In this section, you will find:
- Information on the location of the monastery
- Biographies of the founder and the second abbot
- Information on the monastery buildings
Songdhammakalyani Monastery (SDKM) is situated on Petkasem hwy. the major highway leading from Bangkok to the south. One can literally continue on this Highway to the border connecting Thailand to Malaysia and through Malaysia to Singapore.
The temple is on the left, if you come from Bangkok, it is 53 kms. west of Bangkok. By bus, the bus driver will allow you to get off just in front of the temple. The landmark is a huge golden laughing Buddha in front of the temple.
Historically, Ven.Voramai Kabilsingh, the founder of the temple purchased the land from the Queen of King Rama VI in 1960. The lot is 6 rai (minimum allowable to build a temple) During King Rama VI’s reign he had Sanamchan Summer Palace built in the city of Nakhonpathom, just 3 kms. further from the temple. The land in and around the area where the temple is now situated was previous own by the royal members. The lane next to the temple is still called “Trok Wang” which means “the palace lane.”
ii. Brief Biography of the founder, Ven. Ta Tao Fa Tzu (Voramai Kabilsingh)
Ven.Voramai Kabilsingh as she was known by her lay name, was born in 1908 in Rajburi province. She led a very colorful and interesting life. In 1972 she travelled by bicycle from Bangkok to Singapore. She was the only Girl Scout to travel by bicycle. It took her 29 days , a record that still stands today.
She was a writer, a poet, a novelist apart from being a teacher serving the Thai Government for the first part of her life. During II world war, she was married to Mr.K.Shatsena, a member of Parliament from Trang in the southern part of Thailand. With this connection, it changed her direction, and she had to stay in the south for a short period of time.
When her daughter, Chatsumarn Shatsena was born, she moved back to Bangkok mainly concerned about the quality of education for her child.
By accident, she became interested and curious about meditation and became further committed to study Buddhism directly from the texts, the Tripitaka.
She started publishing Buddhist monthly magazine in 1955 and kept on this commitment for 32 years.
She was inspired by the teaching of the Buddha and took her first ordination in 1956 from Chaokhun Prommuni (Vice abbot of Wat Bavorn, a royal temple). That was how she started her monastic life. At this time, the ordination of women as monks (bhikkhuni) was
not practiced in Thailand, 15 years later, in 1971 she went to Taiwan and received full ordination. She became the first Thai woman to have taken this full ordination properly as bhikkhuni.
For the interested reader, Chatsumarn Kabilsingh tells the story of her mother’s path herself in this article “eminent Buddhist women – Bikkhuni Ta Tao, an excerpt of the book “Eminent Buddhist Women” (see publication list). You can also find details on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhammananda_Bhikkhuni .
iii. Second abbot, Ven. Dhammananda (Chatsumarn Kabilsingh)
|| Associate Professor Dr. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, her daughter is well prepared to take the responsibility. She spent 30 years in academic life doing research, teaching and attending conferences at international level. Also she interviewed her guests on TV for 7 years hence being somewhat known to Thai society. This lay background it prepared her to do what she chose to do in the latter part of her life.
She went for her first lower ordination in Sri Lanka in Feb.2001, and returned to Sri Lanka again to receive full ordination in 2003 to become the first Theravada bhikkhuni in Thailand. From then on she is known by her ordained name, Dhammananda.
The first year after ordination was difficult with a storm of criticism from Thai society. But the social media were mostly friendly to the news of ordained woman. She passed through this particular difficult time by holding on to the teaching of the Buddha, namely one who practices dhamma will be protected by dhamma.
She was consciouls to fill in the gap that was not possible in her mother’s time.
She went all the way to make sure that she received full training as bhikkhuni to be able to train other samaneris and bhikkhunis after her. She arranged for a proper sima (boundary) in order for the future sangha to have a proper place to perform the sanghakamma, i.e.ordination, etc.
The first decade of her ordained life, she focused much on educating the mass by bringing out books, brochures, tape cassettes, CDs, etc. so that Thai society is well informed about the rightful heritage of bhikkhunis from the Buddha’s time.
She started giving temporary lower ordination to Thai women as a way to spread the teaching of the Buddha. These women once returned to lay life,they have turned out to be strong supporters of the temple. Women started to join the temple activities and also ordination.
Ven.Dhammananda, has followed closely to the inspiration of the founder.
She emphasizes Bodhisattva’s path in her writing, teaching and most important of all, in the way she leads her life.
A dynamic personality, active, alert and witty. She could be direct, very direct at times, yet she radiates with her beautiful genuine smile that disarms her audience. She often moves her audience in tears in the way she relates the stories of old which she re-enacts and makes it so vividly. She puts 100% energy in whatever she is at. A personality you should not miss.
A rare gem in the sangha. You will love her for this unique quality of sincerity.
Further information about Ven. Dhammananda:
Wikipedia article on Ven. Dhammananda: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhammananda_Bhikkhuni
iv. Building the temple
Even before bhikkhuni ordination, Ven. Ta Tao Fa Tzu (the first abbot) was preparing the ground for the temple. The uposatha (main hall) a three storey building with sima boundery took her 10 years to bring it to full completion. This is the most important building as sanghakamma (monastic ceremony) must be performed within sima.
Along with the uposatha, she also built the school for kindergarten up to grade 6 there were some 500 students attending the school. The school was run by Ms. Marndaratna Shatsena for more than 30 years and closed when Ms.Marndaratna Shatsena took her retirement in 2003 during the time of the second abbot, Ven.Dhammananda.
She tried to train young women to become monastics but it was only short lived. Being the only bhikkhuni did not allow her to perform any proper sanghakamma. But she did much work on social welfare, i.e. giving out food, clothing to poor students in rural area. She sponsored more than 100 Buddha statues to send them to far away temples or Buddhist centers in remote area. Also for some years she arranged regular food offering to 108 monks.
She lived through her peaceful ripe old age of 95 before passing away on June 24,2003, leaving behind her daughter just received full ordination as bhikkhuni to continue the bhikkhuni heritage. It may be said that this temple has an unbroken lineage of bhikkhuni since 1971.
Further information about the monastery:
Wikipedia article on Songdhammakalyani Monastery: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Songdhammakalyani_Monastery
Introducing Songdhammakalyani Monastery : free PDF download
v. Other buildings in the temple compound
The Uposatha being the most important, and we have introduced you to it already. It was built during the first abbot’s period. We have also a new library where it is used also as classroom. This is situated right behind the Uposatha hall. It was build by Ven.Dhammananda, the second abbot.
The Medicine Buddha Vihara is in the back of the monastic compound where visitors may view the largest and most beautiful Medicine Buddha in Thailand.
Towards the end of 2014 we have completed Yasodhara Vihara, an all purpose 3-storey building. With a large dining area on the second floor and a large hall to house the 13 statues of Arahat Theris on the third floor. On the ground floor there is a sufficient space to park 40 cars.
There is Bodhisattalaya, a 3-storey residential building with 20 rooms for double occupancy, to house 40 Samaneris at one time. The Bhikkhunis in residence live in other buildings.