Honoring the Life of Victor Landa
Victor (“Vyasa Deva”) Landa, affectionately known to hundreds of students as “Guruji”, took mahasamadhi in the early morning hours of Friday, December 7, 2018.
Born in 1938 in Lima, Peru, to a devout and cultured family, and rising to prominence in two successful careers in public service and private enterprise, Victor “Vyasa” Landa left everything behind in 1981 to follow the call of God and embrace the life of a Yogi and Guru.
Vyasa established himself as a yoga teacher and massage therapist in 1985, establishing Shanti Yoga Center for Harmony in 1987 in Bethesda MD. He developed his own unique form of bodywork called IPKB (Integrated Psycho-Kinetic Bodywork) and over the next three decades helped hundreds of people heal from trauma and deep seated imbalance.
In 1992, Vyasa founded the School of Life, to help committed students make spiritual growth the center of their lives, as expressed meaningfully through Karma Yoga (selfless service). Membership in the SOL allowed for participation in extended twice yearly nature retreats, where city dwellers could experience the peace and simplicity of out-door living.
When two young disciples moved in with Vyasa and his wife, Lakshmi, in 1998-9, Shanti Yoga Ashram was born. (An Ashram is a yoga-based spiritual community where disciples live under the guidance and protection of a spiritual Master.) Over a hundred people have since come to live in the Ashram, staying anywhere from weeks to years, in this place often hailed as an “oasis of peace” in the intense climate of Washington DC. The community is currently home to 15 people, who strive to carry on the various works of this prolific man.
Vyasa helped thousands of people gain better physical, mental, and emotional health and spiritual fulfillment through the Spiritual Science of Yoga. He created and taught a unique,12 level, applied yoga theory course called Shanti Marga (“The Path of Peace”) as well as an advanced course of continued studies, Shanti Kshatriya (“Warrior of Peace”), which attracted people from all walks of life, from housewives, to students, to illustrious professionals from the economic, medical, political, international development and scientific fields. Vyasa inspired many of his students to become instructors, and establish their own niche in areas such as positive parenting, pre-natal yoga, water yoga, women’s yoga, children’s yoga, chakra yoga, and university level classes.
An ardent supporter of ethical vegetarianism and organic foods--decades before either became popular-- Victor founded Spiritual Foods for the New Millennium in 1997, which has a national (mail order service) and local (CSA) component. The purpose of SFNM is two-fold: to help Biodynamic and organic small family farmers earn a good income, and to promote and provide healthy food to people. The MOS has sold over 6,000 packages of goods from Biodynamic and Organic providers around the country. Since 1998, Spiritual Foods CSA, under the direction of Lakshmi Landa, has fed about 145 families per year in the DC metro area.
Dozens of farmers and small artisans have benefitted from SFNM’s financial commitment and moral support. Vyasa was also instrumental in establishing an apprenticeship program for Biodynamic farmers in the US, through his work with Sebastian Kretschmer and the BDA. Also, he worked at broadening the Biodynamic certification process, and helped several farmers to transition from organic to Biodynamic.
In 2001 he established Global Coalition for Peace in response to the tragedies of 9/11, to encourage a non-violent response to aggression and to resolve its underlying causes. To this end, a weekly Worldwide Sequential Meditation for Peace was started that quickly had hundreds of people on 5 continents joining in at 6 p.m. Saturdays, local time, to “embrace the world in a mantle of love.” Inter-faith prayers complete the program, to unite the human family as children of one Creator.
At the same time, a research group with economists from the IADB and World Bank was convened to propose an alternative economic system to capitalism, with spiritual principles at its core, since Vyasa had concluded that capitalism was at the bottom of much of the misery in the modern world, including the military industrial complex and the ongoing wars instigated by the US around the world. The result was Aparigraha: A New Economic Paradigm for a Culture of Peace, which was presented at two United States Social Forums as well as three international fora (in India, Venezuela, and France,) Maryland United for Peace and Justice annual conferences, and regularly at two area university classes.
Agrarianism; deep ecology; spiritual socialism; Latin American self-determination; and championing women as the harbingers of a new world, are important themes of his economic work. Vyasa was continually working to improve and refine the paradigm, and it went through many versions, the last one being Aparigraha: An Economy of Feminine Leadership and Inclusiveness for a Culture of Peace. His last teaching was, “Women are the ones who are going to save the world.”
Under Vyasa’s leadership, GCFP participated in many direct actions for peace, such as the annual Prayer Vigil for the Earth at the National Mall with Turtle Women Rising, and the mass mobilizations against the Gulf wars (as documented in the film, We Are Many.) With Rose Lord, He also created a GCFP website that was archived by the Library of Congress as being of historical importance.
Between 2001-2008 monthly Peace Meals were held to foster understanding between people of different cultures, and raise consciousness on a broad variety of issues relating to peace, featuring about 80 speakers and organizations over time.
In 2004, Global Coalition for Peace hosted the world’s first Peace Parade in honor of the United Nations International Day of Peace in Washington, DC. The event proved very successful with hundreds of people attending. Embassy Row was blocked off so 15 Peace Parade floats, performers, marchers, singers, dancers, and people of every persuasion could parade for peace.
In 2005, under the leadership of program director Rose Mirabai Lord, GCFP initiated the Women’s Self-Reliance Program, which has taught hundreds of impoverished women how to become more self-sufficient through vegetable gardening, nutrition education and micro-enterprise. Components of the program have been brought to Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Haiti as well as the DC Metro area and Pittsburgh, PA.
In addition, GCFP published a Spanish language version of Children Creating Circles of Peace, a workbook that teaches conflict resolution skills, and promotes and sells Cooperative Board Games, as a means to counteract the competitive attitude that society fosters and is responsible for so much strife.
In 2006, Victor incorporated The Essene Church of Peace, an inter-faith Christian based church, to spread parts of Jesus Christ’s message that have been excluded from organized religion, including teachings on reincarnation, vegetarianism, and reverence for the Divine Feminine, and to reintroduce the wisdom of the Essenes for modern times, which he felt was urgently needed. TECOP embraces the Q’abalah, as well as the teachings of Spiritism, which offer detailed evidence of, and means for fruitfully relating to, beings inhabiting non-physical realms, and its website features a wealth of inspiring and educational materials.
In 2008, Vyasa inaugurated the Feeding the Homeless program, which to date has served an estimated 43,200 hot, homemade, organic & biodynamic, vegetarian, six- course meals to the homeless men women and children living in DC’s streets. In addition, gently used clothing, and free alternative health care such as reiki, homeopathy, and acupuncture have been provided, along with free spiritual literature from various faith traditions.
The beautiful, soothing, and even healing quality of Vyasa’s voice was appreciated by all his students and is fortunately preserved in several recordings of yoga routines and meditation exercises he created for home practice.
Vyasa was a gifted translator and prolific writer, publishing three annotated editions of The Essene Gospel of Peace Book I; a Congruence between the Yoga and Essene Teachings; Spanish and English language editions of Ken Keyes’ Your Life is a Gift; three booklets on Biodynamic Agriculture and the role of food issues in societal transformation; and a Sadhana Handbook for students to structure and maintain their spiritual practice, as well as authoring many articles for the center’s newsletter, Food for Peace and (R)Evolution.
Yet Vyasa’s spiritual and instructive genius shone brightest in his spontaneous oral teaching, during classes, and personal counselling in one on one meetings. This is where he most touched, changed, and saved hearts, minds, souls, and lives. Many people have shared that in his presence, for the first time, they experienced unconditional love, allowing them to bare heart and soul in a way they had never before been able to, without fear of judgement, and get the deep help they most needed. Guruji approached each person’s unique situation individually, always seeming to provide just the right assistance, for them to recover balance and move onto higher, safer ground. This was the great healing so many received from him, and is what created a bond that endured over decades and great distances, with many former students spread around the world. And for this work, to which he devoted countless hours of his time, at great personal sacrifice, he never asked a penny.
Some excerpts of Vyasa’s teachings have been collected in a book called At the Feet of the Master, and a weekly e-list has been started as well, to keep His wisdom in circulation. Positive feedback has been consistent and high.
The Shanti Yoga community prays to carry on Guruji’s teachings and message, and above all, His example, day by day, year by year, and to realize-- each within our own means and limitations-- His Mission, of bringing the Kingdom of God Upon Earth.
Taking His own words upon the passing of one his most beloved and admired colleagues, Hugo Chavez Frias, we conclude:
A human giant has left the planet to step into world's history through the big door of the Exalted Ones who serve the people. His memory will be a legacy of hope for new generations and the dispossessed of the world.
Victor Vyasa Deva Landa—Rest in Peace