Kagyu Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery and Tibetan Centre

Samye Ling Tibetan Temple
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Samye Ling Tibetan Temple

A haven of Buddhism in a Scottish moorland setting in Eskdale, NE Dumfries and Galloway, the Kagyu Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery and Tibetan Centre is located near the confluence of the Garwald Water with the White Esk, at Garwaldwaterfoot, 1½ miles (2.5 km) north of Eskdalemuir.

Set around Johnstone House, a mid-19th-century farmhouse that had been a property of the Dukes of Buccleuch, this was the first Buddhist Monastery to be established in the Western Hemisphere when founded in 1967 by Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche. It remains the largest and includes some remarkable buildings set in 61 ha (150 acres) of grounds. The Tibetan-style temple designed by Sherab Palden Beru was built 1979-88 and provides a focus for prayer and meditation. The dramatic white and gold Victory Stupa and associated Prayer Wheel House were built 1998-2006, the stupa being the largest in Europe. The monastery also includes traditional Tibetan tea-rooms and a library which holds rare texts in English and Tibetan.

The sizeable temple building has a curved roof and is brightly decorated inside and out. The stupa was built on a site which had been blessed by the Dalai Lama in 1984. It is designed in very specific proportions and is intended to restore harmony and balance to individuals and to the world. The stupa is also used for funerals and will eventually house the ashes of up to 1000 individuals (Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike), together with a section for pets. The ornate interior blends woodwork of remarkable quality with representations of the Buddha. Following the tradition, visitors are encouraged to circle the stupa three times in a clockwise direction. The prayer-wheel house, which lies behind the stupa, contains 45 copper prayer-wheels, each containing around 40 million printed mantras. Making good use of modern technology, the wheels are turned by electrical motors but can also be accelerated by hand by devotees. When almost complete, the Prayer-Wheel House was demolished by a passing truck, which skidded on ice, and had to be rebuilt during 2006.

The grounds feature a Peace Garden, an organic kitchen garden, with greenhouses, vinery, peach-house and formal herb garden, together with woodland and rough arable land that provides grazing for a herd of Yak.

Supporting a community of around 100 and visited by approximately 3000 people each year, the centre is dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan religion, culture, medicine, art, crafts and architecture. It provides a retreat and also runs a range of training courses in Buddhist spirituality and discipline, art and horticulture. The monastery runs more than thirty satellite centres in the United Kingdom, Europe and Africa, and the monks undertake charitable work throughout the world. The centre is run by the Rokpa Trust, a non-profit Buddhist organisation which focusses on humanitarianism, healing and spirituality. The Trust also runs the nearby Purelands Retreat Centre and owns Holy Island (Arran) where it has built a further retreat and Centre for World Peace and Health, together with the Samye Dechen Shing Retreat Centre also on Arran.

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