Samye Ling is a monastery and international centre of Buddhist training located in Eskdalemuir Valley in Dumfries and Galloway. The monastery was founded in 1967 and was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre to be established in the West. It was named after Samye, the first monastery to be established in Tibet.

Samye Ling is home to a residential community of over 60 people, made up of both monastic and lay volunteers. It is part of ROKPA Trust, a registered charity. One of the charity’s main aims is to care for the environment.

Home-grown vegetables and eating sustainably

The monastery has had vegetable gardens since it was founded which are looked after by the community at Samye Ling. Everyone at the monastery is a volunteer, and a team of monks and nuns and lay people help out in the gardens.

Over the years, the community have learned how to deal with the particular conditions in the Eskdalemuir Valley, including the cold wet climate, heavy clay acidic soil and lots of rabbits. Recently, they have started using raised beds made out of recycled materials. The monastery also has a number of small greenhouses which are used over the winter months to keep growing a good supply of vegetables for the community.

The long-term goal is to be able to offer all residents and guests fresh organic home-grown vegetables and salads.

Resident volunteers are usually joined by others from the surrounding community or guests to help out in the gardens, however this has not been possible during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Living through the pandemic in a safe and sacred place

Prior to the pandemic, Samye Ling regularly hosted courses and would often have up to 200 guests at weekends, on top of the 50 plus residents. Since Samye Ling closed its doors in March 2020, they have remained closed to all guests and visitors.

This has given them a unique opportunity to focus on the gardens as well as some much-needed maintenance and renovation work.

Ani Lhamo, an ordained Buddhist nun who has lived at Samye Ling for over thirty years, said:

“The community lives and works together like a large family, and of course we have the privilege of living in a beautiful, peaceful valley with clean air and abundant wildlife.

“The community maintains its daily schedule of prayers and meditation and the monks and nuns have a study schedule. We have benefitted from internet teachings from some of the most senior teachers of our Karma Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, so everyone has been kept occupied on both spiritual and physical activities.

“Generally everyone has been happy and extremely grateful to have had this chance to live through the pandemic in such a safe and sacred place.”

Reflections on climate action and a changing world

Climate action is a part of life at Samye Ling. Along with vegetable gardens and plans to further the sustainability of the monastery, the community also plant trees in various locations.

Around 10,000 trees have been planted at Samye Ling in recent years and the community have planted over 40,000 trees on Holy Isle. The plan for this autumn is to plant around 16,000 trees on Arran.

Ani Lhamo said:

“The pandemic has brought climate change into sharp focus around the world, accentuated by news of extreme weather and natural disasters from every corner. It’s become clear that the citizens of this world have no choice but to make efforts to halt the destruction of our planet. Melting ice caps and glaciers, increasing temperatures, rising oceans, raging fires, loss of animal and bird species. Many of us have seen deterioration in our own lifetimes, so we all have to do whatever we can.”

For those looking to get involved in climate action, Ani Lhamo has recommended a helpful guide called 108 things to do to help the environment, which was produced during The First Conference on Environmental Protection for Kagyu Monasteries and Centers.

“Do whatever you can, whatever that is – from simply recycling, learning more about the environment and how to protect it, or joining with others, or even starting something new.”

Climate action: How to get involved

At Scottish Interfaith Week, we are delighted to be able to shine a light on the climate action and sustainable living practised at Samye Ling. We believe climate action is important for people of all backgrounds, faiths and cultures to get involved with and that the work being done to spread climate awareness is key to the survival of our planet.

If you would like to find out more about Samye Ling, you can visit the monastery’s website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If this story has inspired you to take your own climate action, then why not consider hosting an event for Scottish Interfaith Week 2021, perhaps even a sustainable living workshop or climate-focused meditation session? The theme this year is Together for Our Planet and we are encouraging individuals and organisations across Scotland to host climate-related events.

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