Thailand's Rich and Ancient History of Women in Buddhism

Thailand has a rich and ancient history of women in Buddhism, from the 3rd century BCE, when Asokan-era arahant missionaries Sona and Uttara Thera came from India to the ancient land of Suvarnabhumi first sharing the Buddha's teaching, ordaining more than 3,000 noble men and 1,500 noble women as bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. This was the foundation of Buddhism in Thailand, where Buddhism is still very much alive and flourishing to this day, with more than 90% of the population being Buddhists of the Theravada School. Thailand also has many Chinese-Thai Mahayana Buddhists, and an old and recently reviving history of Vajrayana Buddhism. The ancient land of Survarnamubhumi or Suvannabhumi in the Pali-Buddhist language -- the Land of Gold -- used to include all of Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and the South of Vietnam and China.

This blog showcases a little of the immense wealth of the rich heritage and history of Thailand's Buddhist women - and of all of the Thai people and culture - from ancient to modern times. We hope you enjoy your Women in Buddhism Tour here and during your stay in Thailand!

(If you enjoy this blog, please be sure to read the "Older Posts" - click link at the bottom of this page. Most more recent posts are focused around Bangkok and Ayutthaya. Older posts are mostly from further afield upcountry in Thailand's Northeast and Northwest.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Memorial Hall of Khun Yai Ajahn - founder of Dhammakaya International

Khun Yai Ajahn Maha Ratana Upasika Chandra Khonnokyoong was a Thai Buddhist upasika and nun (maechee) who founded one of Thailand's and the world's largest contemporary Buddhist organizations - Dhammakaya International.

Loung Por Sod

She was a meditation and Dhamma student in the tradition of Dhammakaya meditation master Loung Por Sod (Phra Mongkolthepmuni) who named her as the foremost of his students; she then becoming one of the world's most widely followed contemporary Buddhist teachers. The Dhammakaya Chedi or chetiya was built in her teacher's honor and named after him.

The Dhammakaya Chetiya
is clad with one million personal images of the Buddha

Khun Yai was born in 1909 and passed away in the year 2000 at the age of 91 after engaging in extensive meditation practice, Dhamma teaching and great acts of merit, including the construction of Wat Phra Dhammakaya (Wat Voranee Dhammakayaram), the largest temple/monastery in Thailand with more than 3,000 monks, nuns and laymen and laywomen in residence. The temple's foundation stone was layed in 1977 by HRH Princess Mahacakri Siridhorn on behalf of His Majesty the King of Thailand.

Khun Yai Ajahn's memorial monument, a great pyramid hall, is located at the main Dhammakaya center in Pathumthani just north of Bangkok. One hundred thousand monks from 30,000 temples around Thailand together with very many lay students participated in her memorial service.

Temple and pyramid-shaped Memorial Hall to Khun Yai

You can find photos of her memorial and the construction of her memorial hall here. There is also a welcome page for international visitors here. A biographical video of her life can be seen here.

The Dhammakaya Movement founded by Khun Yai Ajahn and her student Loung Por Dhammajayo has founded meditation centers in eighteen countries with millions of people in Thailand and internationally practicing Dhammakaya meditation, which is promoted by a Buddhist satellite network called Dhamma Media Channel with 24-hour a day meditation teachings broadcast to its audience worldwide.

lunch in the world's largest Dhamma Hall

The Dhammakaya Movement has also produced a CDROM of the Tipitaka in conjunction with the Pali Text Society in the year 1995, and by the year 2000 (the year that Khun Yai Ajahn passed away), Wat Phra Dhammakaya's students were the most successful Pali students in Thailand.

Candlelight Mahapuja

Read more about the Master Nun Founder of the Dhammakaya Temple here.

at Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Patthumthani

1 comment:

  1. Jan 2011 article on the group at:,16

    Not a nice article, but the photos are gorgeous.