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Templeseeking

Songdhammakalyani Monastery – The First All-Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

Today’s guest blog about Songdhammakalyani female Thai Buddhist Monastery is written by Laura M. Kuah, from www.laurentinaphotography.com. All words and images used in this blog are the property of Laura M. Kuah and must not be reused without permission.

Visiting Thai Bikkhunis at Songdhammakalyani All Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

On a recent trip to Thailand, I had the opportunity to visit Songdhammakalyani Monastery, the first all-female monastery in Nakhon Pathom, just 53 km west of Bangkok. It is the first temple in Thailand built by women, for women.

Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

The Abbess of this unique spiritual space is Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni , the first Thai woman to be ordained as a female monk in the conservative Theravada Buddhist tradition. Because no male monk in Thailand would ordain her, Ven. Dhammananda went abroad to Sri Lanka to be ordained in the Theravada tradition, which is practiced throughout Southeast Asia.

Wat Songdhammakalyani is translated as “the temple of women who uphold the Dharma”. Ven. Dhammananda’s mother, Venerable Voramai Kabilsingh, the first Thai Bhikkhuni (female monk) who was ordained in the Mahayana tradition in Taiwan, founded the monastery in 1960 when she purchased the land from the Queen of King Rama VI. Today, the monastery serves as a temple, education center and is also transforming into an “eco-temple” with a recycling center and organic vegetable garden on the premises.

Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

Day Trip to Songdhammakalyani All Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

Please email to schedule your visit and if you desire, a meeting with Venerable Dhammananda. She meets with visitors between 2-4PM every day.

The monastery is open to female spiritual seekers, but male visitors/family members may also be granted upon personal consultation from Venerable Dhammananda. You may also ask for a tour of the monastery grounds in English.

Lunch is served around 11:15AM and consists of vegetarian dishes, rice, fruits and desserts that were donated from the neighborhoods surrounding the temple. After the meal, everyone is responsible for cleaning their own dishes.

food at Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

Overnight Visitors to Songdhammakalyani – Stay at a Buddhist Monastery in Thailand!

If you would like to stay at a Buddhist Monastery in Thailand, you can email Venerable Dhammananda stating the intention for your stay. Many people stay between 3-7 days and participate in the monastic schedule, which includes morning and evening chanting (at 5:30AM and 7PM, respectively), all meals, one hour of community work in the afternoon and the weekly almsround.

Overnight visitors stay in simple dormitory rooms with single beds, a private bathroom, a ceiling fan and a desk. There is a suggested donation of USD $20/day to cover your living expenses.

dog at Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

Dress Code for Visiting the Buddhist Monastery

Like any temple in Thailand, wear modest and comfortable clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Flip flops are ideal for slipping your shoes on and off in the buildings.

Medicine Buddha Vihara

Located in the back of the monastery grounds, this is a unique temple to the blue Medicine Buddha is used during Buddhist days and weekends. The dark blue metallic Buddha was based on a vision that Venerable Dhammananda saw during her meditation before she was ordained. (That Buddha was large in size and carved out of solid rock. There was an entrance on his right knee. People were seen going inside through the entrance to be healed by the Buddha.) After traveling to many countries and not being able to find such a Buddha image, Venerable Dhammananda returned home and had the Medicine Buddha created in the Thai style of lost wax casting.

Blue Medicine Buddha Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

Yadosohara Vihara

The Yadsohara Vihara (the main shrine) is located at the entrance of monastery and is a three-story building that consists of the dining hall, a small meeting area and the statues of the 13 enlightened Bhikkhuni (Arahat Theris) from Buddha’s time. It’s name honors Princess Yasodhara (Siddhartha Gotama’s wife) as she represents all the Enlightened Bhikkhuni of the past who are shining down on Thailand’s female monks. It is important to note that in the center is the statue of Queen Mahapajapati, the Buddha’s own stepmother/aunt and whom is praised as the first Bhikkhuni.

Yasodhara Vihara

The large panel painting of the Enlightened Buddha that accompanies this hall was created by Ven. Dhammananda’s youngest son.

Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

Here, you can also see a shrine and a life-size portrait draped in beautiful flowers that depicts Venerable Voramai Kabilsingh.

Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

Art Gallery

This is the newest addition to the monastery, completed in early 2018.  Located just next to the Vihara, this small but growing art gallery features contemporary Buddhist artwork by Venerable Dhammananda’s youngest son, including an intricate twenty-first century interpretation of the ancient Tibetan tangka (devotional painting on cotton/thread), inked nature prints and earth-toned textile sculptures. These compelling expressions of beauty links the finite, human world to the realms of the divine.

art gallery Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

Painted Wall of Buddhist Quotes

On the path to the Medicine Buddha Vihara, you will find a salmon pink wall with Buddhist quotes painted in both English and Thai. This is a great wall for silent contemplation and reflection. Ven. Dhammananda’s assistant explained that many of these quotes were original quotes from Venerable Dhammananda herself and some walls also featured her own handwriting.

quote Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

Bookstore

Located near the entrance of the monastery, you can find a small but impressive collection of books in both Thai and English, the majority of them written by Ven. Dhammananda, as well as her Yasodhara newsletters (produced since the 1980s). In addition to framed artwork and small devotional objects, there are also “Thai Bhikkhuni” t-shirts, tote bags and handicrafts for sale.

Bookstore Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

How to Get to Songdhammakalyani All Female Thai Buddhist Monastery

Songdhammakalyani Monastery, 195 Petkasem Highway, Muang District,
Nakhonpathom, Thailand 73000. Tel : +66 34 258 270 (front desk).
Front desk opening hours (phone calls / visitors): 8.30am-5pm

Average Uber/Private Driver one-way fare from Central Bangkok: ฿ 700 (during rush hour), ฿500 (non-rush hour) – the rate should not be more than ฿800 one way

The journey from Bangkok took approximately 53 minutes by car one-way.

Pro-Tip: Sometimes, the driver will agree to wait for you during your visit. If you are going for a few hours, this is ideal. Try to negotiate a rate with the driver in advance and have one of the Sisters communicate with him about the time of your departure and schedule of your visit.

Contact:

Venerable Dhammananda – dhammananda9d@gmail.com; agnes.chetsumon@gmail.com (another English speaking monastic, often copied on her emails)

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