Rachel Horne talks about the Buddhist centre located in the Lindholme Hall.
Words: Rachel Horne
Have you heard of Gomde, Doncaster’s internationally renowned centre for the study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism? Nope. You’re in for quite a shock. Located in the grounds of Lindholme Hall, this incredible centre has nothing to do with HMP Lindholme, but is in fact an incredible retreat and sanctuary on a 180-acre estate and island. Who knew?
In July 2009, during the annual seminar in Gomde, Denmark, the UK Paulette and David Benjamin, a retired couple and practicing Buddhists consulted with their Rinpoche Chokyi Nyima the spiritual director of Ranjung Yeshe UK (a charity set-up to help anyone who is interested studying Buddhism) in Nepal for guidance on setting up a UK Centre. His advice suggested they look for somewhere, “beautiful, secluded and remote with buildings”. Within a six week period they’d found Lindholme Hall and purchased it on the same day as both a total solar eclipse and a new moon.
The centre aims to support existing Buddhist practitioners, old and new, as well as those who would like to find out about Buddhist philosophy and practice.
When Rangjung Yeshe UK purchased the site, David and Paulette had no idea how incredible it was. There is archaeological evidence of human presence on the estate dating back thousands of years when the area was an island surrounded by water. In 2010, Dr. Buckland carried out research on the land and found a knapped flint which has been dated at approximately 16,000 years old. A local amateur historian, Mr Oliver, discovered a 5,000 year old wooden trackway buried in the peatland to the north of the island. It is one of only four track ways in Europe and is as old as Stonehenge. There is evidence to suggest Lindholme Island was the location of a chapel in ancient times.
Regularly visited by scientists, archaeologists and conservationists, this Lindholme is barely to known to Doncaster’s residents. Yet this untouched habitat is so rare scientists are stating that it is as important as the Amazon rainforest. The mixture of wetlands and peatlands seem flat and barren to the untrained eye, yet it is home to one of the highest diversity of species in the country. Paulette informs me there’s a rare beetle that only lives at Lindholme and nowhere else in the world.
Many practicing Buddhists from across the world come to visit Gomde, including high profile celebrities. Earlier this month Hollywood actor Richard Gere visited. Sadly I wasn’t there that day!
In 2017, I started regularly visiting the centre with my friend Suzie Wassail, who has studied some Buddhist teachings and incorporated it into her work as a holistic therapist and counsellor. Suzie joked that Gomde was like visiting Moominland (90s cartoon set on an alien planet) where you get tea, biccies and transcendental chit chat with monk Lama Oser from Ka-Nying Shedrup Ling monastery in Nepal.
The meditation and study group held every Tuesday 7- 9pm is the perfect introduction to Buddhism if, like me, you are a complete novice. The first hour is spent in ´study´ and discussion. We chat through issues such as materialism in modern society, fear of death and dying, karma, how to understand the human condition, emotions and negative attachments. The second part of the evening is for guided meditation which follows the Buddha Shayamuni practice which involves visualisation, chanting and sitting meditation based on the historical Buddha. Although I still feel very nervous as a westerner taking part, creating that stillness in my mind always helps me to feel much calmer and more grounded. These Tuesday evenings certainly help me get through busy stressful days.
It’s helped me to find clarity and compassion at a difficult time. I don’t think I’ll be converting to this beautiful faith anytime soon (although I’d never say never), but it has had a profound effect on me. If you are going through a difficult time, I would sincerely recommend visiting.
So, why is it then, that few Doncastrians know about this incredible place on our doorstep? Is it because of austerity, Brexit, failing high streets, Spice and substance misuse in our communities are all distracting us from how truly amazing our town is? Are we too busy moaning about our everyday woes on social media to realise what we have?
Taking to Lama Oser, I discussed the idea of apathy in Doncaster. He says that although our country is very rich people can be “very lacking inside” and that “people think that the material world will bring us peace but it doesn’t”. He says with practice and mediation we learn to quieten our mind, then we can start to find our true Buddha nature that is rich hearted and full of compassion.
So, if you are reading this feeling, stressed out and fed up with the modern world, maybe it’s time to head up to Gomde. Set the sat nav for DN7 6DT and turn off at Harry’s Fish Bar in Dunsville, you’ll find yourself in another world.
“We want everyone in whatever way they want, to be part of this international centre for study and meditation” – Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche
Please telephone beforehand to make an appointment and check someone will be available to show you around and explain our activities. Call 01302 842 503 or email firstname.lastname@example.org