The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee, MT is beautifully surrounded by mountain ranges and big skies – and many many buddha statues. I had the opportunity to visit the garden a few days ago in the morning, a time of day I’ve never experienced there before. It was about 25 degrees outside and the statues were thinly coated with a dusting of frost. The garden is the unfolding vision of EWAM, practicing the teachings of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism (to learn more about EWAM and the garden go to http://www.ewam.org). According to their website: the purpose of the garden is to to bring about positive transformation within those who visit, in response to the negativity that abounds in the world today.
What I most appreciate about the garden is the location. Traveling through the tribal lands of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation you turn on White Coyote Road after passing through the small town of Alree. With a population of 636 and local store Hummingbird Toys & Treats, who’s sign tells passersby about their 57 varieties of black licorice, one would not expect that just a few short minutes down the road. past a few hay barns, horse corrals and farmsteads that a large, ornate and delicately painted statue of the Great Mother Yum Chenmo would rise from the fields.
All one thousand buddha statues were hand-cast and are currently being placed on the 8 spokes of the dharma wheel surrounding Yum Chenmo. The wall lining the outer circle is topped with one thousand stupas, representations of the enlightened mind, each enshrining an image of the female deity,Tara. Coming from a Zen based tradition I have different practices than Tibetan teachings, so while I may not understand all of the various meanings of the garden I can connect on the level of peace and compassion that is being cultivated there. The garden has a lot of good medicine to offer.
The other morning myself and some friends did some silent walking meditation around the garden. Each of us took our own path and mine led me to discovering how wonderfully the morning sun shone differently on each row of buddha statues. When my eyes lowered to meet the flower and plant beds I was captivated by the particles of frost that danced over the leaves and petals still holding onto their stems.
The bright blue skies, crisp chill of the autumn morning, white beaming statues of the buddha and magnificent covering of frost more than made up for my reluctancy to get out of bed at 7:00am :)