January 11, 2012 GMT
Samye Ling Serendipity

After two brilliant weeks on Holy Isle I nipped across Scotland to Edinburgh to stay with my cousin Geraldine for a few days. Now her Dad, like mine, was a motorbike-and-sidecar family man so she's no stranger to adventures on 2(3) wheels. And maybe that heritage led her to the idea of driving north to visit the commune at Findhorn near Elgin.

Well, the weather reports from up north told of snow gates being closed on some of the roads, so Geraldine had an inspired vision of an alternative outing.
Which was to visit Samye Ling in Eskdalemuir, the headquarters of the Buddhist group that operates the centre on Holy Island. It was founded by Lama Akong Rinpoche and is now run by his brother Lama Yeshe Losal. It's just a couple of hour's drive south from Edinburgh, and led to the next corner you can't see round.

We spent a very pleasant lunchtime and afternoon there, sitting in on a ceremony in the magnificent temple, and wandering around the grounds, the stupa, the library, the little shop and the Tibetan teahouse. For Geraldine it was her first ever visit to a Buddhist establishment, so we tried to steer a steady course leading to rapid enlightenment! This entire centre is designed to make visitors feel they are truly in Tibet and it certainly succeeds. We asked the monk who led the earlier ceremony for directions to the library and received an immediate and very cheery reply in Tibetan - he speaks no English.
The door of the teahouse had a notice pinned on it: "The teahouse will open between 7pm and 9pm this evening to welcome the return of Lama Akong Rinpoche from his long absence in Tibet."
Well, what a coincidence - the founder of the monastery returns this evening! The staff in the teahouse told us there'd be a simple welome for the Lama at the main gates and a procession right through the centre to the residence at the rear. A pure coincidence too good to miss so we booked ourselves in for the 6pm supper in the main dining room. This gave Geraldine a chance to take the wonderful honour of volunteering to wash up after the twenty or so residents had finished their meals. Not only were we the only visitors still there, but the only washer-up volunteers as well, so we had the opportunity to learn a lot more about the centre from the kitchen volunteers.

That left a while to wait before the arrival of Lama Akong, but the teahouse was open again so we returned there. Our coffee and hot chocolate were interrupted by one of the nuns poking her head round the door: "We're lighting the 1008 Lamps Ceremony and we need some help otherwise it won't all be lit by the time Lama Akong arrives. We're in the Butterlamp House."
We leapt to the occasion and nipped round to the long wooden cabin that houses a good proportion of Scotland's stocks of tea lights. There we found half a dozen residents furiously lighting rows of tea lights - sorry - serenely lighting rows of tea lights, having done about five hundred so far. We all joined in and the job was quickly, and mindfully, finished.

A Thousand and Eight Lamps, burning gently in the Butterlamp House,

alongside a row of small stupas.

One of the welcoming fires being tended at the gates.

Everyone is welcome at the gates and the procession, and Lama Akong places a Khata (symbolic greeting scarf) around everyone present.

Including that evening's washer-uppers.

(No, we were not entering novice orders!)

On the way out, a picture of the revolving prayer wheels surrounding the main stupa, before we returned to Edinburgh.


Finally, on a trip a couple of days later to Loch Leven, we bagged a picture of a meditating heron.


Then it was off south across the border and home.
A thought entered my head on the way. See next posting....

Posted by Ken Thomas at January 11, 2012 09:43 PM GMT

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