusing one's thoughts on God are key points to help achieve this state of mind.
H. Everett McElroy, assistant superintendent of construction for 20th Century Fox studios, purchased the property in 1940 and created a ten-acre park. How it became the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine is a remarkable story. In the late 1940s, Mr. and Mrs. McElroy sold the property to an oil-company president, who moved into the windmill and planned to construct a multi-million dollar resort hotel complex around the lake. It's said that one night the oil company executive awoke around three a.m. after a vivid dream in which he saw his new property as a "Church of All Religions." He had dreamed that a large group of people were assembled by the lake. He fell asleep again, but again the curious vision awakened him. After this had happened three times, he got out of bed and looked up "Church of All Religions" in the telephone book. The only such listing was for the Self-Realization Fellowship Church of All Religions in Hollywood.
Deeply moved by his unusual experience, he immediately began to write a letter describing his vision and offering to sell the property to Self-Realization Fellowship. His wife woke up, and learning what he was doing, exclaimed, "You're going to sell our home at three o'clock in the morning?" Undaunted, he finished the letter and mailed it to Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of Self-Realization Fellowship.
The story has it that rather than waiting until the letter arrived, the man telephoned Self-Realization Fellowship headquarters later that morning. Coming to the phone, Paramahansa Yogananda said -before the man could introduce himself or explain his purpose—“You have some property for sale, don’t you? When can I see it?”
“But you haven’t received my letter,” the man replied.
“The letter will come tomorrow morning,” the Guru told him. “Can we meet tomorrow afternoon?”
Paramahansaji visited the lake and its grounds the next day, and immediately began making plans for the open-air shrine of all religions he wished to establish in Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, with the help of several generous benefactors, he was able to acquire the property, and the Lake Shrine was born.
Elvis Presley loved the shrine. 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.
George Harrison's funeral was held at the Lake Shrine. Members of the Self-Realization Fellowship, his family and friends gathered at the Lake Shrine's small Windmill Chapel for his funeral.
The memorial service for my former friend and neighbor Lux Interior, lead singer of the band The Cramps was held on February 21 2009 at the Windmill Chapel and his ashes spread over the lake. The raucous wildman onstage was one of kindest caring people I’ve known. He and Poisen Ivy loved to walk my 120 lb. German Shepard on cool L.A. nights.
The House Boat
Mr. and Mrs. McElroy created their unique private paradise first by clearing away the weeds and having the lake dredged. Then the McElroy’s transported their double-deck Mississippi-style houseboat, "Adeline," from Lake Mead to their new home on Lake Santa Ynez.
The Mill House
In subsequent years, McElroy constructed a new residence across the lake from the houseboat. He modeled it after a small mill house, complete with a two-and-a-half ton, fifteen-foot waterwheel that was used to capture the overflow from the lake and send it into an irrigation system. Stained glass windows, Tyrolean carvings, a twisting circular staircase, and a swinging wood-and-rope bridge suspended above the willows and ferns of a small gully contributed to the mill house's charm. After the mill house was completed, the McElroys made it their new home, renting the houseboat to film stars and others in the movie industry, and on occasion to royalty.
The Dutch Windmill
Next, the McElroys started their third project on the lake - 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.
In 1996, a 58-foot high, 4,000 square foot hill-top temple, which overlooks the lake to the East and the Pacific Ocean to the West opened. The new temple incorporates a blend of Eastern and Western architectural styles. Crowned with a golden lotus, the domed octagonal building features intricate decorative work in concrete, stained glass, wood, and ceramic tile, much of it crafted by hand. In addition to the striking sanctuary, which seats 400, the temple complex includes a large video-equipped special-events hall, a bookroom, and Sunday school classrooms.
Address: 17190 Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Temple Tour Information
Temple Tours are approximately 45 minutes in duration and climbing several flights of stairs is required. Tours are available on Sunday afternoons at 3:00 pm. The tour group must stay together. If you are unable to participate for the whole tour, we ask that you join us on a day that is more convenient for you to do so. The tour includes a guided 5-minute period of silent meditation.