Gardening With Gurus: The Self-Realization Fellowship

Photo by Ryan Benoit

One of our favorite things about living here is our proximity to the Self-Realization Fellowship’s meditation gardens. They’re located in Encinitas, aka the yoga capital of the U.S. and the “flower capital of the world.” (According to the sign at the town limits.)

These two forces — plants and oneness with the universe — join raucously here at this garden, which is lush with foxtail and staghorn ferns, cycads, palms, cacti, ivy and elephant ears that provide shade for koi fish the size of teacup chihuahuas. The temple’s iconic golden dome, in the shape of an opening lotus, gleams above Highway 101.

Four friends, 17 acres of plant species to explore.

The Fellowship was founded in 1920 by guru Paramahansa Yogananda. Adjacent to the gardens is the hermitage, where you can attend workshops, services and retreats; the late Ravi Shankir gave his first U.S. concert here during the 1950s, and George Harrison cloistered here as well. The gift shop and bookstore down the block is also a must-visit, with its stock of Indian jewelry and musical instruments, incense and perfume. (I picked up some jasmine oil, Ryan got incense.)

Many nooks and benches invite visitors to take a moment to meditate. And the view is sublime: the property is set atop a cliff overlooking Swami’s beach. Surfers and succulents, what more do you need?

A meditation alcove sheltered by an expansive pepper tree.

Electric green ground cover rolls out beneath the perky cycads.

A patch of cacti overlooks Swami’s, the Encinitas surf spot.

An epic barrel.

The hunky koi fish.

The colossal elephant ears, along with the rest of the plants, are meticulously tended by the monks of the hermitage.

A closeup on the elephant ear vines.

Steph and I convene by the trumpet vines.

The tiny purple flowers and the green and silver-striped leaves of the inch plant (Tradescantia zebrine) add a dose of graphic interest.

The feathery canopy of the tree ferns.

A riotous staghorn fern.

A plaque shares the history of the bursting green property, which was established in 1937 and includes a drained swimming pool that was once used by Paramahansa Yogananda himself.

Ivy swallows the water fountain.

Searching for oneness among the foxtail ferns.

Sam gets centered under the windmill palms.

What kinda pine is this? Any guesses? We wanna know.

The white globular flowers of the Japanese aralia.

I sniff a mystery fruit.

A pink bromeliad basks in the coastal sun.

Open every day except Mondays and holidays, the garden is free to the public, with a suggested donation. And attention, chatty Kathies: you’ll be shushed by the guards! We were. The communication here is supposed to be of the metaphysical sort. The flowers are the ones that shout.