i. Temple Philosophy
The members of the temple are known as sangha members, they are bhikkhunis, sikkhamanas and samaneris . They are conscious of their responsibilities:
1. Strengthening Buddhist teaching within one’s committed life.
2. Working for the development of others.
3. Creating work,
4. Creating system to sustain both works and sangha members
5. Creating a strong sangha.)
ii. Our activities
Below are some samples on how we mean to live this philosophy as part of our monastic life. If you feel inspired to contribute to be a part of this philosophy, we invite you to check the contact section on volunteering and donation possibilities.
Sangha means community, here we mean community of nuns of various levels. We have 3 levels in our temple. The fully ordained are the bhikkhunis, there are 6 of them, all of them received their full ordination from Sri Lanka. On Buddhist days they wear bright saffron robes distinguishing them from the rest.
The second levels are sikkhamanas, there are also 6 of them, they are novices going through intensive 2-year training to become bhikkhunis.
They sit next in line from bhikkhunis. And the last category are the samaneris. Right now we have one new comer going through training as novice.
On full moon and dark moon, the bhikkhuni sangha will attend to receiving instruction from senior monk. Then they return to recite the Patimokkha, (the monastic rules). This takes up their whole afternoon.
Please have a look here for our regular schedule, Thai bhikkhuni ordination and at News for our news section.
iii. Socially Engaged Buddhism:
At Songdhammakalyani Monastery, the first monastery for bhikkhunis, we follow the bodhisattva’s path propagated since Ven.Ta Tao Fa Tzu (Voramai Kabilsingh) who was the founder of the monastery.
We are happy to walk the spiritual path and also encourage others to lead a happier life. When the Buddha sent out his very first batch of 60 enlightened monks to spread out his teaching, he gave them instruction to work for the benefit of one’s happiness and others.
As monastics , our bhikkhuni sangha is supported by people surrounding us. In return we also care for them spiritually and materially in the way we can.
After the first decade of giving proper information about ordination of women, in the second decade we now extending our hands to reach society. The first project is the prison visit. We have visited female inmates at Nakhonpathom provincial prison for the past 3 years. In this prison there are 3500 inmates, men and women inclusive. We have offered dhamma course to the female inmates. The most recent one, there were 350 of them enrolled and got certificates from us. Some of them, once set free, returned to start a new life by asking for temporary ordination and stayed with us for 9 days. Thus, they feel stable to return to society again empowered by the positive energy and blessing from the Buddhas.
Environmentally we try to set a role model for the public to be aware of the need to recycle. We encourage them to bring their paper and plastic waste to offer as merit making. Basically they become aware to separate their trash, and try to minimize their home trash.
We also return left over food to the soil, in the long run, the soil is much more fertile.
We also set up a small city farm to encourage the visitors to grow their own vegetables even in the small verandah in their space limited apartment or condominium.
Recently we also are extending our help to care for community health. We are planning to open a clinic every Sunday afternoon to provide for health care, and information, all for free. We are very happy to report that Dr Buntium Khemaphiratna has offered his medical service for free. This clinic will be active from May 31 on ward. One of our samaneris was a trained nurse for 12 years before she joined our temple.The Bodhisattvas seems to provide everything that we need.
“Structural suffering is caused by human beings in the end. Think collectively!”
Social contribution of the sangha: Within the limits of vinaya (monastic order), there is still a lot we can do.
Our sangha is active in prison outreach, notably in women’s prisons and juvenile detention centers such as the Upekkha center. Activities include dhamma talks, teaching teamwork in an engaging manner, or teaching massage techniques. Generally, we try to improve their living conditions. To name an example, we share surplus from donor supplies (e.g. shampoo, soap) with the inmates.
While striving to inspire a sense of giving in our interactions, hoping to plant seeds and transmit Buddhist teachings to a larger public, we support individual cases to the best of our abilities. This could mean, for example, providing the means for a young woman’s education or providing shelter to young mothers.
iv. Ecology in Buddhism:
As part of a 1985 WWF project, Venerable Dhammananda researched the topic of ecology in ancient Buddhist texts. She found a wealth of information related to this subject. Did you know, for example, that the size of the tooth cleaning wood (used by monks to clean their teeth, sometimes up to 2 meters long to discipline their students with the other end) was suggested to be reduced by the Buddha himself? This is only one of the many pointers in ancient texts to only take of nature what we need.
Ecological contribution of the sangha: At the sangha, we would like to set an example to neighbours and guests by living in an ecological way. Our garden, source for most of our produce, is flourishing through principles of organic farming (e.g. composting organic waste). In an area of water shortage, we are mindful of our water consumption, using as little as feasible.
We also practice recycling (e.g. different kinds of plastic, glass, paper, organic waster) and reuse the resources given to us as much as we can.
v. Feminism and Buddhism:
Venerable Dhammananda considers herself first a Buddhist and then a feminist activist.
While her primary focus is on her Buddhist teaching and living, it was fellow feminists during a 1983 Harvard conference that inspired her to use the information available to her for this case, which was only sparsely spread in Thai society at that time.
Feminism and the sangha: Venerable Dhammananda was ordained as first bhikkhuni in Thailand after a long pause in Thai bhikkhuni presence, while the line was being kept intact in China. In this sense, Songdhammakalyani monastery plays a pioneering role in the Thai Buddhist environment and has been inspiring women on both national and international levels.
Further reading here.