Ordained Celtic Buddhist Priests

(Drala Priest)




It is important to understand the name 'Drala priest' in the context of Celtic Buddhism. I cannot say I am a Buddhist, just as Celtic Buddhism does not claim to be a religion (see the first page of this website). Yet I am a Buddhist in the sense that all people - including the bugs - already are 'Buddhists'-without-the-name, because they are all continually working with things as they are, which is what Buddhism concerns itself with. The name’s not important for those who have open minds and seek the truth. What is important is the energy, the practice, i.e., the concrete way we interpret our lives. Unlike bugs, we develop and become explicitly conscious of the dual nature of life - hot and cold, long and short, and of course, birth and death. We know there are skilful and harmful actions. Judgement of external behaviour is not however the field of expertise for the Drala priest in Celtic Buddhism. The priest is in no way a check-point guard at the bridge to God, but has *become* him or herself a bridge to the higher self. As such, the priest is long practised in 'right-minded' thoughts, guided and inspired by the spirit, even if his or her external behaviour is not always understandable. The priest has the role of teaching mind training for a life-giving interpretation of what is happening right now in front of our noses, one based on our common spiritual longing. This introduces practitioners to 'right view', the non-dualistic 'dream-time' way of looking our ancestors enjoyed. This reduces dis-ease permanently, as it addresses the unconscious, the part of the mind not dealt with directly by mindfulness, the Power of Now, vipassana, which offer only temporary relief.*

*‘Drala’ means the energy above aggression.*


Although a contemplative monk for 21 years, my main training in meditation was Buddhist, more specifically in the Mahayana tadition of Zen or Chan tradition. It all began with buying a Do-it-Yourself book on meditation when I was 23. At about the same time, I also decided to enter a Trappist monastery, Mount St. Bernard Abbey in England. But my trial month before entering there was almost compromised by the fiery determination to crack the koan ‘Mu’, central to Zen.

I passed the screening process and succeeded in entering the very strict monastery of Mount St. Bernard Abbey with community of 38 monks at the age of 28 and meditated in the crossed-legged position in my cell where no one could see me. This monastery belonged to a contemplative order and as such was familiar with apophatic prayer, i.e., silent prayer without devotional focus, much like the Eastern practice of shikantaza or Maha Ati yoga. Although one of the monks had been on an monastic exchange to Japan, as a whole such activity was more tolerated than celebrated.

Outside regular time for contemplative prayer, there was a strict ascetic culture of silence and work in the abbey, and the food was basic. As novice I underwent a deeply challenging time, thankfully with therapeutic support. After all I was an ex-punk, in itself a very colourful experience, breaking social behaviour constraints and thoroughly exploring fear both in myself and others.

As junior monk I was able to transfer monasteries (unusual but permitted) and while living in another abbey in N. Ireland, a Dutch abbess invited me to visit the Netherlands. Zen was openly encouraged and practiced by the abbot and the prior in one monastery I visited there, so I chose to transfer to this my third Trappist community. Then my training in the Mahayana changed gear, and from being private to public. In the years that followed, I met 16 Zen teachers, had private interview (sanzen) with 8 of them, and studied koan with 4. Of these four  teachers I was personal assistant to two. One for 8 years and the second for 3 years or so.

The first teacher (former abbot Jeroen Witkam) was authorized to give koan training by AMA Samy, an Indian Zen teacher of the Sanbo Kyodan school and Jesuit priest. As well as leading the group while individuals went to see the teacher in sanzen, I myself was able to work through the Gateless Gate (Mumonkan) and Blue Cliff Record (Hegikanroku) koan collections. In addition to the introductory koans, it amounted to about 230 koans altogether. I went on to give my own successful weekend sesshins for guests specifically coming to this monastery for instruction and experience in zazen. I would receive participants in sanzen (private interview) during the weekend, while my assistant took over the group in my absences in the zendo.

As chair of the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue for the Dutch-speaking region, I was privileged to take part in the 2005 Spiritual Exchange with Zen monks in Japan. We had a gruelling but rewarding experience in three temples including a week in the Gifu mountains in an ‘oni’-temple (‘devil’-temple) where the training is particularly hard.

The second teacher I was personal assistant to was the Dharma heir to Teh Cheng, otherwise known as Ashin Jinarakkhita (1923-2002). Birth name Tee Boan-an, my teacher’s teacher was an Indonesian-born Chinese who revived Buddhism in Indonesia. The teaching style of this Chan school included mutual enquiry and written answers to koans, a style also used in Japan for more advanced monks in temples such as Daitokuji, yet even today not openly talked about. At the request of this second teacher (Ton Lathouwers), I collected my written answers to koans together and published them as a book. As assistant I was indicated as sole designated person to receive participants in private interview in the four and 10 day sesshins during the year, when numbers could run up to over 100 participants. I also gave basic instruction to newbies in correct meditation posture etc.

After leaving the Trappist Order, I went to America to train in the Vajrayana practice of deity yoga, specifically Guru yoga, under the guidance of Rev. John Perks. This included reciting 100,000 mantras over a period of about three months. I was subsequently ordained as a Drala priest, the ceremony taking place on the anniversary of my monastic profession. I am now authorized to teach formless meditation in the crazy wisdom lineage of Celtic Buddhism. Five years later I became lineage holder in this tradition.

If you are interested in joining a tour of the 'thin' spiritual places in Ireland this year, please contact me: peers.esq@gmail.com




Intertwining Celtic and Buddhist tradition

By Andrew Peers

Sitting down at a wooden table in front of the window, a landscape of green fields and stately mature oak trees opens out directly on the other side of a quiet back road. It is autumn and leaves are turning yellow and orange. This village lies in an area particularly associated with oaks. Silently tuning in to the rhythm of the seasons, is in the broadest sense what is understood as ‘Celtic’ in Celtic Buddhism. It is the felt connection to the natural world as it continually changes; a way of learning to move with it, and celebrate it as the dance of transience in the moving mandala called Nature.


We know that the Celts in their day probably did not live to a ripe old age but this did not make them fatalistic or somber. The artwork of their rich culture testifies to this. They were warriors familiar with the threat of war and the struggle to survive, and their songs and legends have the brassy, bragging tone of a proud people in love with their own eloquence. For them, life and death were closely interwoven, with many ‘thin places’ between the two worlds.

When still a Trappist monk living in a community in Northern Ireland, I visited the abbey shop one day and was confronted in the entrance passage by a poster hanging on the wall depicting twenty gargoyle-like faces: “The River Gods of Ireland.” How on earth, I thought to myself then, could a poster like that be hanging in the shop of a Roman Catholic abbey? And who do those faces belong to? Where do these gods live?



The late Chogyam Trungpa, an influential Tibetan Buddhist teacher of meditation and the inspiration behind Celtic Buddhism, saw these local energies and gods as the western equivalent of the gods of his own native Tibetan religion, called Bon. In Tibet, the more war-like gods go by the name of Dralas. The word Drala is connected to the word ‘deity,’ and signifies simultaneously both a natural force operating in the phenomenal world, and an aspect of our own pure awareness. Trungpa was deeply saddened by the loss of the great Drala traditions of Europe. Celtic spirituality can be portrayed as a battlefield where danger is inevitable: the poison of arrogance, the trap of doubt, the ambush of hope and the arrow of uncertainty. Yet the enemy in this case is the ego and its projections.

            The greatest ‘weapon’ against it, is radical openness. Real victory is the victory precisely over war and aggression. Drala energy is the energy beyond it. Celtic tribes were historically warrior tribes and Celtic Buddhism seeks to rekindle this attitude of daring in spiritual practice in the battles of modern life today.

This is not a passive or passionless spirituality. Life is still short, and a pro-active warrior-like bravery, beyond anger, can serve it best. Working with spiritual realities of another order also introduces the shamanic aspect of Celtic Buddhism. The shaman-like figure in the tribes of the Celts was known as a Druid. The name Druid has sometimes been translated as ‘knower of the oak’ and apprenticeship to a Druid could last as long as 20 years. The Druid was able to put aside fear and show his or her being to the student in complete openness. Such an act contained within it the possibility of inducing a sudden gap in the student’s usual way of thinking at what might be called a ‘thin place’ of the mind, where the Spirit suddenly interrupts the ego-thought system.


By patiently ‘learning silence’ and looking deeply into the rhythms of nature, life and death need not hold us in the grip of fear. Seeing the world from somewhere beyond it, beyond transience, we can sally forth into the battlefield as enlightened warriors, raised above the fray. Or we can continue to choose to remain unconvinced, projecting our own shadow onto everything, and keep each other in chains.

 Eido Boru

Eido Boru

(a monkpunk tale)
By Sir Eido Boru
a Celtic Buddhist Bard

Conditions were right
dark dust sunlight
Earth looks dreary
asteroids smash
comets crash
perhaps the cause
of extinct dinosaurs
birds on the wing
hear them sing
black white tan
the historic flood
lots of mud
comes Gautama
his dharma
precepts and karma
soto zen
deep meditation
Chogyam Trungpa
celtic lamas
the abrahamics
so calamic
many many wars
lots of gore
much manic
pure panic
mass lunacy
romantic fantasy
music 'n' art
horse 'n' cart
steam trains
man on the moon
spacejunk strewn
into the starlight
conditions now bad
gone crazy mad
we are no more



(a monkpunk tale)

By Sir Eido Boru


It never happened

but it coulda been fun

if Syd Vicious* met

Buddha the Enlightened One

Syd coulda screamed

An obscene song

Buddha coulda talked

About right and wrong


Syd  coulda yelled

About blood and hate

Buddha coulda told

what’s  good and what’s great

Syd  coulda ranted

About bullocks and junk

If they sat together

You coulda got Monkpunk*


*Syd Vicious was a member of the UK band “The Sex Pistols”

*Monkpunk is an irreverent verse which can be rude, crude and ungrammatical



(a monkpunk tale)

By Sir Eido Boru, a Celtic Buddhist Bard

So you still skirl

the ancient bagpipes

but wear designer kilts

with green stripes

So you sing

“Oh Danny Boy”

with tear filled eyes

and much sad joy.

So you drink a bottle of

the Tullamore Dew

and many pints of

the Guiness brew

So you grow prata*

all over the place

and cabaiste* too

for added taste

So you have marshy bogs

but there’s little heather

to cross these quagmires

is a great endeavour

So you have read

James Joyce and Oscar Wilde

their tales are famous

with such excellent style

So these literary genii

they aren’t Scottish

like many of you

they are Celtic Irish