Notes

 

Celtic dreamtime

The relationship with the experience of being human is always recreated in mythology, dreams, arts, science, history, literature and spirituality and expressed as an essence that was initially known as Celtic, in relation to other groups (Tibetan , African, Asian , etc.). 'Celt' comes from the Greek word keltoi  meaning foreigner or barbarian. The Celts were a free contiguous group of ancient warriors and tribes that spanned a region of present-day Turkey to Ireland. It was a race that was not part of the Greek world. This primal essence is rather the living link of continuity with our European ancestors and brings an earthy balance to modern life with it.

Celtic Vision stands for life, creativity, imagination, decentralization and diversity, and the authority of the spirit over the letter of the law. It stands for independent, intelligent thinking and self-study. It is primarily a Druidic way of looking at the world, and thus a new way of thinking about the world. It calls to a spirit who can lead the way out of the illusion of life. Shamanic Druidry therefore emphasizes meditation, nature as a gateway to the Spirit, compassionate action, and a new form of forgiveness based on the view that this life is merely Dreamtime.

 

Innocence

By nature, we are both deeply innocent and rich. Even the poorest man in the material world is a 'penniless millionaire'. Yet this wealth has nothing to do with wealth or health, and to hear this wisdom is not the same as to know it. This is why practice is so important.  Practice brings with it the experience of wealth of experience and innocence. 

Practice starts with looking differently at the nature of the world, at everything that appears before our eyes, and in order to interpret it in another way. The look of innocence is a gaze that sees what is really there and not what is not there. The essence of this is a new form of forgiveness, which enables the practitioner to not take things personally. Forgiveness in this sense is only possible for the spiritual person. It is the mark of the spiritual warrior who has declared war on aggression, and has overcome all projections of the unconscious. If you look at the battles of life in this way, you realize that the cause of them lies in your own mind. You can bring your life to the truth, the truth that is based on who you really are: Spirit. The light of this truth is inalienable. Silence and meditation give us the eyes to perceive and know this.

 

Nature gods

The first time meditation teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche spoke on the drala principle was in 1978, when he had gathered a group of students together. Among the main points he introduced was a definition of drala, as 'wargods', gods who conquer war rather than propagate it.

He pointed out that the drala principle was pre-Buddhist, and that he would like introduce a ceremony to invoke drala, called lhasang a ceremony that reminds us of shamanic rituals. Chögyam Trungpa universalized drala, speaking of how the drala principle existed in Greece, Rome, throughout Europe and all parts of the world. The drala principle is worked with by the shamans or their equivalents in these cultures, and was certainly a very strong awareness under different names in the time of the Celts. Celtic gods are local to the natural 'thin' places of power, where depth in perception makes the spirit world become almost tangible.

 

Deity yoga

Deity yoga is a key meditational practice associated with Tibetan Buddhism through which the practitioner uses the imagination to visualize a particular deity based on specific tantras or derivative sādhana texts. The visualized image of the deity can be treated as an object of worship (pūjā) or as a model for self-identification, used to actualize the corresponding enlightened attributes within oneself. It is usually practiced in combination with the recitation of a mantra repeated 100,000 times. As this practice will be healing for the practitioner, it is very important to take the time to select the right deity with which to work. For this kind of mind training, it is possible to substitute the Tibetan deities with those of the Celtic or even Christian tradition. This is an effective way to regain contact with our true identity, spirit, which is, has been, and always will be, totally innocent and divine.

 

Drala energy

Dra means 'enemy' or 'opponent', La means 'above'

Drala means the wisdom above or beyond aggression, beyond the ego.

"The dralas are elements of reality (the water of water, fire of fire, earth of earth), anything that connects you with the elemental quality of reality, anything that reminds you of the depth of perception. Dralas [are] in the rocks... trees... mountains... a snowflake or a clod of dirt. Whatever is there... those are the dralas of reality. When you make that connection... you are meeting the dralas on the spot." Chogyam Trungpa

 The “drala principle” refers to a body of teachings the Tibetan Buddhist meditation master Chögyam Trungpa presented in the last decade of his life, from 1978 to 1986. The roots of the drala principle precede the introduction of Buddhism into Tibet and are found in the indigenous traditions of that country - as they are in all countries. The drala principle is applicable, not to Buddhist practitioners alone, but to anyone. These teachings speak to the heart, whether one is, so to speak, religiously, artistically or  politically motivated.

Drala is the elemental presence of the world that is available to us through sense perceptions. When we open to trees, flowers, a river or clouds we encounter a wisdom that is not separate from our own.

 

Ancestors

'The Celts used their mythology (...) to give themselves a history and a system for living. Consequently, their stories inspire, thrill and enchant, while exhibiting all the worst qualities of humankind - greed, vengefulness, deviousness, violence. In myth, as in life, they abundantly embraced both goodness and badness and feared only boredom' (from 'Legends of the Celts' by Frank Delaney).

Embracing 'good' and 'bad' energy so as to transmute both into the wisdom of being, is central to Tibetan Buddhism and Celtic Christianity. The wisdom of Buddhist psychology can skillfully channel the wildness of Celtic energy, based as the latter is on a intimate connection to the earth and our ancestors. Transgenerational wounds can be brought into the present and healed in ancient rituals of forgiveness beyond 'good' and 'bad'. It is here that the shaman comes into his own.

The observation of the changes of the seasons and the tuning in to the rhythm of this can broadly be regarded as most 'Celtic'. It is the experience of connecting with nature, which is constantly in motion - and learning to move with it, even celebrate it as the dance of impermanence in the mandala of nature.

The Celts didn't generally live into old age but they were not fatalistic or depressed, as their culture and art testify. They were hardy and accustomed to fighting for survival, they knew the threat of war and of enemies, and their songs and legends had a brutal, swaggering tone of a people who prided itself on its own rapacity and eloquence. For them, life and death were closely intertwined, with many 'thin places' between the two. These places are gateways to the spirit, but also, even today, to our ancestors.

 

Shamanic practice

Shamanic Druidry holds the universal and common features of shamanism, which includes journeys to the spirit worlds, a distinguishing feature of shamanism. The principles of core shamanism are not bound to any specific cultural group or perspective. Since the West has lost its shamanic knowledge centuries ago due to religious oppression, Celtic Buddhism leads us back to our roots and teaches how we can alter our consciousness through classical shamanic (non-drug) techniques. Through sonic driving, especially in the form of repetitive drumming, we can discover our own hidden spiritual resources, transform our lives, and learn how to help others. 

 

Warriorship

Inner peace is by definition able the ability to accept ourselves as we are, but it can only unite with what is already at peace within ourselves.

Central to this path to peace is the regular practice of silent meditation. During or outside this practice we may sometimes feel intensely conflicted by emotions suddenly stirred up by life and our passionate response to situations. These emotions contain of themselves an innate wisdom. But to find this wisdom in the heat of the moment requires the courage to enter fully into the emotion as it arises, without acting it out or denying its presence. The courage of a warrior.

Our emotions may then serve as mirrors in which we may discover the way to transmute passion into the wisdom of being. In Tibetan Buddhism, emotions are understood as expressions of nature, of the elements - fire, water, air, earth and space. The practice of opening to the rawness of our inner passion can lead to the transmutation of it, and the deepening of wisdom as egoless being, which is peace. Skillful practice leads the warrior to finally awaken, not in the dream, but from it.

This is a path of fearlessness with regard to one's own heart, complete openness. Celtic spirituality was built upon this deeply positive view of human beings, nature and spirit.

 

Fire in the head

Amergin was the name of the chief bard of the Milesians, among the original settlers in Ireland. The 'Song of Amergin' is considered one of the oldest of Irish literary works:

I am the wind that blows across the sea

I am a wave of the deep

I am the roar of the ocean

I am the stag of seven battles

I am a hawk on the cliff

I am a ray of sunlight

I am the greenest of plants

I am the wild boar

I am a salmon in the river

I am a lake on the plain

I am the word of knowledge

I am the point of a spear

I am the lure beyond the ends of the earth

I am the god who fashions fire in the head

The last line can be paraphrased: "I am the fire of imagination" and refers not to fantasy, but to the visionary imagination. The Celts were famous (and infamous) for their cult of the severed head. This something they shared with their Tibetan counterparts. But the cult of the human head was more than pagan bloodthirstiness. The Celts believed that the soul was immortal and that it was housed in the head. As a shamanic symbol, the skull is not merely empty but is emptied to be infused with the fire of imagination. The Celts appreciated the shamanic view that energy or magic resides in everything, that the vital essence of the universe interconnects all created things. The nature of the universe is fluid and true personal identity is not limited by skin and ego.

 

Anu

Anu is the Celtic Mother Goddess, the feminine principle Dawn Mother, Goddess of death and the dead. She is greater Goddess of Ireland, the western equivalent of Kwan Yin in the East.

She is the goddess of cattle, health, fertility, prosperity, and comfort. She sometimes formed a trinity with Badb and Macha as the flowering fertility aspect of the maiden. She is also called Ana, Annan, Danu, or Don, and later St Anne. She is the wife of the sun God Belenos, and is considered the ancestor of all the Gods. In legend she watered the first oak tree, Bile, giving life to the earth, and then took two acorns and nurtured them until they became Dagda, and Brighid. Anu was the goddess of wells and springs, across Brittany there are a number of St Anne’s wells that are to this day dedicated to her. There is a mountain east of Kilarney in County Kerry called Da Chich Anann which translates to the Breasts of Anu. Fires were lit in her honor at midsummer. Historically her worship was centered in Leicestershire and in Munster. She was seen in the sky as the constellation Llys Don better known today as Casseopeia. When the Christians came to Brittany, they called her Black Annis, a hideous old crone who ate children, in an effort to blacken her name. However her transformation into St. Anne preserved her memory and power in Brittany. Anu’s Priestesses comforted and taught the dying. There is some debate on whether Anu and Danu are the same goddess, or separate goddesses that were extremely similar. If they are the same goddess then her name was given to a number of locations including the great Danube river.

 

Enlightenment

A word about ‘enlightenment’. That word again… a word without content. Whatever I may think it is, it’s certainly not that anyway, they say. Perhaps enlightenment does not even really exist, existing everywhere as it already does. But am I awake to it? Who is this ‘I’ that has to be awake anyway, haven’t I got enough to do?

Traditionally said to be the fruit of practice, enlightenment may turn out to be just a big carrot, perhaps the biggest in the spiritual world (nothing wrong with carrots). It is sometimes described as a personal awakening to an already enlightened world. Having awoken however, what then? Can’t we please just go back to seeking? At least then there was something to keep us busy. At least then we knew what we were doing, and life had meaning, there was a goal, something to aim at. But that doesn’t sound quite right either, does it?

If we are busy hunting enlightenment, maybe it’s because we think it will change us. We would become more spiritual and mature, like a wise old man or woman who consistently makes profound comments. But there is another less well-known version of the enlightened person. This enlightened person is not so much old and wise, the shrewd veteran of life’s battering experiences. This person has rather just this moment been born, just come down ‘with the last shower of rain’, while not naive. He or she is brand new but already fully developed, lacking nothing. With the fresh energy and inquisitiveness of an infant, this person laughs the belly-laugh of a victory already won, and cries tears of compassion for the ignorant.

Having discovered our true nature, we then naturally step out to re-discover this world with the sparkling eyes of innocence. Suffering does not in fact have the last word and the sudden enlightened state of mind is not the end of the journey, but the beginning.

 

Crazy Wisdom

There are many examples in and outside religion of the 'holy fool' but the label 'crazy wisdom' properly belongs only to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Crazy wisdom is personified in Tibetan art as Dorje Trollo, one of the eight simultaneously manifesting aspects of Padmasambhava, a mythical figure who brought Buddhism from India to Tibet.

Yet the oldest of the Tibetan lineages, the Nyingma school, has roots in the pre-Buddhist native religion of Tibet known as Bon. As this religion is essentially animistic in nature, it is not surprising that crazy wisdom also has to do with the working of local energy (Tib: dralas) and how this energy in its working reveals the nature of the mind and of reality as the mind knows it. But there is in this no particular methodology, and any 'teaching' is only a side-effect of its functioning.

If Padmasambhava caused sparks to fly between Bon and Buddhism in Tibet, leading to a form of Buddhism that could come up with something like crazy wisdom, we find some similarity in the story of St. Columcille. As the son of a druid, his native ('pagan') knowledge informed his faith and through him, the whole Celtic Church. Both Columcille and Padmasambhava represent the functioning of a wisdom not based on a dualistic view of the world, a wisdom that for the logical mind may seem crazy.

Leaving the mythical and historical aspects of such figures to one side however, what is their relevence for us today? Learning to join with the ever-living essence of such saints here and now in ourselves can catalyse a new reformation in the materialistic approach to spirituality today. Devotion to such saints in this sense, together with a sane connection to the earth, creates the favourable conditions in which crazy wisdom cuts through spiritual materialism to reveal true spirituality.

 


Andrew Peers

...grew up in Nottingham, England. A punk-rocker in his late teens, he spent 20 years in Trappist monasteries in England, Ireland and the Netherlands. He gained a degree in law and later studied theology and philosophy as a monk. He is ex-chair of the MID (Monastic Religious Dialogue) for the Dutch-speaking region (including Flanders) and participated in the 10th Spiritual Exchange visit to Japan in 2005. He has 35 years of experience in sitting meditation practice in the Hinayana and Mahayana schools of Buddhism, and was for 10 years active in the Maha Karuna Chan sangha in The Netherlands. He recently returned from America and Ireland qualified to give instruction in meditation in the Vajryana lineage of Celtic Buddhism. The Order of the Longing Look has grown out of this path through Christian monasticism and the three great vehicles (yanas) of Buddhism, and into the spiritual Celtic roots of the pre-Christian West.