Dr. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, ordained Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, is a Theravādin bhikkuni (Buddhist nun) and serves as the absess of the only temple in Thailand where there are fully ordained bhikkuni. She is a Buddhist modernist writer and activist who is determined to reestablish the Theravāda lineage in Thailand for women.
Ven. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni was born October 6, 1944, as Chatsumarn Kabilsingh. Her mother, Voramai Kabilsingh, was the first Thai woman to be fully ordained as a bhikkhuni, and her father strongly supported the revival of the Bikkhuni Sangha in Thailand. Ven. Dhammanada received her Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Visva Bharati University, and her Master’s degree in religion from McCaster University in Canada. She then attended Bagadh University in India, where she obtained her Ph.D. in Buddhism.
For over 30 years, Dr. Kabilsingh taught in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand. She has authored many books on contemporary issues in Asian Buddhism, including Buddhism and ecology and women in Buddhism. In 1981, Dr. Kabilsingh began publishing Yasodhara: The Newsletter on International Buddhist Women’s Activities, which is available in almost 40 countries. Ten years later, she organized the first international conference of Buddhist women held in Bangkok, Thailand.
In 2000, Dr. Kabilsingh took early retirement from Thammasat University and received the bodhisattva’s precept from Fo Guang Shan in Taiwan. Within a year, she took her lower ordination in Sri Lanka from Ven. Bhikkhuni R.Saddha Sumana and Ven. T. Dhammaloka (bhikkhu). In 2003, she defied convention and was ordained as Dhammananda Bhikkhuni – the first Thai woman to be ordained in a Theravāda monastic lineage.
Today, Ven. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni is the absess of Wat Songdhamma Kalayani, 30 miles southwest of Bangkok, a temple built by her mother some 40 years ago. She writes and speaks on issues central to socially engaged Buddhism, such as the intersection of her tradition with the environment, poverty, feminism and education. She is a tireless advocate for advancing the role of women in modern Asian Buddhism. Her approach is both global and grassroots: she believes that Thailand’s troubles must be solved by its people, and offers concrete and practical solutions for serious reform for monastic and lay Buddhists, in particular the reestablishment of the Bhikkhuni order.
Ven. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni believes that Buddhist women should have the opportunity to fulfill their spiritual aspirations completely – that they should be permitted to be ordained as bhikshuni. In bhikshuni she sees great potential for addressing Thailand’s social problems. To that end, she educates Thais, both lay and monastic, about the history and the plight of Buddhist women in their own country that runs counter to Buddhist teachings.
Ven. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni currently resides at the Songdhammakalyani Monastery in Thailand, where she works to educate the public about various issues related to Thai Buddhism and women.