Thursday, December 2

Buddhists face the US military to keep the peace in a Scottish shrine | Buddhism

Nestled in the village of Eskdalemuir in Dumfries and Galloway, amid wet moorland, farmland and Neolithic stone circles, is the largest Buddhist temple in Western Europe.

Samye Ling, home to some 60 monks, nuns and volunteers, and visited by thousands of people each year, was established in 1967 and has welcomed famous names such as Billy Connolly, Richard Gere and David Bowie, the latter, so goes the storyHe was so moved by the time he spent there that he considered becoming a monk, until spiritual leaders told him to pursue a career in music.

But despite being a place generally characterized by peace and quiet, the monastic population of Eskdalemuir is now at the center of an unlikely dispute with a firearms dealer, a shooting club and the US military. The controversy concerns two retrospective planning applications from neighboring farms to expand the shooting ranges in the small border village. One, at the Over Cassock farm, about five miles from Samye Ling, seeks to replace temporary buildings with a permanent structure, while the other, at the Clerkhill farm, just two miles away, is to expand a shooting range, which it was inaugurated last March but closed for eight months. later in the absence of full planning approval.

Residents of Samye Ling oppose both plans due to concerns about noise and wildlife disruption, as well as the use of a range for training with machine guns and rifles of the US Special Forces.

“Samye Ling has been here for more than 50 years and we have always tried to be good Buddhists and especially good neighbors,” said Abbot Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche. “Now I hear that US forces will train at a long-range high-speed firing range two kilometers from Samye Ling, on forest land. We have a lot of very tame birds in Samye Ling; it is like a sanctuary of peace for them. Here they feel safe because no one hurts them and that is why there are a lot of little birds and bigger ones too. They are used to our peaceful environment and the sound of gunfire is terrifying for everyone. “

The residents of Samye Ling have been supported by more than 10,000 members of the public in a online petition, as well as by the Eskdalemuir Community Council and Joan McAlpine, MSP for Southern Scotland, who told the Observer that voters had raised concerns about the plans and use of the Clerkhill range by the US military. “I share the concerns of my constituents that large sections of the land around their community are turned over to people who seem to want to play high-caliber live ammunition war games,” he said.

The Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan monastery and center.
The Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan monastery and center. Photograph: Sam Mellish / Getty Images

“It is about much more than noise: locals are rightly concerned about the security and militaristic nature of a development, which is completely inappropriate in a place of peace. There is not a shred of evidence that it will bring financial benefits; it’s more likely to drive visitors away. “

A spokesperson for farm owner Clerkhill and Gardner Guns, who operates the range, said it was essential to diversify income after Brexit and the pandemic, and that the plans would generate jobs and income. Darren Bean of the Fifty Caliber Shooters Association, which operates the Over Cassock range, said: “The range operated for three years without the people of Samye Ling realizing it existed – it is at the end of a valley away from all households . “

A spokesperson for the Dumfries and Galloway council said both applications would be considered by the planning applications committee.

For Rinpoche, the plans are the last straw after years of increased traffic and noise pollution from commercial forestry and hunting, of which the Samye Ling community has never complained. Now they are asking supporters to contact the council with their objections.

“Thousands of people come here for courses and to meditate,” he said. “Everyone is strongly opposed to this plan, and I have many friends from around the world who are determined to speak out against it.”

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