By Andrew Peers
Introducing the Celtic Buddhist lineage.
I felt a spontaneous affinity with the author even before opening the book. The photo on the back of The Mahasiddha and His idiot Servant showed him smiling disarmingly… with just a hint of mischief in his eyes. He was wearing an aquamarine-blue tartan blanket, with a rakusu* over it in Celtic patterns that melted my heart on the spot.
Lately I have thought it would be a lovely idea to make this kind of more formal dress the common sign for Buddhism’s “new-lineage-in-town”, Celtic Buddhism.
We don’t need to get too fundamentalist about it. It shouldn’t be obligatory to have Celtic ancestors with an authentic family tartan from which to make a sash or a kilt. There’s an “All-Ireland,” “All-Scotland” and even a Welsh tartan from which to choose. Or cloth with a simple Celtic design would do, with animals, birds or the weaving of their Celtic knotwork. It’s enough just to feel Celtic and to appreciate it, even if you’re from another country or culture.
Remember how the celebrated Tibetan meditation teacher Chogyam Trungpa once donned a kilt?
Perhaps the most influential lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition in the 20th century was H.H. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Towards the end of his life he read the story of St. Columcille, and saw in it an opportunity for Buddhism to make a fresh start in the West; free from eastern cultural trappings. At Trungpa Rinpoche’s suggestion, John Perks took up this task and in 1989 officially founded the Celtic Buddhist Lineage. It was his photo that I had seen on the book.
Eventually I traveled to America to meet and work with John Perks and have now become a lineage holder. I would like to introduce this informal, mobile tribe (clan) of spiritual warriors to the general public, and bring people together who hear a Celtic song singing in their blood, or who simply feel a deep affinity with nature.
Buddhism has (or used to have) what were called the three yanas or vehicles in its tradition: Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. I would like to suggest a fourth: the Ticayana, derived from Celtica-yana. Tartanyana doesn’t seem to quite do it. Half of America seems to be of Irish descent. So what better way to get back in touch with family roots and gain a fresh look at spirituality?
Buddhism for Celts, yay!
*A rakusu is a traditionally Japanese garment worn around the neck of Zen Buddhists who have taken precepts. It can also signify lay ordination. It is made of 16 or more strips of cloth, sewn together into a brick-like pattern by the student during their period of preparation for their ordination ceremony.
Andrew Peers is Anglo-Irish and spent over 20 years in Trappist monasteries in England, Ireland and the Netherlands. In 2011, he left the Order, traveling to the home of Celtic Buddhism in America and returned to Europe to work as a meditation teacher in the Celtic Buddhist tradition. He combines this work with a passion for writing. Check out his website for more information. You can also read more in his recently published book, The Family Jewels: Letters on Zen Koan by a Trappist Monk.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak