IT is one of the most intriguing stories to resurface in the wake of David Bowie’s death: the tale of how the rock legend almost became a Buddhist monk in Scotland.

Bowie was considering becoming a member of the Samye Ling Monastery in Eskdalemuir, Dumfries and Galloway in the late 1960s, according to reports. But he heeded the advice of a Tibetan monk who advised him to concentrate on music instead.

But how long Bowie spent at the monastery and what he did there has been lost in the mists of time. One obituary even claimed he had helped establish Samye Ling, which was set up in 1967 as Britain’s earliest Tibetan centre and Buddhist temple.

Ken Holmes, director of studies at Samye Ling, who has been based at the monastery since 1971, told the Sunday Herald there was no-one still at the centre who would have been around at the same time.

He said Bowie had a connection with the Tibetan lamas (high priests) of Samye Ling when they were still in London in the 1960s, before the monastery started, and the musician also attended other Buddhist monasteries.

Holmes said: “Recognising something special in him as an artist, the lamas - some say it was Trungpa Rinpoche, others say Chime Rinpoche - thought it better for him to pursue his music rather than follow a monastic path.

“He became a friend of Chime Rinpoche, who moved away from Samye Ling and set up in Essex, through his director Tony Visconti, who was already a student of Chime.

“The consensus is that he did visit Samye Ling and friends in the area on several occasions but that his main Buddhist connections happened in London and were maintained throughout his life.”

There are few clues from the man himself. In one interview published in 1996, he stated he was he was a member of the Tibet Society in London around 1967 and met a young monk who became his guru for several years.

Bowie said: “I wanted to become part of the order and go up to a Tibetan monastery in Scotland. He advised me not to even consider it. He said my purpose was in music.”

Peter Doggett, author of ‘The Man who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s’, said the most likely time Bowie stayed at the Samye Ling monastery was September and October of 1967.

He said: “He certainly was seriously thinking about becoming a monk. You have to remember he was 20 years old and being overwhelmed by influences in all sorts of directions, so at the time he was deciding to become a monk he was probably also considering becoming a mime artist, a rock star and probably a poet.

“He does seem to have spent a couple of weeks there doing the vows of silence and eating the same food as the monks and doing lots and lots of meditation.

“I think just having the time in the centre in Scotland to stop and think it all through enabled him to decide which way he was going to go.”

Doggett said Bowie’s involvement in Buddhism began to fade out around 1969, but it did trigger a life-long interest in spirituality – which led him to also explore the occult and a fascination with occultist Aleister Crowley.

He said: “In the mid-70s, he was investigating all sorts of things – casting spells and trying to conjure up demons and so on. But he was also taking industrial quantities of cocaine at that point.”

Doggett said it was difficult to know what the notoriously private star believed in the later years of his life. At the Freddy Mercury tribute concert in 1992, Bowie led the audience at London’s Wembley Stadium in the Lord’s Prayer.

“He never gave any evidence he was following one creed or one faith,” he added. “I think he was open to all spiritual interests.”