California Pilgrimage to the Places of Paramhansa Yogananda

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Swami’s Cafe in Encinitas, California

Paramhansa Yogananda (1893 to 1952) came to the US from India to help spread universal spiritual teachings, including the scientific methods of yoga and meditation. He also brought to his American disciples the ancient technique of kriya yoga meditation. He is most known to the general public for being author of the best-selling spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi.

There is Mount Washington the SRF headquarters in the hills of Los Angeles, there is the beautiful scenic gardens of Lake Shrine, and Forest Lawn in Glendale where there is the crypt of Yogananda.

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Mount Washington Garden

At Mount Washington you can visit the beautiful gardens and grounds that Yogananda walked, and be given a tour with the special stories of Yogananda as a teacher– passed down by the disciples that lived with him. Some of the most notable things on the tour are (see photos below):

  • The tennis court where Yogananda used to beat everyone at tennis (he was miraculously quick! and always knew where the ball was going to be).
  • The wishing well that he built where he left his hand and foot prints in cement and wrote a message permanently there for all future visitors to see.
  • A library and study with relics and artifacts of Yogananda
  • And most beautiful–the garden with plants and flowers that Yogananda himself planted (a lover of Mother Nature and all her children)– that are growing magnificently well to this day. In fact, there is still a cactus that grows that was originally a gift from Luther Burbank (the famous botanist). The cactus is a special plant that Burbank bred to grow without thorns, by verbally ensuring the cactus that ‘he would keep it safe, so it wouldn’t be needing its thorns any longer’.
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Lake Shrine Outdoor Temple

At the Lake Shrine about 40 minutes away closer to the Santa Monica oceanside is this beautiful place of nature dedicated to the public by Yogananda in 1950. It has statues and shrines celebrating all religions, a windmill chapel for meditation, a house boat, and gardens to walk in with places to sit quietly and watch the wildlife swimming in the lake or buzzing in the flowers. There is also a wonderful museum dedicated to Yogananda and the building of Lake Shrine.

Lake Shrine is also home to a special world peace memorial dedicated to Mahatma Ghandi’s life built around a tomb with his ashes. These were the only ashes of Ghandi that were sent to America. (Due to the special relationship between Yogananda and Ghandi– who asked for initiation into Yogananda’s kriya yoga— Yogananda was given a portion of the saint’s ashes).

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Paramhansa Yogananda

At Forrest Lawn there are acres and acres of the cemetery, and it is where many of the famous and wealthy people of Los Angeles have been laid to rest. The most special crypt of all is that of Paramhansa Yogananda.  It is located in the Great Mausoleum (normally closed off to visitors but Yogananda’s tomb is accessible).

It is in The Sanctuary of Golden Slumber and you will notice it is the only crypt without a chain link holding people out. You can go inside and meditate, give thanks, and feel his power at the touch of the crypt.  If you look directly behind you and toward the upper right you will see an unmarked crypt. Inside there are the ashes of several of his foremost disciples, including Durga Ma. (So you can give thanks to them too.)

It is also interesting to note that after 40 days since Yogananda’s death, there was a report released by the Forest Lawn autopsy attesting to the fact that his body remained incorruptible with no signs of physical decay (yes! after 40 days)– like many of the reported incorruptible bodies of Western saints like Saint Francis, Saint Rita of Cascia, Theresa of Avila, and Padre Pio.

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Yogananda’s Encinitas Home (Left)

After visiting Los Angeles, go straight down to Encinitas and experience the beautiful views of the hermitage above the ocean, visit Swami’s Beach, and eat at Swami’s Cafe. The hermitage is today a special silent retreat center run by Self-Realization Fellowship, but it has a beautiful meditation garden open to the public most days. There you can go inside the house where P. Yogananda lived and stayed with his foremost male disciple, Rajasi Janakananda.

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Swami Kriyananda

The most beautiful thing; however, is to walk through the gardens along the meditation garden’s paths with tantamount views overlooking the ocean. You can also see where one of Yogananda’s original outdoor temples stood– before a landslide brought it crashing down to the banks below. You can also see the pool that was built by disciples like Swami Kriyananda during their days as monks living with Yogananda.

Swami Kriyananda eventually went on to found a spiritual community based on the teachings of Yogananda in northern California, definitely an important part of the Yogananda pilgrimage. This first community was called Ananda Village.

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Ananda Village

Swami Kriyananda founded Ananda based on Yogananda’s belief that people would be happier living together in communities based on leading a more simple life with others who had the same high-minded ideals and goals. Today there are such Ananda communities throughout the West Coast, in India, and in Italy.

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Tulips

At Ananda Village, there is a spiritual retreat center called the Expanding Light that teaches courses on yoga, meditation, and spiritual daily living. There is also the beautiful Crystal Hermitage, first home to Swami Kriyananda and now mostly open to the public for meditation, visiting the chapel, and spending time in the public gardens. Each year village residents plan up to 10,000 tulips in these gardens and people come from all over the world to see them.

There is also an incredible almost hidden museum called the Shrine of the Masters which includes relics from Indian Gurus Anandamayi MaSri YuketswarLahiri MahasayaBabaji KrishnaParamhansa Yogananda and his family, and disciple Swami Kriyananda. You are also free to spend time in meditation there as well. 

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Crystal Hermitage

The Crystal Hermitage was built in the shape of a dome to keep the spiritual vibrations high. Many community meetings, satsangs (or spiritual group gatherings), and movie filming days have happened inside and if you are able to enter in the main living room or take a tour you will be able to feel that peacefulness and sense of joy that radiates there. 

At this village there over 250 residents living there dedicated to serving others and practicing yoga and meditation. There is a dairy farm, a goat farm, a chicken coop, playgrounds, a school, a college and silent meditation retreat,  the retreat center, a community center with businesses, and lots and lots of homes and even apartments.

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Expanding Light

The trip itself is a life-changing and incredible devotional trip for any spiritual seeker, but especially for devotees of Paramhansa Yogananda.

If you have the opportunity to visit any or all of the places mentioned in this article, it will be a great opportunity and spiritual blessing.

Happy Travels!

Further Reading:

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