Visiting Buddhist Ireland

Melinda Rothouse, Austin, Texas-based writer on religion and performance, visits a Buddhist retreat  in the west of Ireland.

In its former life, before being purchased by [the Buddhist organization], the building served as the courthouse where many of the IRA trials of the 1970’s and 80’s took place. He spoke of cells where IRA members were once held, under maximum security, while awaiting their trials.  These same cells are now dormitories and meditation rooms—talk about poetic justice.

She briefly surveys the Irish religious scene. In case you were wondering,

And what of the ancient Celtic/Pagan tradition that’s so identified with Ireland in cultural imaginings?  Sure, you catch glimpses and hear whispers, especially in the odd women’s retreat advert promising a reawakening of feminine power and sexuality, but it’s not really a living, viable practice as far as I was able to observe. . . . Well, as in America, people are looking for an alternative way to connect with the spiritual without all the cultural and historical baggage of Christianity.  Yoga studios and Buddhist meditation centers are popping up all over Ireland, as a brief Google search will reveal.

Given the fact that the Irish economy is down the tubes right now, “an emphasis on simplicity, quietude (certainly not always observed), communal living, recycling and composting, meditation and study” might just fit well with economic realities. And since the Celtic Tiger lived only twenty years or so (some say less), the older folks remember how to do without.

And as Rothouse rightly observes, “religious traditions are crossing borders as quickly as any commodity.”