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.)
Founded by Renowned Thai Buddhist Nun Maechee Sansanee
Mae Chee Sansanee Sthirasuta, a Buddhist nun, is the founder and Director of Sathira-Dhammasathan Center, in Bangkok. The Center, under Mae Chee Sansanee’s leadership, believes that Dhamma is holy, when it can be applied in the normal way of living. We also believe that every human being has the potential to live a life that is free from suffering. We believe that people can be different and that, that difference should be respected and accepted.
For the first seven years of her life as a nun, Mae Chee Sansanee studied and practiced meditation with her teacher, which became the foundation of work and ways of living. She started Sathira-Dhammasathan in the year 1987, filling a plot of barren land with trees and ponds, with the intention to make the Center a community place of learning, where people learn to let go of their ignorance and be happy in doing their duty for the betterment of the world. Meditation and Dhamma discourses were the major activities in the first few years and the suffering that Mae Chee noticed and heard from the people attending these courses; led her into other projects, touching the lives of those that suffer and those that originate the suffering. The trail led her through all walks of life, from the rich and successful to the convicts in prisons, from happy families to abused and deserted mothers.
Her remarkable teachings and humanitarian efforts to help break the cycle of violence in communities soon caught the attention of the Thai Government, which has since appointed her in several important and influential positions. In all her work, Mae Chee Sansanee uses Dhammato bring peace, harmony, respect and open heart, without discrimination or bias into the chaotic world of high power meetings.
Mae Chee Sansanee’s compassion, teachings and projects caught the attention of organizations in other countries and she has been frequently invited to attend well known and widely accepted summits in several countries, as the country representative of Buddhist ordained women, a nun. Where ever and when ever Mae Chee Sansanee goes, she brings with her, peace, compassion and her unconditional love, which shines brightly and touches the hearts of other attendees. Currently, she is Co-Chair for the Global Peace Initiative of Women an organization committed to engaging in inter-faith dialogue as a means of creating world peace, and dedicated to creating both inner and outer peace and harmony in "hot-spots" around the world. As a message of motherhood she works to support youth around the world, as a co-worker with the Global Peace Initiative of Women and the UNDP, preparing for the Global Youth Leadership Summit in 2006.
In this intimate and moving portrait of her life story, we take a Walk of Wisdom with Mae Chee Sansanee. For the first time, Mae Chee Sansanee shares her life, her work, and her wisdoms, and takes us on a journey from her former days as a top ten model to her life as a nun, and her every day activities of helping others and living a life of peace and true beauty that really does come from the heart.