How does a Buddhist feminist look like? A female monk, who is standing up against the conservative religious establishment in Thailand?
Ever since I had heard about the first fully ordained Thai Theravada nun some 5 or 6 years ago I wanted to meet her. Finally on my latest travels through Thailand this wish came true, and I managed to visit Venerable Dhammananda or “Mother Abbess” how she is called by her community in her monastery near Bangkok.
She is somewhat famous in the country – not only as “renegade nun” or “defiant rebel”, who is challenging the interpretation of the tradition by the male Thai Sangha by reintroducing female monks back to Thailand. Before she took the robes she was a philosophy scholar at a Bangkok university with her own talk show about Buddhist practices on Thai television.
After this the early years following her ordination in Sri Lanka 2003 were certainly not easy. She was facing harsh criticism from both laypeople and religious leaders.
I’m curious about this nun: What would be her approach to the Buddhist practice? Is there a particular feminine approach to Theravada Buddhism? The 74-year old Mother Abbess is teaching me through her warm and generous welcome over a cup of tea – not the slightest emphasis of her status or position, but no softening of the Dhamma either. She delivers clear-cut Buddhist teachings with a firm voice and a gentle smile, resolute and humble at the same time.
What I see is a true Bodhisattva wearing the saffron robes with confidence and grace, leading by example. For her it doesn’t matter what the religious leaders say, because she knows what the ancient texts are saying…
Meet Mother Abbess with me on my blog: