Monks set sights on old church for temple

by JOANNA VALLELY, The Scotsman, Dec 6, 2005

Edinburgh, Scotland -- TIBETAN monks have set their sights on converting a derelict church in the heart of the Old Town into a Buddhist temple and cultural centre. Blackfriars Street United Presbyterian Church was put on the market last week after lying empty for more than a decade.

Representatives of the monks have inspected the Victorian building and lodged a note of interest in buying it. But they face competition from other potential buyers, including developers interested in converting the building into a hotel or flats.

The Tibetans hope to form a new community in Edinburgh and make space available for exhibitions, talks and religious outreach events. The monks, who are followers of the Dalai Lama, pictured, say the church, which was built in 1871, would be the perfect location for their new cultural centre despite the fact the building would need to be completely gutted.

Planning permission is believed to be already in place to turn the building into a cultural centre and one of the city's leading architects has welcomed the plans as a way of preserving the building. Owners the Italian Consulate bought the church in 1992 but despite plans to turn it into an Italian Cultural Institute, the property has remained empty and fallen into disrepair.

The C-listed building has been on the Buildings at Risk register since 2001, where its condition is listed as poor and the threat to its future is rated as high.

The Italian consulate general said it was being put on the market for purely financial reasons.

Thom McCarthy, who owns two city centre shops, Golden and Crystal Clear, and runs the Buddhafield meditation space on Blackfriars Street, led the monks' representatives on a tour of the church yesterday.

Mr McCarthy said five other interested parties had attended the viewing, including some who wished to convert the building into a hotel or flats.

Mr McCarthy lived and worked for more than a decade at Samye Ling in Dumfriesshire, the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre outside Tibet or India.

He said the monks would need to launch a fundraising drive to buy the church, but that they would not be daunted by the task. He said: "This new place would be an official Karma Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist Centre. The idea is there'd be space for hire for exhibitions, public space for talks and a lot of interfaith events."

Mr McCarthy said he was consulting architect Malcolm Fraser, who worked on the Netherbow and the Scottish Poetry Library, about the refurbishments.

"It requires a tremendous amount of work inside, where there is rotting timber and there are a lot of dead pigeons but there would be little change outside.

"A lot depends on Edinburgh planners, but it already has planning permission for one cultural centre, so why not another?"

Malcolm Fraser said he was completely in sympathy with the monks' plans.

He said: "I hope to be advising them on the refurbishments. It's old and water has got in, but the Tibetan Buddhists would put the building to wonderful use. They would value it as a religious building for the whole community.

"Architecturally it's good when buildings aren't chopped up into small rooms and we would respect the integrity of what's there."

Arts impresario Richard Demarco said it would be a "tragedy" if the building were converted into luxury apartments or a bar.
We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: