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.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

United Nation's International Women's Day Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards

The 2011 Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards will be held Friday, March 4, 2011

Program for March 4

at the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women: Bangkok, Thailand

Program for the OWBA Forum March 5 &6

International Women’s Day, March 8th

International Women's Day is an occasion marked by women’s groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. At each of the five United Nations branches in the world, there is an honoring of the day and across the world at universities, schools and educational institutions the day often expands into a week or even a month focusing on the accomplishments of women.

When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.

Few causes promoted by the United Nations have generated more intense and widespread support than the campaign to promote and protect the equal rights of women. The Charter of the United Nations, signed in San Francisco in 1945, was the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality as a fundamental human right.

Part of an international movement calling for change and celebrating the acts of courage and determination by women in the history of Buddhism

Outstanding Women in Buddhism 2010

In conjunction with this year UN's International Women's Day, 11 women were honoured by the Outstanding Women In Buddhism for their contributions to the advancement of Buddhism and spiritual life of women. The awards presentation ceremony was held at the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women in Don Muang, Thailand on March 5, 2010.

1. Bhiksuni Dr Zhiru Ng ( Singapore )
Bhiksuni Dr Zhiru Ng is an associate professor and chair of Religious Studies at Pomona College in California. An expert in Mahayana Buddhism in China, her interdisciplinary research includes the Dizang cult of the mediaeval Chinese period, or the Tzu Chi movement of the modern age.

2. Bhikkhuni Dhamma Vijjani ( Thailand )
A former architect, Bhikkhuni Dhamma Vijjani, 51, teaches meditation at her retreat centre, Dhamma Abode, in Uthai Thani province. Fluent in English, French and German, she is also active in many translation projects for Buddhism.

3. Maechee Aree Kieatthubthew ( Thailand )
Maechee Aree Kieatthubthew, 50, is a well respected meditation teacher. Her positive approach to life, as well as her excellence in teaching meditation and yoga have brought her international reputation. Now, Maechee Aree lives and practises in the northeast of Thailand on a mountain, along with other female practitioners.

4. Ms Sato ( Japan )
Ms Sato is now raising five children at a small temple in the mountains of her hometown, and uses her spare time to paint, write books and compose music to celebrate the peaceful spirit of Buddhism. Her paintings have been displayed at the Olympic Museum in Xiamen City, China.

5. Asst Prof Nartruedee Dendoung ( Thailand )
Asst Prof Nartruedee Dendoung, 54, teaches Health Sociology and Feminism at the Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities at Mahidol University. She has also been active in policy advocacy for gender equality, as well as being personally engaged in many projects to improve the health and livelihoods of marginalised women and children in remote areas.

6. Bhiksuni Dr Karuna Dharma ( US )
Bhiksuni Dr Karuna Dharma was ordained in 1976, making her the first fully-ordained woman in the US. Together with her teacher, Vietnamese Bhiksu Dr Thich Thien-An, they have established the International Buddhist Meditation Centre in Chua Vietnam - the first Vietnamese/US temple - as well as the University of Oriental Studies. She is also a founding president of Sakyadhita, an organisation that supports the revival of Theravada Bhikkhuni ordination. An abbess of the International Buddhist Meditation Centre, she has written several books on Buddhism and is active in inter-faith and inter-sectarian Buddhist work.

7. Bhiksuni Ming Yu ( Taiwan )
After many years of sharing Buddhist teachings with youths as well as counselling juvenile prisoners, Bhiksuni Ming Yu was fully ordained in 2006. Given her long-standing dedication and high integrity, she was elected as president of the Taipei Bodhi Buddhist Society, and later as the secretary-general of the Chinese Young Buddhist Association.

8. Dr Tashi Choedron ( Malaysia )
Dr Tashi Choedron, an environmental sociologist and Tibetan Buddhist nun, has coordinated several social development/sustainable livelihood projects for indigenous communities. She balances her spiritual life with volunteer work in service of conservation and Buddhism. She has written two books and several articles on community-based conservation.

9. Dr Varaporn Chamsanit ( Thailand )
Dr Varaporn Chamsanit conducts research and has written extensively on women in Buddhism in Thailand, as well as on human rights for the marginalised. Apart from being acting director of the Office of Human Rights Studies & Social Development at Mahidol University, Dr Varaporn is also a board member of the Foundation for Women and the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women.

10. Supaporn Asavachaichan, Thailand
Supaporn Asavachaichan teaches Buddhist economics at Silpakorn University and is highly respected for her use of Buddhist perspectives to analyse the roots of economic problems, particularly the current global economic crisis.

11 Vanerath Sornprasit ( Thailand )
Born and raised in southern Thailand, Vanerath Sornprasit taught at university level and became a business woman before being ordained as a white-robed nun in her quest to seek the true meaning of life. After finding the answers in the teachings of the late philosopher, Krishnamurti, she returned to a lay life, co-founded the Anveekshana Foundation to disseminate Krishnamurti's works, as well as set up the Stream Garden Retreat in the lust woods as a place for group and individual contemplation.

Outsanding Women in Buddhism Awards


Venerable Bhikkhuni Rattanavali, Founder
Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards Committee

81/38 Mu 6 Ban Nern Soutong Road

Tapong, Amper Mueng, Rayong 21000

Tel: (66) 089-739-1693 (Thai)
Tel: (66) 085-173-8737 (English)
Fax: (66) 02-929-2090

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