The Larkhall attic Margaret turned into a Buddhist shrine (Evening Times, Glasgow, Scotland)

Maureen Ellis, Evening Times, Glasgow: His Holiness the Dalai Lama comes to the SECC in Glasgow on Saturday for the first of four days of teachings on Buddhism.

An expected 10,000 people will attend his public talk, while the Solus Festival at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre in Sauchiehall Street, will hold talks, workshops, meditation and fringe events.

Ahead of Glasgow’s first Buddhist festival, MAUREEN ELLIS talks to three local people who have put their faith in the religion.

Margaret Fergusson’s quiet Larkhall bungalow would be like any other in her street. . . if it wasn’t for the huge buddha that sits outside her home.

Inside, her loft has been converted into a makeshift shrine, which Margaret affectionately calls her rabbit hutch.

The reason for the outsize Buddha and the indoor shrine is that Margaret is a Buddhist – a religion she took up 10 years ago to cope with the daily stresses of her job as a chemist in the Blood Transfusion Service.

“Somebody who didn’t know me recently described me as being quite laid-back,” she says. “I can tell you I wasn’t laid back before.

“I’ve learned to hang loose with things in life – the nice things will happen and the nasty things will happen, and that’s how things are.”

Margaret’s background set her up perfectly for an exploratory life.

Born in wartime Glasgow, yet raised throughout the Hebridean Islands, her family were staunch agnostics who would listen to any idea, provided it could be backed up.

“It was an incredibly argumentative house,” she recalls, “but it was incredibly free – no idea was considered too shocking to broach at the dinner table.”

As a youth, Margaret read Buddhist books brought back from India by her father, who had been involved in war service there.

Later she became involved with humanism and Scottish national politics, but when she enrolled in a class at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre she quickly became hooked.

“When I got there I just felt at home. I was sitting on my first night in my first meditation class, planning how I could extend my stay beyond the eight weeks that I’d signed up for.”

Margaret’s plan succeeded. Today, having retired from her daily job, she not only attends regular classes at the centre but also works as a receptionist on a voluntary basis one day per week.

Describing herself as a visual person, Margaret identifies most with the Tibetan Wheel of Life, an illustration of the essence of Buddhist teachings that provides a ready reckoner of her spiritual status.

She’s currently a Mitra (friend) of the Western Buddhist Order – the interim stage between stating a committed interest in Buddhism and becoming ordained.

As she did in her agnostic family household, Margaret endures light-hearted banter with her husband Iain and two sons, Euan aged 24 and Alan, 22.

Nevertheless, the Buddhist philosophies, while far from being evangelical, must be rubbing off on them – for the whole family will attend the Dalai Lama’s public talk at the SECC.

“None of them are seriously interested in Buddhism, but they’re quite happy to get involved. I think they see me as a bit calmer and more able to withstand the slings and arrows,” says Margaret.

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