Perthshire house to be turned into Buddhist monastery

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A GROUP of Thai “forest tradition” nuns is to transform a house in rural Perthshire into a Buddhist monastery after its owner – who has since died – rejected a higher bid on the property.

Planning applications lodged with Perth and Kinross Council on behalf of Sister Ajahn Candasiri, a senior nun at the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Hertfordshire, reveal that the nuns hope to turn the house, in picturesque Glen Artney, near Comrie, into a multiple occupancy and religious centre and a “peaceful sanctuary for all beings”.

The house, named Milntuim, was sold to the nuns last year for £407,000 by former resident Bob Fryer, who died from cancer shortly afterwards.

Archie Leslie-Melville, the property agent who handled the sale for Bell Ingram, said Fryer had rejected a higher bid on the property in favour of the nuns’ offer. “I had visions of people buying the house and bulldozing it to build something new, and Bob quite understood that,” he said.

“But he was very taken by Sister Candasiri and dealt with her along the way during the sale. He liked what the nuns stood for, and that nature was a big part of it. That’s really what appealed to him.”

The nuns are part of the “forest tradition” or Theravada tradition, which is often believed to be the form of Buddhism closest to the original teachings of Buddha. The Theravada life involves meditation and concentration as a way to enlightenment and encourages followers to take up a full-time monastic life. Theravada nuns are not allowed to handle money and are not permitted to eat after midday.

Writing about the property Sister Candasiri said: “The intention is for Milntuim eventually to be a place where siladhara [the order of nuns] and anagarikas [students] can live in community for periods of time following a monastic routine.” She added: “There would also be facilities for individual siladhara [nuns] to spend up to several months in solitary retreat. In addition I would hope that it can support the practice of lay friends near and far and, as far as our monastic discipline permits, integrate with the local community.”

Architect Rod Paul, who lodged the application on behalf of the nuns, said: “It will be a very low-key retreat where people can come and stay and will be dedicated to their sect of Buddhism. It’s somewhere that people can hopefully seek enlightenment.”

The planning application states that the monastery would be of public benefit as “the presence of Buddhist nuns devoted to the practice of meditation and mindfulness, committed to peaceful living, simplicity, contentment, harmlessness and generosity of heart can be an encouragement to others to cultivate these values in their lives”.

Sister Candasiri also wrote that work had already started on the house. “There is a large room on the first floor which now serves as a shrine room – already a marble Buddha rupa which was carved in Burma graces the east-facing shrine.”