Tucked away in the hills of Dumfries & Galloway in Scotland is the Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. Founded in 1967 the centre is located in a peaceful valley on the banks of the river Esk close to the town of Eskdalemuir. It was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre to have been established in the West and it is currently under the guidance of Abbot Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche.
Having visited numerous Buddhist monasteries in many parts of Asia it was strange to be in my home country of Scotland and see the familiar Buddhist stupa and ornate statues in the hills of Southern Scotland.
Before the present Temple complex was built, Samye Ling centred on just one building, a former hunting lodge called Johnstone House. In 1965 the Johnstone House Trust was formed with the objectives to make available to the public facilities for study and meditation based on Buddhist and other religious teaching leading to mental and spiritual well-being: and to provide guidance for those in need of such help: and in particular the utilisation of the property known as Johnstone House, Eskdalemuir, for such purposes.
In 1969, musicians David Bowie and Leonard Cohen were students at Samye Ling. In fact Bowie not only studied Buddhism at Samye Ling, he almost became a monk there. Popular Scottish comedian Billy Connolly often visits Samye Ling.
Listed as a tourist attraction by VisitScotland, the centre attracts visitors who come simply to see a spectacular gilded temple, stupas and gardens with statues of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas.
In its early days there was a history of uneasy relations with neighbouring residents, with disputes over planning applications and suspicion about behaviour of residents and visitors. Nevertheless, the centre has come to enjoy cordial relationships with the local community. Many of its original members are now incorporated into that community and its economy, providing much needed support for local concerns such as primary schools.
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