Some of the most profound Buddhist teachings are given through gestures and signs, rather than words. Buddha Shakyamuni empowered Mahakashyapa, the founder of the Zen tradition, merely by showing him a flower. Perhaps for Mahakashyapa seeing a flower was enough for him to “wake up” and “get it”…but these days we might need a whole garden.
Fortunately, we have a teacher who is transmitting the Buddha’s mind through the gesture right now in North America, where we materialistic, speedy power players may need these teachings the most. Gochen Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche is an accomplished master in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. While maintaining his centers in Nepal, Tulku Sang ngag has been teaching in the West since 1996.
Tulku Sang ngag was born in Kham in 1954 and was recognized as the Sixth Gochen Tulku, and received full dharma training early on. After the Chinese invasion he spent ten years in prison. Following his release, Tulku Sang ngag founded his first western center, Ewam, in Arlee, Montana, about 30 miles from Missoula.
In addition to recovering precious texts lost in the invasion, he has been presenting the full range of teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. Known for his ability to distill a vast range of teachings to the most essential points in an extremely engaging way, Rinpoche has presented his main gesture at Ewam: The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. It will cover about thirty of Ewam’s eighty acres.
The land at Ewam resembles a huge lotus with a large, rounded knoll centrally located in a flat valley floor, dotted with Prairie Coneflower, Indian Paintbrush and other wildflowers, and completely surrounded by a ring of high foothills several miles away.
Rinpoche said a vision of this land came to him in a dream long ago. When he saw this particular parcel he recognized it as right for a garden dedicated to the legend of one thousand Buddhas who will appear in our eon. He decided to build a garden rather than a monastery because, while monasteries have great value for learning, a garden can encourage a wider range of people to propagate peace.
Here, Yum Chenmo resides. She is 26 feet tall and resides, powerful and radiant, as the center of a “dharmachakra” mandala over 500 feet across, with 125 smaller Buddhas residing on each spoke and one black granite Buddha capping spokes in the four cardinal directions. These four are; Shakyamuni, Maitreya, and one for the first and last Buddhas of our era. Extensive landscaping and other features will make this site an invaluable multi-cultural focus and pilgrimage destination apropos to our troubled world.
While this project is still in its early stages, just being near this garden one can actually feel its energy and power. It makes you want to sing and dance and work to make this world a safer, saner place. Who knows when a modern day Mahakasyapa will see this garden and be moved to save our world from destruction? Or maybe no one single person will do this and the garden will inspire us all to take on this task. -J.S.
You can all start now by just reading more about the garden at ewam.org.