A Native American reservation in Montana is not the first place one might think to find a Buddhist shrine, but the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas brings more than its share of devotion to the table.
Established as an international center for peace in 2000, the 750-foot circular monument sits on ten acres of rich natural land comprising the garden. The statuary is arranged in the formation of a “wheel of dharma” meant to represent the “Noble Eightfold Path” which encompasses the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Eight symmetrical concrete spokes radiate from a central shrine where a colorful 24-foot statue of Yum Chenmo, the Great Mother, sits in peace. Each of the eight spokes is topped with a portion of the titular thousand Buddha statues, which are constructed of stark, white concrete. When each of the lines of statues is complete they will feature 125 of the meditating figures in perfect symmetry. The inner wheel is surrounded by two semi-circular walls which are themselves already adorned with 1000 identical white stupas, or temple effigies.
The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is meant to represent the 1000 Buddhas that it is believed will actually be born in our religious age, and it may take just as many devoted followers to complete the monument. The site is tended to and being constructed by volunteers who are around halfway finished with casting all of the lauded Buddhas. When they are complete, the garden is expected to receive a visit from the Dalai Lama. Until that day, visitors can still come and relax among more Buddhas than they know what to do with.
Know Before You Go
Driving directions north from Missoula:
From US I-90 N, turn north onto HWY 93. Travel 19 miles north (2 miles past Arlee). Turn East (R) onto White Coyote Road. Continue 1/2 mile. Turn left at 34756 White Coyote Rd. Watch for signs and directions for parking.
Driving directions south of Kalispell:
Take US-93 S about 88 miles until you come to White Coyote Road on your left just past the 20 mile marker.