In July my mother and I took a summer trip to Virginia where, among a number of places, we pulled into the visitor parking lot at Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville (commonly called Yogaville). I can not remember how or when I first heard about this place. Although it was several years ago that I first heard about it, I never forgot about it and when we were planning our trip we added it to our itinerary.
Yogaville is a community founded in the 1980's by Sri Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002) who had a lotus shaped interfaith temple built on the site and dedicated it to world peace and inter-religious cooperation in 1986. The temple is named LOTUS which stands for Light Of Truth Universal Shrine.
Sri Swami Satchidananda was born in India and came to the United States in the 1960s. He was the opening speaker at Woodstock in 1969. He authored several books and traveled throughout the USA. He died at Yogaville in 2002.
In addition to the lotus shaped temple, there is a Hindu temple and a special temple that enshrines the ashes of Sri Swami Satchidananda. There are also severals houses, apartments, a community hall, a hotel, a school and a library, as well as a farm and many gardens.
The temple is located at the bottom of a hill from the Yogaville community and sits next to a large lake. Forests surround it on all sides. My mother and I walked through the gates, down a path complete with fountains and Hindu artwork to the main entrance of LOTUS.
We entered the shrine on the first floor, which houses a small museum dedicated to a number of religions. We went to the second level which houses the shrine room itself. Twelve altars (Judaism, Native / Indigenous Faiths, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, Islam, African Religions, Sikhism, Taoism, Other Known Faiths, Faiths Still Unknown) were set up along the walls. A pillar of light shot up from a central altar.
The museum's displays were interesting. Each had articles and photos from various faiths with some information on the items and the religion in general. In all there were large displays for Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikh, African Traditional Faiths, Native American Religions, Shinto and Taoism. In addition to these there were small displays for the Baha'i Faith, Pacific Island religions, Zoroastrianism and Jainism. There was also a display for secular /humanistic ethics and principles.
At the topic of a hill that overlooks the LOTUS is a small temple dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu deity of creation and destruction. I paid my respects to the statue for what it represents: people's faith. My mother and I took in the view from the hilltop. The hills and mountains reminded me of Ome City, Japan, where I lived a few years ago. The whole view was amazing.
All in all, visiting Yogaville was worth the trip. I am glad we were able to include a stop here on our vacation. I have been interested in world religion and spiritual beliefs for many years, so coming to an interfaith lotus shaped temple in the countryside is something that was special for me.
The people we met at Yogaville were very friendly and the whole community had a peaceful feeling to it. If you are planning a trip to Virginia, if you can include Yogaville, do it! It offers a unique experience. PEACE!
Robert C. Piemme is an undergraduate student (international relations) and avid gardener, hiker and writer.