62, joined Jul. 2012
|The Essenes and Other Sects of Judaism
In Egypt and Palestine, sometime before the advent of Christ,there had come into existence a community of ascetics known as the Essenes.
The Essenes can be understood in light of the Indian concept of a forest dweller, although the Essenes dwelt in desert lands near the Dead Sea. The term may have derived from a word that means holy, pious, or one who is silent. The Essenes are said to have set themselves apart from the commonly accepted religious boundaries of Jewish tradition. They saw the path of nonviolence as the correct way, and accordingly practiced vegetarianism. They were very disciplined in their daily activities, and worked hard for their sustenance. They lived communally and freely shared all food and material possessions. After performing their work, the Essenes spent their time in meditation and other spiritual practices which sought union with God. In these ways, the lifestyle of this sect was similar to the followers of the Buddha. Their written records indicate a belief in the immortality of the soul and the karmic principle.During this same time period before Jesus many great scholars and social reformers were born in Palestine and Egypt. They studied the philosophical and spiritual texts of China, India, Greece and Persia, and sought to reform the traditions of Judaism. One of these teachers was the son of Sirach, surnamed Jesus (a common name in this era). He spoke of God’s omniscience and of the importance of a virtuous life of moral integrity. Ben (Hebrew for ‘son of’) Sirach taught that a life of virtue is characterized by compassion and is expressed through good deeds. Another contemporary Jewish reformer was the sage Hillel. He reminded the people of one of the central tenets of their ancient tradition, because they seemed to have forgotten it:
Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you.
He also objected to the empty rituals of the priests. One of the greatest Jewish scholars of this period was Philo.
He lived in Alexandria, a center of Jewish life in Egypt. He studied Indian and Greek philosophy and wrote many volumes in which he interpreted these ideas in the context of Jewish thought. One of his most significant contributions is his treatise “On the contemplative life” in which he explicitly makes the case for moral integrity and its importance in leading a spiritual life.
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62, joined Jul. 2012
Some of the dominant sects of Judaism at this time still insisted on old forms of ritual worship involving animal sacrifices. One of the most popular of these was based on the teachings of Shammai.
He was opposed to the reformers, and sought to suppress any signs of spiritual awakening or new thinking. His influence served to sustain the traditional ways of ritual worship.
At this time there also arose a great seeker of God named John.He was destined to have a significant role in the unfolding religious drama. John seems to have been deeply influenced by the Essenes as well as by Indian thought. He preached nonviolence and self control and lived a life of ascetic discipline near the Jordan River, outside of Jerusalem. Before instructing a spiritual seeker, John asked that they immerse in the waters of the river. This same custom is prevalent in India, where aspirants
are required to purify themselves before the spiritual initiation.The initiation by John has come to be known as baptism,meaning “to immerse in the water.” The rite of baptism derives from the traditional practice of ritual cleansing (mikveh) that was customary in many of the sects of Judaism. This ritual cleansing was a regular practice in the Essene communities and is recorded in many of their documents. John proclaimed that the Kingdom God had promised, is the Kingdom of Heaven within you, and is available to the spiritual seeker. He explained to his followers that they would continue to suffer until they found this heavenly kingdom within. John taught that discipline of the senses was important, and he also modeled the practices of fasting and prayer. He taught that justice and moral rectitude were essentials of the true path of religion (dharma). He spoke to the people about the ways of true reform and the attainment of salvation.
Panama City, FL
65, joined Feb. 2008
|The Essenes seemed to have Jesus' approval. As you implied, John the Baptist was probably an Essene. The Essenes became the model for the Christian monastic communities.
You mentioned karma--I for one have always thought that the Eastern concept of karma is not at all inconsistent with Christianity, and that the concept of karma is found implicitly in both the Old and New Testaments.
[Edited 12/4/2014 10:14:22 AM ]
62, joined Jun. 2014
|Good to see you pondering a common ground , Lud.|