I have been asked to contribute an essay on Non-Possessiveness in Druidry for the Aparigraha Vishvakosh -an Encyclopedia of Non-grasping or Non-hoarding – that will be published in Hindi and English. Here is the essay:
NON-ATTACHMENT, NON-GRASPING & NON-POSSESSIVENESS
Although the doctrine of aparigraha (Non-Possessiveness) is not specifically articulated within modern Druidry, it is implicit within its philosophy, and within the behaviour – both ritual and mundane – of every Druid. Understanding the doctrine of aparigraha can help Druids deepen their spiritual practice, and clearly demonstrates for the practitioners of one spiritual path the value of studying other spiritual and religious traditions.
Druidism, or Druidry as it is also known, manifests today in three usually separate ways: as a cultural enterprise to foster the Welsh, Cornish and Breton languages; as a fraternal pursuit to provide mutual support and to raise funds for good causes; and as a spiritual path. Each of these different approaches draws upon the inspiration of the ancient Druids, who were the guardians of a magical and religious tradition that existed before the coming of Christianity, and whose influence can be traced from the western shores of Ireland to the west of France – and perhaps beyond. Caesar wrote that their religion originated in Britain.
The practice of Druidry was replaced with Christianity by the seventh century, and even though little is known about these ancient sages, groups in Britain who were inspired by the idea of the Druids began to form in the early eighteenth century. Like seeds that have lain dormant for centuries before suddenly flowering again, Druidry began a process of revival – started by scholars in Britain, France and Germany who became fascinated by the subject, and continued today by a small but rapidly growing number of people around the world (perhaps 40,000 or so) who are inspired by the tradition, rituals and teachings that have evolved over the last two and a half centuries, which draw upon mythology and folklore whose origins lie in the pre-Christian era.
Druidry appeals in particular to people who have become disenchanted with the mainstream religions, and who are seeking a sense of spiritual connection with the land, and with their ancestors. In today’s fast-moving and environmentally-threatened world, they are looking for a sense of rootedness in Time and in Place, and for a sense of reverence for the Earth. Many believe that they are reconnecting to a spiritual path that they have walked in previous lifetimes, and are fascinated by the possibility that Druidry shares common sources of inspiration with the Dharmic traditions through a shared Indo-European origin.
Although the doctrine of aparigraha is not specifically articulated within modern Druidry, it is implicit within its philosophy, and within the behaviour – both ritual and mundane – of every Druid.
At the heart of Druid teachings lies the idea that Nature is Divine – the Great Mother, the ground of being from which all Life flows, both in to and out of physical existence. She is our teacher, and our task is to come to understand and attune to Her. For this reason a study of Science is totally compatible with Druidism. From an observation of Science and Nature comes the appreciation of change – the fact that life is in continual flux. From this observation, many Druids will come to an acceptance of the ebb and flow of life, reconnecting to its rhythms, gaining an innate understanding of the futility of attempting to become attached to anything – tangible or intangible – as if it has permanence. Rather than holding to linear concepts of progression, Druids observe the cyclicity inherent in Nature and heighten their awareness of this by following a calendar of ritual observances, known as the Eightfold Wheel of the Year. Journeying around this wheel, Druids celebrate eight festival times each year: the solstice and equinoxes and the cross-quarter times in between. By honouring and being fully present in the particular moment, in a particular place, the Druid is aiming to both appreciate and reverence Nature and Spirit, and the Here and Now, but also to sense the relativity of this moment within the ever-flowing river of Change.
One of the paradoxes of developing this awareness seems to be that we can more deeply appreciate the moment, and the embodied nature of things, if we have come to a realization of the transience of those very things. One of the tragedies of the materialistic world of consumerism that is so obvious to the spiritually inclined, is the way that people seem to blindly cling to surface appearances, to possessions and the hoarding of wealth, as if these have some permanence, and will protect them from the inevitability of change and death.
Within the Eightfold Wheel, there is a festival time known as Samhain (October 31st – November 2nd in the northern hemisphere). This festival is dedicated to the Ancestors and to the process of death. Rather than being feared or ignored, this natural stage in the life-cycle is meditated upon, and we not only remember those who have gone before us, but also contemplate the completion of cycles within our lives and celebrate the value in endings and of letting go, however painful. The observance of Samhain offers a specific example of the way in which Druids work with the idea of aparigraha: the releasing of attachments is contemplated and ritually enacted every year.
Most Druids will also engage in some form of meditation, which by its very nature involves letting go of attachments to everyday thought-processes and emotions, letting go and opening to a deeper sense of self, which rests in a state that is considerably less ‘grasping’ than that of the everyday mind.
In addition, Druidry places great value in creative expression, with much of creativity being seen to flow from a conscious connection with the Divine Source that spiritual practice has developed. This flow of Divine inspiration is similar to some conceptions of Amrita and is known in Druidry as Awen.
Druids understand that when they deepen their awareness and connection to the flow of Life, the Awen naturally flows through them, inspiring works of poetry, art, philosophy, and healing that are gifts to the world. This model is one of radiance, of giving rather than of taking, with Druids sometimes using the image of the sun as both a metaphor and as a source of spiritual and energetic sustenance. The practice of aparagriha is based upon the idea that grasping, hoarding and taking are detrimental to our own wellbeing and to the wellbeing of society and the planet. From a Druid perspective, the opposite of all these processes is not only letting go and releasing attachments, but also giving: radiating love, joy and kindness, and offering gifts of beauty to the world. Seen in this way, at the heart of Druidy we find aparigraha being practiced through the Bardic tradition of music-making, story-telling and creativity of every kind.
The congruence between the philosophy of non-attachment and non-grasping inherent in Druidry and its practice in ritual observance and creative endeavour is complemented by a third activity of most – if not all – Druids. The way in which parigraha, the drive to possession, has caused so many of the pressing problems of our time – from environmental degradation to financial exploitation – is very clear to those drawn to Druidry today. As a consequence, in their search for a fairer, more sustainable world, they attempt to limit their consumption and see rampant consumerism not as a boon, but as a threat to the welfare of all beings.
A Druid who ‘walks their talk’, putting into practice their firmly held convictions, will attempt to live lightly on the Earth, practicing aparigraha in thought, word and deed. It is a great joy to know that a concept that is implicit within Druidry can be made explicit thanks to the help of a fellow-tradition. It is a wonderful demonstration of the value of cross-cultural and inter-faith exchange.