Prior to getting the name of Lesmahagow it was once known as Abbeygreen meaning Monastery Garden. It is believed that an earlier 6th century Culdee church (a Celtic sect, deriving its name from ‘ceile de or servus de’ meaning Servant of God) had existed in the village of Abbeygreen. This church is thought to have been a wooden structure built by the followers of the Irish Missionary St. Brendan. One of his followers was later to be known as St. Machutes. Together they supposedly evangelized the Orkney Islands and the northern isles of Scotland.
The name Lesmahagow (1st mentioned in a document dated 1144 AD) is possibly a corruption of "Church of St Machutus". The saint was born in Wales and may originally have been known as "Mahagw" prior to emigrating to Brittany where he became known by the Latinised form of the name and also as "St Malo". He remained the patron saint of Lesmahagow until 16th century Reformation.
On the same site, the Priory Church of St. Machutus was founded in 1140 by King David. It was run by the monks of the Order of Tiron (1105 AD). This Order followed a simplified liturgy, attracting lay artisans to spiritual life whilst allowing them to stay within the secular world. In a similar mood, the present day Hare Krishna monks practice and teach ‘simple living and high thinking’, a way of life suitable to both monastic and civilian lifestyles.
King David 1st also granted the right of sanctuary to Lesmahagow. This privilege was only sparingly conferred by the king. The privilege which Lesmahagow possessed of being a sanctuary would no doubt speedily attract a crowd of persons who fled from their enemies and avengers. All obtained the King's firm peace and protection who fled to the said cell, or came within the four crosses standing around it, except those guilty of murder and dismembering.
The thing that has not changed with the times is the spirit of the people of Lesmahagow who, akin to the monks of Lesmahagow, continue to offer friendship to the weary traveller.
Continuing the tradition, Karuna Bhavan is providing a “Sanctuary of Peace” for its visitors from anxiety, stress and similar present day challenges through education, lectures, seminars, retreats, devotional service and volunteering opportunities at the Krishna eco-farm.
Situated in Lesmahagow, adjacent to the M74 Glasgow to Carlisle Road, 21 miles south of Glasgow and 70 miles north of Carlisle, Karuna Bhavan can be reached easily by car or public transport.