On a trip to Montana to teach the dharma, Tibetan Buddhist leader Gochen Tulku Sangngag Tenzin Rinpoche recognized a tranquil spot south of Glacier National Park. He had never been there before, but he recalled it from a vision he had had as a child—a peace garden nestled in a mountainous valley—and knew that this is where it belonged.
The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas rests in the Jocko Valley, surrounded by Rocky Mountains reminiscent of the snowcapped Himalayas of Tenzin’s homeland. Seeded two decades ago, it continues to flourish under the care of a Tibetan diaspora within the domain of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on the Flathead Reservation in Arlee, Montana.
Atop the spokes sit 1,000 buddha statues (referencing the 1,000 buddhas prophesied in the Fortunate Eon Sutra); around the rim there are 1,000 stupas, each housing a small image of Tara. At the center lies a twenty-five foot statue of the deity Yum Chenmo (“Great Mother”), who embodies the perfection of wisdom. Destroyed weapons and symbols of war are buried beneath some of the statues, signifying a triumph of compassion over negativity.
A shared vision for a world that respects all life helps the garden continue to grow. “There are a lot of similarities between the respect for the land and balance and the spirit,” says Tom McDonald, chairman of the Salish and Kootenai, about his Tibetan neighbors.
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