An Interview of Radio program in Denmark.

Anya Palm came to interview Ven.Dhammananda for Denmark Radio program July,2014. The following is the translated English text.

In Thailand, a rather unusual life folds out in one of the country's thousands of temples: Contrary to tradition, all residents women - and declared feminists. They call themselves female monks - bhikkhuni - and despite the scepticism from their  society, they insist on their right to be ordained – its their heritage from Buddha.


Its peaceful in the garden behind Songdhammakaliyani Temple - Thailand's first temple headed by women. One of the temple's occupants sitting in the garden. She is easy to see from a distance in the countryside with her orange dress - a traditional Buddhist robes of monks. The robe means the world to her – ever since she was young, she has wondered:

May I ... can  be ordained? And the answer come, of raffles word .. I am a woman,

When I was younger, I was curious. Can I - can I be blessed and be bhikkhuni? And the answer was that I could not because I am a woman, she says. It is illegal for women to have such  title in Thailand. The few women who will be blessed anyways must go abroad to seek the title. When they get home, they are not recognized by Buddhist leaders, although the process is identical to that of men.

It's the right thing to go and get the ordination anyway, she says.

it is our duty, because the Buddha…
It is my duty, because this was the Buddha’s wish.

The temple's leader, the Venerable Dhammananda was the one who taught her devotees that she can become a Bhikkhuni, although it is not available in Thailand.

Dhammananda got her own ordination in Sri Lanka, defying tradition and carving out the way for other aspiring women. Today, she is the most senior female Buddhists in the country – and there is something else: She is also a feminist:

I think the first feminist was the Buddha. Because he was the first one, in the whole history of religion, to say  women can attain  enlightenment.


The world's first feminist was Buddha himself, she says, because the Buddha gave women ordination already in his lifetime. Her position is that the prohibition to bless women is a social construction. And it is contrary to the Buddha's words, she believes.

When  we go back to the text we find the Buddha said the candidate must be purified In Both sanghas,and the ordination is to be given by the monks.  But they (the monks) have misunderstood this  and said instead that the female candidate(s) must be ordained by both sanghas.

If you read the text, it says quite clearly that the Buddha sees both men and women as candidates for the ordination, she says. This is the message she wants Thais to understand:

we are here to claim the heritage given by the  Buddha  2600 years ago.

We are here to claim the legacy of Buddha has given us, she says. And she knows what she's talking about. Before she became fully ordained as Bhikkhuni she was a professor of religion in a prestigious state university for 30 years.

But it is very few who agree that it is the correct interpretation of the text. The widely-held view in Thailand is that women cannot be ordained anymore as the lineage has died out.


A meditation session is started in a large hall at the Association of Young Buddhists, far away from the temple. The association aims to integrate Buddhism in Thai society. But not the kind of Buddhism like  theDhammananda teaches.

the Buddha did not want to ordain female, for he realized that it would create a lot of problem like raping

Buddha did not say that women can be blessed. He said no because he knew it would cause problems, says one of the association's founders, Professor Nualsiri.

But she nevertheless agrees with Dhammananda that Thai society - and religion as an institution - is extremely male dominated . She talks about her own time as a nun:

If you really want to know the truth most temples treat the nuns like  servants, kinda like that you have two udarbejde it's the female thing to do

In most temples  nuns (maeji)  are treated as servants, she says. In fact, she feels it would be good with some change. But:
I believe this fight through so many traditional law and practices and for a long time.

You have to fight against entrenched laws and traditions that have been around for a very long time. It's too hard to change, she says.

But that's exactly what Dhammandanda and her disciples will. Back in the temple is the professor's reluctance nothing against what Dhammananda, and her disciples daily experience when they go out and gather alms:

How dare you? Some of them will say. You are going to  soil the robe with your menstruation,
How dare a woman to have the robe on ?  there are some Thais who say. You make the clothes dirty with your period, they say.
But even though her  society does not recognize her, Dhammananda is still successful in spreading her feminist message of Buddhism. There are currently 70 bhikkhunis in Thailand.

The criticism from the local attributes ignorance. As the example of the filthy garments - that problem she has a very practical solution to:

Well, if we soil the robe we just simply go and wash it.
If we soil the clothes - let us wash them just, she says. And continues her teaching that women can be leaders - also within Buddhism in Thailand.


About ninety percent of the Thai population profess Buddhism. Though the majority of the religious leaders today are men, it is ironically, particularly the female population who are diligent to go to the temple to pray to Buddha.