Discover the Garden of One Thousand Buddha’s in Montana

Ewam Garden of One Thousand Buddha's
© Goswick Photography/Shutterstock.com

Written by Telea Dodge

Published: November 13, 2023

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Human beings experience spirituality in a number of ways. In fact, our faith drives us to erect statues and monuments, worship in churches and temples, and go on long pilgrimages to holy lands. We are communal creatures, and we want to share our faith and spirituality in ways that evoke wonder and faith in others. In Montana, this is exemplified by a place that rests in the Jocko Valley on the western side of the state. The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas wears many hats. It is a botanical garden, but also a public park. Further, it acts as a Buddhist center and a place of peace. Today we’re going to learn a little bit about this garden. First, we need to explore some of its history.

History

Ewan Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, Arlee, MT.

One row of buddhas at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. There are eight rows of concrete Buddha statues in the garden.

©Patrick Ryan/Shutterstock.com

The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas began its journey in the year 2000. This place is the result of a prophetic dream. It was founded by the dreamer – Gochen Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche. He is a Tibetan master and the founder of Ewan International. The dream came to him as a child and followed him through his life. When he saw the lands that would become the garden, he claimed he chose the location as soon as he laid eyes on it. A member of Ewam International purchased it and donated it to the organization. This stretch of land spans about 10 acres, with the monument section taking up over 750 square feet of this area. As soon as the lands were purchased and donated, construction began.

Construction included the casting of over 1,000 statues out of concrete. 450 of these statues reached completion by 2010. By 2016, the park and monument were inaugurated. It stands today as a free spiritual destination. The design is meant to bring light to a soul that lives in a world full of darkness. The grounds now act as a garden, a park, a monument, and a Buddhist center.

Where Is Garden of One Thousand Buddhas on a Map?

The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is outside Arlee, Montana. This location is in the western side of Montana in the beautiful Jocko Valley. It is north of Arlee and Missoula, situated to the east of Highway 93. The site rests on Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal lands on the Flathead Reservation. This location is beautiful and sacred. It lies south of Flathead Lake, east of Lolo National Forest, and southwest of Glacier National Park. Let’s look at its exact location on a map.

How far is this sacred place from nearby cities? Let’s look at a table of well-known cities in Montana to get a better idea of travel distances.

CityDistanceEstimated Travel Time
Missoula29.2 miles31 minutes
Whitefish109 miles1 hour and 59 minutes
Billings373 miles5 hours and 27 minutes
Bozeman231 miles3 hours and 21 minutes
Helena142 miles2 hours and 10 minutes

Features of the Garden

Ewam Garden of One Thousand Buddha's

Each statue carries its own meaning and works to highlight a larger picture on the path to spiritual enlightenment.

©Goswick Photography/Shutterstock.com

The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas has a lot of distinct features. One statue, a depiction of Yum Chenmo, is the central figure of the garden. She is hailed as “The Great Mother of Transcendent Wisdom”. This is the largest of all of the statues that rest in the garden. Next, there are one thousand Montana-made statues depicting the Buddha. They are carefully arranged in the shape of a Dharma wheel, and they circle Yum Chunmo. In addition to the one thousand Buddhas, there are also 1,000 stupas – dome-shaped structures erected as Buddhist shrines. These stupas make up the exterior rim of the Dharma wheel. The entire piece is associated with the teachings of the Buddha, in the shape of a wheel. This wheel represents a path to enlightenment being set in motion.

Let’s take a look at each of these features and what they represent.

Symbolism

Each part of the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is important and symbolic. They also all tie together to create a wider message.

Yum Chenmo

This statue is 24 feet in height. Not just for size, she is the centerpiece of the garden, and her image carries a lot of meaning, which begins in her names. In fact, she has a number of names, including “Prajnaparamita”, which means “Transcendent Perfection of Wisdom” in Sanskrit. Depicted in the feminine form, she represents the perfect wisdom that gives birth to the Buddha and to those striving for enlightenment for the benefit of all. Further, she stands to hold and represent the union of skillful compassion and primordial wisdom. She is the mother of the bodhisattvas – ones who can reach nirvana but choose not to in order to help save those in suffering.

One Thousand Buddhas

Buddhist texts point to the concept that we are living in a cycle of time called “The Fortunate Aeon”. The belief states that one thousand Buddhas will be born, achieve enlightenment, and share the holy path in this period. Because of this, the thousand statues are a pure reflection of a holy site in India called the “BodhGaya“. Additionally, they help to represent this long cycle of time and enlightenment and serve as a place of pilgrimage for the Western world.

One Thousand Stupas

Every element of each stupa represents an aspect of the path to enlightenment. Because of this symbolism, these stupas represent an awakened mind and the idea that spiritual liberation is the birthright of all living things. The stupa is ancient – one of the oldest architectural forms in the world.

Visiting the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is a spiritual site near Arlee, Montana, within the Flathead Indian Reservation in Lake County, Montana.

You can visit the garden year-round, but remember to leave your pets at home or in a safe place.

©SarahLRG/Shutterstock.com

This holy site is free to visit and explore, whether you are just curious or on a pilgrimage of your own. Guided tours are available from April until October, but the garden is open year-round. We have shared the hours of the garden directly from Ewam International below.

Garden Open Hours:
Spring (March, April, May: 9am-7pm)
Summer (June, July, August: 9am-9pm)
Autumn (September, October: 9am-7pm)
Winter (November, December, January, February: 9am-5pm)

The address – and parking area – for the garden is:

34756 White Coyote Road
Arlee, Montana 59821

Hosts of the garden ask that you leave your pets at home, or keep them in a safe place outside of the garden. You can explore the garden, participate in a variety of annual events – such as the Tibetan Cultural Festival – or visit the gift store. The site also offers a number of weekend retreats and classes.


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About the Author

Telea Dodge is an animal enthusiast and nature fiend with a particular interest in teaching a sense of community and compassion through interactions with the world at large. Carrying a passion for wild foraging, animal behaviorism, traveling, and music, Telea spends their free time practicing their hobbies while exploring with their companion dog, Spectre.

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