In keeping with Paramahansa Yogananda’s spiritual ideal “to serve mankind as one’s larger Self,” Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) temples and centers are reaching out to thousands in need during this holiday season with charitable drives and ministry.
2017 Pacific Palisades Interfaith Service
The SRF Lake Shrine Temple in Pacific Palisades hosted this year’s 2017 Pacific Palisades Interfaith Service, a diverse gathering of clergy and their congregants who unite each year around the Thanksgiving holiday to pray together and foster cultural and spiritual understanding. The service, which took place on Monday, November 20, was conducted by a representation of clergy, and included for the first time a guided meditation led by Brother Satyananda, as well as an interfaith choir and prayers from all participating faiths. Offertory proceeds were sent to Grief Haven, a nonprofit in Pacific Palisades dedicated to assisting parents who have lost a child. The joyous and uplifting service was followed by an informal reception.
Among the participating congregations in the 2017 Interfaith Service were the Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation, Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church, Palisades Lutheran Church, the Parish of Saint Matthew (Episcopal), Pacific Palisades Methodist Church, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Thanksgiving food drives
Thanksgiving food drives were conducted by congregations of several SRF temples in 2017:
- Fullerton Temple devotees donated collected food items to Pathways of Hope, a faith-based organization that provides food and other support to the hungry and homeless in the Fullerton area.
- The Glendale Temple congregation donated to a Los Angeles County agency serving families in the their area.
- The Berkeley Temple members distributed food items among local homeless shelters.
- The Phoenix Temple devotees’ efforts supported the work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in their city.
- The San Diego Temple congregation helped Special Delivery, an all-volunteer organization that provides homemade meals to medically homebound people in the San Diego area
Christmas Toy Drives and Care Packages
As Christmas approaches, SRF temples are sponsoring toy drives and developing care packages for those in need.
- San Diego Temple is collecting toys to give to Polinsky Children's Center, a temporary emergency facility for children who are separated from their families.
- Hollywood Temple is putting together more than one hundred care packages (that include grooming and hygiene items, healthy snacks, socks, and gift cards for quick meals) for their longtime charitable partner, Covenant House in Hollywood, which provides shelter and services to homeless and runaway teenagers.
- Encinitas Temple will contribute bikes and other toys to the Community Resource Center’s annual CRC Holiday Basket, a program that provides a dignified and free “shopping experience” for families and individuals in need.
- Lake Shrine Temple will have a program where donors can fulfill the wishes of children from the West Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services and Alliance Foster Care (below).
Efforts by SRF Centers and Meditation Groups
Many SRF centers and meditation groups have also launched charitable projects to support the homeless population in their areas. For example:
- The Dallas-Ft. Worth Meditation Group collected food and toiletries through their annual October Charity Drive. The goods will be donated to the Good Samaritans of Garland, who will assemble 10-pound packs of foods, designed to be carried in backpacks.
- The Boston Center will be gathering donations between Thanksgiving and Christmas for Coalition for the Homeless in Somerville, Massachusetts.
- The Chicago Center implemented a Healthy Food and Fund Drive from November 12 to 26, donating the collected items to the Oak Park River Food Pantry, whose mission is to reduce hunger locally.
- On November 19 the Seattle Center hosted their annual “Shoe Boxes of Joy,” with the donations distributed by Catholic Community Service volunteers to those in need.
These activities provide a glimpse of the many ongoing charitable outreach programs organized by SRF temples, centers, meditation groups, and meditation circles around the world. During this holiday season, may we strive to bring joy and comfort to others by spreading “rays of hope and courage” in the hearts of all.
As Paramahansa Yogananda said: “Life should be chiefly service. Without that ideal, the intelligence that God has given you is not reaching out toward its goal. When in service you forget the little self, you will feel the big Self of Spirit. As the vital rays of the sun nurture all, so should you spread rays of hope in the hearts of the poor and forsaken, kindle courage in the hearts of the despondent, and light a new strength in the hearts of those who think that they are failures. When you realize that life is a joyous battle of duty and at the same time a passing dream, and when you become filled with the joy of making others happy by giving them kindness and peace, in God’s eyes your life is a success.”
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