Illumining the Outer Temple With the Inner Temple
“Bless all who come here with a desire to commune with God in the interior stillness of deep meditation, and bless them with the tangible awareness of your presence. Revered Gurus and Gurudeva, to that purpose we dedicate this temple in your name on this holy day.” Brother Chidananda, president and spiritual head of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, spoke these words as part of a prayer he offered at the dedication ceremony on May 20, 2023, for the SRF Bay Area Temple, located in Walnut Creek, California.
The Bay Area Temple opened its doors on September 26, 2021, on the anniversary of Lahiri Mahasaya’s mahasamadhi, after a long quest for a permanent home for Paramahansa Yogananda’s work in the San Francisco Bay Area. However, due to the need for completing several renovations and the easing of pandemic health restrictions, it was not possible to hold this auspicious dedication until the present time. (You can find the video of the May 20 dedication ceremony below.)
A Triumphant and Joyous Moment for All
Brother Chidananda’s arrival at the temple was met with a traditional Indian welcome of the blowing of conch shells, accompanied by glowing and appreciative smiles. He and other monastics then entered the temple to the lively chanting from the expectant congregation of “Aum Guru, Aum Guru” in honor of Paramahansaji, whose “how-to-live” teachings many of the devotees present had been steadfastly following for several decades.
After leading an opening invocation, Brother Chidananda continued the dedication ceremony by offering rose petals at each of the pictures of the SRF Gurus at the altar. Before beginning he said, “As I offer these rose petals at each of the Gurus, I want to feel that I am doing it on behalf of all of you, on behalf of all of Gurudeva’s wonderful chelas around the world. So please add your love, add your reverence, add your spiritual yearning to be able to be open to the blessings of those Gurus.”
Brother Ritananda, current minister in charge at the Bay Area Temple, delivered remarks about the history of the SRF work in the Bay Area, which began with Paramahansaji’s first visit in 1924 (see more below in the “Brief History” section).
Brother Chidananda in his dedication address, which immediately followed, drew connections to a greater and deeply embracing history, that which began with Mahavatar Babaji’s promise to Sri Yukteswar to send him a disciple, Paramahansaji, to train to spread the enlightening message of yoga worldwide. Brother Chidananda quoted Babaji from that meeting as saying: “I perceive potential saints in America and Europe, waiting to be awakened.” And then Brother Chidananda added: “Never doubt for a moment that each one of you, is one of those potential saints that this great movement of SRF was sent to the West to awaken, to uplift, to ultimately liberate. Never doubt it for a second.”
We invite you to watch the dedication ceremony here, to join with the SRF members at the Bay Area Temple in celebration; and to absorb Brother Chidananda’s inspiring and deeply encouraging address in full — which touches on many deep aspects of the joys of serving and seeking divine communion on the SRF path of Kriya Yoga meditation. (Our news coverage of the event continues below the video.)
Towards the close of Brother Chidananda’s address, he shared these words of Paramahansa Yogananda: “Buildings and centers and temples of stone are necessary, but they are only material. My greater wish is to create a temple in your souls, wherein God can be established forever. By your practice of meditation on Aum — the Great Amen or cosmic vibration of God's omnipresence — and the awakening of the higher centers of consciousness in the brain and spine so that you can contact God, you will find a temple within you that time shall never disintegrate. That spiritual temple in which you will worship God — your spiritualized consciousness in which you shall house God — that will never be broken. Practice the techniques I have given you; then I will establish within your souls an immortal temple of God-realization.”
Brother Chidananda reiterated this crucial point, asking the devotees to so strive to meditate and base their actions on the truths in the SRF teachings that Paramahansaji would be able to say: “There is one who has allowed me to build that temple within.” “Make that the goal,” Brother Chidananda said. “Make that the aspiration of striving that will cause this beautiful temple to glow and radiate with divine vibrations, with astral light, with that fragrance of truth that will spread increasingly out over the local area, out over the whole state, around the world.”
A Brief History of the Bay Area Temple
Brother Ritananda, in recounting the history of the SRF congregation in the San Francisco area, began by remarking on Paramahansaji’s first visit to San Francisco in 1924. It was during that visit that a portrait photographer took the photo that appears on the cover of Autobiography of Yogi and has been seen by and brought great inspiration to millions around the world.
It was in 1949, that Paramahansaji asked a devoted member, Kamala Silva, to establish the first official Northern California Meditation Center of Self-Realization Fellowship. This dedicated group met in temporary facilities for over two decades, but were finally able to purchase the Richmond Temple, which was opened on June 30, 1974.
Major renovations of the original structure and grounds were required, culminating in 1988 when it was finally dedicated. For that occasion, then SRF President Sri Daya Mata sent a letter to the devotees:
“If Gurudeva were here in form, he would be beaming with joy and appreciation for the talented and selfless efforts you have put into making this a true temple of the Divine. It stands as a testament to your deep love and devotion for God and Guru….I hope to convey through this message the warm feelings of my heart for all of you who have given so generously of your time, your material support, and your prayers that Guruji's dream of a temple here in the Bay Area might become a reality. In your letter to me, you wrote, ‘We have worked with love and sacrifice and joy to produce a hive for souls on Master's path to God.’ It touched my heart to read those words, for that is the spirit which will bring the blissful nectar of God's presence into your lives and into this blessed temple. If you continue in this spirit, striving to do everything with love, sacrifice, and joy in your work, in your home life, and your meditations, and in your service here at the temple, you will know a joy, a love, and an inner fulfillment that most people scarcely dream of.”
The devotees truly took Daya Mata’s counsel to heart. And when “sacrifice” came in the form of needing to leave the Richmond Temple in 2012, due to seismic issues affecting the property, they brought their joyful striving and collective effort to their temporary home in nearby Berkeley, while at the same time undertaking a search for a permanent home for that spiritual hive for the honey of divine fulfillment.
Their exhaustive investigation led finally to the acquisition of the current location in Walnut Creek, a place ideally suited for SRF in the Bay Area, now and for many, many years to come.
We invite you to enjoy some additional images from this special event!