When you cross the imposing wooden gate, the outside world and its usual hubbub suddenly seem to evaporate.
the Self-Realization Fellowhip Lake Shrine is a real haven of peace and greenery, on the edge of a magnificent natural lake. However, this mecca for meditation is located in the chic seaside town of Pacific Palisades, at the gates of Los Angeles, just a few miles from one of the largest highways in the United States.
A mecca for meditation
We are welcomed there by Brahmachari Martin, a monk from Lake Shrine since 1977. Her blue eyes are benevolent and contrast with the bright orange of her outfit.
“Welcome to the Lake Shrine,” he says to us in French before introducing us to the court of religions located near the entrance.
It is a small square where five stelae are installed in honor of the five major religions of the world: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. “Thus, people who visit us feel at peace, regardless of their confession, whether they are believers or atheists. Here, it is the church of all religions,” he explains.
It must be said that the Lake Shrine is a temple of spirituality. The structure belongs to the Self-Realization Fellowship, a spiritual NGO founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda. It attracts thousands of people each year for silent retreats, in particular.
The site, over 4 hectares, includes meditation gardens, waterfalls, a temple with a golden roof located on the top of a hill. When walking around the lake, visitors are particularly calm. “Silence allows you to sort out your thoughts, to focus your energy on other things such as breathing”, explains Brahmachari Martin.
“Everyone is invited to come and experience inner peace,” he adds, and also to discover the teaching of meditation and yoga of Paramahansa Yogananda.
Who is Paramahansa Yogananda?
Behind the magnificent lake, there is a hanging garden but also a space where bonsais and other plants imported from around the world in the 1930s rub shoulders.
It was on this date that this place was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda. This sage is considered one of the spiritual masters of yoga in the West. He left his native India in the 1920s to travel to the United States and shared his practice of Kriya Yoga, a true way of life focused on meditation and vital energy, with millions of people. A philosophy that he summed up in his famous book “Autobiography of a Yogi”.
It was precisely in the United States that he founded his school of thought, the Self-Realization Fellowship, and set up numerous places of practice, including the Lake Shrine. For over 30 years, Yogananda has shared with philosophers and personal development practitioners his knowledge of yoga and a true scientific method to access mindfulness meditation.
During a trip, he also met Gandhi with whom he shared his knowledge. Reason why on the death of the Mahatma, part of his ashes were sent to California. They now rest in a small temple near the lake.
What is Kriya Yoga?
“When you think of yoga, you immediately imagine the postures,” explains the monk. But the postures constitute only one branch of the discipline, in this case the hatha-yoga. What Yogananda actually offers is a more spiritual approach.
“It is a real method of concentration and meditation called Kriya Yoga. Through breathing techniques and mental exercises, we manage to extinguish a real peace of mind and body,” he explains.
This allows, according to him, to “calm the turbulence of his thoughts”, to see more clearly to make better decisions but also and above all to reach a state of plenitude. “It happened to me several times to reach this supreme joy and I thought that if I could experience it every day, I would never get tired of it…”, recalls the monk who gave up a life businessman to devote himself to meditative practice.
But then, how to achieve it? “It takes a lot of practice. But silence is a good start. Then, you have to learn to breathe, what is called the prana “.
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Yoga: the temple of meditation and silence is in California
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