The main focus of our ramblings this visit was a trip to Dumfries to the Samye Ling temple in Eskdalemuir. My partner Aoife also travelled with us. My father and partner have no connection to any form of buddhism and to my knowledge have never meditated. Nonetheless the historical significance, general architecture and location of the temple made them both curious enough to visit with me.
I have had little to no interaction with tibetan buddhism before my visit and this was my first visit to any kind of buddhist temple (my sangha usually sit in a rented secular building on the southside of Glasgow). I’ve visited the mandir, gadarwaras, mosques, churches and temples of the various religions and cultures in the areas in which i have lived in over the years, but have never lived near a buddhist temple.
The first thing that you notice visiting a place like this is the statues and stupas. The rich iconography and imagery forces you into a mind state not dissimilar to meditation (all my time there I followed my breath). It is a place designed for practice. This is a refreshing or even confirming feeling - it felt like a glass of water when you’re thirsty.
Sitting in a shrine room for the first time was truly wonderful. A golden statue of chenrezig reflected the light from outside as I sat underneath. My father and partner sat on the chairs in quiet reflection. Afterwards they noted how they were both taken back by the atmosphere and rich beauty of the surroundings. I wanted to encourage them to try and meditate but I really didn’t want to be that guy.
I’ve never visited a place for such a short time and felt so at home there. The whole experience was simply amazing and it felt unpleasant to leave. That night I got home and sat online. Although sitting under wonderful statues is obviously amazing it is the practice itself that matters. As long as I can sit, online or in a secular building, or wherever, it truly doesn’t matter.
(all photos by Aoife O'Neill)