The building is one of many locations on six continents devoted to the teachings of the aforementioned ‘saint’ from India, who made his way to American soil in 1920. He established the Self-Realization Fellowship there, then stayed till his death in 1952. Incorporating the ancient system of yoga and meditation with the original teachings of Jesus Christ, Yogananda’s Christian-Hindu hybrid religion makes a claim to helping his followers achieve “All-Blissful Consciousness” through spiritual awareness.
A block up from Los Burritos Mexican Restaurant, and around the corner from the Church of Scientology in Hollywood, California, the white and gilt gates of guru Paramahansa Yogananda’s spiritual organisation beckon.
Easily mistaken for a golf course or a resort from outside, it presents a postmodern masterpiece of intercultural markers in its clumsy east-meets-west representation of the “Church of All Religions.” There’s a small lake with a houseboat on it, a looming Golden Lotus Archway, and an “authentic reproduction” of a 16th century Dutch windmill that’s been converted into a chapel.
A portion of Mahatma Ghandi’s ashes are enshrined in an ancient Chinese sarcophagus, and the Court of Religions features symbolic monuments to Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism. The gift shop is stocked with books, DVDs, a touch screen, and more brochures, including one that shouts, “There Is No Death!”