There have been many milestone days for the Garden of 1000 Buddhas this summer, but yesterday was particularly momentous. Early in the morning, our concrete crew pulled the forms to reveal the very first “throne wall,” one of the eight spokes of the Garden’s wheel design. Of the Noble Eightfold Path to enlightenment represented by the eight spokes, this throne wall symbolizes Right View. This is the spiritual quality Shakyamuni Buddha said precedes all others.
Isn’t it gorgeous? Now, visualize it with 126 pure white Buddha statues arrayed back to back along its length, the wall itself stained a pleasing color, and walking paths and flower planters landscaped on either side. Now visualize all eight! It’s our goal this (very) short outdoor construction season here in Montana to create all eight throne walls before the onset of cold weather. This would set us up beautifully to finish the major outdoor construction elements next summer.
One element of the Noble Eightfold Path is Right Speech, summarized succinctly by the Buddha’s disciple Shakyamuni:
“And what, friends, is right speech? Abstaining from false speech, abstaining from malicious speech, abstaining from harsh speech, and abstaining from idle chatter—this is called right speech.”
A perfect guideline for the internet, no?
In that spirit, through our Garden of 1000 Buddhas Facebook page, on this auspicious full moon day we have launched an online campaign to sponsor the Right Speech throne wall of the Garden for the benefit of our virtual world!
Between today and the new moon 15 days from now, we’ve created the opportunity for our thousands of online friends to manifest the Right Speech throne wall. If you feel so inspired to join us—and share the opportunity with your friends!—you may either click here to make a secure online contribution (select the “Right Speech Sponsorship” tab in the second donation box under “Dedicated Gifts”) or send a check, writing “Right Speech Sponsorship in the memo line) to “Ewam”, PO Box 330, Arlee, MT 59821.
Thank you so much for supporting Right Speech!
Yesterday marked a major milestone for the Garden of 1000 Buddhas as concrete for the first of the eight throne walls was poured. The throne walls are arrayed as spokes of the Garden’s ‘dharma wheel’ configuration, each representing one aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path to enlightenment as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. They will be the supports for the 1000 Buddha statues, themselves aligned back-to-back along each wall’s 140’ length.
This first wall symbolizes Right View, and was sponsored with devotion by Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche’s students and broader community, who are now going beyond this one wall to sponsor Right Intention.
One of the Buddha’s foremost disciples, Shariputra, summed up Right View in this way:
“And what, friends, is right view? Knowledge of suffering, knowledge of the origin of suffering, knowledge of the cessation of suffering, and knowledge of the way leading to the cessation of suffering—this is called right view.”
Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, in The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, describes Right View in somewhat more modern terms:
“Our happiness and the happiness of those around us depend on our degree of Right View. Touching reality deeply—knowing what is going on inside and outside of ourselves—is the way to liberate ourselves from the suffering that is caused by wrong perceptions. Right View is not an ideology, a system, or even a path. It is the insight we have into the reality of life, a living insight that fills us with understanding, peace, and love.”
The elements of the Garden will be marked with explanatory signs to help visitors connect with the deeper qualities of the symbols which resonate with their own basic, authentic goodness.
If you feel inspired to contribute to the Garden’s Eightfold Path throne walls, please click here!
Here at the Garden of 1000 Buddhas we’ve been so busy, that though we’ve been updating our Facebook page pretty regularly, we realize we’ve sorely neglected our blog readers! To make up for this, we’ll tell the story of the Garden’s progress thus far in captioned pictures:
Meanwhile, Nepali artist-in-residence begins the intricate decorative coloration of the Yum Chenmo statue…
…and soon four spokes are done, on which throne walls will be built to hold the 1000 buddha statues.
We recently picked up one of those fascinating historical pamphlets of local lore at the Hangin’ Art Gallery, History of the Jocko Valley Road Names, originally published in 1977 by the Arlee Historical Society. Among the many engrossing nuggets, one in particular stood out since it concerns White Coyote Road, along which the Garden of 1000 Buddhas is being built. First, it’s explained that while the road is named after Nicolai White Coyote, he and his family actually lived far to the south. But then it continues:
“It does happen though that a focal point in the [Pen D’Oreille] Indian Coyote legend is located near the road on a flattened-out butte which runs between it and Dumontier Road to the south. This odd formation represents the heart of the dragon which Coyote succeeded in killing before he [the dragon] had destroyed all the animals in the Jocko Valley by swallowing them alive. By using great cunning Coyote voluntarily entered the dragon-monster’s mouth, and traveling down to his heart, pierced it with a larch pole which he had taken in with him. Later he threw the pole down and it took root, to grow on the top of the butte until 1918 when some unwitting person cut it down for firewood and brought a curse of misfortune upon himself by so doing. In the legend, the belly of the dragon was the Jocko Valley, his jaws were the bluffs between Ravalli and Dixon, and his tail was the Coriacan Defile (Evaro Hill). After all the animals were freed from the dragon’s stomach…Coyote tossed the heart away with a mighty heave which landed it on the side of the mountain above Agency Creek where it is still plainly visible today. Old timers watch the heart up there to check the water run-off because when the snow is gone from it high water is over.”
Here’s a very different version of the story, with very cool details.
It’s an honor to be creating this sacred garden in a place already so deeply blessed with Coyote’s wisdom and clever skill.
One of the joys of creating the Garden of 1000 Buddhas is that its compassionate intention seems to appeal to the basic good qualities of visitors from around the world, no matter whether they’re engaged in a formal spiritual path or not. Of course, this is also the appeal of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who draws crowds in their tens of thousands wherever he goes to spread his message of loving-kindness.
Thus, it was a great joy to welcome a delegation from the Tributary Fund this past Tuesday, on an Environmental Education Tour of Wyoming and Montana, that included monks and officials from Mongolia and Bhutan, to explore our projects and help us celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 75th birthday.
The morning was devoted to a trip north to the Namchak Retreat Land, to hear from Lama Tsomo and Brandon Sheehan about innovative plans to restore the ecological integrity of the former cattle ranch and develop a place for long-term meditation retreat in as sustainable and low-impact a way as possible.
Returning to Ewam in Arlee, the delegation got a taste of creating the buddha statues and were impressed by the array already completed and stored in the ‘Buddha Barn.’
The day culminated in a most festive way, with nearly 100 people gathered for chanting, a food and candlelight offering, and birthday-cake-and-ice-cream-sharing especially to honor His Holiness the Dalai Lama and express the collective wish for his continued long life. With Tibetans, Mongolians, Bhutanese, and Americans of all stripes gathered together on such an occasion at a Buddhist center in rural Montana, the local media also found this compelling. The event made the front page of The Missoulian (with online-only video at the link) and the 10pm news broadcast of Missoula’s KPAX. Thanks to both for making the journey up!
Under a perfectly clear blue dome of big Montana sky, the afternoon sun bathing Yum Chenmo in golden light, Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche conferred the Refuge and Bodhisattva Vows upon an assembly of more than 100. He also offered the empowerment of Green Tara, explaining as he did so that the three ceremonies afforded entry into the three levels of the Buddhist path: outer, inner, and secret. Prior to the empowerment, he also told the story of Tara, which felt compelling enough to recount here. Tara figures prominently in the creation of the Garden of 1000 Buddhas, as an image of the Savioress will be enshrined in each of the 1000 stupas that will form the Garden’s outer perimeter. Here is Tara’s story:
It seems that many eons ago, beyond counting, there was a Buddha named Many Jewels. At one gathering of his monks and lay followers, he was approached by a princess of the land, Yeshe Dawa—Wisdom Moon—who in his presence first aroused bodhicitta, the intention to seek enlightenment for the welfare and liberation of all sentient beings, and took the vow before him to enact this aspiration.
Afterward, some of the monks approached Yeshe Dawa. They praised her intention, but offered their opinion that she would be much better suited to benefit beings in a male form, and that she should also pray to be reborn as a man. Yeshe Dawa was taken aback by this; such ideas did not agree with her understanding of the Buddha’s teaching that all beings equally have the potential to attain enlightenment.
Yeshe Dawa was confident in her understanding and of strong character, so she formed the opposite aspiration: she vowed to be reborn only in female form in order to effect beings’ liberation that way and counteract such low, chauvinistic notions. And so she did, sincerely and diligently practicing the path to enlightenment in female incarnation after female incarnation. One of these lifetimes was in the presence of another Buddha named Ratnasambhava. It was he who declared that her name should be Tara, “She Who Liberates,” and that’s how she has come to be known in her enlightened appearance.
On the Buddhist path, one’s form is irrelevant. It is one’s determination to be free of the unenlightened cycle of suffering, as well as one’s compassionate concern for the welfare of others, that are of paramount importance.
One of the intentions for the Garden of 1000 Buddhas is that it be a deeply blessed and pure power spot for the transmission of Buddhist teachings. Such activity has already begun, and continues this Sunday, June 13, at 4PM when Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche will confer the traditional Refuge and Bodhisattva Vows, as well as a Green Tara empowerment with Tsok offering ceremony, in front of the Garden’s central symbol of transcendent wisdom, the Yum Chenmo statue. This will be Tulku Sang-ngag’s only public teaching event during his current residency at Ewam Sang-ngag Ling. All are welcome – here are directions to the Garden site.
And here are some details about the elements of the teachings and ceremonies to be conducted:
Refuge Vows: The refuge vows are based on seeking refuge from samsara in the 3 jewels: the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Refuge vows are common to all traditions of Buddhism and are often said to be the dividing point between Buddhist and non-Buddhist.
Bodhisattva Vows: Bodhisattva vows are based on making the committment that, “As long as space remains and as long as sentient beings remain, so too shall I remain and dispell the miseries of the world.” These vows are the foundation of the Mahayana Buddhist path. Tulku Sang-ngag holds both primary lineages of the Bodhisattva vows and is renowned globally as a true Bodhisattva.
Green Tara Empowerment and Tsok offering ceremony: Tara is the feminine divine in the Tibetan tradition. The Vajrayana or tantric Buddhist practices of Tibet include the transmission and empowerment of yogic deity practices from master to disciple. These practices include commitments to the teacher and practice offered. The Tara empowerment can also be taken as a blessing without any obligation to maintain. Following the empowerment or initiation there will be a feast offering or ‘tsok.’
If you plan to take vows please bring a monetary donation that you’re comfortable with and flowers and food offerings for the Tara empowerment and tsok. Look forward to seeing you.
Call the Ewam office with questions and to RSVP: 406.726.0555.
A vision as profound as that of the Garden of 1000 Buddhas that would inspire none other than His Holiness the Dalai Lama to agree to perform its consecration must have a significant individual behind it. That individual is our lama Gochen Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche, who will be in residence at Ewam in Arlee, Montana, from June 3-14 and speaking about the Garden vision at a June 3rd benefit in Missoula.
When Tulku Sang-ngag was first looking at land with students in western Montana for a possible Buddhist center, he was amazed when they stopped at the property in the Jocko Valley they eventually purchased. As he gazed around at the landscape, it was exactly like a vivid dream he had had as a child in Tibet: the property nestled in the valley like the heart of a lotus flower with the mountain ranges arrayed as eight petals of the lotus. This kind of geographic arrangement is considered extremely auspicious in Tibetan Buddhism.
Tulku Sang-ngag envisioned the Garden of 1000 Buddhas as a western reflection of Bodh Gaya in India. That is not only the holy site of Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment, but predicted as the site where all the 1000 Buddhas of this ‘Fortunate Eon’—Shakyamuni Buddha being only the fourth—will attain enlightenment. Originally Shakyamuni Buddha was to be the central figure in the Arlee Garden, but after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Tulku Sang-ngag felt strongly that the central figure should be Yum Chenmo, the ‘Great Mother’ who symbolizes the ultimate wisdom that gives birth to perfect compassion. This 25’ statue has been completed and will be painted and decorated by expert artisans this summer.
The Garden of 1000 Buddhas, as Tulku Sang-ngag sees it, will be a place of pilgrimage where visitors can connect deeply with their own innate qualities of wisdom, compassion, and peacefulness. If you’re in western Montana, or know folks who are, we encourage you to hear from Tulku Sang-ngag in person this Thursday evening at Missoula’s Florence Building. If you live elsewhere, please consider supporting the Garden of 1000 Buddhas with a contribution. This is a critical juncture when we’re marshaling the resources necessary to accomplish all of the infrastructure work for the Garden during Montana’s very short outdoor construction season. Thank you!
Hot off the presses, here’s the poster for the upcoming June 3 Gala Garden Benefit in Missoula, MT. If you can’t make it, please consider a donation. We’re marshaling resources to take advantage of Montana’s too-short construction season. But if you’re able, we’ll see you there!
Welcome to The Eight-spoked Wheel, the blog for the new website of Arlee, Montana’s Garden of 1000 Buddhas and HH the Dalai Lama’s anticipated visit to perform its consecration. Please bookmark or subscribe to the feed of The Eight-spoked Wheel to catch the latest news, photos, and more in-depth stories during the Garden’s development. Be sure to take a moment to click around the new site, created as an offering by Bozeman’s Catch & Release Graphics and Radd Icenoggle. We welcome your feedback in the comments! Expect constant additions and improvements.
Why “The Eight-spoked Wheel”? This will be the configuration of the Garden of 1000 Buddhas, as envisioned by Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche on his land at Ewam Sang-ngag Ling. It is one of Buddhism’s most ancient symbols, representing Shakyamuni Buddha’s original “turning of the wheel of dharma,” detailing the eight-fold path, a way of life that can free anyone beyond suffering in the state of enlightenment. Moreover, we chose today, the holy day celebrating the birth of the Buddha, as the time to unveil the new site and felt it was most appropriate.
May we all work together in great joy to bring this sacred Garden into being and soon welcome the supremely auspicious visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama!