Noonan’s Point captivated yogi from India
By Diane Welch
September 24, 2006
ENCINITAS – The golden lotus domes that top the entry towers of the Self-Realization Fellowship Retreat and Hermitage harken back to a time when the now-gone Golden Lotus Temple once dominated the center, located atop a beach bluff once known as Noonan’s Point, which is now called Swamis Point.
Named for the Noonan family, Irish settlers who purchased the 10-acre “serene piece of land” in 1887 for $1,000, the site captivated the attention of Indian yogi Paramahansa Yogananda during a tour of the Unites States in the 1920s, according to a 1992 Encinitas Magazine article by historian Ida Lou Coley.
In his book, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” the charismatic Yogananda described his joy when he returned to
Encinitas in 1937 to establish the center. The Golden Lotus Temple had been built before he arrived.
He wrote, “I saw a building jutting out like a great white ocean liner toward the blue brine. First speechlessly, then with ‘Ohs!’ and ‘Ahs!’, finally with man’s insufficient vocabulary of joy. . . . I examined the ashram: 16 unusually large rooms, each one charmingly appointed.”
He went on to describe, “a stately central hall,” the “immense ceiling high windows” and a view comprising a “symphony in emerald, opal (and) sapphire.”
Yogananda was born into a prosperous Bengali family in 1893. At age 17, he met and became a disciple of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri. In 1915, he took formal vows as a monk of the Swami Order, at which time he received the name Yogananda; “ananda” signifying bliss through divine union or “yoga,” said Lauren Landress, a spokeswoman for the Self-Realization Fellowship.
In 1920, he was invited to serve as India’s delegate to an international congress of religious leaders convening in Boston. That year, Yogananda founded the Self-Realization Fellowship to disseminate his teachings on India’s ancient science and philosophy of yoga worldwide. Hermitages were built throughout the United States, with a headquarters in Los Angeles.
Tragedy struck at the Encinitas site in 1942, however, when the magnificent domed temple began to shift, then slowly slipped over the bluff’s edge, evidently having been built on an unstable foundation of clay, moistened by seepage.
Members of the ashram scrambled to salvage the furnishings and rugs, but the structure did not fare as well. It plunged ungracefully part way down the cliff, its walls cracking and immense windows shattering. Yogananda was absent during the tragedy and on his return made no plans to rebuild. Instead, he took the event as a sign that he should expand his worldwide hermitages.
On March 7, 1952, Paramahansa Yogananda passed away, or as his followers describe it, “entered mahasamadhi, a God-illumined master’s conscious exit from the body.” His fellowship now consists of 500 temples, retreats and meditation centers in more than 50 countries. His book, Autobiography of a Yogi, is a perennial best seller and has been in continuous publication since it first appeared in 1946, and has been translated into 18 languages. It is widely regarded as a modern spiritual classic.