In 1948, a small group of Sacramento men and women became deeply interested in the teachings of Vedanta and attended services at the Vedanta Temple in San Francisco. Their enthusiasm led to a move to build a Vedanta Center in the Sacramento area. In 1949, the revered Swami Ashokananda at the San Francisco Temple called for construction of a Sacramento Center, which would be a branch of the main Society in San Francisco, and would be called The Church of Universal Philosophy and Religion.
At first, meetings and classes were held in a devotee’s home. Then in 1950, the Sacramento group purchased seven acres in the small nearby town of Carmichael, and the Sacramento devotees began to build a meeting house there, as a labor of love.
A master plan was drawn up by an architect, the late Henry Gutterson of San Francisco. The plan provided for extensive future development and limited construction for present needs. Soon several monastic members of the Vedanta Society of San Francisco joined in the work.
A monastery was established on the property, making it possible for many monks to work here throughout the year. For several months that first year, they lived in tents. Shortly, they completed a small chapel (now in the foyer of the present auditorium). On February 28, 1953, it was formally dedicated.
As construction of the larger facility continued, lectures and classes were regularly held in this temporary chapel for the monks and lay members of the Center. At first, Swami Ashokananda, and later Swami Shantaswarupananda, drove from the San Francisco and Berkeley Centers, respectively, to conduct the services.
In 1957, the Ramakrishna Order of India sent the young Swami Shraddhananda as assistant minister of the Vedanta Society of San Francisco. He then took over the teaching duties in Sacramento. But until a larger auditorium could be made ready, it was not possible to open the services to the public.
From the beginning, the group of monastic workers received help from lay members of the Sacramento Center. After some years, lay members belonging to the San Francisco and Berkeley Centers began to drive on weekends to Sacramento, to help with construction. Still others came from San Francisco and Berkeley to develop the gardens. The financial burden was met by some devotees of San Francisco. The entire project thus gave many opportunities for the selfless, dedicated service that Vedantists call Karma Yoga.
In 1963, about one acre of land with a small house and walnut trees adjacent to and north of the property was purchased.
It took thirteen years to complete the major part of the project on the front half of the property—the permanent chapel, auditorium, library, offices, residential quarters, roadways, fences, water and electric lines, a lath house for camellias, a storage shed and the gardens.
The Temple was finally dedicated on Saturday, November 14, 1964 with a program of ceremonial worship, chanting from sacred scriptures, devotional music and refreshments. Two hundred and twenty people participated in the function, including four Swamis, several monks and nuns, and many devotees from San Francisco and the Bay Area, plus nine devotees from Portland.
The first public lecture in the auditorium occurred on Sunday, November 22, 1964. Quarters for the resident Swami were finished in 1967. For more efficient operation, The Church of Universal Philosophy and Religion was registered in November, 1970 as an independent religious corporation under the laws of California with a new name: The Vedanta Society of Sacramento.
The rear half of the property was slowly developed from 1970 though 1972 into a daytime retreat named Santodyan (Garden of Saints). Statues of saints and prophets of different faiths have been installed there in a wooded setting. In 1973 and 1974 two small cottages, Ashoka Cottage and Holy Mother’s Cottage, were built on the property for lay workers. A few more additions have been made over the years to the existing buildings.