Thai Buddhist group tries to reinstate order of woman monks

By Channel NewsAsia's Indo-China Correspondent May Ying Welsh, May 20, 2005

BANGKOK, Thailand -- This Sunday, Buddhists around the world celebrate Vesak Day, also known as Wisakha Bucha Day in Thailand. Buddhists believe it is the day on which three events took place in the life of the Buddha - His Birth, Enlightenment and Final Nirvana.

In the kingdom, a small group of women are challenging the Buddhist authorities by trying to reinstate an ancient and controversial order of monks.

It is 6am in Bangkok and the monks are out on their morning rounds, accepting alms from the community.

There is just one difference - these are women monks, and they say they are the first in Thai history.

The group is headed by Dhammananda, who was ordained two years ago by a Sri Lankan woman monk, as a "Bhikkuni" in the Theravadan tradition.

Bikkhunis were a line of woman monks ordained by the Buddha that died out eight centuries ago, and was recently revived in Sri Lanka.

Here, in a reversal of roles, men bow to Dhammananda, offering food in the hope of gaining merit.

It is something of a breakthrough for a Thai woman to be a religious role model and a spiritual leader.

Dhammananda said: "We never had women taking the leading role in spiritual field so we always look up to male monks as role models, but male monks cannot be role models for women, women do need women to be role models."

But Dhammananda's title is not recognised by Thailand's religious authorities - they only recognise men as monks.

Traditionally, the status of women in Thai Buddhism is lower than that of men's.

Women cannot be in physical contact with monks. When offering alms, they must the food on a cloth, and they are not allowed in certain areas of the monasteries.

Dhammananda said that led to women and girls having low self-esteem.

Dhammananda said: "Women always pray - literally pray - that in the next life I will be born a man. You can be enlightened in a woman's body."

But not everyone believes in her mission.

Thailand's religious authorities said the Bhikkuni order administered under Theravada Buddhism was over, and could never be revived.

Phra Sripariyattimoli, Buddhism Protection Office, said that to change, one needed to correct many things.

He said Theravada would become like Mahayana Buddhism and these could lead to many other changes, including monks being able to have a wife.

Critics said women who wanted to lead an ordained life should simply become nuns.

However, Dhammananda's supporters argued that by not allowing women monks, religious authorities were sending a message to girls and women that Buddhism was not relevant to them.

And they ask where does that leave Thai women?

Dhammananda said: "Why is the door for women to be ordained locked but the door for women to go into prostitution so wide open?

"If we open up the door for women to be ordained, would it help to uplift the woman's status?"

Dhammananda's goal is to create a whole new Bikkhuni lineage and a monastery unlike any other in Thailand - one where women can gather freely.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Omniscient Robotic-Being for Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: