Dilatato Corde 3:1
January - June, 2013
Boa Island
Boa Island


This is a revised version of an interview with Andrew Peers that originally appeared in the Winter/Summer 2012 issue of Aontach Magazine. The original version can be found here.

AM:  You have more than 25 years of experience in sitting practice in the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana schools of Buddhism.  Can you provide some perspective on the place of meditation as it relates to these three schools of study and practice?

AP:Theravada is inward looking so as to establish mindfulness, bring you "down to earth," and establish a connection with the place where you are. Mahayana brings out the social aspect and responsibility of the practitioner towards society. Vajrayana turns round to break up all concepts of a religious way. A religion is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. By then of course, you have become someone for whom practice is second nature. Vajrayana almost forces you to live out what you have integrated in your own unique way, so former reference points may completely disappear. These three schools are officially separate but in practice mix with each other, and hopelessness inevitably raises its head at any time on the journey. It is a journey to no personality, to becoming no-one, so that you can become someone, this time established in the Dharma, the Truth.

AM:  You have for the last ten years been active in the Maha Karuna Chan sangha.  Can you explain what that means to our readers?  

AP: Maha Karuna means Great Compassion, and Chan is the Chinese word for Zen, originally the Indian word for dhyana, meaning meditation. So the practice of meditation can be traced back 2,500 years to India, though people were sitting in meditation before the Buddha became enlightened. In each country that it came to, Buddhism did not try to change the religion of that country but to adapt to it and integrate the native wisdom. Celtic Buddhism seeks to continue this organic integration here in Europe and in the Celtic diaspora. The term "sangha" means the community who meet regularly to sit together in silent meditation and listen to talks by the teacher. Maha Karuna Chan (MKC) is very open and non-hierarchical, has its own bulletin and website, and hold sesshins four times a year, meditation retreats lasting some days, following a schedule not unlike the Trappist one. The MKC sangha is also active in supporting a charity helping orphans to stay off the streets and out of prostitution in an Indonesian country.

AM:  On the Celtic side, Chogyam Trungpa, one of the founders of Celtic Buddhism sought to rekindle the basic attitude of daring that seemed omnipresent in the traditional Celtic warrior society, and he believed that a pro-active warrior-like bravery can serve our lives best.  Can you elaborate on this?

AP:  Buddhism seeks to eventually undermine itself as something outside you. It can lead you through the utter hopelessness of the human situation; a time when the only thing left to hang on to, is your own being. This falling into vastness can enable you to generate your own unique expression of the Dharma. But all this presupposes the bravery to face all that is in you, both the apparently good and bad. Somewhere along the line you go beyond a fearful attitude and gain the stout heart of a warrior, who, because he or she is no longer afraid of him or herself, is no longer afraid of the world. Contact with the primordial wisdom of being is not to go back in time, but to go back before thought itself, and to the unchanging quality of this. This kind of confidence in the purity of your perception does not allow flickering thoughts to invade. The courage of not giving in to any potential doubts is required. This is the pre-emptive bravery of the warrior, taking the battle to life with the energy beyond aggression, called drala in Tibetan Buddhism.

AM: You have said that observing the changes in the season and silently tuning into its rhythm is what is understood as "Celtic" in Celtic Buddhism.  Can you speak more about this connecting with the natural world as it continually moves on?

AP: Usually we shut any vastness or possibilities of deeper perception out of the heart by fixating on our own interpretation of the world. By looking more deeply, it is possible to get beyond personal interpretation and let vastness touch the heart. Nature can help us in this as it is non-demanding. Drawing down the depth and power of vastness into a single perception, we can then discover magic. This is not unnatural power over the natural world, but the discovery of an innate primordial wisdom, a magical quality called drala. The Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism owes much to the animistic native religion it integrated. "Dra" means "opponent" or "enemy" and "la" means "above," so drala means above or beyond the enemy. It connects us with the unconditioned wisdom of being beyond any dualism. It is also possible to speak of meeting the dralas. This is not quite on the level of god or gods; here dralas are the elements of reality - the water of water, the fire of fire or the earth of earth – that remind you of vastness. When you connect with the elemental quality of your world, you are meeting the dralas and discovering magic. If you try to manufacture such presence out of your ego, it will never happen. The power and magic of this world is always available, but it does not belong to anyone.

AM:  You have written that the "spiritual realities of another order introduces the shamanic aspect of Celtic Buddhism" and that within Celtic culture the shaman was known as a Druid.  Can you explain this in more detail? 

AP: Today I don’t think I would say that the name Celtic shaman is exactly synonymous with the title of Druid. Probably not all Druids were involved with the trance journeys associated with shamans. But both Buddhism and Celtic spirituality suggest a sliding scale between less real and more real. They acknowledge the presence of the vastness of Spirit beyond the duality of the world. Some connection to all this makes for the bravery to further explore other realms and mind states. Shamanic journeying may seem an arbitrary exercise but it has coherence and consistency: you meet the same entities again and again and can form alliances that can be useful to help others. A humble desire to serve others is vital in this, and the only form of defense (your "breastplate") is the sense of our own nothingness. Things only begin where the ego gives up trying to manipulate things. Shamans don’t call themselves shamans.

AM: Can you explain more of what you meant when you said - "Celtic Buddhism offers a druidic way of looking and seeing making it possible to look past form to reality and move towards a non-dualistic interpretation of the world"?

AP: The longer you practice meditation, the more you grasp that there is only one other way of seeing. There can by definition be only one Truth, though everyone expresses it in their own unique way. It is possible to experience a gap in the normal way of thinking of, and therefore looking at, things as they come up before our eyes. Meditation creates the conditions in which this can happen. The discovery of this gap (sunyata, openness) can strike like lightening or gradually dawn in a person, like the rising of the sun at daybreak. But this is just the beginning. The real work is integrating this knowledge, this unknowing, into your daily situations, moving from who you thought you were, to who you really are. It’s a bit like winning the lottery – suddenly you know you are immeasurably endlessly rich. But then how do you react when someone gives you the finger whilst you are driving home . . . ? In such circumstances, we can return from raw indignation to openness again by simply forgiving “on the spot”. Please understand however, that I am not talking here about the usual traditional idea of forgiving. This is about a new interpretation of the word as "for-giving," in other words, giving before something happens. This is very important for an authentic spiritual practice, because if we do not forgive, we turn any aggressive energy or difficulties into something more real than the reality of who we are: invulnerable openness, Spirit. As already mentioned, drala is the energy beyond aggression. By meeting the dralas in situations and undoing the fixed standpoint of the ego in this way, we can even step out of the whole ego thought system. Life is seen for what it is: transient and in this sense, unreal. It cannot truly limit us. We know ourselves as more than anything life can do to us or give us. This teaching is concrete and immediately applicable, and accelerates spiritual growth dramatically. You may sometimes even notice this.

AM:   You contend that the essential core knowledge of what was passed on orally centuries ago from druid teacher to student, is a living spiritual reality that is still accessible today.  Can you explain how the memory of that core knowledge is being reawakened today?

AP:  The word "memory" is an appropriate one because we are considering a reality already in us, one that is more real than the relative reality of life as we normally experience it. Buddhism says: check this out for yourself, don’t believe me, go and find out for yourself. Regular meditation is, amongst others, an ancient proven way of awakening to the memory of who we are. A good teacher can help us by manifesting primordial wisdom, embodying it. He can jog the student’s memory merely by his presence. Then we can fundamentally connect with the wisdom of our own being and with the power of things as they are. There is a basic human longing for this connection. To connect with the fundamental magic of reality, there has to be a gentleness and openness in you already. Meditation is a time-tested way of feeling the juicy quality of being.

AM:  Can you tell us about your role in the creation of the Order of the Longing Look and a bit about the Order's underlying tenets?

AP:  The seed idea was given to me in an lucid dream in August 2010 while I was still a Trappist monk, after a period of several heavy days struggling to find meaning in what I was doing. Although I was giving Zen sesshins to guests in the monastery, I still felt that something was missing. The dream was very precise, perhaps similar to what the Tibetans call a terma, or "mind treasure." I left the monastery in the Spring of 2011 and went to America, completed a Guru Rinpoche practice and was ordained there as a Celtic Buddhist priest. Then I went to Ireland and was directly initiated into the shamanic way on Boa Island. I have been able to continue the role of meditation teacher here in the Netherlands under the name of the Order of the Longing Look, the name which I received in the dream. The underlying tenets of the Longing Look are implied in its name. It is about a new way of looking and therefore thinking and interacting with the world, the longing to discover the truth, coupled to the warrior’s determination to win it.

AM: In keeping with this issue's theme on Animals, can you give us your views on our evolution from the animal kingdom and what separates and bonds us to the animal world today? Do animals have the ability to be spiritual or does their fulltime connection to GAIA and other planetary forces make the concept of spirituality irrelevant?

AP:  Trungpa wrote: “Something living, something real, is taking place in everything and can potentially connect us to reality properly and fully.” To meet an animal is therefore to meet your self, and that is holy. What can separate us from animals is our ego, which fears for its own survival. This makes us strategize about life, and our original spontaneity and connection to vastness is lost. We no longer look with the eyes of innocence. Animals can teach us about our own innocence, and our longing to communicate and connect. Everything is communication. Gaia sounds to me like the equivalent to what the Celts called Anu, the Mother. Anu is always near with her love, also for animals. As for the commonly accepted theory of evolution, I prefer to remain silent.

AM:  How can we improve our relationship with animals and the rest of the natural world and learn how to better directly communicate with them?

AP: By being better in tune with body and mind and the environment. By being gentle and precise in my dealings, I am already communicating to animals and drawing down vastness, drala. If I experience them as "not other," compassion is already present and communication is happening spontaneously.

AM:  Is there anything coming up on your horizon that our readers might want to know about?

AP:  Things are developing organically and I have no idea where we will end up. I do have a gut feeling that there is an enormous potential for growth across the globe, everywhere where folk still hear their Celtic blood singing in them.

AM:  Of all the books you have read, which five would you recommend be on everyone's reading list?

AP:  Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu, Cutting through Spiritual Materialism - Chogyam Trungpa, Zen Mind Beginners Mind – Shunryu Suzuki, and The Mahasiddha and his Idiot Servant - John Riley Perks. Also Anam Cara - John O' Donohue.

AM:  Is there a website or blog where our readers can keep current with your work and being?

AP:  Yes. You can access it here.

AM:  Do you have any final comments you want to leave with our readers?

AP:  Most important is not to be diverted from practice by endlessly accumulating knowledge. It is possible to go on circling around the battle itself and never get stuck in. It is far more important to begin to practice, and to develop your skill, to actually become a warrior instead of just talking about it. Once committed to the path, we can look at the relative reality of this world and interact with it with growing freedom. From the bottom of my heart I wish this freedom for all beings.

Home | DIMMID Introduction | DILATATO CORDE
Current issue
Numéro actuel
Previous issues
Numéros précédents
| About/Au sujet de
| News Archive | Abhishiktananda | Monastic/Muslim Dialogue | Links / Liens | Photos | Videos | Contact | Site Map
Powered by Catalis