A group of Buddhist monks who have converted a former Helensburgh church to a meditation centre say they hope to attract people from all over Scotland to their temple.

The former Park Church in Charlotte Street, which closed in 2015, became the Buddhist Meditation Centre of Scotland in January – and its meditation classes, which only began in late May, have already attracted around 50 people from the local community.

The centre is the first Scottish outpost of the Dhammakaya tradition of Thai Buddhism – and only the fourth in the UK, following in the footsteps of temples in London, Manchester and Newcastle.

The centre holds two 90-minute meditation classes each week – and the temple's senior monk, the Venerable Phramaha Amaro, has praised the welcome he's received from the community since he and his fellow monks moved in in January.

“People always say hello and welcome me when I see them in the streets,” Amaro, dressed in his eye-catching bright orange robe, told the Advertiser.

“I would like to help people in this town who need something to help them to relax.

“I want to open this temple for the public, and allow everyone to come in and learn how to do meditation.

“I'd like to live here as long as I can and do good things for other people. I want to teach them to become a teacher, like me, and to carry on this temple themselves.”

The Helensburgh temple is far from the first Buddhist presence in Scotland – a group of lamas and refugees founded the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery in Eskdalemuir in Dumfriesshire in 1967, now the largest Tibetan Buddhist centre in Western Europe.

And while the Dhammakaya tradition now present in Helensburgh is a very different strand of Buddhism, the guiding principles of making yourself a better person by doing good things for others are as important to Amaro and his colleagues as to any other Buddhist monk.

“As a monk you have to follow the teaching of the Buddha, to try to become a good person and live a better life,” he said.

“We believe meditation has a lot of benefits. It makes you calmer and relaxes your life.

“But I can't control the experience you get from meditation. You have to find the answer yourself – I just lead you to do it in the right way.”

Helensburgh resident Fiona Johnstone, who regularly attends meditation classes at the centre and has helped Amaro and his colleagues settle in to the community, said: “I'm not a Buddhist myself, but I appreciate the good that Buddhism can do for me and for other people and the community.

“What attracts me to Buddhism is that for all our materialism, all our drive, our high expectation and our goal-setting, we have very little happiness, joy or contentment.

“Yet here it's so calm. There's a real warmth, and such a loving atmosphere.

“I think there's a great need for a temple here and in Scotland. I think they've got something to give that we don't have, and I hope they do well.”

The temple's meditation classes are held on Sundays from 4-5.30pm, and on Tuesdays from 7-8.30pm.

“Helensburgh is a beautiful town,” Amaro added, “and I love Scotland – it's wet, but nice!

“Being here is like an adventure. A lot of new things happen every day.”

To find out more about the centre or to arrange to visit, call (01436) 676024, visit www.watscotland.com or see facebook.com/watscot.