Dhamma Talk by Venerable Adhimutta on 18 July 2015 @ 2pm

VEN ADHIMUTTA FLYER

Dhamma talk by Ayya Adhimutta at Gotami Vihara on 4 July 2015

VenA

Ayya Adhimutta

Flyer LSY

Commemoration of Wesak and Gotami Vihara’s 4th Anniversary on 31 May, 2015

Webby Barbara Yen, President

In conjunction with the holy month of Wesak and our 4th Anniversary, Gotami Vihara Society Malaysia has great pleasure to invite you to join us to rejoice and commemorate this day in a lunch dana for the Sangha.

Details of the event are as follows:

Date:        Sunday 31 May, 2015

Time:       10am – 3.30pm

Venue:      Gotami Vihara, K37-C, Jalan TK 1/11A, Taman Kinrara, 47180 Puchong, Selangor

4th AnnProgramme:

9.30 am     Arrival of devotees

9.45 am     Arrival of Sangha members

10.00 am   Wesak Puja and Chanting

Hymn singing – Anthem of Unity

Wesak Blessings by the Sangha

Metta meditation

11.00 am   Dhamma talk: ‘Bhikkhuni Sangha – The Way Forward,’ by Ven Sumangala Samaneri

11.45 am   Lunch dana for the Sangha

12.00 pm   Lunch for devotees

1.00 pm     Walking meditation and Mindfulness of Body

2.00 pm     Dialoque and discussion with members and devotees

3:00 pm     Sharing of Merits. Light refreshments

3:30 pm     End of session

4.00 pm     Gotami Vihara Society Malaysia EXCO meeting

6.00 pm     End

All are welcome!

If you have any queries, please contact our Hon. Secretary, Sis Ratana Marie Tungka at marietungka@yahoo.com.

Anumodana,

Barbara Yen

Gotami Vihara Society Malaysia: Executive Committee 2015 – 2017

by Barbara Yen, President

agm 2015We are pleased to advise Gotami Vihara Society Malaysia’s Executive Committee members elected at our 2nd Annual General Meeting held on 12 April, 2015. They will serve from 2015 – 2017.

President:                  Yen Yoke Wah, Barbara (Ms)

Vice President:            Dr Lai Suat Yan (Ms)

Hon. Secretary:          Marie Tungka (Ms)

Hon. Treasurer:          Hooi Yoon Chun (Ms)

Committee member:    Wuan Thong Lok (Mr)

Committee member:    Choo Chow Heng (Mr)

Committee member:    Wong Shua Feng (Ms)

Auditors (by appointment):

Mudita Loh Lee Peng (Ms)

Ann Lim Siew Ee (Ms)

We welcome everyone on board and look forward to their continued commitment to serve Gotami Vihara Society and in the propagation of the Buddha sasana.

Anumodana,

Barbara Yen

Contribution an Motivation of the Mahayana and Theravada Bhikkhunis and Upasika in Malaysia

by Samaneri Sumangala

This article is written by Samaneri Sumangala in conjunction with 2014 International Bhikkhuni Day Celebration at Gotami Vihara Society Malaysia Honouring Eminent Asian Buddhist Women in the Modern Era.

Introduction

Gotama Buddha is an exemplary Teacher (AN3.65), the shower of the way (MN107) and a spiritual friend (SN45.2). In order to ensure that the Buddha’s teaching and the Buddha sāsana would spread far and wide and thrive for a long time, the Buddha firmly established the Four-fold Sańgha: bhikkhu, bhikkhuni, upasaka and upasika – to provide equal and conducive platform for the attainment and propagation of the Buddha-Dharma that leads to happiness here and now, hereafter and the ultimate bliss of Nibbana. After the Buddha’s Parinibbana, the Dhamma-Vinaya is taken as the Teacher.

It was the Buddha who showed the world that the Truth – the Dhamma/ Nibbana goes beyond caste, race, religion, tradition, custom, beliefs, region, society, status, age and gender. The establishment of the bhikkhuni sasana by the Buddha, with the remarkable courage of the first bhikkhuni and the first group of five hundred bhikkhunis lead by Mahapajapati have shattered the belief of the lower status, incapability and discrimination against women. Indeed, the Buddha is an incomparable teacher of gods and human.

Development of Buddhasasana and Dhamma Education in Malaysia over the Last Few Decades

Buddhism was re-introduced to Malaysia by the Chinese immigrants, particularly during the British rule in the late 19th century[1]. The Dhamma education which is Buddhistic only evolved in the 1950’s[2] with the arrival of some outstanding missionary monks[3] and nuns to Malaysia. Mahayana Buddhism as practiced by Chinese monks and nuns spread mostly to the Chinese speaking community. Theravada Buddhism, made significant inroads in the English educated Buddhist community e.g. Chinese, Sri Lankan, and also practice by the Siamese and Burmese.

Immigrant monks and nuns subsequently inspired some local laity who later became local bhikkhus and bhikkunis and became Buddhist leaders, Dhamma teachers and organizers. The 2010 census (Malaysia Statistical Department) showed that of the total population of 28 million people in Malaysia, about 5.4 million were Buddhists, mostly nominal Buddhist. However, the Malaysian Buddhist Association registered around 3,000 ordained bhikkhus and bhikkhunis – Mahayana and Theravada and there is a need to groom more monastics to teach and serve the Buddhists at large.

Contributions of Bhikkhunis and Female Laity in Malaysia and their Motivation

Miracles of Education – Preservation of Buddha Dhamma

1930 - Ven Fung Lian came from Xie Men, China to propagate Buddhism in Penang

1930 – Ven Fung Lian came from Xie Men, China to propagate Buddhism in Penang

As early as 1935, one prominent Mahayana nun, Bhikkhuni Fong Lian[4]  founded the Phor Tay (Bodhi) Buddhist Institute in Penang with the noble objectives of disseminating Buddhism through education and orphanage services.  Unfortunately she passed away in 1937, at the age of 36.

Her legacy is continued by her female disciples and supporters e.g. Bhikkhuni Kuan Chung and female laity such as Ong Dong Su, Chan Sau Yeen, Pitt Chin Hui, Cheah Tat Wan and many others. Their strong determination, dedication and diligence manifested in the establishment of the Phor Tay Buddhist Institute in 1940, Phor Tay Chinese Primary School in 1945 and Phor Tay Secondary School in 1954 – to provide new buildings and facilities for education and to mold better Buddhists.

Later Chan Sau Yeen[5] (1969-1984), supported by Malaysian Buddhist Association, became the co-founder, deputy principal and lecturer of Malaysian Buddhist Institute (MBI). Currently this Institute offers Certificate in Buddhism (Buddhist studies in Chinese and Basic Organizational Skills) and is recognized by the Malaysian Education Ministry, Sri Lanka, China and Hong Kong for further studies[6].

ShiJiZunPresently, Venerable Ji Zun (1991- ), a former student of MBI, is the Head of Education Administrator and MBI Correspondence Course. Together with other ex-graduates, they continued to produce Buddhist leaders, teachers, organizers and volunteers to help the community at large. More than 50 graduates became monks and nuns. Presently, most Mahayana abbesses in Malaysian temples received their education at the MBI.[7] From 1990s onwards some MBI students furthered their studies in Taiwan, became ordained and remained there to serve the international Buddhist community. Fo Guang Shan and Dharma Drum actively recruited Malaysian women potentials[8].

 

Venerable Sing Kan (1957 – )

VenSingKan2At the age of 25, Venerable became a nun at Sin Fook Tong temple, Kuala Lumpur under the guidance of her great grand master Sin Pooi and teacher Venerable Ku Chung. She took her higher ordination as a bhikkhuni in Penang in 1987 under the preceptorship of Master Tai Sheng from Taiwan.

Spiritual Training

Ven studied Buddhism under Uncle Fam and the late Ven Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Nayaka Thera in Buddhist Mahavihara in 1993. She later taught Buddhism in its Sunday school (BISDS) for 2 years.

In 1996 she took the Diploma in Buddhism (BAPU program) for 1 year and in 1997-1999, Diploma in Buddhism at the Kelaniya University, Sri Lanka. She then completed a degree course in Buddhism organised by International Buddhist College in 2001-2004 and became the Vice Principal and teacher of Siang Lin Chiao Yuen kindergarten, Malacca.

SamPohThong

Role as an Abbess

In 2007, Venerable gave up her aspiration to be an academic in Buddhist studies to become the abbess of Sam Poh Thong in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. She is active in propagating Buddhist education and meditation practice especially with the young. She started the ‘Smart Readership Programme’ to improve the standard of English of the under-privileged children in the neighbourhood. She started with twenty students, providing them with free breakfast and lunch every Sunday but the number has now grown to more than a hundred. Presently, Ven is expanding the temple to meet the needs of increasing number of students and devotees.

Prior to the formation of Gotami Vihara, Ven Sing Kan had kindly provided accommodation to our local or visiting Theravada nuns. We are most grateful to her for her kind support.

Mission in Inter-faith Understanding

Ven is actively involved in interfaith discussions and dialogue to promote peace and harmony in a multi-racial and multi-religious society. She is one of the Vice Presidents of the Malaysian Consultative Committee of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST). She travels extensively to network with other Buddhist societies in the propagation of Buddhism. She was in the Netherlands recently to assist the families of MH17 tragedy.

VenChangHengCompassion in Action

Venerable Chang Heng

A young orphan, Venerable Chang Heng[9] came in contact with Buddhism at Sau Seng Lum (SSL) Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Ordained at the age of 18, she went to Taiwan to further her studies in Buddhism. In 1978 she became the 3rd abbess of SSL[10]. Under her able leadership with the motto “May human beings be free from suffering and may the world be peaceful”, SSL diversified from a Buddhist temple to a compassionate community and extended its services to helping the less unfortunate in the areas of healthcare, culture and education.

She set up the Petaling Jaya SSL Haemodialysis Center (1994) to provide affordable and quality dialysis services to poor kidney patients of all creeds. Starting with 6 units of dialysis machines and 4 patients, the center now has 100 units and over 200 patients. In 2003, SSL Haemodialysis Center was one of the first NGOs to be awarded the ISO 900:2000 Quality Management System and Healthmark Certification. The SSL Haemodialysis Center later became the Dialysis and Stroke Rehabilitation Center. In 2004 its health services expanded to a new center at SSL Puchong. The innovative design of the 500 Arahat images in this new center is recorded in the Malaysia Book of Records and has become a tourist destination. Ven Chang Heng teaches Buddhism as “life education for the family and community.”

Sau Seng Lum Dialysis and Stroke Rehabilitation Centre in Puchong

Sau Seng Lum Dialysis and Stroke Rehabilitation Centre in Puchong

Recognition

In 2001, Ven Chang Heng was awarded the 2001 Outstanding Young Malaysian Award for Humanitarian and Volunteer Service by the International Junior Chamber Association Malaysia[11]. In 2007, she received the prestigious Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards Committee by the United Nations in Bangkok for her contribution to Buddhism and the community. In 2008, in recognition of Ven Chang Heng’s selfless and devoted service, the Malaysian Medical Association honored her with the 2008 Healthcare Service Award for 15 years of selfless and devoted service to the local and international communities.

Bridging Individual to Group, Local to International

Venerable Jue Cheng 

VenJueChengVenerable Jue Cheng was born in Johor in 1960. In 1989 she left her nursery school and her career as a teacher to study at Fo Guang Shan Tsung Lin University.  In 1990, she suddenly awakened while contemplating human suffering during her monastic training in Fo Guang Shan (FGS). This experience led her to ordain as a bhikkhuni, to “purify her mind.” In 2007, she came back to Malaysia after 15 years of teaching humanistic Buddhism in Brazil where she became known as “the sincere monk – Rev. Sinceridade.”

Despite being held at gunpoint no less than five times, she has this thought in her mind – “I may not be able to change you (the mafias) but I shall change the mind of your children.”  With her bravery, determination, nurturing skills and kindness, she helped built a FGS temple (Zu Lai) and a Buddhist community in Brazil. In 2003, she was awarded the Civilian Honor by Cotia City, Brazil. She also served as an abbess in FGS Argentina.

Venerable is currently, the Chief Abbess of FSG Malaysia and Singapore, principal of Dong Zen Institute of Buddhist Studies and CEO of Fo Guang Publications. She oversees more than fifteen Chapters of FGS in Malaysia and Singapore, including six foreign and twenty-four Malaysian nuns who teach Buddhism. Many Malaysian nuns stay at FGS headquarters in Taiwan and some have become abbesses of FGS temples in countries around the world.

She recalled her Master’s words: “Malaysians are the treasury of talents and the monastic are of good use”. Ven Jue Cheng is keen to propagate Dharma through cultural and educational activities – ensuring that Buddhism can be developed into a systematic, modern, humanized, progressive and in an international environment to promote the concepts of oneness and co-existence, joy and harmony, respect, tolerance, peace and equality. This is to educate not only the Buddhists but also multi-cultural society, religion and race. She said when “the robe is put on, it is genderless. Work is life when one serves selflessly for the wellbeing and happiness of all.”

 

Maintaining the Buddha’s Early Teaching and Mind Training

Unlike the Mahayana, Theravada temples and centers in Malaysia have yet to have Theravada bhikkhuni teachers to lead the devotees. Only around late 1980s, some female Buddhists mostly meditators, went forth as “shaven ones with pink, white or brown robe” and were given the name as sayalay or silasin (Myanmar), maechee (Thailand) or dasa sil mata (Sri Lanka) but the Theravada ordination as samaneri (a novice) and bhikkhuni according to the Buddha’s Four-fold Sangha were not available .

However, in the beginning of 21st century, with the understanding that bhikkhus and bhikkhunis are ordained by the vinaya, there are Malaysian women who have received proper ordination in the Theravada and/or Dharmaguptaka vinaya lineage as samaneris and bhikkhunis.

VenHasapanna3Earliest Theravada Bhikkhuni from Malaysia

Venerable Hasapanna

Venerable Hasapanna was born in 1960, and is from Ipoh. She was ordained as a trainee nun (Anagarika) for 2 years and a ten precept nun for 4 years following the Theravada tradition. In 2009, she was one of the earliest Malaysians to take the full-pledge ordination as a Theravada Bhikkhuni (with Ayya Tathaaloka as Pavattini) for 2 years at Dhammasara Buddhist Nuns Monastery, Western Australia.

She is currently the Co-Abbess of Dhammasara Nuns Monastery and also the Assistant Spiritual Director of Buddhist Society of WA. Since then the numbers of bhikkhuni in Dhammasara is growing gradually, from three to seven and with four samaneris. Dhammasara is planning an expansion of their residential capacity and welcoming requests from women all over the world who would like to walk the path as nuns.

Venerable Hasapanna explains about the stages of becoming a Theravada nun. This process takes years of careful spiritual development and practice. Candidate will go through three months observation or acclamation as lay person – with duties and responsibilities living, practicing and working together with the nuns.

If she is found to be suitable, she will be committed to another stage of development as anagarika – while practicing, be of service and stay in for one year. When she feels more adapted and committed as an anagarika, she can then request for novice / samaneri ordination. As a samaneri, she will go through training for another two years. Then she may request for bhikkhuni ordination as a full-pledge nun.

These stages of development entail the good practice of the candidate and the guidance and evaluation of their preceptor teacher and the community of senior nuns. After receiving the training, the nuns’ role are to give Dhamma talks, sutta study, meditation and conduct retreats to inspire others to develop virtues and a healthy and happy life.

Venerable Hasapanna travels locally and oversea e.g. Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong to give Dhamma talks and inspire people to walk the path. This year, with the support of some Buddhist societies she will be conducting one of the earliest Theravada temporary samaneri novitiate program in Malaysia to inspire potential candidates.

The First Stupa – Connecting the three traditions

VenDhammikaVenerable Dhammika

Venerable Dhammika was attracted to Buddhism through meditation and has been organizing and leading Dhamma activities in the Kuching Buddhist Society (KBS) of Sarawak (East Malaysia) since 1994. In Venerable Dhammika’s circle, it is often said that Theravada is like the roots of the tree, Mahayana the branches and Vajrayana the leaves”.  She often smiles as she says, “I would rather be the string that ties all the beads of a mala together.”

In 2004, the truth of aging, sickness and death dawn on her as her teacher, the late Ven K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera Nayaka aged and became physically weak. That awakening gave her the confidence to carry on her teacher’s mission to spread Dhamma and to build a Theravada Buddhist center and a first stupa in Sarawak. With her sincere intention, within a short time the stupa and the Kuching Dhamma Vijaya Buddhist Center came into being in 2008. She took her bhikkhuni ordination following the Dharmaguptaka lineage in 2012. She is the Founder and Chairman of Dhamma Vijaya Foundation and President of Kuching Dhamma Vijaya Buddhist Association. She sees a good leader or teacher as an influential role model for the development of the Buddha Dhamma. She believes that “if one has a will, there is always a way.”

KDVStupa

The Mind Training

SayalaySusilaSayalay Susīlā

Sayalay Susīlā was born in Pahang, Malaysia, in 1963 and in 1991, ordained as a Theravada Buddhist nun in the Burmese tradition at the age of 28, in Malaysia. Sayalay began developing her keen interest in insight meditation while at the University of Science Malaysia, where she obtained a degree in mass communications in 1988.

After graduation, Sayalay worked as a high school teacher for a year and a half. But disenchanted with worldly matters and desiring to be dedicated to the practice more than ever, she resigned her post to take up meditation full time. Six months after her ordination in 1991, she went to Panditarama Monastery in Myanmar, where she practiced intensively for nearly three years under the guidance of the famous meditation master Venerable U Pandita Sayadaw.

In 1994, wishing to cultivate concentration meditation, Sayalay moved to Pa Auk Forest Monastery in Myanmar. She placed herself under the guidance of renowned monk, Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw and remained in the forest for 14 years. In addition to an assiduous program of meditation, she also learned the Abhidhamma, ancient discourses, and the Pāli language from Pak Auk Sayadaw. Meanwhile, she became his English-to-Chinese interpreter in Myanmar and abroad.

During her travels in Myanmar, she also practiced different meditation methods, such as those taught by Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw, Mogok Sayadaw, and Sayagyi U Ba Khin. As a result Sayalay has become an unusually accomplished teacher, able to present the subtleties of the Buddha’s teachings in a simple and direct way. In particular, she presents the most profound division of the teaching, the Abhidhamma, in a lucid manner grounded not in pedantic philosophy, but in actual meditation experience.

Sayalay has traveled extensively as a meditation and Dhamma teacher, presenting the Abhidhamma and Sutta expositions in formal lectures and talks, and has conducted meditation retreats throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, Taiwan, Latvia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. She speaks fluent Chinese, English, Burmese, Hokkien and Malay. Her publications include Unravelling the Mystery of Mind and Body through Abhidhamma (second edition), published in both English and Chinese, Mindfulness of Breathing (English), The Practical Manual of Abhidhamma  (Chinese), and The Nine Virtues of the Buddha (Chinese).

Susilabool

 

How to Encouraged more Women to Become Dedicated Theravada Bhikkhuni and Dhamma Teachers

  1. Be understanding, heedful and sincere in your Aspiration and Mission!
  2.  Encourage and Provide Opportunity to the Potentials e.g. Committed Bhikkhuni Training Program or Speaker Training Program.
  3. Provide and Support a Center for the community of Bhikkhuni, samaneri and upasika to dwell, learn, practice, realise and share.
  4. The training is not just to become a teacher but as a Practitioner, Model, Coach, Facilitator, Counselor and Friend
  5. Set up an Educational Fund as one of the priorities for Bhikkhuni Teacher Development.

Conclusion

Although the development of Buddhism in Malaysia is still quite young (about 60 years), the good work of charismatic immigrant teachers (monks and nuns) have led local Buddhist, individually and collectively, to continue promoting peace and wisdom through “the teaching of the Buddha.” Female Buddhist nuns and lay teachers have shouldered many responsibilities – as founders, organizers, fund-raisers, leaders, teachers, CEOs, administrators, counsellors, workers and practitioners – with great zeal and effort, displaying capability and endurance. They have done great work in spreading Buddhism from the temple to the communities. These bhikkhunis and female laities inspire others by embodying the Buddha’s virtues.

The continued growth of Buddhism depends on nurturing the potential of all human beings, lay or ordained – to bring forth the teaching of the Buddha and uphold and support the Fourfold Sangha, and work for the well being of the world. This will set a new milestone in the development of Buddhism in Malaysia.

Writen by Samaneri Sumangala

Spiritual Advisor, Gotami Vihara Society, Malaysia

Notes:

[1]    Prof. Dr. M. Kamal Hassan & Dr. Ghazali bin Basri (Vol. Ed.). Religions and Beliefs. 2005. Archipelago Press,  Malaysian.  P 62.

[2]    The Buddha’s word. Chief’s 75 felicitation.

[3]    Religions and Beliefs, p.68.

[4]    Seet Lee Terk. Buddhist Nuns in Malaysia, p122-128.  and http://www.PhorTay.org and personal interview with Ms. Cheah Tat Wan on 5th Aug 2009.

[5]    Interview with Ms. Cheah Tat Wan, Living Testimony Aug 09 and MBI Historical Record in Chinese.

[6]    Seet Lee Terk. P 124.

[7]    Seet Lee Terk. p123.

[8]    Interview with Fo Guang Shan Abbess, Rev. Jue Cheng Living Testimony Jul 09. Seet Lee Terk. p123.

[9]    www. Sau Seng Lum Buddhist Temple & 500 Arahats. Google: Sau Seng Lum Haemodylasis Center.  Also see Seet Lee Terk. p125.

[10]  She received the abbesseship from Rev. Ji Xian, the 2nd abbess. The temple is 107 years old.

[11]  www. Sau Seng Lum. And Seet Lee Terk. p125.

Thailand – Venerable Ta Tao Fa Tzu (1908 – 2005) – Pioneers in Dhamma Propagation

by Barbara Yen

This article is written by Barbara Yen in conjunction with 2014 International Bhikkhuni Day Celebration at Gotami Vihara Society Malaysia Honouring Eminent Asian Buddhist Women in the Modern Era.

Thailand – Venerable Ta Tao Fa Tzu (1908 – 2005) – Pioneers in Dhamma Propagation

VenTaTaoFaTzuVenerable Ta Tao Fa Tzu was the first woman from Thailand to be ordained as a bhikkhuni under the Mahayana tradition in Taiwan in 1971. Also known as Ven Voramai Kabilsingh, she receive the Eight Precepts from Pra Prommuni, a member of the Supreme Council of Elders and Vice Abbot of Wat Bavornnives, the royal residence since Rama IV.

Ven subsequently wore light yellow robes instead of white. An inquisition was held by the Council of Elders on her action. Her master ended the inquisition by asking if that was the colour of the monks’ robes and if it was not, and also she was not impersonating the monks, they should not see any harm in it.

The Early Years

In 1946, she married Korkiat Shatsena, a Member of Parliament and representative of the people in a southern province. She sat in Parliament as a journalist and was the only reporter trusted by the Muslims to do fact finding for the government during the crisis in the south. She submitted a twelve point proposal to the government to resolve the crisis and now, fifty years later, when the problem is still not resolved, her paper was republished.

Ordination – Turning her Home into a Temple

Her daughter, Ven Dhammananda (Chatsumarn) was ten years old when she became a nun. Rather than leaving home, Ven Voramai turned her home into her temple. Many nuns joined her and they became self supporting by starting a stone factory.

Songdhammakalyani Monastery

SongdhammakalyaniShe then built Songdhammakalyani Monastery and it was the first temple built by women for women, complete with Uposatha Hall and Sima boundary and therefore ready for ordination. The land in Nakhon Pathom, just outside Bangkok, was purchased from H.M. Indrasakdisaci, Queen of King Rama IV in 1960.

“When my mother became interested in Buddhism, she realised that in the Buddha’s time, He gave ordination to women. Why were women never ordained in our country?” recalled Ven Dhammananda.

Propagation of the Buddha Sasana

Ven Voramai propagated Buddhism for 32 years through a monthly Buddhist magazine, ‘Vipassana Banthernsarn.’ She was involved in social welfare, providing food and clothing for the poor and needy. She sponsored the ordination of more than a hundred monks throughout the country and also offered more than a hundred Buddha images to various village temples in remote areas.

Power of Healing

Ven Voramai was also well known for her healing abilities which she learnt from her Master. She could also see departed beings, many of whom were suffering, mostly due to the war and she helped them to forgive and to gain better rebirths.

Ven could see that women were the foundation that had contributed and strengthened Buddhism in Thailand. They have kept Buddhism going because it was actually women who fed the monks and in many cases, were their teachers too.

Ven Voramai was a mother, role model and an inspiration to Ven Dhammananda who followed her foot-steps to become the first bhikkhuni under the Theravada tradition. Once when Ven Dhammananda went on an alms round, an elderly man remarked with tears in his eyes, “I never dreamt that the Bhikkhuni Order can one day become a reality in Thailand!”

Ven Voramai passed away at a ripe old age of 95 years in 2003, one year after she saw her daughter ordained as a bhikkhuni.

Written by

Barbara Yen

President, Gotami Vihara Society, Malaysia

 

Thailand – Mae Chee Kaew (1901-1991), a Reputed Female Arahant in Modern Times

by Barbara Yen

This article is written by Barbara Yen in conjunction with 2014 International Bhikkhuni Day Celebration at Gotami Vihara Society Malaysia Honouring Eminent Asian Buddhist Women in the Modern Era.

Thailand – Mae Chee Kaew (1901-1991), a reputed female arahant in modern times

VenMaecheeKaewThis is an inspiring story of the trials and tribulations of a simple village woman from a pious family in Baan Huay Sai in northeast Thailand. She is the youngest of 5 children, all of whom had no formal education. Her mother passed away when she was five years old.

At the age of 17, she was compelled to marry. She did not have a happy marriage as her husband became unfaithful to her. Unable to have children, they adopted a daughter from a relative.

She was weary of the suffering of life and each year, she pleaded without success for her husband’s permission to allow her to join a three month meditation retreat. It was only after her uncle’s intervention, that her husband relented. After her first taste of temporary renunciation, Maechee Kaew decided to pursue her life-long path for enlightenment.

Bliss of Going Forth

At the age of 37, after 20 years of marriage, her husband consented to a divorce after she agreed to relinquish all her property to him. She also arranged for the care of her daughter before she renounced. The challenges she faced of being a female renunciant are evident here.

Her Meditation Experience

Mae Chee Kaew was very fortunate to have learnt meditation from great meditation masters like Ajahn Sao in 1914 and Ajahn Mun in 1917 when they came to stay near her village. The methods and techniques they taught her was the repetition of the word ‘buddho’ to enter into Samadhi. After that she was advised to turn inwards to investigate her mind, to remove the layers and layers of defilements until what was left was the pure mind.

Ajahn Mun could see that she possessed uncommon psychic abilities and had great spiritual potential. Even as a beginner, her mind easily went into deep absorption for many hours. Ajahn Mun, himself an arahant and with psychic powers, could see that she sometimes experienced frightening episodes in her meditation. He would request to see her the next morning to report to him so that he could guide her.

When she knew that Ajahn Mun decided to stay on for his three months rains retreat, Mae Chee Kaew donated twenty acres of her land to build a monastery, Wat Nong Nong for him and his disciples to stay. After the retreat, before Ajahn Mun left, he requested her to be his disciple as he saw her potential for arahanthood. She was 16 years old then and her father did not give consent. Ajahn Mun then advised her to stop meditating, as without a teacher the amazing capacities of her mind might cause her more trouble than realisation. He asked her to wait for another master to arrive.

After her renunciation, Mae Chee Kaew learnt meditation under various bhikkhus and she was given a 20 acre land to build her monastery.

Disciple of Ajahn Maha Boowa

MaecheeKaew2In 1951, Ajahn Maha Boowa arrived into her village and became her master. Ajahn Maha Boowa who was an arahant, also saw her potential for enlightenment, but also saw the danger of her being distracted by the external phenomena and remained attached to them, therefore unable to progress. He advised her to turn her energy inwards to investigate the nature of her mind and body.

When she experienced bright explosive lights and a feeling of total emptiness, she mistook it as Nirvana. She did not believe her master’s advise that there was still an element of self and subtle defilement. When all explanations and advice failed, Ajahn Boowa demanded her to leave.

Attainment of Arahantship

Realising her folly and her stubbornness, she apologized to her master and then went into long, silent retreat. She practiced with diligence, taking very little sleep and on some days, went without food. She first identified the falsity of forms, then thought, and the steps of breaking down the self. She finally experienced a supreme radiance and investigated it until she reached the final goal.

Like the experience of the Buddha and Ajahn Maha Boowa after their attainment, Mae Chee Kaew recalled her past lives and reflected on the impossibility of teaching others on how to attain the same achievement. Yet quickly, she realised that if she could attain liberation, others could too.

She went on to motivate the nuns in her monastery. She was requested by Ajahn Maha Boowa to teach his mother in his hometown which she did for 14 years, in gratitude to her Master, before she returned to her Monastery.

Unusual Psychic Powers

When Mae Chee Kaew was 7 years of age, she already experienced unusual psychic abilities of communication with unseen beings – celestial deities, nagas, animals and hungry ghost of Buddhist cosmology. She was often invited to visit them in the different heavenly and hell realms. She could even see the past lives of these beings. Her father discouraged her from talking about these phenomenon.

As an adult, while meditating, she had a few episodes of animals which complained to her as they were brutally killed by farmers. Once a wild boar told her to be compassionate and eat its meat so that it could be reborn as a human being. The night before, a farmer name Dun, who had killed it, would offer them her meat the next morning, which he did.

Mae Chee Kaew had skills in predicting events, mind read and some healing abilities. During a drought season, she was able to lead her monastic community to hidden water sources which had come into her vision one day while meditating.

She surprised her master Ajahn Boowa who was living a few kilometers away from the nuns, by knowing through a chilling sensation, when he was leaving the vicinity. His entourage would wander into another jungle for the next few months. She knew exactly when they return, by feeling a warm sensation and would ask the nuns to prepare alms food to offer him and his disciples the next morning. It was a few kilometers walk to their camp.

Once when she and her nuns were meditating in a cave, a naga (mythical dragon) threatened to harm them if they did not leave. She reasoned with it after which it left them alone.

(I have seen photographs of two nagas captured by an Australian bhikkhu one early morning, on the banks of the River Ganges)

 Mandapa or the Trirattanusorn Stupa, which also functions as a museum and contains Mae Chee Kaew’s relics

Mandapa or the Trirattanusorn Stupa, which also functions as a museum and contains Mae Chee Kaew’s relics

Death of an Arahant

In 1977, she was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis, diabetes and cancer but she survived till 1991. At her death, upon cremation, her bones turn into relics of different colours and in the shape of pearls and crystals. It was the final proof of her highest spiritual attainments, arahantship.

Ajahn Maha Boowa, at her eulogy, declared that there was no need for any funeral chanting because as an Arahant, there was nothing more they could add for her. He also said that whether we were man or woman, we were equally capable of attaining enlightenment, no matter what lineage or tradition we were practising, so do it well. He had a stupa erected in her memory.

Conclusion

Mae Chee Kaew left a legacy to inspire the future generations. She had proven that attaining Arahantship was not impossible, for both women and men, even in modern times. So we should not underestimate the power of our spiritual potential and need to aspire and strive hard.

“If you neglect to cultivate your inherent mindfulness and wisdom, striving only half-heartedly, the obstacles in your path will multiply until they block all sight of the way, leaving the end of the road forever in darkness.”

~~ Mae Chee Kaew ~~

MaecheeKaewRelics

Mae Chee Kaew’s relics

 

Written by

Barbara Yen

President, Gotami Vihara Society, Malaysia

References

Bhikkhu Sīlaratano, Mae Chee Kaew: Her Journey to Spiritual Awakening and Enlightenment, A forest Dhamma Publication, 2009. (The author, an American, is one of Ajahn Maha Boowa’s disciples).

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15830835-mae-chee-kaew 

http://wanderingdhamma.wordpress.com/2009/12/18/book-review-mae-chee-kaew-her-journey-to-spiritual-awakening-enlightenment/

http://buddha-and-me.blogspot.com/2011/01/mae-chee-kaew-female-arahant-in-modern.html

Written by

Barbara Yen

President, Gotami Vihara Society, Malaysia