Monastics at Kagyu Samyé Ling, a Tibetan Buddhist complex in the Scottish countryside associated with the Karma Kagyu school of Vajrayana Buddhism, have called on the public to support their bid to deny plans for a military shooting range near their rural religious sanctuary. The plans could see a weapons training facility for US Air Force special forces located just two kilometers from their retreat center.
Parties in favor of plan have said it would offer a boost for the region’s post-COVID economic recovery. Two companies, Gardners Guns and Clerkhill Farm, have applied to set up the shooting range near the village of Eskdalemuir, in Dumfries and Galloway, saying that they have received support from local businesses and estimating the gun range “would generate in excess of £500,000 (US$696,000) for the local economy from the onset.” (ITV) But the Buddhist community in the village have said the move runs counter to their principles of peace.
The abbot of the monastery, Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, has said: “I will do anything to request and persuade these people not to bring firing ranges and shoot animals close to Samyé Ling.” (Daily Record)
Kagyu Samyé Ling Monastery and Centre for World Peace and Health was founded southwestern Scotland in 1967 by Tibetan lamas and refugees Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Tulku Rinpoche, who named the complex after first monastery established in Tibet. The site now includes the largest Buddhist temple in western Europe and is home to some 60 resident monastics and lay volunteers.
Kagyu Samyé Ling has an an associated community on Scotland’s Holy Isle, which includes the Centre for World Peace and Health and a retreat center for Buddhist nuns. Since its founding, Samyé Ling has established centers in more than 20 countries, including Belgium, Ireland, Poland, South Africa, Spain, and Switzerland. Although the monastery is currently closed to visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the complex receives tens of thousands of visitors each year under normal circumstances. Notable visitors have included the English musician David Bowie, Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, and Canadian singer and Zen Buddhist Leonard Cohen.
Planning applications for two high-velocity shooting ranges for military 50-calibre rifles—one at each end of the Eskdalemuir valley—have been filed with the Dumfries and Galloway Council. According to a petition opposing the development on the website Change.org, plans for these military ranges were drawn up and submitted to the local authorities without public consultation. At the time of writing on 15 March, almost 18,000 people had signed the petition opposing the plan.
“It’s not like we’re telling the whole world to be like us, we’re not trying to make other people behave like we do,” said Buddhist nun Ani Llamo. “But we would really appreciate it if it wasn’t so close to where we are. We feel like it might have an impact on what we do and that has an emotional impact because of what the noise is connected with.” (ITV)
Samyé Ling’s spiritual leaders have urged the public to lodge objections with the local authority before the deadline of 18 March, stating:
A Buddhist sacred place and seat of learning for pilgrims from around the world, Samyé Ling also attracts thousands of visitors of all faiths and walks of life. Now our precious haven of peace and harmony is under threat of being caught in the noise of gunfire, midway between two high-velocity gun firing ranges. Planning permission is not yet granted but shooting has already begun. (Daily Record)
“We have a lot of very tame birds in Samye Ling. It’s like a peaceful sanctuary for them. They are used to our peaceful environment and the sound of gunshots is terrifying for them all,” said Lama Yeshe Rinpoche. “Thousands of people come to Samye Ling for courses and to meditate. They all feel strongly opposed to this plan. I have many friends from around the world who are determined to raise their voices in opposition to it.” (Daily Record)
The earliest Buddhist influences in Scotland arrived some 150 years ago through British colonial interactions with Theravada communities in Southeast Asia. Today, an estimated 0.2 per cent of the Scottish population of some 5.4 million people identify as Buddhists, according to government census data for 2011.
Kayu Samye Ling
Stop high velocity shooting ranges becoming established in Eskdalemuir. (Change.org)
Buddhist monks fight plans for shooting ranges near world renowned Scots sanctuary (Daily Record)
Buddhists take on US army to keep peace in Scottish sanctuary (The Guardian)
Thousands sign petition to stop plans for shooting range near Buddhist temple (ITV)
Buddhist monastery in Dumfries and Galloway is fighting plans for two shooting ranges nearby (ITV)