Within the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas rests the inspiring central figure of Yum Chenmo. She is also known as The Great Mother of Transcendent Wisdom. One thousand Montana-made images of the Buddha, arranged in the shape of an eight-spoked Dharma wheel, encircle Yum Chenmo. In addition to the thousand Buddhas, one thousand stupas surmount the two exterior throne walls, creating the outer rim of the Dharma wheel, or Dharmachakra. This is a meaningful ancient symbol from India which has come to be associated with the Buddha’s teachings (dharma) when he “turned the wheel (chakra),” setting in motion the teachings on the path to liberation and enlightenment. The dharma wheel literally represents the wheel of transformation; spiritual change; the turning toward awakening. The directions in which the eight spokes radiate represent the Buddhist noble eight-fold path of right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
Yum Chenmo/Prajnaparamita/The Great Mother Seated at the center point of the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is the 24-foot tall figure of Yum Chenmo, or Prajnaparamita in Sanskrit meaning Transcendent Perfection of Wisdom. She is depicted in feminine form because it is this perfect wisdom which gives birth to all of the Buddhas, as well as the bodhisattvas, those who are striving for enlightenment to benefit all beings. Yum Chenmo represents the union of primordial wisdom and the skillful means of compassion.
One Thousand Buddhas According to the Buddhist texts, we are living in an enormous cycle of time known as The Fortunate Aeon. It is fortunate because it is believed that one thousand Buddhas will take birth, attain enlightenment, and teach the path to liberation. Of these one thousand, the Buddha of our particular time, Shakyamuni, is only the fourth to have descended on Earth. It is further explained that all of the one thousand Buddhas will attain enlightenment at the site now known as BodhGaya, in India. Montana’s Garden of One Thousand Buddhas embodies the pure reflection of Bodh Gaya to benefit those who may never have the chance to travel to India.
One Thousand Stupas The stupa is one of the world’s oldest architectural forms. Originally constructed as reliquaries to honor the remains of great kings and warriors, evolving in sophistication since the time of Shakyamuni Buddha stupas have enshrined the relics of enlightened masters. The one thousand stupas which encircle the garden are in the style known as the stupa of enlightenment. Each element, from the base to the tip of the spire, represents an aspect of the path to enlightenment, collectively symbolizing the mind of awakening. Each of these one thousand stupas also enshrine an image of the female deity Tara, serving as a potent reminder that spiritual liberation is equally the birthright of all beings.