Just before Christmas 2011 my Mother asked if I wanted to go to a place called Samye Ling, a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Dumfries she had heard of, to do a weekend course as a Christmas present. I immediately said no, I had no interest in Religion at this time and couldn’t have told you a thing about Buddhism. My only experience of Buddhism up to this point was while in Primary School, when we had a visit from a Monk (I remember returning to Class after the talk and looking out the window to see him leaving the School in a set of everyday clothes!) and that was that.
During the following summer, while staying at my Mum’s for a few days she suggested taking a driveto Samye Ling as it’s not to far from where she stays in the borders. So we headed off through the stunning countryside. After quite a while we began to think we might be on the wrong road and stopped to ask someone we saw out for a walk how to get to Eskdalemuir he replied “Are you going to Eskdalemuir or Samye Ling?” we replied and he told us we were nearly there and gave us directions. After a few more turns we caught a glimpse of the top of the Temple poking through the trees and pulled into the Car park. We had a walk round, looking at the statues, going inside the Temple, having lunch in the Tea room and just watching the Monks, Nuns and Volunteers go about their daily life. I remember being a bit shocked walking round the Prayer Wheel house and realising I was looking at peoples ashes. We left after a couple of hours: I would never be the same.
I found myself thinking about Samye Ling quite a bit afterwards. It was/is hard to describe, I felt really drawn to it. I started reading some books on Buddhism and during my next break from work returned for a three-day stay. I felt really nervous going down by myself. I was terrified of committing some sort of faux- pas so mainly kept to myself, I spent the time reading and sitting in the Temple. Returning to Edinburgh with even more questions about both Buddhism and Samye Ling I found, through the Samye Ling Website, that there was Dzong (Centre) in Edinburgh. I got in touch with the Centre Co-ordinator, Ani Rinchen Khandro and explained that I would like to find out more. She suggested I come in the following Monday night for the group meditation, which I did. Afterwards we had a chat and she suggested I come in that weekend as the Abbot form Samye Ling, Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche would be visiting. On the Saturday night he gave a talk on Milarepa, the Tibetan Saint, known as one of the founding figures in the Karma Kagyu tradition. His story really struck a chord and I couldn’t help but feel the friendliness and compassion that was radiating from Lama Yeshe. I had read a bit about him in the book about Samye Ling and was really fascinated. On the Sunday I sat in on the Puja that was happening It was like nothing I had ever heard before, the chanting, cymbals, bells and strange sounding horns. Afterwards I helped tidy up and spoke to some of the Volunteers, who were all so nice. I continued coming in on a Monday night for mediatation. I would watch people come in and do their prostrations and felt like I really wanted to do them as well. I knew then I was going to take refuge at some point.
Originally I had decided to go to the next Refuge Ceremony at Samye Ling, which was Losar 2012 but then discovered that the founder of Samye Ling, Akong Rinpoche would be visiting the Dzong at the end of March and would be giving Refuge so I thought it would be nice to do it there. A couple of nights before Losar I got a last minute babysitting job and after putting the child to bed, was reading in the living room when I heard my phone ringing in my jacket pocket. It was my friend Mike, who I’d met at New Year on the Holy Isle (He was the first person I spoke to after arriving). He told me he had decided to go down to Samye Ling and take Refuge and did I want to come. I thought for a second, if I hadn’t got this babysitting job there would have been no way I would have been able to afford it so it just seemed right.
We drove down the next afternoon and attended a talk on the meaning of Refuge by Ken Holmes, which was really clear and made you feel it would be a such a powerful thing to do. I woke up at four the next morning wide awake. I lay for a while then remembered the Temple opened at five so got ready and walked across and sat in the darkness save for the orange light that comes from behind the statues surround the Buddha. It was a magnificent site and I burst into tears of happiness. I knew my life was just about to change for the better. I sat through the Green Tara Puja, went for breakfast then meditation before meeting up with Mike before the Ceremony started. By this point I had read about Akong Rinpoche in the Samye Ling book and had also read his first book, Taming the Tiger, but nothing prepared me for how I felt when he walked into the Temple and I was in the same room as him for the first time, I was in complete awe.
During the hair cutting ceremony, I bowed down and he looked at me with a huge grin on his face and said “No hair to cut” ( I shave my head) which made me have a huge grin on my face. I returned to my pillow shaking, with my new name, kata, lineage tree picture and some other photos. It was such a powerful moment in my life and I knew I had just met an extraordinary human being. About half an hour after the Ceremony we got into Mike’s car and headed home. About ten minutes into the drive we turned a corner and came face to face with a Logging Lorry, we both screamed and swerved into the ditch, I really have no idea how it missed us. We sat in shock for a few minutes and then I turned to Mike and said “That’s us protected now!”
As time passed after that, I got more involved, learning different practices, receiving empowerments and teachings and getting into a regular meditation practice. I really started to feel what the Dharma can do for you when you apply the teachings to your life which has led me to having preliminary talks with Lama Rinpoche about taking the Novice Monk vows. I am currently deciding if and when that is going to happen. I never sat down and had a proper talk with Akong Rinpoche, I wanted to do that as a Monk but will now sadly never get the chance so everything I do now and in the future is dedicated to the man that changed my life and made me realise how precious this gift of precious human life really is.
I am 33, from Edinburgh. A practitioner in the Karma Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. I work with children in a variety of settings including Schools, Nurseries and Hospitals. My hobbies include reading, music and going to concerts.