Is it possible to introduce bhikkhuni
Sangha in Thailand?
The story of a struggle for the revival of bhikkhuni ordination
dates as far back as 1927 when Narin Klueng had his two daughters,
Sara and Chongdi, ordained as bhikkhunis. They were denied from
both levels the
Sangha and the royal family. However, there is a complicated
issue which needs a critical look. Mr Narin Bhasit or commonly
called by local people as Narin Khlueng, was a politician who
was outspokenly critical of the laxity of the Sangha. He tried
to create a group of liberal minded people around him. Apparently
he was quite an advanced social critic of his time. He challenged
both the Sangha and absolute Monarchy. As a result he was an
object of suspicion both from the Sangha and Royal members.
the bhikkhuni Sangha so much so that he offered two of his daughters
to begin by ordaining as samaneris (female novices) then later
on as bhikkhunis. The idea may be right but it was shrouded
by his other political motives resulting in both the Sangha
and the royal family's denial of his attempt to revive the bhikkhuni
Sangha in Thailand.
daughters, along with some other 7 to 8 bhikkhunis who stayed
at Wat Nariwong, on a piece of land donated for religious activities
by Narin Klueng himself, were ordered to disrobe. His two daughters
resisted and were arrested, then put in jail and the robes were
literally removed from them. From this incident, the committee
of the elders passed an order forbidding any bhikkhus to give
bhikkhuni, samaneri, or sikkhamana ordination to women (1928)
This order has not been lifted.
both Sara and Chongdi received ordination only from bhikkhus,
hence not acceptable according to the Thai Sangha. But under
the said circumstance, had their ordination been valid from
dual ordination, they would still have been rejected under other
pretexts because they were Narin Klueng's daughters.
years later Mrs Voramai Kabilsingh, a lady of more or less the
same age as Sara and Chongdi tried to look for a means to be
ordained so as to lead a proper religious lifestyle. But all
the Thai monks she approached confirmed that it is not possible.
She found a Chinese monk (Ven YenKiat) who translated for her
the bhikkhuni Patimokkha of the Dharmagupta school and suggested
that she can still receive bhikkhuni ordination from the Chinese
Sangha in Taiwan. In 1971 she went to receive bhikkhuni ordination
from Tao An Fa Tzu at Sung San Temple in Taiwan. Hence, she
is the first Thai bhikkhuni with full ordination. Upon her return
to Thailand she continued her involvement both in propagating
Buddhism and social commitment e.g. printing press, orphanage,
publication of dharma magazines, etc.
at this particular issue globally, Thai Buddhist women cannot
remain isolated any longer but have to open themselves up to
the development of Buddhist women around the world. In the past
two to three decades Buddhist women internationally have been
moving in unison towards seeking bhikkhuni ordination, seeking
a lifestyle that would make themselves more beneficial to society.
Thailand also is affected by this positive move of Buddhist
the revival of the bhikkhuni Sangha is an ideal laying ahead
of us, but the more immediate concern is to build a foundation
of Buddhist education and training both at an individual level
as well as at the government level, so that we could genuinely
look forward to a time when Buddhists, both men and women, can
work side by side to support Buddhism in their full potential.
lifestyle needs very committed people which will be small in
number, but the opportunity should still be open for those few
who would like to devote themselves to study and practice and
to be spiritual role models for women folk.