WORSHIPPERS from all over Britain came to Helensburgh last weekend to take part in a special ceremony at the town's Buddhist meditation centre.

Visitors from as far afield at Manchester and London travelled to the Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple in Charlotte Street for the annual Kathina celebration.

The event was held as the Thai monks who live at the temple prepare to mark the second anniversary of the establishment of the centre at the former Park Church on the corner of East King Street.

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The day included meditation sessions and the presentation of robes, food and other essentials of day-to-day living to the monks who are resident at Scotland's first – and, so far, only – Dhammakaya temple.

There was also a delicious lunch of sweet and savoury Thai food enjoyed by the monks, worshippers, local volunteers, visitors and others who use the temple's facilities for martial arts and tai chi classes.

One of the temple's local volunteer supporters, Jayne Kelly, told the Advertiser: “The monks are just so keen to be part of the community in Helensburgh.

“I used to go to meditation classes in Glasgow but I've been helping as a volunteer ever since the temple was set up two years ago, right on my doorstep.

“The monks are desperate to bring in more people as volunteers and as students at the meditation classes, and to be involved more in the life of the community here.”

The Kathina ceremony – held every year in October or November at Dhammakaya temples all over the world – marks the end of a three-month retreat period, coinciding with the Thai rainy season, and is an opportunity for worshippers to thank the monks for their work by giving gifts of alms and new robes.

Key to the Dhammakaya philosophy is the attaining of merit – though the true meaning doesn't translate too well into English, being closer to the almost tangible feeling of positiviity you get when you've done something good or generous.

One of the visitors at Saturday's celebration Martin Fedorski, travelled from his home in Stockport, near Manchester, to be part of the ceremony.

He said: “The Dhammakaya meditation tradition is about bringing your mind to the centre of your body and visualising an image so that other thoughts die away and you experience a real sense of peace and stillness which then spills over into your everyday life.

“I do get that tangible feeling of merit, which is why I've come here all the way from Manchester.

“I've been interested in Buddhism and meditation for about 20 years and I've been going to the Manchester temple for about five years now.

“I find the Dhammakaya technique the simplest and most effective of the ones I've tried.

“Evey though I can't understand much of what they're saying, the Thai community is so welcoming.

“It has a great sense of community. It feels like a family to me.”

Jayne Kelly added: “It would be great to have more people from Helensburgh come to the temple more often.

“The monks are always so happy and so welcoming, and they're obviously here for the long term – they've invested a lot of money in improving the temple and perhaps if Helensburgh people can see how much work they've put in they'll come along to the temple in greater numbers.”