It’s probably safe that things these days for most people are… tough. It feels like no one can get along or agree on anything, and it’s getting harder and to avoid the onslaught of concerning news and frustrated disputes, from both sides. If you need a place to just get away from everything and re-center yourself, look no further than Yogaville’s LOTUS. Yep, that’s a giant lotus-shaped shrine in a place called “Yogaville”.
It’s all the work of Swami Satchidananda, a spiritual leader who is probably best known as the guy who delivered the opening statements at the 1969 Woodstock music festival. His methods for practicing Integral Yoga involve “a flexible combination of specific methods to develop every aspect of the individual: physical, intellectual, and spiritual.”
He founded Yogaville along the James River in Virginia as an ashram in 1980. He funded a lot of it with money he earned selling a property gifted to him by Carol King; Swami was the spiritual guide to a lot of celebrities. Yogaville is not only a community where devotees of Integral Yoga can go to learn about Swami’s teachings and work on themselves; it’s also a center for interfaith understanding and world peace. That’s where the LOTUS comes in. It’s an acronym for “Light Of Truth Universal Shrine”, and it’s filled with rich symbolism relating to its mission.
The Shrine was dedicated in 1986. The lotus flower design (sacred in many religions) and the name are the most obvious symbols, but the twelve petals each hold an altar dedicated to a different religion: Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Shinto, Tao, Buddhist, Islam, Sikh, Native American, and African religions are represented. The measurements even relate to sacred numerology. Inside, along with the shrines, you’ll find neon and gold leaf adorning the walls and ceiling. Those at Yogaville encourage anyone and everyone to visit the temple (and their community) to learn about interfaith cooperation.
Some consider Yogaville to be a cult. While it’s definitely promoting a particular and maybe slightly unusual lifestyle, it doesn’t appear to be mistreating its members or cutting them off from family members. I don’t expect to see them on the front page of the news, Heaven’s Gate or Manson Family style.
If you’re curious, they offer guest stays. These come with three meals a day (vegetarian, of course), 2 Hatha yoga classes offered daily, 3 group meditation classes offered daily, evening programs on topics like chanting or scripture study, and the ability to tour the shrine and the peaceful grounds. Again, they’re all about interfaith cooperation, so don’t feel like you can’t visit if you’re already a super traditional devout Catholic or something. It’s all about deepening your connection to the universe (whatever you believe is out there) and letting go of any Earthly attachments that might get in the way of your ultimate happiness. The motto of the LOTUS is “Truth is One, Paths are Many”, so feel free to incorporate your own beliefs into a visit.
More life-changing destinations…