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Funky Monks

by John Connolly

 

Now I’m as skeptical as the next man but when it was suggest that I spend the Easter bank holiday weekend at the Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre in Scotland , I found it hard to resist. The Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery and Tibetan Centre was established in 1967 and is the first and largest of its kind in the West. It is located in a peaceful valley on the banks of the river Esk among the scenic rolling hills of the Scottish borders. As well as a centre of Buddhist wisdom and learning, and offering the highest standards of Buddhist teachings, it is also a centre for the preservation of Tibetan Buddhism, arts, medicine and culture.

 

Before traveling up to Samye Ling (pronounced Sammy Lee), I decided to do a bit of research. I planned to go walking in the surrounding areas of Langholm, Eskdalemuir and Canobie regardless of what activities were on offer but accessing their website I found this:

 

 

To find inner peace we need a peaceful environment. This we can only create if we extend our wish for personal happiness and freedom to all other beings. To show this respect for ourselves and others and to protect this sacred space, a place devoted to spiritual development, which is Samye Ling, I request all who visit or stay here to follow these Five Golden Rules:

1. To protect life and refrain from killing. (note to self – leave Ted Nugent crossbow in the boot)
2. To respect other's property and refrain from stealing. (hey, no worries, I’m from Liverpool kidda!)
3. To speak the truth and refrain from lying. (the room was like this when we got here)
4. To embrace health and refrain from intoxicants. (*rubs nose, takes skins out of pocket* what was that?)
5. To respect others and refrain from sexual misconduct. (no need to lock up the monkettes mate, I’m on the arm…oh)

By keeping these Five Golden Rules we aim to keep Kagyu Samye Ling a pure and special place and an example for ourselves and others, now and in the future.

May all beings benefit and be happy. Be happy indeed, I’ll touch on this later.

 

 

A room was booked and me and my sexy lady friend made the relatively short journey across the border to Chilly Jocko Land (Greavsie you comic genius). I had visions of myself as Caine from Kung Fu. I pictured myself popping down to the kitchens for butty after a hard days meditation, only to be confront by Master Po in flickering candlelight dispensing pearls of wisdom like "Never assume that because a man has no eyes, he cannot see etc." Caine had to wait patiently outside the Shaolin Temple in all kinds of weather, to prove his devotion. I drove up to the gates in a VW Golf, parked up and wandered into the reception. I was trying to get the reception monks attention, but he was engrossed in what looked like a game of Texas hold ‘em on 888.com. We were told our room wouldn’t be ready for an hour or so but we were free to relax in the lounge and help ourselves to tea and coffee.

 

We decided to strole along the babbling brook and investigate the grounds. Now I’ve not been to a holy retreat before but I envisioned Buddhists to be a very clean living pure bunch of happy campers but the shoddy makeshift accommodation reminded me of Jonestown. My significant other half was worried we’d have to spend the night in one of these hillbilly shacks. Anyway, after an hours walk around the grounds, we’d pretty much seen everything Samye Lings great outdoors had to offer, including a field with Yaks in, who were possibly there to make homesick Tibetans feel at ease (I miss home, oh look there’s a Yak grazing, I feel much better).

 

After our little walk, we went back the reception. This time our monk receptionist was checking Victor Chandler for half time/full time prices on Bolton Chelsea, he paused only to advise our room still wasn’t ready. The reception monk advised he would find out what was going on and if we wanted to wait in the lounge, he’d come and find us. There were a few Buddhists in the longue, sans robes, who came milling in after their afternoon prayer. One wouldn’t talk, he’d sing! At first I thought they were prayers but when he was walking in the kitchen, he was singing ‘I’m walking in the kitchen making a cup of Earl Grey’ and so on – Jenna suggested I retort with a terrace chant (an old favourite of mine from the Ramones Beat up on the Brat, for some reason sung with a cockney accent by the Kop and Road Enders alike 'hit him on the head, hit him on the head with a baseball bat oh yeah, oh yeah'), of course I never but now I know how Sting and Randy Newman weave their magic. The receptionist monk walked in, looked at me and didn’t even acknowledge me! Now, here’s were my first doubts about the place kicked in. The only people in the lounge who let on or smiled at us were tourists like ourselves. These plastic Buddhists were guilty middle class fuckwits, no doubt about it.

 

It’s one o’clock and time for lunch. No room, no friendly welcome, we decided to head for the dinner hall. The food was vegetarian, naturally, but it wasn’t too bad. You could help yourself to seconds (at least I think you could) and there was a nice desert. It was in the hall that I first spotted a few genuine Tibetan monks, who unlike their western counterparts, were very jolly and full of smiles (this may have been because they had carrot cake for afters). After we’d polished off our mung bean, rice and tofu delight, one of the resident miserablists came over to our table and asked us to help with the washing up. Now I thought this meant scraping the remains off your plate then popping it the sink, but noooooooo. They actually wanted you do the dishes…for everyone! We were on a table with a couple from Amsterdam who were as equally bemused as us. There must have been over 100 people having dinner. Jenna explained to me 'What is a tree without roots? The deeper into the earth the roots reach, the stronger the tree’ I don’t know she'd read this in the Tao or heard this on Radio 2’s pause for thought, but I frowned at donning the marigolds 'I've got dishes at home that I need doing'.

 

The room still wasn’t ready but one of the old duffers in the dinner hall advised us there was another building with nice views of hills ˝ a mile away. We hiked up the road and found a flag lined drive that lead to lodge. The place was closed so we decided to take a ramble on the hills. After a while it started to rain so we hot footed it back to the temple and guess what? The room wasn’t ready! We went into the reception, the monk was now playing online table tennis, and the chap who had the room before us came in and handed in the key. The rooms were basic, as you’d expect, but the beds weren’t made – you had to do that yourself! All the linen was mismatched and thrown together, Jenna commented that it must be nice not to care about material things like matching bed sets, I found this strange as one of the monkettes was wearing purple suede puma and purple socks that matched her robes perfectly!

 

I went down to car to get the bags and I recognized a chap standing near the tea rooms. Didn’t know where I new him from but then it hit me! It was Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche! Who? Born in 1939, near Riwoche in Kham, Eastern Tibet , he was discovered at a very young age by the search party seeking the reincarnation the previous (1st) Akong, Abbot of Dolma Lhakang monastery near Chakdado, in the Chamdo area of Kham. He was one of the first to set up shop here in Scotland . Only now he looked more like Lee Trevino than the Dalai Lama. He was dressed in an open necked silk shirt, a lacoste cardigan, slacks and a pair of expensive looking slip on loafers on his feet and gold ring on his finger. He looked more likely to hit the links than the temple, but I suppose this is the home of golf so when in… erm… Scotland ! Saying that, Carl Spackler did caddy for the Dalai Lama, and I quote:

So I jump ship in Hong Kong and make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas. A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one - big hitter, the Lama - long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-galunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

 

That just about sealed it for me. I got the bags out the car, got back to the room and had a pop at breaking a few of those golden rules. Jenna went to watch the 6.00 - 7.00am Tara Prayers. She said I wouldn’t have been able to contain my laughter as they done these repetitious hand jive-pattacake things and chanted. Walking back the car, we saw a monkette and few lackies huddled around a puddle 'be careful, there'sa newt here' one on the misreble fuckers moaned, like it was some endangeed species. I had the urge to stamp on the little fucker but that wouldn't be fair. Each to there own like but Buddhism is defo not for me. If I want Bodhisattva, I’ll listen to Steely Dan...snooty Budhists? I've shit 'em...

 

                

 

 

 

 

 
   
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