Buddhism in Scotland

History of Buddhism in Scotland

The earliest Buddhist influence on Scotland came through its imperial connections with South East Asia, and as a result the early connections were with the Theravada traditions of Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. To begin with, 150 years ago, this response was primarily scholarly, and a tradition of study grew up that eventually resulted in the foundation of the Pali Text Society, which undertook the huge task of translating the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhist texts into English.

The rate of growth was slow but steady through the century, and the 1950s saw the development of interest in Zen Buddhism. In 1967 Kagyu Samyé Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre was founded by Tibetan lamas and refugees Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche. It is in Eskdalemuir, in south west Scotland and is the largest Tibetan Buddhist centre in Western Europe, and part of the Karma Kagyu tradition.

As well there are other Buddhism-based new religious movements such as the New Kadampa Tradition, Triratna Buddhist Community and Sōka Gakkai International. The Triratna community maintains a retreat centre at Balquhidder in the Trossachs.


In 2001 census, the Buddhism constituted 0.1% or 6,830 people of the Scotland.[2] It increased to 0.2% or 12,795 people in 2011 census.[3]

Samyé Ling

Kagyu Samyé Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre monastery—founded in 1967[4]—includes the largest Buddhist temple in western Europe. There is an associated community on Holy Isle which is owned by Samyé Ling who belong to the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. The settlements on the island include the Centre for World Peace and Health and a retreat centre for nuns. Samyé Ling has also established centres in more than 20 countries, including Belgium, Ireland, Poland, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland.[5]

Notable Scottish Buddhists

See also


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