History of Sacramento Center
Circa 1970, a little group of seekers in Sacramento learned about Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) by taking a hatha yoga class from Swami Kriyananda at the YMCA. They wrote to the Center Department of SRF to determine if they could become the Sacramento Meditation Group of SRF. The Center Department gave its tentative written approval and then final approval in 1971 (after determining that the group was loyal to SRF).
Private homes in east Sacramento
The group met in the living room of Richard Epstein's house. One member, Cecelia Watkins, entered the SRF monastic order on January 15, 1972 and is now Sister Gita. Later that year, In the fall of 1972, Richard left to join the SRF order to become Bramhachari Arthur (for the next 10 years). The Sunday School program was started at Richard's home. Then the group moved a few blocks to Tom and Tonya Hersant's home on 41st Street in east Sacramento. Tom transformed his basement into a beautiful chapel. Our first "bookroom" began in Tom's backyard, under a tree, on a card table that was put up each Sunday and loaded with a box of books.
Class Series, October 1974
We hosted our first lecture series at the Eastern Star Temple in midtown Sacramento. Twelve volunteers did all the necessary work to support this series by wearing many different "hats." Brother Anandamoy gave the lectures for the successful series that attracted 200-300 people. The series consisted of a free introductory lecture and three additional paid lectures. Brother Sadananda, who accompanied Brother Anandamoy, set us up to operate like a center, even though we were a meditation group. Brother Anandamoy stood in the entrance to our chapel at the Hersant's home, saying that he felt Master's presence and stated unequivocally that there would be a SRF temple in Sacramento some day!
Rented meeting places
After the class series, we rented a room in the Eastern Star Temple building for about one year. The group was extremely cohesive at this time because of the work and cooperation necessary to put on services. Chairs−heavy wooden chairs!− and our altar had to be assembled before each service and put away afterwards. The books for sale, in two heavy wooden showcases, had to be wheeled into position from storage each Sunday.
Larger quarters were needed so the group moved to a church-like building at K and 23rd streets in 1985. We met there for 13 years. These quarters had a chapel (seating around 100), two rooms for Sunday School classes, a bookroom, family room, restrooms, foyer, and kitchen. Since the building had not been used as a church for several years and was in terrible condition, a massive effort was needed to prepare it to be ready by December 1, 1985. Two months of intense work were need to accomplish major cleaning, painting, making and installing new molding and other tasks. One devotee concluded that meeting this deadline created "a new sense of cohesion, and formed a stronger spiritual bond" among Master's chelas in Sacramento.
We moved to our current facilities on North Ave. in 1998, formerly the Unity Church of the Oaks, a church with a meditative vibration. In addition to all of the facilities that we had on K Street, we now had a multipurpose room, a large social hall, private bathroom for monastics, an office, organ and piano, and storage facilities. Our bookroom is two to three times larger than our old one. Although our chapel is extremely large (accommodating approximately 170), we experienced overflow crowds when Brother Bhumananda dedicated our new facilities on April 19, 1998.
Clearly, the Front End Renovation Project is the most important and time consuming project that we have recently completed. The Project was necessary to resolve issues that existed since we moved to the church in early 1998: (1) walkways were cracked and uplifted, apparently from tree roots; (2) parking spaces closest to the main entrance were not ADA compliant; (3) storm water in 1986 and 1997 flowed across the front doors which required sandbagging and mopping/vacuuming to control seepage into the foyer; (4) a vehicle had failed to negotiate the curve in approximately 1997, and lightly struck the building to the right of the front doors; and (5) we discovered that we were responsible for repairing portions of the cracked County sidewalk .
During subsequent years, Center members, with the assistance of a landscape designer, submitted additional conceptual drawings to SRF. In January, 2010, the matter was referred to the SRF Property Administrator, who reviewed all of the suggestions and ultimately drew plans which addressed all the issues. The plan was approved by the Center membership in late 2010,and the front end renovation project manager lined up contractors to complete the work. During approximately May of 2011, we learned about a new SRF approval procedure that would require additional time. However, we completed the sidewalk replacement on June 2, 2011, because it had been mandated by the County. Final approval for the remainder of the project was granted by SRF in September, 2011; but due to the need to find several new contractors and pending winter weather conditions, ground breaking was delayed until April 30, 2012. The project was essentially completed on July 12, 20012, about 12 years after Brother Satyananda had developed the original plans.
Fund raising for the Front End Renovation Project officially began on February 20, 2011, with a letter sent out to all Center devotees. A total of about 51 people made donations, many of these more than once. In addition, an unknown number made anonymous donations. So the actual number of donors exceeds 51. The fund raising drive officially ended on December 31, 2011, although a few donations were received after that date. This drive raised about $52,000.
The Sacramento Center currently (July 2012) has 63 volunteers serving on its 24 committees. In addition to Sunday morning services, we offer a weekly Wednesday evening Meditation Service and a monthly Saturday Five-Hour Meditation Service.
It has been a joy for us to "live" this history and see Master's work thrive in Sacramento. We are amazed (although maybe we shouldn't be!) that Master sends us devotees to serve his work that have the skills we need at the time we need them. We have seen this happen time after time during the last 40 years. As we deepen our relationship with Master, he blesses our efforts in doing his work in Sacramento.
As we have developed this history, we are struck by the loyalty and dependability of so many devotees. A few examples: During our 1974 lecture series, one man dropped out of law school so that he would have time to work on this series; one couple, with two young children, attended every service and event during the first six months that we met at the Easter Star Temple; two devotees taught two Sunday School classes every single Sunday for one year when we were on Watt Ave.; one member has assumed responsibility or oversight for just about every major project and the technical aspects of putting on all events at our Center probably for more than the last 35 years; several contractors have given their time and talents to work on improvement projects at the church. It is these selfless, Guru-loving efforts that portend well for the future.