A stately white building crowns the top of Mount Washington in the leafy Los Angeles neighborhood of the same name. It is the international headquarters of the Self-Realization Fellowship, a spiritual organization founded by the yogi guru who is credited with bringing yoga and meditation to the West.
The headquarters, also known as the “Mother Center,” boast beautiful meditation grounds that radiate peace and serenity. Though just five minutes from downtown L.A., this place is like a secret garden, full of lush plants and flowers with plenty of spots to meditate or quietly reflect. This overlooked oasis also hides one of the best views of the downtown L.A. skyline.
The Self-Realization Fellowship was founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian yoga master who had moved to the U.S. that same year to teach the principles of Kriya Yoga, an ancient practice for spiritual awakening. Its message of working to realize and express one’s full potential as a spiritual being resonated with the culture of the time, and Yogananda’s fame began to spread.
In 1925, he traveled to Los Angeles and felt a strong spiritual connection to the city. He set up an ashram and meditation center in the former hotel on Mount Washington and lived out the rest of his life there. Today, the fellowship has some 500 locations around the world, but this little-known sanctuary on the hill remains the Mother Center.
The center’s gardens are a true gem, divided into different styles including a Japanese-style garden with a koi fish pond, a small cactus garden, and a rose garden. Wandering the grounds you’ll come across many interesting touches, such as a sundial, a wishing well, and the “Leaf Temple,” a sunken garden surrounding an oak tree where Yogananda often spent time and gave lessons. At the base of the tree, there is a plaque in his honor.
Know Before You Go
The meditation gardens are open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and closed on Mondays. The chapel, reception hall, library, and visitor’s center at the complex are also open to the public. The grounds can be reached by a short but steep hike up the hill, or by car.