Origins & Beliefs


Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Buddha Shakyamuni who lived in Northern India about 2500 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.


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
  • 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 & worship

Customs and practices:

Although it is particularly strong in northern areas of the Indian subcontinent 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 20th Century. This was the case in Scotland where we now have perhaps as many as ten schools from several traditions represented, including:

  • 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
  • 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

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. 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 the community 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.