I am an avid rider and writer. If you’re a motorcyclist, chances are you’ve read a few of my travel tales. As riders, we’re always looking for cool new places to go and currently, I am doing Temple Tours. Links to other Temple Tours are at the bottom.
How this Temple/Monastery eluded me is a lesson in humility. I have been riding Santiago and Trabuco canyon for 15 years and I’ve passed the entrance hundreds of times without nary a glance. My only excuse? It’s at a sharp left hand turn that I generally hit at three times the legal speed limit. Good god man, slow down and smell the roses.
I found out about the Ramakrishna Monastery while bragging about my new Temple Tour series with riders at Cook’s Corner. “Well then you’ve been to the Ramakrishna Monastery right down the street, it’s been there for 60 years” an attractive female rider blurted. “Yeah, I nodded, Yeah”. My heads nodding yes but the answer was no, I hadn’t. If you're a biker, live Southern California you’ve been to Cooks Corner in Trabuco Canyon. In 1926 E.J. Cook, converted an old structure into a restaurant meant to supply food to miners and local ranchers. Cook's was eventually converted into a bar and in 1975 he sold the bar, the Cook's family house, and 40 acres to the owners of Santa Ana, California based motorcycle accessories company Cheat'ah Engineering. Intended to be a place where motorcyclists could gather in peace it remains a place to party to this day and is one of the more famous social places for bikers in Southern California. Like me, you probably had no clue about the Ramakrishna Monastery either until just now.
It turns out that a few twisty miles past Cooks in Trabuco canyons oak shaded 2-laner is the hidden entrance to the Vedanta Society’s Ramakrishna Monastery. This place is amazing. It’s a reprieve of solitude and solace in the overt opulence of Orange County. I now come here regularly if only to sit in the silent darkness of the meditation shrine to escape the madness of modern life. There are hundreds of Vedanta locations throughout the world and every Sunday at 11: am a Swami from one of the many monasteries comes to lecture on a wide range of topics. The word “Swami” is a title of honor given to a Hindu religious teacher.
On this Sunday I parked a gorgeous 2016 Street Glide CVO right up front mandating attendees pass as they entered the lecture hall. I am after all a moto-journalist, riding the sweetest new motorcycles made and I of course want everyone to know that. After the service, I was proudly perched on the stunning Street Glide when the lecturing East Indian Swami appeared. He stopped, silently stared then started asking me questions about the bike; Who made it, how many cc’s was the engine, what was the weight, is it expensive, can you buy one of these in India? Answering all his questions in great detail, I now was lecturing the Swami and will have him chanting Harley Krishna, Harley Krishna before I’m finished with him. Turns out he had ridden a scooter a few times in India and the experience was indelibly etched in his psyche. I could see the glimmer in his eyes as he paced around the huge shiny machine. He, like so many non-riders was smitten by the lure of two wheels.
I tossed out one of my favorite one-liners that immediately elevates me to “Acclaimed Adventure Rider”.
“There are two kinds of people in this world, those that ride and those that wish they did” I smirked in conceit.
The Swami’s eyes lit up, he opened his arms wide as if to embrace me and with a huge smile said: “Then you ride for all of us!”
I was speechless. I arrogantly wanted to divide the world into the haves and have nots, the doers and the wannabes, them and me. Without breaking a beat he saw the world as all inclusive, riding this big blue ball all together. Damn Swamis, they just get it. He had distilled my life’s passion into seven words and was right, that’s exactly what I do. I ride for me, for you, and even for the Swamis!
Originally founded in 1942, by a disciple of Swami Prabhavananda, the Trabuco College of Prayer was built on 300 acres in what was then a remote area of the Santa Ana Mountains. Aldous Huxley along with friends and students assisted in its planning and construction. The buildings are beautifully designed in the style of an Italian monastery, complete with oversized bricks for the walls, tile roofs, bell tower and heavy beams. The purpose of the college was to provide a place for prayer and the study of Eastern and Western mysticism. The Trabuco College of Prayer was formally rededicated as the Ramakrishna Monastery in 1949.
| |The Library Listen to some records
Swami Prabhavananda commissioned the statue of Swami Vivekananda (The founder of the Vedanta Society) to be made for the Trabuco monastery and on July 4, 1951 it was installed in the courtyard. There is a lily pond with Coy in front and a sweeping view of the valley behind. Since then, there has been a yearly tradition of a special worship and open house on every 4th of July.
Meditation Shrine Meditation chair
In the 1970s, a shrine trail consisting of seven rustic, outdoor shrines to different religions was constructed by the monks in order to visually portray the Vedantic ideal of the harmony of all religions. The monastery library is filled with a wide assortment of religous texts and open to the public, there’s even a record player and some vintage vinyl to listen to. The meditation Shrine is a circular dome structure that offers visitors a sacred place for meditation, prayer or simple solitude. The bookstore offers everything from local homemade honey, breads, really comfortable men’s and women’s meditation wear, candles, incense, statues and oh yes, books. Additionally, the monastery serves as a place for individuals to go on retreat, assisting the monks in the work of the monastery.
This small, unassuming monastery and shrine had a tangible, personal impact on me. Just as the shrine trail surrounds the monastery in an all-inclusive tribute to the world’s religions, I too need to see world integral, to be more sensitive to the small tribe of people whom I surround and not divide people, places or beliefs. Secondly, I don’t need to constantly break speed limits in my journey to enlightenment. I need to slow my roll. Sometimes it's the destination that defines your journey.
Prologue: After services I can be found dining at another nearby shrine, The Rose Canyon Cantina and Grill. It’s been one of my favorite Sunday lunch spots for years and it’s only a few miles past the Ramakrishna Monastery!
Ramakrishna Monastery, Trabuco Canyon
19961 Live Oak Canyon Road
P.O. Box 408
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678
Phone: (949) 858-0342
Hours: Mon-Sun 9:00am to 11:00am, 3:00pm to 5:00pm
Bookstore Hours: Every day except Tuesday, 10:00am to 5:00pm
Rose Canyon Cantina and Grill
Temple Tours Part 1
Temple Tours Part 2
Temple Tours Part 3