Thailand: Venerable Dhammananda (Dr. Chatsuman Kabilsingh)

The ultimate purpose of Buddhism is going beyond, and the beauty of going beyond is being beyond male or female.

— Venerable Dhammananda (Dr. Chatsuman Kabilsingh)

Venerable Dhammananda (born 1945) is the leader of the Songdhammakalyani Temple in Nakhonpathom, the first temple for Buddhist nuns. She was ordained a "samaneri" (female novice) in February 2001 in Sri Lanka and given the name Dhammananda. In February 2003, she was ordained a "Bhikkhuni" (female Buddhist monk) in Sri Lanka according to the Theravada tradition. She works in education, runs women’s training programs, gives dhamma talks on Buddhist teaching, and writes a regular newspaper column.

Before she became a female Buddhist monk, Venerable Dhammananda studied philosophy in India and completed her Master’s degree at the McMaster University in Canada. She then obtained a PhD in Buddhism at Magadh University in India. She was 54 years old, married with three sons, and a professor of religion and philosophy in Bangkok's prestigious Thammasat University when she thought about being ordained as a Bhuddist monk. Venerable Dhammananda went to Sri Lanka to study and in one year, she had renounced her worldly life, including her marriage, and made the choice to be ordained. Originally Buddhism allowed the ordination of women but after 700 years, the tradition was stopped. Now Venerable Dhammananda is working to revive that tradition that will allow women to walk the path opened by the Buddha, but she first has to convince Thai Buddhists that women have the right to be ordained. The Thai government and council of elder monks have not accepted her ordination despite her excellent academic credentials. As a professor at Thammasat University for 27 years, she established an international Buddhist women's movement. She has been the editor of Yasodhara, an international Buddhist magazine for women, for over 20 years and has written and translated more than 60 books. Some of her books have been translated into English. "My work is mostly about Buddhist teaching and how it is applied to people's lives. I believe that enlightenment is a quality of the mind, and the mind has no gender. It transcends the male and the female. When we reach that state, there is no gender anymore. I believe it is very important to have a good Buddhist education because people can be strengthened by the true Buddhist knowledge and by the true spirit of Buddhism, which allows them to overcome their limits and their hindrances."