8 Jun 2023

By Kasia Stepien

Monastic Tour 2023 – Week Three: Holy Isle Retreat

One Buddha is not Enough Holy Isle retreat 26th to 30th May

56 practitioners from Scottish sanghas gathered with the 8 Plum Village Monastics and 13 Holy isle volunteers to create a beautiful community of Interbeing.

The retreat was organised by Members of the Glasgow Dear Green Sangha, Christine and Sindy with valuable contributions from Susanne Olbrich and everyone who attended.

Getting to Holy Isle requires travel on a Calmac ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick on Isle of Arran and then a short small boat crossing from Lamlash to Holy isle.

The first photo shows Brother Resolve and Sister Tam Muoi accompanying the freshly baked sourdough bread over to the Holy Isle seen in the background.

Holy isle is also home to Wild Eriskay ponies, Soay sheep and Highland goats, all of whom roam wild and free. The birds do not regard humans as a threat so are happy to share a space, creating an unpolluted soundscape of birdsong and animal sounds.

The vegetable gardens provide organic vegetables using manure form the animals and seaweed from the shore.

All of this created a fabulous setting for our retreat. The morning mediations and chanting led by the monastics were followed by mindful movement sessions provided by various members of the retreat. 

After breakfast we all practiced service meditation, in the kitchens, gardens and accommodation. Truly contributing to the smooth running of the centre.

We had 2 insightful Dharma talks from Sister Presence and Brother Generosity and a lively Q and A with all 8 Monastics.

Each day we had nourishing total relaxation sessions and Dharma sharing, sometimes eating in our dharma families. Walking meditation starting with some more mindful movement and lots of singing before walking along the rocky coastline or around the vegetable gardens.

In the evening we had 5 mindfulness Presentations and a ceremony where 5 people received the trainings and many more refreshed their trainings. Another evening we had a Beginning Anew Workshop which enabled everyone to have a direct experience of the practice.

Everyone found the whole experience precious and Nourishing.


Feedback from one of the participants, Peter:

 The 3 days I spent on Holy Isle this past weekend with the sisters and brothers from Plum Village  and the Scottish Sangha are ones I will cherish always. They were truly sacred days spent on a a sacred island. I felt Thay’s presence both in  the beauty of Nature that surrounded us as well as in the hearts of everyone present. There were so many moments of joy and happiness but one in particular will remain in my heart forever. On the Tuesday morning  shortly before we were to catch the ferry over to Aran, we all met in the Dharma hall for the closing circle. Throughout the retreat we had all been captivated by the beauty of Sr One Way’s chanting in Vietnamese. So in the closing circle someone asked her if she could sing one more song. Sr One Way sang a song which had been written by Thay and there was such love in her voice that I was quite overcome by the beauty of her singing. Such a wonderful way to end a beautiful time together on Holy Isle.  

Another participant shared:

This retreat was held by the monastics with a great depth of love, compassion, wisdom and humor.  It was a truly human experience and the monastics were so grounded and authentic in all they brought; the meditations, the dharma talks, the ceremonies and, of course, the wonderful singing!  They each, both collectively and individually, embodied the essence of Thays teachings and helped to weave a deeply nourishing and heart-centered sangha.

Orla shared:

Such a blessed few days on Holy Isle (off Arran) this weekend for a mindfulness retreat with the Plum Village monastics who are journeying around the UK at the moment as part of their “One Buddha is Not Enough” tour. What an incredible place! Much gratitude for the weather, the community there, the beauty of the landscape and gardens, for the singing and quiet spaces, for the gentle soay sheep and eriskay ponies, for the delicious vegan food but most of all what rests in my heart now is the kindness that grew and grew over the course of the weekend as connections where made inside and out, all facilitated by the deep and reverent practice of the monastics.


One participant, Margot wrote a little song:

One Buddha is not Enough

Dear Thay, We hope you’re happy to see

You are continuing beautifully

In these brothers and sisters so full of grace

We can see you singing in every face.

In their smiles and in their eyes

As they walk their talk so loving and wise.

So please join us in celebration

For we are all your continuation.

Dear Thay, you transmitted to us

All your wisdom and your love.

Now we are a flock of doves.

Because… One Buddha is not enough.

One Buddha is not enough


 Louise, wrote this poem:

On searching

I heard there was a blackbird who would eat out of your hand,

With one white stripe along his wing-

And I wanted in.

Every day I searched and searched,

My pockets full of seed

And    d  e  s  p  e  r  a  t  i  o  n 

A lifelong dream…..To have a blackbird friend, but

He wasn’t seen.

Then one day I just forgot to search.

Sitting by the pond alone,

(The one where purple iris grew)




He barely touched my palm, you know – as he took my offering of food, and

It was good

Photos by Sindy Hely, Orla Beaton, Christine Steverson & Dear Green Sangha