Find Your Zen at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

The Garden is focused on bringing positive internal transformation for those who visit

By Micah Drew
The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Nestled in the foothills of the Jocko Valley on the Flathead Indian Reservation is a space of enlightened tranquility. For two decades, this area has housed the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, a contemplative 60-acre retreat cared for by a small Tibetan diaspora. 

Shortly after the turn of the 21st century, the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas was founded by Gochen Tulku Sang-ngag Tenzin Rinpoche, 69, an exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader. Rinpoche also founded Ewam International in 1999, a global nonprofit comprising monasteries, nunneries, and dharma centers, focusing on the preservation and teachings of Buddhism. The Garden is focused on bringing positive internal transformation for those who visit, a counter to the negativity seen throughout the world. 

The Garden is laid out in the shape of an eight-spoked dharma wheel, representing the eight-fold path that leads to enlightenment, according to Buddhist teachings. “True freedom comes from living in a non-harming and compassionate way,” a sign at the entrance to the public park reads. The eight spokes of the wheel are lined with the eponymous 1,002 hand-cast Buddha statues, each representing one of the thousand Buddhas prophesized to appear. The statues were cast over nearly 15 years, with the last one installed seven years ago. 

The center of the dharma wheel is a colorful 25-foot-tall statue of Yum Chenmo, the great mother, a manifestation of compassion and transcendent wisdom. Arrayed around the circumference of the wheel are 1,000 stupas, Buddhist monuments each containing a small statue of the deity Tara, representing the enlightened mind.

Prayer flags flutter in the breeze at The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Visitors to the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas are encouraged to circumambulate the perimeter of the dharma wheel, clockwise, walking around the major statues, around Yum Chenmo, and along the eight spokes. There is also a prayer flag mount overlooking the Buddha Garden where visitors are welcome to visit and hang their own prayer flag with the rest.  

The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas hosts many events each year, including the annual free Festival of Peace each September. In October, the Garden was officially inaugurated in a ceremony that featured a visit from high-ranking Tibetan lama H.H. Rabjam Rinpoche. 

The Garden of 1,000 Buddhas is located at 34756 White Coyote Road in Arlee, and is open to visitors every day beginning at 9 a.m.