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Scottish Inter Faith Council logoInformation on these pages has been used with permission from Scottish Inter Faith Council.

Local contact information

The local contact information below has been compiled by the Chaplaincy at the University of St Andrews.

Green Door Cafe, St Monans

Meets once a month on Tuesday 7.30-9.30pm.
For further details please contact Karunaghosha 07951417242

Meditate in Scotland, Dumfries
Telephone: 01387 860618

FWBO Retreat Centre, near Callander


Kagyu Samye Ling, Tibetan Buddhist Monastery

DG13 0QL

Portobello Buddhist Priory

27 Brighton Place
EH15 1LL

Theravada Buddhist Group

5 Bellview Terrace

Introduction to Buddhism

Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Buddha Shakyamuni who lived in Northern India about 2,500 years ago. A Buddha is to be revered, not as a God, but as an example of how we should all aspire to live our lives.

Basic beliefs

The essence of Buddha is within each of us and we can all attain our Buddhahood through sincere practice of the eight-fold path, which includes virtuous conduct such as compassion and generosity, meditation and the cultivation of wisdom. Many Buddhists are believers in spiritual rebirth but this is understood as a causal connection between lives rather than the transmigration or reincarnation of an unchanging individual soul. For most Western Buddhists faith in the efficacy of following the eight-fold path is more central than assent to specific verbal formulations of religious belief.

Customs and practices

Although it is particularly strong in northern areas of the Indian sub-continent and in some parts of South East Asia, Buddhism is a world wide religion. Many Eastern Buddhist traditions started becoming established in the West during the twentieth Century. This was the case in Scotland where we now have perhaps as many as ten schools from several traditions represented.

These include the Theravadan tradition (originally mainly from India, Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand) which has meditation groups in several Scottish cities; the Tibetan tradition, (which has a wide influence through northern India, and China to Mongolia) of which three schools are active, the best known being the Kagyu school with its main centre at Samye Ling near Langholm and meditation groups in most main Scottish cities; and the Zen Buddhist tradition, (which originated in China, spread to Korea, Japan and Malaysia) and is most strongly represented in Scotland by the Soto Zen School which has a priory in Edinburgh and meditation groups in several cities.

In addition, a specifically Western development of Buddhism is represented in Scotland by the Western Buddhist Order which has centres in Glasgow and Edinburgh, a retreat centre near Callander and meditation groups in several other cities.

As indicated by the frequent mention of meditation groups, there is a strong emphasis in the western development of Buddhism on the centrality of meditation practice.

Places of worship

The term 'worship' is not really appropriate to Buddhism, where there is no belief in a separate creator God. Buddhist temples, centres or meeting places are where Buddhists gather to meditate, study, chant or pray together.

There are a number of such centres in Scotland ranging from the large Tibetan tradition temple at Samye Ling together with its retreat centre on Holy Island and the Glasgow Buddhist Centre to smaller institutions and retreat centres in Portobello, Dundee and elsewhere. Some groups make use of hired premises or meet together in private homes.

Main festivals

Buddhists have many celebrations throughout the year. These generally commemorate particular events of the Buddha's life and include his birth (Wesak), his enlightenment, the day of his first teaching (Dharma Day) and his death (Parinirvana). The dates of these events are generally expressed through the lunar calendar and there is some variation between the different traditions. Some Buddhists may also fast on New Moon and Full Moon days.

Food and diet

Although their high valuation of life and their rejection of violence means that some Buddhists are vegetarian, this is not always the case.

Concerns of the community

One of the steps on the Eight-Fold Noble Path is the practice of 'right livelihood' and this has promoted a tendency in western Buddhists to seek employment within what are referred to as the 'caring professions'. They also support such initiatives within thecommunity as Angulimala, the Buddhist Prison chaplaincy service, and hospital chaplaincy. A significant proportion of Buddhists are also actively engaged in movements promoting justice and peace.

You can get more information about religious movements from Inform, a charity based in London.


The Chaplaincy Centre

3A St Mary's Place
St Andrews
KY16 9UY
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: 01334 (46)2866 or (46)2492

Related links

External links