Monks from Kagyu Samyé Ling, the oldest Buddhist monastery in the Western world, have lodged a petition to protect the tranquil establishment from the creation of a nearby shooting range. The petition requests that the area be protected by law from percussive shooting sports in an eight-kilometer radius around the monastery, located in Eskdalemuir, in Dumfriesshire, Scotland.
This comes after two neighboring farms submitted planning applications to develop commercial shooting ranges nearby. One of the farms is approximately eight kilometers from the monastery and has sought to replace a temporary shooting range with a permanent structure to host the Fifty Calibre Shooters Association. The other neighboring farm, called Over Cassock Farm, aims to expand a rifle range that would be three kilometers away from the monastery.
Both of these applications have been rejected by Dumfries and Galloway Council, but only on administrative grounds, meaning that the applicants could amend their applications and reapply. Over Cassock Farm is reported to be preparing a revised application to undertake a major development, a move that will require public consultation.
As reported in Buddhistdoor Global in March, the US Air Force canceled plans for a military gun range near Kagyu Samyé Ling out of respect for the community after concerns were voiced.*
“This is our way of life,” said Ani Sonam, who was ordained at Samyé Ling in 2013. “It’s a place of worship, it’s a place of study for practicing meditation. Having gunfire re-sounding around the valley is destructive. We have many visitors, many guests staying who are seeking a place of peace and tranquility. That’s been shattered. Knowing these are weapons of war that are being used it doesn’t sit so easily.” (The Herald)
Friends of the monastery hope that the latest shooting range development plan will also face local objections as they seek national recognition of their spiritual sanctuary and the need to permanently protect the soundscape of the area.
Proponents of the monastery’s petition to Parliament note that there is nothing in law currently to prevent shooting ranges from operating in close proximity to any place of spiritual refuge. If the monastery’s petition—lodged by Dr. Conrad Harvey, a local general practitioner—is successful, other sites such as Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian, the Callanish stones in Lewis, and Dunblane Cathedral in Perthshire could also gain protection.
“The proposal is that all places of spiritual significance or religious worship should be protected by an exclusion zone,” said Sonam. “We are not trying to stop people from running their business, we would just ask that some respect is shown to places of worship or spiritual significance.” (The Herald)
Nicolas Jennings, who sits on the local community council and has lived in the area for 50 years, said: “This is a huge cultural and social asset to Scotland. They have created a particular ambience of peace and tolerance and people feel disrespected. When the US military realised they were causing offence, they said we will go elsewhere.” (The Herald)
Kagyu Samyé Ling was established in 1967 by Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and is now home to about 60 monks, nuns, and volunteers. Scotland is home to approximately 10,800 Buddhists, 0.2 per cent of its population of 5.4 million, according to 2011 government data.
* UPDATE: Peace Restored at Scotland’s Kagyu Samyé Ling Buddhist Monastery (Buddhistdoor Global)
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