In Southern California, tranquility resides in a most unexpected place. At the western end of Sunset Boulevard, nestled in the middle of shopping centers and neighborhoods just blocks away from the Pacific Ocean, rests Lake Shrine.

A mediation garden surrounding the only natural spring-fed lake in Los Angeles, Lake Shrine is a 10-acre natural amphitheater dedicated to meditation, prayer and individual worship.

Founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, Lake Shrine was opened in 1950 to provide a spiritual environment where visitors could experience peace of heart and mind amid shrines and waterfalls around Santa Ynez Lake. Maintaining a peaceful environment is a top priority, as visitors are encouraged to silence mobile devices and avoid loud talking.

Benches facing the water are found throughout the grounds, in addition to dedicated meditation sites. A lap around the lake provides an opportunity to see all the garden has to offer.

Entering the Lake Shrine grounds to the left puts guests in the middle of the Court of Religions, which features shrines dedicated to the five principal religions of the world — a cross for Christianity, a Star of David for Judaism, a Wheel of the Law for Buddhism, a star and crescent for Islam, and the Sanskrit character Aum for Hinduism. The Court of Religions was suggested by Yogananda, who said: “We must recognize the unity of mankind, remembering that we are all made in the image of God. There must be world brotherhood if we are to be able to practice the true art of living.”

Adjacent to the Court of Religions is the Sunken Gardens, a quiet grotto featuring a representation of the Madonna and Child surrounded by tropical plants. Beyond the Court of Religions is Windmill Chapel, an authentic reproduction of a 16th-century Dutch windmill that was on the grounds when Lake Shrine was acquired. Special services are held in the chapel and it is open to the public for meditation.

Another meditation site is the houseboat landing, a floating sanctuary where Yogananda often sat in prayer and meditation for hours. The double-deck houseboat sits on the water across a life-size statue of Christ on the hillside. Farther down the path is the Gandhi World Peace Memorial, which sits behind the Golden Lotus Archway. A brass coffer contains a portion of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes that was enshrined in a stone sarcophagus at Lake Shrine’s dedication. Statues of Kwan Yin, the goddess of mercy, stand to the left and right of the memorial.

The Golden Lotus Archway was designed by Yogananda and unveiled at the Lake Shrine dedication on Aug. 20, 1950. Lt. Gov. Goodwin J. Knight assisted in the dedication service. A “wall-less temple” open to the sky, the archway features large copper lotuses covered with a golden finish. In India, the lotus flower is a symbol of divine unfoldment — the awakening of the soul to its infinite potential.

Lake Shrine is free to visit and only two hours away from Bakersfield. It is a peaceful destination to rejuvenate one’s mind and spirit by leaving the noise of our busy lives at the entrance and experiencing tranquility. 

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