Kagyu Samyé Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre
|Kagyu Samyé Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre|
The main temple building at Samyé Ling
Dumfries and Galloway,
|Founded by||Akong Rinpoche and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche|
|Head Lama||Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche|
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The building that now houses Samyé Ling was originally a hunting lodge called Johnstone House. In 1965 the Johnstone House Trust was formed with the objectives
- to make available to the general 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.
Initially the community there was led there by a Canadian Theravada monk named Anandabodhi. When the community declined, Anandabodhi returned to Canada; he was subsequently ordained in the Tibetan Vajrayana tradition and enthroned as Namgyal Rinpoche by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.
In 1967 the Johnstone House trustees invited the Tibetan lamas and refugees Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche to take over. They were then in their late twenties. They named the new community “Samyé Ling”, and were shortly joined by thethangka master-artist Sherab Palden Beru and the monk Samten. Samyé refers to the first Buddhist monastic university inTibet, while Ling means ‘Place’.
Trungpa Rinpoche quickly came into conflict with both Akong Rinpoche and the trustees. He drank heavily and slept with his students. He married one of these, a fifteen-year-old girl at the time the relationship began, attracting press attention. By this time he had already been banished to a nearby house and divested by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa of his position as an official representative of the Karma Kagyu lineage. In 1970 he left for America to form other centres definitively ending his association with Samyé Ling, except for a single, brief visit at the end of the 1970s to recover his seals of office, once the Karmapa had agreed to reinstate him as a Kagyu lama.
For about the decade 1970 onwards these two and Akong Rinpoche together were the main resident Tibetans at the centre. They were joined during 1976 and 1977 by the Mani-pa Lama bLa mChog. During this seminal period of the 1970s, Samye Ling was the main and oldest Tibetan centre in Europe. As such, it received important visits from eminent teachers of many traditions, including first the Very Venerable Kalu Rinpoche (1973 and therefater), His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa (1975 and 1977), Khamtrul Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyense Rinpoche and Urgyen Tulku.
“I was a terribly earnest Buddhist at the time […] I had stayed in their monastery and was going through all their exams, and yet I had this feeling that it wasn’t right for me. I suddenly realised how close it all was: another month and my head would have been shaved.”
The centre flourished and developed under the guidance of Akong Rinpoche and his brother Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, who serves as both Abbot and Retreat Master. The centre includes one of the first Tibetan temples to be constructed in Western Europe, a large stupa, and accommodation for those taking a range of courses on Buddhism, meditation, spiritual development and art.
The Johnstone House Trust ceased to exist in 1995 and the centre now describes itself as part of the ROKPA trust whose objectives are
- to promote Buddhism and to foster non-sectarian inter-religious dialogue and understanding. To provide medical care and therapy. To provide education. To relieve poverty.
The ROKPA trust administers a number of other centres and projects worldwide, notably the Holy Island Project which has Buddhist retreat facilities and a centre for world peace and health on Holy Island on the Firth of Clyde  and its Overseas Projects on behalf of ROKPA International based in Switzerland.
A ROKPA International project based at Samyé Ling to raise funds for the girls school at Kandze Monastery was successful in reaching its target of £9,449. As at 2010 the trust was actively involved in relief efforts following the Yushu Earthquake
In 2008 the total declared income of the ROKPA trust was £2,916,136. The total funds received for Overseas Projects was £294,586 of which £260,361 was disbursed to ROKPA International.
The trust is planning a further expansion of its Samyé Ling temple project involving a major multi million pound extension which will eventually house a museum, a library, lecture theatres, offices and accommodation. Work began on this in early 2008. It lodged an amendment to the layout of this second phase with the Dumfries and Galloway Council on 18 June 2010.
Preservation of Tibetan art and crafts
Under the guidance of the Tibetan artist Sherab Palden Beru, Samyé Ling has also become a centre for the creation, repair and restoration of thangkas, principally in the Karma Gadri style. Since the 1970s Sherab has trained a number of western practitioners in the highly specialised techniques needed to create thangkas. The temple walls are decorated with many examples of the work of both Sherab Palden Beru and his western pupils.
Traditional deity and monumental sculpture and the creation of prayer-wheels are also carried out at the centre under the direction of resident and visiting Tibetan experts. The grounds of the centre feature many examples of their work, such as a statue of Nagarjuna.
The centre has a long history of uneasy relations with neighbouring residents, with disputes over planning applications and suspicion about behaviour of residents and visitors. In June 2000, a visiting monk was convicted of sexual abuse of a minor. In September 2000 a national newspaper report of alleged sexual abuse by a senior monk at the centre served to heighten tensions with the local community. The allegations are referenced in an essay by Piya Tan, and the centre responded by drawing up guidelines forsafeguarding young people and vulnerable adults. The charges against the senior monk were later dismissed at Dumfries Sheriff Court for lack of evidence.
In a 2003 interview with the Sri Lanka Daily News Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche said that the Scottish Tourist board had told him it was the 10th most visited place in Scotland:
- “There seems to be something about Tibetan Buddhism which appeals to people in the West, where so many people are disillusioned with the stress and the lack of a spiritual aspect in their lives.”
- “We are fortunate to be established as part of the Scottish community and wanted a tartan for our Sangha to show how much appreciation we have for the people, culture and tradition of Scotland”
- ^ “Johnstone House Trust”. Charity Commission for England and Wales. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- ^ “A Brief History of Kagyu Samyé Ling”. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
- ^ a b Electric Scotland
- ^ The Buddhist Handbook: A Complete Guide to Buddhist Teaching and Practice at Google Books
- ^ Bancroft, Anne (1976). Twentieth Century Mystics and Sages. Heinemann. p. 194.
- ^ a b Piya Tan, Avoiding unwholesome teacher-pupil relationships, 2010.
- ^ Mukpo, Diana; Gimian, Carolyn Rose (2005). “Married to the Guru”. In Melvin McLeod. The Best Buddhist Writing 2007. Shambhala Sun. pp. 216–238. ISBN 1-59030-275-3.
- ^ Doggett, Peter (2012). The Man Who Sold The World: David Bowie and the 1970s. Vintage. p. 45. ISBN 9780099548874.
- ^ Ani Rinchen Khandro, Kagyu Samyé Ling – The Story, Dzalendara, 2007, ISBN 0-906181-23-2
- ^ “Kagyu Samyé Ling”. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- ^ a b c “ROKPA trust”. Charity Commission for England and Wales. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- ^ “Holy Island Project”. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- ^ “ROKPA: Helping where help is needed”. ROKPA International. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
- ^ “A report from ROKPA UK for Kanze Girls School”. ROKPA International. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
- ^ “Yushu Earthquake UPDATE”. ROKPA International. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
- ^ “Weekly list of applications received for the period 11/06/2010 to 18/06/2010”. Dumfries and Galloway Council. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
- ^ Robert Mendick (10 September 2000). “Abuse alleged at monastery for Tibet exiles”. The Independent. Retrieved 29 Aug 2010.
- ^ Reuters. “Tibetan Buddhists find peace in Scottish hills”. Sri Lanka Daily News. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
- ^ “SILLY BILLY CONNOLLY; TARTAN BARMY: Comic’s rant at patriots”. The Free Library. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
- ^ “The Buddhist tartan”. The Scotland Kilt Company. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
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Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche
Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, London 2010
August 9, 1943 (age 69)
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|This article contains Tibetan script. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbolsinstead of Tibetan characters.|
The Venerable Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche (Tibetan: ཡེ་ཤེས་བློ་གསལ་, Wylie: Ye-shes Blo-gsal) is a lama andtulku in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and abbot of the Samye Ling Monastery, Scotland, the first and largest of its kind in the West.
Born in 1943 into a farming family in Kham, East Tibet, he was given the name Jamphel Drakpa, or Jamdrak for short. He spent his early childhood close to nature helping with the family sheep and yaks and playing with the other children in the village. This changed when at 10 years old as he was selected to go with his elder brother Choje Akong Rinpoche – who had been recognised as a tulku by the 16th Karmapa – to the Lhakang Monastery where he was to receive an education. Although Akong was only three years older than Jamdrak, it was the tradition that where a tulku is the abbot of a monastery one of his brothers goes to assist him. It is said that many auspicious signs had been seen when Jamdrak was born and he had also been recognised as a tulku, but not officially confirmed due to the political turbulence of the time. At Lhakang Jamdrak was a reluctant but diligent scholar under a succession of lamas, but his studies were rudely interrupted by the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959.
Escape to India
Jamdrak set off with his brother in a party of 300 to flee Tibet. As the Chinese occupied Lhasa the party was forced to take an alternative route which involved a perilous journey across the Himalayas. The arduous journey involved high altitudes, raging rivers, evading capture and near starvation. Of the three hundred that set off only thirteen, including Jamdrak and his brother Akong Rinpoche arrived safely in India. The others were killed, captured or died of starvation.
Even in India the refugees were not safe. Another of Jamdrak’s elder brothers died of tuberculosis, and he suffered from smallpox and tuberculosis himself. He survived but only after major surgery involving the removal of one of his lungs.
He did indeed briefly take up this post before leaving in 1967 to serve as Private Secretary to His Holiness the 16th Karmapa at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. All though still a layperson he had a privileged position receiving teachings from high lamas.
Meeting young American Peace Corps volunteers, Jamdrak became curious about the West. With the help of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche he obtained a visa and plane ticket to travel to Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland.
His arrival in 1960s Britain coincided with the peak of the hippie movement. Jamdrak was to mix with the young, rich and famous people flocking to Samye Ling and he shared their hedonistic lifestyle with enthusiasm. His brother, busy running the monastery, tolerated his excesses hoping that he would grow out of them eventually.>
The turning point for Jamdrak was a fishing trip to Orkney with a friend. With his Buddhist upbringing, he was uncomfortable with the idea of fishing but he went along with it to please his friend and soon caught many fish while his friend killed them with a blow to the head. His friend took a proud picture of all the dead fish and showed this to Akong Rinpoche on their return. Akong Rinpoche was deeply sad at seeing this picture and lamented how he had promised their parents he would look after his younger brother and felt that he had failed.
This turned the heart of the young rebel back to the Buddha Dharma. He heard that the Karmapa was going to America at the invitation of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and requested that he be allowed to join him on a tour of the United States and Canada. On the tour a Chinese benefactor donated a large tract of land for a Buddhist centre in New York State. Jamdrak was appointed secretary and treasurer. With many visiting lamas, Jamdrak had the opportunity to establish the preliminary practises of the four foundations. Wishing to take his practise further he became a monk in 1980, and was ordained by the 16th Karmapa, and named Yeshe Losal.
Yeshe Losal practised hard and retreated in a small quiet cottage. Soon the tranquility was shattered by building work on a nearby shrine room and it became increasingly uncomfortable as electricity, water and sanitation were disconnected. Remembering the trials of Milarepa, Yeshe Losal carried on with his practice. Moreover beavers built a nest beneath his retreat house while raccoons and skunks fighting over territory left stinking reminders of their presence. After five years of retreat and enduring many hardships he emerged and was recognised as a lama. It has been said that his body was almost skeletal, but his mind crystal clear.
Akong Rinpoche requested that Lama Yeshe move to Purelands, a purpose built retreat centre at Samye Ling, and in time he became the retreat master in 1988. At Akong Rinpoche’s request, in 1995 Lama Yeshe was confirmed as abbot of Samye Ling by the Tai Situpa.
In 1990 an Irish lady came to Samye Ling with a strange request. She was the owner of Holy Island a small island near theIsle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde. She wished to sell the Island and had had a vision of Mary, the mother of Jesus who asked her to approach the Buddhists at Samye Ling. Lama Yeshe Rinpoche visited the island in December and felt an immediate affinity for the rugged landscape, reminiscent of his homeland. Looking out over the lights of Lamlash bay, he was reminded of a vision he had while practising dream yoga on retreat. He had experienced flying over a beautiful island surrounded by lights. In April 1992 the Holy Isle was bought by the Rokpa Trust. Since then Lama Yeshe Rinpoche has been instrumental in establishing the Centre for World Peace and Health, an environmentally designed residential venue for courses, conferences and retreats on Holy Island, and a monastery on the southern end of the Island for nuns on three year retreats.
The island is a sanctuary for wild life, and Lama Yeshe Rinpoche is active in promoting the case for Lamlash Bay to be no take zone, a wildlife reserve for marine life, perhaps an echo of his own life-changing fishing trip.