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Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Buddhist Centre

a multimedia essay by James Hooker


Samye Ling was founded in 1967 by Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. It was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre to be established in the West and 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. The centre is home to a community of around sixty people, comprised of both monastic residents 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.

On Site

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 serene countryside, sometimes many miles away from the centre itself.


Around a mile and a half upstream from the centre on the White Esk is Garwald, a farmhouse owned by Samye Ling. It is home to around twelve permanent residents who contribute to their keep by cooking, cleaning, building and gardening on site. Those living at Garwald do so for a multitude of reasons, in all cases though, rehabilitation in some order is prescribed through their residence.


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


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.
copyright © 2011 James Hooker