Entering through the upper parking lot one is immediately captivated by the soothing sound of water coming from the court yard fountain, and the bright white Temple with the golden lotus flowers in sharp contrast to the deep blue sky, which visitors have a good chance for here in Southern California at most days of the year.
The sheer existence of what used to be Lake Santa Ynez can be seen as a co-production between men and Mother Nature. Extensive earth moving activities in the Santa Ynez Canyon, which used to be a silent movie production site of the then-famous Inceville motion-picture studio in the early 1920ies, were followed by water coming from nearby springs, quickly filling the basin, and bringing a halt to plans for future land development.
During the following 10 years the area remained untouched and more than a decade later the land, which meanwhile had turned into a forgotten swamp was purchased by H. Everett McElroy, assistant superintendent of construction for 20th Century Fox studios, and developed according to his vision of a unique private paradise, including the construction of a new residence situated across the McElroy's double-deck Mississippi-style houseboat which had been relocated from Lake Mead, followed by a boat deck with landing and a Dutch Windmill with a fifteen foot water wheel connected to an irrigation system.
And now the story becomes really fascinating.
Deeply moved by his dreams he decided to quickly call instead of waiting for his letter to arrive, and when he did, the founder, Paramahansa Yogananda himself answered his call. Before the man had a chance to introduce himself, he was asked about the property he had for sale, even though his letter had not arrived yet.
1,500 people attended the formal opening to the public on August 20, 1950 of what was now Lake Shrine.
New constructions added under the vegetarian Guru's supervision were the Court of Religions honoring the five principal religions of the world, the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial, home to a portion of Gandhi's ashes, and a Museum which exhibits Paramahansa Yogananda's work.
The white hill-top Temple and Retreat, looking at the lake and the Pacific Ocean was built in 1996, 44 years after Paramahansa Yogananda's passing, fulfilling his last wish for a construction of such a building.
The orange-red flowering plant next to the Archway looks like a shrub on fire, and I wonder if this species was purposely chosen to be planted there as a symbol of the eternal flame of life.
Photography: Susan Placek/CocoonWorx http://www.cocoonworx.com
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