ORIGIN OF THE PROGRESSIVE ECOLOGICAL & ALTERNATIVE CHURCH OF THE ESSENE

CONTEMPORARY  BACKGROUND
SCHOOL OF LIFE – SHANTI YOGA ASHRAM -  GLOBAL COALITION FOR PEACE

In 1983 Victor "Vyasa" Landa, after the preparation under his Guru, Oscar Basurto Carbonell, and upon returning from a long sojourn in India, started teaching the Spiritual Science of Yoga in the style of Hatha-Yoga, as given by Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Rishikesh,

To offer students a better understanding of the purpose of Yoga, which is to join the human being with God (Yoga means union), the Shanti Yoga Center for Harmony was formed. This was later expanded into the School of Life, in which those seriously interested in committing their lives to their spiritual development could pursue the studies and practices that such an endeavor demands. Two tracks were designed, one for those seeking the spiritual path while pursuing a family and/or professional life, and one for those who have decided to renounce the worldly life and focus all of their attention towards a life of service to God through their fellow human beings.

For these latter ones the important precept of “Right Livelihood,” which establishes that each individual should be responsible to earn his/her living and make his/her contribution to society, was given high priority. The manner in which the living is earned is a crucial element. Any activity that can cause any kind of harm to any sentient being, or that may cause unnecessary destruction of anything of material nature, should not be considered a right livelihood. In addition, right livelihood should provide for enough time for rest and sustained spiritual practice. For this purpose, the School of Life provided support, including start-up loans without interest, for those who wanted to work independently in order to honor the precept of  “right livelihood.”

Simultaneously the School of Life developed a curriculum of comprehensive studies in the different areas of the Spiritual Science of Yoga and its complementary sciences, namely Ayurveda and Tantra. Ayurveda is a preventative and remedial art covering the study of the physical body; while Tantra covers mental health, development and control. These two disciplines are interwoven with the study of the methods and practices designed for spiritual development, leading to surrender to God and Self-realization, that is, Yoga.

Using this basic foundation, as a preparation for a truly spiritual life, the members of the School of Life were then invited to undertake a more formal structural development by fulfilling some established requirements (see handbook of active members 2.) that qualified them for different levels of activity and more advanced studies as well.

The 9/11 tragedy with its outburst of violence called for the incorporation of Global Coalition for Peace, a 501(c)(3), with the purpose of spreading the message of non violence, and establishing a basis for the practice of Karma Yoga (selfless service) for the members of the School of Life. Several projects were established stressing the importance of faith-based spirituality and the need to incorporate a spiritual element into any human endeavor.
At this point the need for communal living was seen as a necessity to foster the spiritual development of the members of School of Life and to give an opportunity to any individual interested in exploring the merits of a spiritually based life. The Shanti Yoga Ashram came into existence inspired by the model of Shantivanam, rooted in a strong Catholic Benedictine tradition.  Shantivanam was founded in Tamil Nadu by the Benedictine monk, Father Henri le Saux and his successor, the late Father Bede Griffiths, also a Benedictine monk, who had been previously trained by Fr. Francis Archaya at the Mountain of the Cross ashram in Kerela, South India.

School of Life members who had finished the studies of Shanti Marga (the Path of Peace) at the level required continued their studies in a program called Shanti Kshatriya (Warrior of Peace) that includes the study of the scriptures of the major religions, different forms of worship and/or communion with the Divine.

As a result of these studies, the light that illumined the mission to be embraced by the members of the School of Life, and that would lead to the incorporation of the church became clear. The study of the lifestyle and teachings of the Essene Brotherhood, to which Victor "Vyasa" Landa had been introduced in his early training by his guru (teacher) Oscar Basurto Carbonell, was reinforced by those brought to light by Edmond Bordeux Szekely through the discovery of The Essene Gospel of Peace in the secret archives of the Vatican.  This gospel and related documents about the Brotherhood lifestyle and purpose were identified even before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.


BIRTH OF THE PROGRESSIVE, ECOLOGICAL AND ALTERNATIVE CHURCH OF THE ESSENES

“Thus the decision was made to incorporate the Essene Church of Peace and offer to all open-minded individuals, the opportunity to follow Christ’s teachings using all the tools that have been given by God at the different stages of development in the history of mankind.”  


THE ESSENE GOSPEL OF PEACE .

The remarkable work of Edmond Bordeux Szekely started in 1923 when his thesis on the life of St. Francis of Assisi prompted the Headmaster of his school, Msgr. Mondik, to give him a letter of recommendation for presentation to his boyhood friend Msgr. Mercati, Prefect of the Secret Archives of the Vatican Library, and encourage him to go in pursuit of what St. Francis had known, to complement the work he had already done.

Szekely’s keen interest and the seriousness of his work, prompted Msgr. Mercati to give him the key to the most secret room of the Archives of the Vatican, suggesting that he follow the trail and seek for the source.  This pursuit took him through the labyrinth of the Vatican Archives where he found the Aramaic translation of an extraordinary document eventually leading him to the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino.  The library full of ancient scrolls at Monte Cassino validated his discovery by providing the original Hebrew text of that same document: The complete text of The Essene Gospel of Peace.

Szekely describes very poetically the result of his research: He says, “St. Francis is the sea, St. Benedict (founder of the Benedictine Catholic Order) is the stream, St. Jerome the river and Enoch the source.”  

Szekely translated the Essene Gospel of Peace from the Aramaic and proceeded to compile the information about this ancient brotherhood.  How did all of this come together to incorporate The Essene Church of Peace in Maryland in 2006.

Four of the five who were to become members of the board came from devoted Catholic families and consequently had a Catholic upbringing. Factual evidence of the profound effect that this upbringing has had in the development of their faith, and its continued influence, is evidenced in that, since 1999 the celebration of the anniversary of the School of Life has had as its central ceremony the Catholic Mass on May 24th, the feast of Mary Help of Christians.  The mass is celebrated by the Benedictine Monk, Father James Wiseman, now Right Reverend Abbot of St. Anselm's monastery of Washington D.C. and recently recognized and accepted as an Honorary Member of the School of Life. Similarly, other members forming a majority of the School of Life, had a Christian upbringing.

Therefore, the Bible teachings were the fundamental source of the shared moral values and aspirations of the School of Life. Beautifully complemented by the profound teachings of the Spiritual Science of Yoga, which have been demonstrated to facilitate, through their eminently experiential nature, the acquisition of the virtues and practices that lead to the realization of the teachings of Jesus Christ. The inclusiveness and universality of Yoga, and the need to proclaim the union as one human family from the one God, resonated strongly with the teachings of The Essene Gospel of Peace in its detail and scope.
Thus the decision was made to incorporate the Essene Church of Peace and offer to all open-minded individuals the opportunity to follow Christ’s teachings using all the tools that have been given by God at the different stages of development in the history of mankind.  With that in mind, the classical style of Hatha Yoga routine, as taught by Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh,  was complemented with what we called Devotional Yoga, based on the routine given by the Carmelite Monk, J.M. Dechanet O.S.B. in his book “Yoga in Ten Lessons.”1 Fr. Dechanet recommends that his fellow monks and nuns take up the practice of Yoga to facilitate their spirituality, adding to the recommendation of Victor Purcel, a Carmelite Monk. Both Swami Sivananda and J.M. Dechanet's routines are concerned with the physical aspect of Yoga, not as a central element of their teaching but as a valuable tool and a  preparation for the spiritual teachings leading to spiritual development and God Realization.
 Given the experiential nature of the teachings of Yoga and the emphasis placed by Jesus Christ on serving God through our Brothers and Sisters, the modality best suited for the church (as practiced also by the Essene Brotherhood) is to “preach by example and worship through service.”  This philosophical approach to the working of the Essene Church of Peace is an ideal complement to the teachings of the Bible.
  
Under this premise the members of the School of Life, now Covenant Fellowship Members of The Progressive, Ecological and Alternative Church of the Essenes, (dba as The Essene Church of Peace) represented by their board under the Head Elder, Victor "Vyasa" Landa, established the constitution and by-laws of the church. The underlying principle is that the support of the church would come from the School of Life plus the resources that should be generated by the congregation. (This means economic activities performed as the practice of karma yoga, that is selfless, non-remunerated service) The income-generating services of the church, will be in the areas of publication, special services, etc. The possibility was left open that when the extent and nature of the economic or administrative activity demand it, and it is properly justified, contract employees and “Right Livelihood” options would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Consequently no Minister/Elder will receive any kind of compensation. No solicitation will be made for donations (except for specific drives for charity services); they will be accepted only if offered spontaneously. Neither will there be any imposition of contribution to the members of the congregation.

The purpose of the church is not to grow in numbers but in depth of commitment to, and practice of, the teachings and to facilitate the means of direct experiential learning to anybody and everybody, by providing the necessary elements and education via the modality of teaching by example and worshiping through service.

The interfaith character of the church means that its basic tenets of faith are Christian in nature, but uphold the principle of inclusiveness.3. (Unity in Diversity –Yoga principle). Thus, any individual can have the direct experience that will allow him/her to learn in a non-dogmatic, unimposing way the beauty and richness of the teachings,(Daily Communions4, Essene Gospel of Peace, Book One5) when practiced as originally directed by Jesus Christ, (interpretation on our website5) resulting in incorporation to the oneness of the human family under the one God. The importance of the inclusiveness is underpinned by our belief that those who have been alienated by the dogma and impositions from some Christian Churches will be reconciled to the original teachings of Jesus Christ through the expression and ease of interpretation of the complimentary teachings and additional tools (experiential, yoga, nature) provided by this church.  This will make it equally attractive to members of any other faith, or no-faith, who are searching for the answers to the questions that are pressing on the majority of humanity:
What is the purpose of my existence?
Where do I come from?
Where will I go when I die?
In having those questions answered they will realize and understand the teachings of Jesus Christ as the way to mend their ways and live a meaningful existence, leaving behind, depression, anger, violence and all other deviations from the natural, spiritual and cosmic laws.  

Our many years of experience have demonstrated that the practice of Karma Yoga, i.e., non-remunerated selfless service, is the most effective way to truly learn that real joy or happiness comes from within and can never be attained from external, or material means. When the desire or need to make money is the motivating factor for our actions they loose the intrinsic spiritual nature that nurtures the soul. On the contrary, money-motivated actions nurture the ego or persona, the source of what is known as “original sin,” the cause of the downfall of humankind.  Therefore, true restoration by successive incarnations is the God-given mercy to allow our salvation. Nevertheless our obligation and responsibility as members of society demand that “Right Livelihood” be a necessary part of our existence in each incarnation. Therefore, the practices of both karma yoga and right livelihood are part of the theology of this church.

The communion and work in collaboration with the discarnate spirits of the spiritual world, not as a theory or an after-death experience, but, gaining the conviction by direct experience (as mysticism has forever sustained) and factual information, are another important element of the teachings in order to learn about the continued activity of the soul in the afterlife, thus affording the opportunity to realize in its true totality the reality of the Heavenly Father’s unfathomable creation.  This will rectify the notion of a human being as a body with a spirit within and demonstrate the reality that we have been created as spirits that are given the temporary use of bodies to acquire redemption and to attain perfection.  As Jesus proclaimed “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48)
“Truly I tell you with certainty, the one who believes in me will also do as I am doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12)

All this is described in the name of the church.  By “Progressive” we mean that the process of evolution towards perfection to which Jesus referred is attained by the continuous process of development of humankind as a whole and each one as an individual. It is obvious, if we look back in history, that there has been a process of intellectual and material progress, not uniform on the whole planet, but, slowly evolving. This is part of the plan of creation - but the lack of understanding and acceptance of the continuity of existences and the existence of a real planetary community integrated by incarnate and discarnate spirits working together - has left the progress of the spiritual or divine nature of the human being stagnant. Progressive, therefore, refers to the effort to make this process complete; it also implies recognizing and accepting social, economic and intellectual changes and basing them in spiritual rather than materialistic values as their source of reference. Unfortunately, spiritual development, even though there are signs of progress (no more burning at the stake; less bigotry - that is pseudo morality, more interested in punishing than educating; and some opening to interfaith dialogue rather than fighting, etc.) lags behind the advances of materialistic science which, when applied to practical use, tends to denigrate the resources that could and should be for the upliftment of humanity if science were accepting of the spiritual nature of creation and the God-ordained process of evolution that inexorably takes place, with or without its help.

In other words, we contend that progress will continue throughout eternity until every sentient being attains perfection as promised and this will proceed in a more enlightened way, knowing that our responsibility lies with a less material and more spiritual effort.

We say “Ecological” because the planet (soil, air, water, vegetation, minerals -- all constituents of our flesh and bones,) is the source and maintainer of our physical bodies.  This planet, as everything in nature, goes through the same process of growth and decay.   Just as we have a sacred responsibility to take care of our bodies – by maintaining our health- we have been entrusted with the responsibility to take care of the planet, in which all the natural laws that we should respect and live by have been inscribed; and, using them, to foster its process of evolution.3&6

We say “Alternative” because Society is focused on materialism and sees spirituality (religion at present) as an adjunct. We maintain that society must be focused on spirituality and see materialism as an adjunct, similar to what we say in relationship to ourselves. We are not a body with the spirit within, we are a Spirit temporarily using a body. Unless and until we really hear the message of Jesus Christ, that our lives should be consecrated to and centered in our love for the Heavenly Father and that we must love one another and realize that we are all brothers and sisters, children from the same Father, there will not be the possibility of peace on earth.  As long as parochialism, and  claims of ownership of the truth prevail in the different groups or organizations, secular or religious etc., strife and violence will continue to permeate the planet. Neither do we claim to be the owners of the truth, but we believe, with the resources provided by the Bible, The Essene Gospel of Peace, and the aid of other spiritual sciences, Jesus Christ's message will be returned to its pristine condition.  Parables and sayings that, due to the knowledge and advancement at His time, could only be comprehended by a select few, will be clearly understood.
The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables.  Matthew 13:10-17)
For this reason the Progressive Ecological and Alternative Church of the Essenes (dba) The Essene Church of Peace has been brought into existence, not merely by will of its members but by the prompting (whether recognized or not) of the spiritual world that is constantly at work, as is our Father in Heaven.

“Preach by example, Worship through Service” - 
“Unity in Diversity”

FOOTNOTES:

1. Yoga In Ten Lessons  
by J. M. Dechanet, O.S.B. p.89
Yoga, merely by the exercise of quite natural phenomena, surrounds it’s adepts with an atmosphere singularly favorable to the practice of the evangelical virtues.  It calms the senses, appeases the passions and softens manners, while at the same time it is a factor making for serenity, contentment and self-mastery; and it is a duly verified fact that it tends to patience, gentleness and respect for others.  Is there so wide a gap between this frame of mind and the ideals of the beatitudes?  No, certainly not!  All the more reason for bridging it.
 
p.92-93 - When a yogi is alone or when on his mat he will spontaneously take up the same attitudes of body in which the whole soul finds expression.  (This refers to genuflections, prostrations, movements of the whole congregations in church-the practicing Catholic who practices yoga will want those done properly.)   “Silence? Perhaps you think of silence as absence of noise, emptiness in the order of sound?  Is it not, on the other hand, fullness in the spiritual order?”  by Victor Purcel, S.J., A Jesuit monk, Precursor  of Christians Practicing Yoga

p. 94 - And that is why, although the manifestations of supernatural life, of divine being and activity, in and around us, are not ours to command, certain human means, like the yoga postures and breath control exercises are effective, admittedly in a purely relative degree in opening up the way to pure prayer, contemplative prayer.  They make the place clean for us.  They transform our inner life into that wilderness the prophet spoke of (“it is by love’s stratagem, thus to lead her out into the wilderness {Solitudinum}  Osee 2, 14). They plunge the soul into silence, till it hears, cannot help hearing, the murmur of God’s voice, and even the heart rending “groans” of nature (ROM. 8. 22) appealing to God.  This nature-assumed by Christ, a branch overflowing with the divine sap - flourishes under the influence of yoga and its exercises, which order, compose and relax it so well that the power from on high circulates more freely in it and the effective presence of the God of Love is, as it were, more potent.  

2. Active members handbook

3. A Franciscan Statement on Climate Change
 “The universal brotherhood and sisterhood of all people and every existing thing lies at the very heart of our Franciscan response to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and serves as the foundation for our commitment to live and act for the good of all, including the cosmos. As St. Bonaventure reminds us, every single created thing is a Word of God - everything from human persons to quarks - and to the extent that anything in creation is lost or destroyed or becomes extinct because of human behavior, we become responsible for diminishing God’s revelation! Our commitment to live justly and peacefully with all things demands attention to the reality of Global Warming, which threatens to diminish God’s speech. This statement calls us to be attentive to and to respond to the actual threat of Global Warming both institutionally and personally because this issue touches who we are and how we live as Franciscans.

4. Essene Daily Communions http://www.theessenechurchofpeace.org/attunements.htm

5. Essene Gospel of Peace, Book One
http://www.theessenechurchofpeace.org/essenegospelofpeacetwithcomments.htm

6. From the Essene Peace with the Kingdom of the Heavenly Father: The Preserver
All that has been created, everything of beauty, everything of value must be steadily guarded and maintained, or the act of creation has no significance.  Michelangelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel are precious beyond any price and enrich the spiritual lives of millions; yet a careless bomb, a needless war could destroy it in seconds.  A friendship is not a static thing but a dynamic, changing relationship, and a reckless word may damage it beyond repair.  Every species of wild creature that vanishes takes a part of our souls into oblivion.  Friendship, love, works of art, untouched wilderness, whatever the creation, the world has no meaning without preservation.  Sometimes I am helpless to prevent waste and destruction, as in the case of war; yet in my own sphere of activity I can use my influence in countless ways to help protect, preserve, and practice prevention; grass, trees, flowers, a house, the trust of a child, whatever it may be, material or immaterial, the act of Preservation is the indispensable twin of creation.  Every time I cooperate with the Preserver, I hear anew the words of the Zend Avesta: “The Keepers and Preservers of the Earth shall restore the World! When life and Immortality will come and creation will grow deathless!”

References
Daily Individual Prayers
Morning Communal Prayers http://www.theessenechurchofpeace.org/morning_prayers.htm

U tubes:
Scholar Research on The Essenes
http://mysticvine.blogspot.com/2012/05/early-christianity-essenes.html

Influence of Food in our Being  
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLKj1puoWCg

Yoga
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX9FSZJu448&feature=share

Footnotes:

1.  http://mysticvine.blogspot.com/2012/05/early-christianity -essenes.html
2. by Brian Robertson same source as above

 



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