Daily life at the Monastery

Ani Rinchen Khandro explains that life in a 'place beyond concept' may be calm, but it's also full o


If, after having encountered a realized spiritual master of authentic and unbroken lineage, one wishes to become a Buddhist the next step is to ‘take refuge’. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition the spiritual teacher, who embodies the Buddha, bestows refuge and the student puts his or her wholehearted trust in the three refuges of the Buddha, the Dharma, (the Buddha’s teachings), and the noble Sangha, (the other enlightened ones).

The Buddha gave thousands of different teachings and methods appropriate to the various kinds of beings. It is the teacher’s job to guide the student towards the most suitable teachings for their particular type of personality. However, they all have the same purpose which, in essence, is to overcome suffering and attain true happiness by refraining from negative acts and by practising virtue. We aspire to attain full realization of our innate Buddha nature so that we can help others do the same. That is the motivation behind all the study, meditation, prayer and other activities.

Mornings at Samye Ling begin with prayers in the main shrine room at six AM. These are dedicated to Green Tara, a female aspect of Buddha who is particularly associated with fearlessness, swift, compassionate activity and protection from all manner of ills. We aim to cultivate those qualities within ourselves through prayer, mantra recitation, visualisation meditation and offerings. After breakfast there is an hour session of sitting meditation then at nine o’clock everyone goes to work wherever their daily jobs take them, whether in an office, kitchen, garden, workshop, art room, café or shop.

A hearty vegetarian lunch is followed by more prayers then it’s back to work until five, when there is another meditation session. Supper is followed by evening prayers then the rest of the evening is free. As most people are quite busy with their work we are not expected to attend every prayer and meditation session of each day but just do our best, and try to go to at least one. It is up to the individual and how diligent they are. As with anything, the more you put in, the more you get out of it.

The resident community of around seventy people is a mixture of ordained monks and nuns and lay people who work together to run the Centre. At weekends the numbers are swelled by guests attending a variety of courses in anything from mediation to tai chi, yoga and various therapies. There are also longer courses given by Tibetan High Lamas attended by hundreds of people from all over the world. Day visitors are also a regular feature and on any given day there is usually a school group or coach full of sight seers.

Despite all this activity the temple remains an oasis of calm and the extensive grounds and Peace Garden with its beautiful stupa, statues, ponds and fountains provide a peaceful environment to delight the eye and restore the spirit. The very name Samye Ling means ‘place beyond concept’ so any description falls far short of the reality. Do visit our website to find out more, or better still, visit Samye Ling in person and experience it for yourself.

Photo: Colin McPherson

Ani Rinchen Khandro is a life ordained nun in the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. She is based at Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre in Scotland where she has lived for the past fourteen years, apart from the three and a half years she spent in closed retreat on Holy Island. She recently wrote a book in honour of the Centre’s fortieth anniversary, entitled Kagyu Samye Ling - The Story, which is available for purchase online.
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On civil liberties, David Davis has become a complete hypocrite – and I'm not sure he even knows it

The Brexit minster's stance shows a man not overly burdened with self-awareness.

In 2005, David Davis ran for the Tory leadership. He was widely assumed to be the front-runner and, as frontrunners in Tory leadership campaigns have done so enthusiastically throughout modern history, he lost.

The reason I bring up this ancient history is because it gives me an excuse to remind you of this spectacularly ill-judged photoshoot:


“And you're sure this doesn't make me look a bit sexist?”
Image: Getty

Obviously it’s distressing to learn that, as recently as October 2005, an ostensibly serious politician could have thought that drawing attention to someone else’s boobs was a viable electoral strategy. (Going, one assumes, for that all important teenage boy vote.)

But what really strikes me about that photo is quite how pleased with himself Davis looks. Not only is he not thinking to himself, “Is it possible that this whole thing was a bad idea?” You get the distinct impression that he’s never had that thought in his life.

This impression is not dispelled by the interview he gave to the Telegraph‘s Alice Thompson and Rachel Sylvester three months earlier. (Hat tip to Tom Hamilton for bringing it to my attention.) It’s an amazing piece of work – I’ve read it twice, and I’m still not sure if the interviewers are in on the joke – so worth reading in its entirety. But to give you a flavour, here are some highlights:

He has a climbing wall in his barn and an ice-axe leaning against his desk. Next to a drinks tray in his office there is a picture of him jumping out of a helicopter. Although his nose has been broken five times, he still somehow manages to look debonair. (...)

To an aide, he shouts: “Call X - he’ll be at MI5,” then tells us: “You didn’t hear that. I know lots of spooks.” (...)

At 56, he comes – as he puts it – from “an older generation”. He did not change nappies, opting instead to teach his children to ski and scuba-dive to make them brave. (...)

“I make all the important decisions about World War Three, she makes the unimportant ones about where we’re going to live.”

And my personal favourite:

When he was demoted by IDS, he hit back, saying darkly: “If you’re hunting big game, you must make sure you kill with the first shot.”

All this, I think, tells us two things. One is that David Davis is not a man who is overly burdened with self-doubt. The other is that he probably should be once in a while, because bloody hell, he looks ridiculous, and it’s clear no one around him has the heart to tell him.

Which brings us to this week’s mess. On Monday, we learned that those EU citizens who choose to remain in Britain will need to apply for a listing on a new – this is in no way creepy – “settled status” register. The proposals, as reported the Guardian, “could entail an identity card backed up by entry on a Home Office central database or register”. As Brexit secretary, David Davis is the man tasked with negotiating and delivering this exciting new list of the foreign.

This is odd, because Davis has historically been a resolute opponent of this sort of nonsense. Back in June 2008, he resigned from the Tory front bench and forced a by-election in his Haltemprice & Howden constituency, in protest against the Labour government’s creeping authoritarianism.

Three months later, when Labour was pushing ID cards of its own, he warned that the party was creating a database state. Here’s the killer quote:

“It is typical of this government to kickstart their misguided and intrusive ID scheme with students and foreigners – those who have no choice but to accept the cards – and it marks the start of the introduction of compulsory ID cards for all by stealth.”

The David Davis of 2017 better hope that the David Davis of 2008 doesn’t find out what he’s up to, otherwise he’s really for it.

The Brexit secretary has denied, of course, that the government’s plan this week has anything in common with the Labour version he so despised. “It’s not an ID card,” he told the Commons. “What we are talking about here is documentation to prove you have got a right to a job, a right to residence, the rest of it.” To put it another way, this new scheme involves neither an ID card nor the rise of a database state. It’s simply a card, which proves your identity, as registered on a database. Maintained by the state.

Does he realise what he’s doing? Does the man who once quit the front bench to defend the principle of civil liberties not see that he’s now become what he hates the most? That if he continues with this policy – a seemingly inevitable result of the Brexit for which he so enthusiastically campaigned – then he’ll go down in history not as a campaigner for civil liberties, but as a bloody hypocrite?

I doubt he does, somehow. Remember that photoshoot; remember the interview. With any other politician, I’d assume a certain degree of inner turmoil must be underway. But Davis does not strike me as one who is overly prone to that, either.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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