Before our friend Tom returned to Philadelphia, the five of us (Tom, Bob and Jan, and Kate and I) walked around a portion of the grounds of the Self-Realization Fellowship Retreat and Hermitage in Encinitas, CA.
Founded in 1937 by Parama-hansa Yoga-nanda (1893-1952), the Center includes the Hermitage (Parama-hansa's residence), retreat accommodations for Fellowship members, cliffside meditation gardens,
and living quarters for members of the monastic Order who serve here.
The Hermitage and the 17 acres of grounds were given to Paramahansa by a dedicated follower of his teaching, James Lynn, as a "welcome home" gift from an extended tour of Europe and India.
The aptly-named Meditation Gardens are open to the public. Visitors are invited to enjoy the tranquillity of the gardens and their vistas. Benches are provided for those who wish to meditate or just sit and absorb the peace of the quiet refuge.
A series of ponds (left) are connected by miniature waterfalls (below). Pathways off the main trail led to rock benches upon which visitors could sit and experience the hypnotic effects of the waterfalls and small brooks.
Along with water displays are many varieties of flowering plants and trees. Although the Hermitage and its grounds were originally intended by their donor to be a private retreat, Paramahansa did not wish to reserve such a beautiful place for his enjoyment alone.
The Fellow-ship, an inter-national religious organiza-tion, was founded in 1920 to further the spiritual and humanitarian ideals of Paramahansa. Its teachings center around scientific methods of meditation that enable each individual to realize the one Truth underlying all religions and all life.
Today, visitors come to the Retreat for a period of renewal. Special "How to Live" programs include daily meditation with classes on the teachings of Paramahansa.
In the expansive views from the Hermitage bluff, Parama-hansa found constant reminders of the Spirit.
With the heavy growth of trees and plants in the Meditation Gardens, we soon were cut off from the sounds of the nearby streets, and we were left with silence punctured intermittently by the faint sounds of the waves below the bluff.
We could imagine classes for small groups being held in this serene setting, but since the Gardens were open to the public, classes were held in the Hermitage.
The Lotus Towers (photo #1) express the purpose for which the Encinitas Center was established--in India the lotus has been regarded since ancient times as a symbol of spiritual unfoldment. Meditation, analogous to the lotus, rises above earthly attachments and bodily bondage to find its true purity and freedom in the Infinite Consciousness. (All information is from the Visitor's Guide to the Fellowship.)