Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Buddhist Centre

a multimedia essay by James Hooker

The Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Monastery and Buddhist Centre was the first of its kind to be established in the West.
Buried in the serene Esk Valley, close to the village of Eskdalemuir in Scotland, it stands as a living, working monument to the Buddhist principle of intrinsic connection between wild places and the human psyche.

Stupa and Prayer Wheel House

Samye Ling was founded in 1967 by Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. It was named after the first monastery to be established in Tibet, Samye.

Tibetan Temple

The Tibetan Temple was completed in 1988 and the adjoining buildings are still under construction. A majority of the labour involved was accomplished by volunteers. Samye Ling is home to a residential community of around sixty people, made up of both monastics and lay volunteers.

Shrine Room

Samye Ling offers instruction in Buddhist philosophy and meditation within the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
It is also a centre for the preservation of Tibetan religion, culture, medicine, art, architecture and handicrafts.

Around the Centre

Amongst the customary Tibetan Buddhist architecture, there is a traditional tea room, a book and handicraft shop and an organic vegetable garden. These are all tended to by volunteers and generate some of the much needed revenue for the ongoing development of the centre.

The Naga House

Samye Ling is located on the banks of the White Esk river in the Esk Valley. The Naga (water spirit) House is precisely aligned with the doors of the temple and is situated where the Moodlaw Burn joins the White Esk - a powerful geomantic position.

The Track to Garwald

A majority of the lay volunteers live off-site in the surrounding villages and rural countryside, sometimes many miles away from the centre itself.


Around two miles upstream from the centre on the White Esk is Garwald, a farmhouse owned by Samye Ling. Originally built in the 17th century, it is home to twelve semi-permanent residents who contribute to their keep by cooking, cleaning, building and gardening at the centre itself. Those living at Garwald do so for a multitude of reasons, in all cases, rehabilitation in some order is prescribed through their residence. Some are working through addictions, others through complex family issues and bereavement. Residents are united in Garwald by a sense of personal development and working towards significant personal goals. Samye Ling enables their recovery whilst maintaining vital stability in their lives. They are given routine by their roles on site and in the community, and have the support around them to attempt to overcome their own afflictions and, ultimately, to help others.


Omar is twenty-four years old, from Burnley, Lancashire and has lived at Garwald for two months.


Asham is forty-four years old, from Moss Side, Manchester and has lived at Garwald for eighteen months.


Annie is twenty-two years old, she is half Zimbabwean and half Danish and has lived at Garwald for six months.


A photofilm featuring Annie (2 mins).


Steve is fifty-four years old and from Eastbourne, Sussex.
Since July 6th, 1995, he has lived and worked at Samye Ling which, he says, “more or less saved my life.” For the last three years he has been building a house for the centre, adjacent to Garwald. In his time at Samye Ling he has gained a meaning to his life and a stability of mind. Steve is not only a friend to Garwald's residents, but living proof of what can be achieved through life at Samye Ling. He is now learning to play the bagpipes.