2006

 

 

 

Bhikkhuni Dhammamitta

Thailand

Bhikkhuni Dhammamitta was the first Theravada novice (Samaneri) and Bhikkhuni of the northeastern region of Thailand .  She is a prominent daughter of the Buddha who is actively reviving the Bhikkhuni Sangha in Thailand .  Bhikkhuni Dhammamitta built her own temple, and arranged for the ordination of six other Thai Samaneris.  

The Venerable Bhikkhuni Dhammamitta is not only socially-engaged, but is also an adept in Abidhamma, Buddhist Psychology.  Bhikkhuni Dhammamitta is the first ordained Thai woman who can recite the Bhikkhuni Patimokkha in Pali by memory just as in the ancient days.  From the plain and simple rice fields of Thailand ’s northeastern region to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok , Dhammamitta Bhikkhuni spreads love and kindness everywhere she travels.

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Bhikkhuni Dhammarakkitta

Thailand  

Bhikkhuni Dhammarakkita was the first Samaneri and subsequently Bhikkhuni ordained in The Kingdom of Thailand. Bhikkhuni Dhammarakkitta completed her formal adult education in Australia .  After 9 years of Buddhist practice as a Maechee, she ordained as a Samareri and then as a Bhikkhuni intent on the religious path to assist her Thai sisters and brothers.  

In the context of Thai society, Bhikkhuni Dhammarakitta is very brave for going across the Thai social stream in order to bring a higher status to Thai women in Buddhism. Bhikkhuni Dhammarakkitta has respected the eight Garudhammas and lived in Thai Buddhist monasteries with Bhikkhus, despite discrimination and oppression.  Bhikkhuni Dhammarakkhita peacefully cleans the dust from the eyes of those who cannot see clearly.  

Bhikkhuni Dhammarakkhita’s heart is strong, still and silent.  She walks forward and with each step brings forth change in Thai society.

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Bhikkhuni Dr. Daw Gunasari

USA / Burma  

On October 13, 2002 , Dr. Khin Swe Win, M.D., a retired medical physician in California , USA , became Samaneri Gunasari.  She studied Buddhism from a young age, and aspired to become a Bhikkhuni in this life time.  Samaneri Gunasari ordained at Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara in Los Angeles , California .  She later went to Sri Lanka to study Pali literature and the Pali Canon.  

On February 28, 2003 in Sri Lanka , Samaneri Gunasari received higher  ordination to the Bhikkhuni Sangha order, along with another Myanmar Samaneri Daw Saccavadi.  Among Myanmar women, this was an unprecedented event. The Bhikkhuni Sangha had been defunct for the past 1,000 years in Myanmar , and the opportunity for women to received Bhikkhuni ordination has been forbidden in Myanmar for that same period.  

Living in the land of the free in the USA , she decided to fulfill her aspiration of becoming a Bhikkhuni.  Also, she is happy to set an example for future generations of women in Myanmar and in countries where Theravada Buddhism is predominant.  Bhikkhuni Gunasari finds ordination to be the right path for her to follow as it was clearly established by the Buddha’s foster mother Maha Pajapati Gotami, the leader of the Buddhist Bhikkhunis at the time of the Buddha in the 6th century B.C.  

The Buddha said, "Na so sabbesu thanesu puriso hoti pandito ethipi pandita hoti tatha tatha wicakkhana."  In English, “Men are not wise in every situation.  Women are wise also.  Women are equally capable."  

Since her ordination as Samaneri Gunasari in 2002, she has lived a homeless life. Bhikkhuni Ayya Gunasari departed from her beloved husband Dr. Shein Win and children.

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Bhikkhuni Sudhamma

USA

Bhikkhuni Sudhamma (born 1963) grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. After graduating from New York University School of Law, she practiced law in San Francisco for about one year, then became sick with cancer. The cancer taught her about impermanence, because it destroyed what she treasured:  her good health, her career, and her marriage.  At that time, she became friends with a Thai student visiting the USA, who introduced her to a Thai Buddhist bhikkhu.  

Convinced that the Buddha’s teachings on mental training could help one to overcome suffering, and impressed with the good qualities of the Thai Bhikkhus, Sudhamma soon made the Dhamma the center of her life.  After recovering from cancer she built a happy new life with a second career in helping disabled people; however, having learned how all things change, she preferred to seek the holy life.  Thus, she left home in 1997, and wandered to the Bhavana Society in West Virginia, where Bhikkhu Gunaratana Nayaka Thera (of Sri Lanka) eventually allowed her to “go forth” as a Samaneri.  

In early 2003 Ayya Sudhamma traveled to Sri Lanka , where she became the first American-born woman to receive Bhikkhuni ordination from the newly resurrected Sri Lankan Bhikkhuni community.  Currently she runs the Carolina Buddhist Vihara, a small monastic residence located in Greenville , SC.  It is the only known residence of any Buddhist monastics within a 95-mile radius.  This region is known as “the buckle of the Bible Belt” for its loyalty to Christianity, yet the Vihara is well-supported by the local community.

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Bhikkhuni Supeshala

Sri Lanka  

Bhikkhuni Halpandeniya Supeshala of Sri Bodhi Aramaya in Borupana, Rathmalana , Sri Lanka walks in the footsteps of Sanghamitta Theri.  Educated in the Dhamma, a B.A. and now studying for her M.A. in Buddhism, the Venerable is a Dharma Achariya.  She is the principal of the “ Sri Bodhi Dharma School ” and a teacher at Dekanduwella Dhamma Training Center .  Bhikkhuni Supeshala actively works at the international level via the Sakhyadhita Association and at the national level via the Sri Lankan Child Welfare Foundation & the Maitri Welfare Foundation.  

During the tsunami disaster she worked tirelessly delivering food, clothing, medicine and shelter to the needy and networking internationally to meet the needs of her sisters and brothers.  She met the needs of pregnant women and young girls affected by the tsunami through assistance from the Taiwanese of Fo Guang Shan Monastery. Bhikkhuni Supeshala preached the Dhamma and offered counseling to countless tsunami survivors.  

She has worked to provide basic necessities for school children, visited factories in Sri Lanka to ease the suffering of poor women working long hours, visited prisons and encouraged female prisoners to devote their time to meditation and reading Dhamma books so that they may be better citizens, and freely visited hospitals to see our dear mothers and sisters who are ill. Each day Bhikkhuni Supeshala returns to her monastery with a loving thought for all beings.

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Bhikkhuni Tathaaloka, Theri

USA  

Bhikkhuni Tathaaloka was born in Washington, DC in the 1960's to environmentally-minded scientist parents.  In the midst of images of war and protest, fears of nuclear holocaust and environmental degradation, she grew up in a climate of tremendous social and academic openness and inquiry in the search for more enlightened ways of human life.  With family members and friends of various religious and philosophical backgrounds:  Christian, Atheist, Material Scientist, Muslim, Jewish, Taoist, Native American; early in her life she began to wonder and question deeply what might be true and of real value in life.

She followed her mother's example by observing nature for answers and for peace, and her father's example of inquiry through scientific research and investigation.  Through stories of seekers and sages both historical and mythical, she was inspired to walk their path, if a way could be found to do so.  In her early teenage years she heard rumors of Westerners who had been ordained in Southeast Asia , and of their experiences amidst the Buddhist monastic traditions there.  A glad determination sprang forth in her heart when she heard that in Buddhism, both in ancient and modern times, there were both male and female monks; samanas whose lives were dedicated to inquiry and had realized awakening.  

At age 20, urgently inspired by the sudden death of a close friend, she left university, and entered monastic life as an Anagarika.  She left her home country full of hope in search of monastic training in the ancient traditions.  In India , she found the state of the monastic communities to be quite different than described in the ancient texts, but inspiring nonetheless.  From India , she chose to travel to North Asia , after hearing of the still-living monastic traditions where there were full opportunities and support for ordination, education and training for women in monastic life.  She found her Bhikkhuni teacher, Bhikkhuni Myeong Seong (Sunim), and a strong and thriving women's monastic mountain-forest-meditation tradition in South Korea.  

Returning to the United States , in early 1997, seven years after beginning her journey into monastic life, Ayya Tathaaloka went for Bhikkhuni Upasampada with an international gathering of the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Sanghas from Sri Lanka , Thailand , Laos , Cambodia , Vietnam and Korea in Los Angeles with the late Bhikkhu Ratanasara Sangha Nayaka Thera as Upajaya.  

Since then Bhikkhuni Tathaaloka has focused on studying and practicing the Dhamma and Vinaya and especially on developing the skillful training of the mind in meditation.  Gladly connecting with the Thai Sangha in America and the Western Sangha of the Thai Forest tradition of Bhikkhu Ajahn Chah and Bhikkhu Ajahn Mun, she has traveled twice to Thailand to visit the meditation monasteries and to walk tudong through the northeast.  At the behest of her teachers, and out of gratitude for all the benefits she has received from the Sangha, she also taught in the Bhikkhuni Sangha University in South Korea in “English Dhamma Communication” and has conducted research in World Bhikkhuni Sangha History.  As part of this work, she visited the Sangha Universities and Mahapajapati Theri Nuns' College in Thailand to develop connections between northern and southern Buddhist traditions and provide greater opportunities for Buddhist meditation practice and education.  

This past year, recognizing the growing number of Bhikkhunis and Samaneris in the United States and the true value of coming together in harmony in Sangha, Bhikkhuni Tathaaloka proposed and participated in the founding of the North American Bhikkhuni Association.  Several months later, with the encouragement of Buddhist teachers and friends, she founded the Dhammadharini Vihara and Support Foundation, dedicated to providing opportunities through both moral and material support for the many women in her area interested in monastic life, Dhamma study and meditation retreat.  She currently lives as the Abbess of Dhammadharini Vihara in the San Francisco East Bay area of Northern California, with a thriving, newly-developing Buddhist women's monastic community.

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Bhiksuni Hui Kun  

Taiwan  

Bhiksuni Hui Kun experienced a spiritual awakening one day when visiting a terminally ill Buddhist nun.  After 30 years as a Buddhist Bhiksuni her life took a new course.  

She learned all of the ways to properly treat the terminally ill and dying.  She visited the Lotus Hospice Care Foundation and the Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital ’s “Lotus Flower of the Heart, Palliative Care Ward.”  Then she set out to integrate Buddhist teachings and hospice care and she established the Yi-Ru (One Suchness) Hospice Care Association in 1999 despite a lack of workforce and finances.  Bhiksuni Hui Kun has trained Buddhist Bhiksunis and Bhiksus in Taiwan to care for those in the process of dying, so that the terminally ill may die in peace.

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Dr. Amara Malila

Thailand  

Dr. Amara Malila was born in Bangkok , Thailand in 1936.  She graduated from Siriraj University of Medicine in 1959, and served as a government official in the Department of Medicine at the Ministry of Public Health.  In 1963, she went to Philadelphia , USA to further her studies and obtained a Diploma from the American Board of Pediatrics in 1967, and a Ph.D. in Physiology from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1969. Then, Dr. Amara Malila returned home to Thailand to work as a lecturer in the Department of Physiology at Mahidol University .  

After early retirement, in 1975 Dr. Amara went to practice meditation with Bhikkhu Singthong at Pakaew Forest Temple in Sakon Nakorn.  In 1979 she began giving Dhamma talks at the Buddhadhamma societies of  Siriraj Hospital, Ramathibodi Hospital , King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, Dhammasathan of Chulalongkorn University and at other numerous other places.  Dr. Amara taught thousands to meditate, experience the benefits of mindfulness, and to apply Dhamma to resolve daily life problems.  

Dr. Amara Malila has devoted her life to counseling and caring for the chronically ill and the terminally ill at several hospitals. She has taught those experiencing suffering to explore their own minds, to experience living in the present moment “here” and “now,” and to experience a separation of their bodies from pain.  

Dr. Amara has shared the Dhamma via radio broadcasts:  “Quality of Life” with Professor Rawee Pawilai, “Clinic 101.5” via Chula Radio Station, “A Dhamma Talk with Rajda Kleesunthorn” via the Radio Station for Education every Saturday and Sunday morning, and “Newsletter for the Public” via the Army Transportation Radio Station.  Dr. Amara Malila has humbly authored about 60 Dhamma books.  

The principle of Dhamma for Dr. Amara is practicing mindfulness, (sati).  Dr. Amara identifies a master key to ingenious thinking and mindful daily life as thinking by way of causal relations (yoniso mana sikarn).  A whetstone for wisdom, she notes every event either good or bad.  To use Dhamma in daily life in this way makes for joyfulness in working in every second of life.

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Dr. Emma Tomalin

United Kingdom  

I am a lecturer in Religious Studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom .  I have a long-standing academic and personal interest in women’s relationship to their religious traditions, particularly regarding the efforts that women make for themselves in challenging the gender hierarchies that limit their religious and social freedoms.  About two years ago I first became aware of the movement to revive the Bhikkhuni tradition in Theravada Buddhism and of the particular challenges that this movement faces in Thailand . Since 2004 I have been visiting Thailand to speak with women about the Bhikkhuni ordination and I plan to publish a number of academic articles that explore this issue. I have been invited to speak at several occasions in the United Kingdom on this topic.  

While it is my academic interest that has enabled me to pursue research in this area, on a personal level I have been deeply impressed and inspired by the endeavors of women in Thailand to enhance their positions within the Buddhist tradition: whether this is through ‘improving’ the Maechee Institution or through the campaign to introduce Bhikkhuni ordination.  The Buddhist women that I have got to know are committed to following what they consider to be the true spirit of the Buddha’s teachings as well as to exploring the implications of these teachings for improving the social and economic conditions of women’s lives. On the one hand, they seek to raise women’s status through challenging negative stereotypes that can find support within some versions of the tradition.  On the other hand, many Buddhist women are actively involved in practical initiatives (e.g. education, health etc…) that care for poor women and other marginalized members of society.  The social development aspects of a Buddhism that treats men and women equally and inspires various welfare activities is to be supported and encouraged.  

I had already planned to attend the 2006 award ceremony for “Outstanding Women in Buddhism."  Over the past couple of years the nuns I have been meeting with have spoken enthusiastically about this event and have stressed its importance as bringing together Buddhist women as well as making a public statement about the work that they are engaged in.  I was surprised yet honored to be nominated myself for an award. I consider that my main contribution as a "woman in Buddhism" is rather meager compared to other women nominees, past and present.  However, if my academic work (e.g. publications, lectures to students and conference presentations) can raise people’s awareness of the issues that face Buddhist women across the globe I would be both proud and happy.  I feel that I have personally learned and gained much through my interaction with Buddhist women in Thailand and it is with humility that I accept this award.

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Dr. Suteera Vichitranonda

Thailand  

Dr. Suteera Vichitranonda is currently the President of the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women and President of the Gender and Development Research Institute Foundation in Thailand .  Having founded the Gender and Development Research Institute in 1991, Dr. Suteera has been at the forefront in carrying out action research on policy issues to advance the status of women and in advocating for gender equality.  Using a positive approach and gender information, she has brought about many gains for women including constitutional rights, clear governmental policies on women, and increased participation of women in decision-making among others.  

In recognition of the ill-defined status of Buddhist nuns in Thailand, she has devotedly followed the footstep of her predecessor, Maechee Khunying Kanitha Wichiancharoen, and has provided full support for the promotion of Buddhist education for nuns through Maha Pajapati Theri Wittayalai or better known as the Nuns’ College, located in Pakthongchai Nakorn Rajasima province.  

The strong linkages between the Nuns’ College and the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women (APSW) under the leadership of Dr. Suteera date back over 10 years when the effort to promote the educational status of nuns was initiated.  Dr. Suteera has been closely involved with it from the very beginning and offered the facilities at the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women for the first two years of teaching before the College site at Pakthongchai was ready in 2003.  During the past three years since Mahapajapati Theri Wittayalai has fully operated at Pakthongchai, despite the distance, Dr. Suteera has ensured that support is made available to the extent possible.  This covers administrative support, provision of scholarships for students, a practical training site for students prior to their graduation, facilitation for short-term training, and provision of training instructors.  With respect to the status of nuns, Dr. Suteera, whenever opportunities prevail, regularly raises the issue for the authorities concerned for consideration and clarification.  

Dr. Suteera’s full commitment and selfless devotion for the cause of women has been an inspiration to all those who know her and have worked with her.

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Her Royal Highness Princess Ashi Dechan Wangmo Wangchuk

The Kingdom of Bhutan  

Her Royal Highness, Princess Dechan Wangchuk, born in the Dechencholing Palace and educated in India and England , emanates truthfulness and integrity.  Her Royal Highness donates generously to the people of Bhutan , including 19,000 acres of personal land to the poor.  Across the Kingdom of Bhutan Her Royal Highness , Princess Dechan Wangchuk is dearly beloved for her generous offerings of clothing, food assistance, and shelter to the needy.  To meet the spiritual needs of the future of Bhutan , Her Royal Highness compiled the book, The Buddha and His Teachings, which was distributed to children and schools.  She has also donated generously to the renovation of Buddhist Temples in Bhutan , including:  Dobji Dzong, Tama Lhagang, Dorji Tse, Dorden Gompa, Pangtey, Taktsi, and others.  May Her Royal Highness be bestowed with good health and prosperity for years to come in order for Her Royal Highness to continue to benefit the People of Bhutan and the world.

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Her Royal Highness Princess Neak Moneang Norodom Men Keo Moniren


The Kingdom of Cambodia  

Her Royal Highness studied at the National Institute of Economics, Phnom Penh , Cambodia , and then worked for the national Cambodian Airline.  In 1994 she met and married HRH Prince Norodom Chakranpong.  Her Royal Highness Princess Norodom Moniren then resided in Malaysia and France with His Royal Highness for the next five years.  

Returning back to Cambodia , HRH Princess Norodom Moniren helped HRH Prince Norodom Chakrapong establish Royal Phnom Penh Airways in 1999, a private local airline.  

Her Royal Highness Princess Neak Moneang Norodom Men Keo Moniren has a large Kingdom to attend to and many challenges to face.  May her faith in Buddhism and strength of character assist her in networking internationally for the benefit of Cambodia ’s women and children.  

May every blessing of the Dharma be bestowed upon Her Royal Highness Norodom Moniren and His Royal Highness Norodom Chakrapong.

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Jill Jameson

Australia  

A life-long peace activist, Jill has been practicing Zen Buddhism for over twenty years as a student of Aitken Roshi and other teachers in the Diamond Sangha.  She has been working with local communities in Asia in community development and as a trainer in peace-building and leadership-training skills, drawing on Buddhist principles and practice, with a commitment to active non-violence and inter-faith dialogue.  She gratefully acknowledges the wisdom she has learned from the many women with whom she has worked.  Jill is an engaged Buddhist and a founding member of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship Melbourne Chapter, and was recently appointed to the International Advisory Council of BPF.  She is on the Executive Committee of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, and earlier was on the Women and Gender Sub-committee of INEB.  In this capacity she has worked with others to improve the situation of Buddhist nuns in Asia , such as through facilitating a survey of training needs of nuns in Ladakh , India .  Jill has participated in several “Think Sangha” meetings, such as exploring Buddhist responses to violence, and as a member of the Dharma Gaia Trust has supported projects in Asia which bring the Dharma and ecology together.  

Jill is a trainer in international conflict transformation, peace building and Deep Ecology/ despair and empowerment, having trained with Joanna Macy and others. She has participated in grassroots leadership training through the Spirit in Education Movement, and worked with local organizations such as Women with Disabilities in Cambodia and the Planning Council of the Tibetan Government-in-exile, to strengthen their capacities.  Much of this work has been through the INEB network of friends.  She has presented papers on various topics, including:  “Buddhism and Development: Healing our Communities” in 2003 in Thailand , and “Buddhist Responses to Conflict, War and Terrorism” at the Engaging Buddhism in Australia Conference in 2004.  In Australia , Jill has been involved with the Foundation for Survivors of Torture, on their management committee, research sub-committee and currently on their ethics committee.  

Jill has been a manager of international development programs for women mainly through the International Women’s Development Agency in Cambodia , Vietnam , Sri Lanka and on the Thai-Burmese border, covering such issues as trafficking of women, and poverty and gender violence.  She has also been a lecturer at various universities in Melbourne in community development and social research.

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Maechee Rachada Amatayakul

Thailand  

Maechee Rachada Amatayakul’s interest in Dhamma began at an early age and has continued throughout her life.  She excelled in academics and earned her Master’s Degree in Public Administration.  She became a Buddhist nun at Phraputthabat Takpa Temple in Lamphun on December 9, 1983, and studied with the Bhikkhu Supromyan Thera Dhammachakko.  

She renovated Pranon Monchange Temple , Phratat Doi Noi Temple and many other Buddhist temples in northern Thailand , and built many Buddha statues throughout the region.  For years Maechee Rachada nourished good values in Thai youth by teaching Dhamma in the public schools.  She also taught Dhamma to housewives and made outreach to teach Dhamma to prostitutes in northern and northeastern Thailand .  

In 2000, she published the Buddhist Canon in Thai and Nepalese as a gift for His Majesty the King of Nepal, and she joined the official Buddhist monastic delegation to Nepal.  In gratitude, the Nepalese government gifted Thailand with hundreds of Buddha relics which were distributed throughout the country as well as to temples abroad.  In 2001, she invested her assets in building Lomphrachotong Temple as a Learning Center for Abhidhamma (Buddhist Psychology).  The Center located in northern Thailand is now heralded for its excellence in Abhidhamma teachings.  

Maechee Rachada also built Rachata Dhammasatan.  Maechee Rachada educates the public and currently teaches vipassana meditation in Pasang, Lamphun Province, Thailand.

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Maechee Sarocha Chaiyakate

Thailand  

Maechee Sarocha Chaiyakate has lived a monastic life for 26 years.  She is the abbess of the Kao Phra Maechee Dhamma Practice Center since 1988.  She served on the committee of the Thai Maechee Institute for four years, and was then elected as the Assistant Vice-President of the Thai Maechee Institute for eight years.  

Maechee Sarocha devotes her life to social work and improving society.  She has arranged many Dhamma projects, such as:  a Buddhist Children’s Camp for teaching ethics to children since 1989.  Maechee Sarocha also developed a Dhamma camp to help 2,000 children each year to stay away from drugs.  In 2003, this camp was selected and promoted as the Dhamma Army by the Thai Army as a drug prevention project.  It was promoted at the Dhamma Development Center of Derm Bang Nang Buaj District, in Suphanburi , Thailand .  

Furthermore, Maechee Sarocha founded a Home Changes Life Project to support women and children who have broken families and are in poverty.  She taught them how to change their lives towards self-sufficiency and happiness.  Maechee Sarocha founded the Sajja Savings Group for Children in order for them to practice saving money as they are now faced with a consumer society.  In 2005, she kindly received young addicts from the law court for emotional and spiritual counseling via Dhamma.  

Maechee Sarocha arranges Dhamma practice programs for the public on Buddhist holy days and national holidays.  Not only does she teach Dhamma, but she also teaches community building and has gathered Buddhists-of-faith together to build a two-story Dhamma practice building with a large and lovely Buddha statue.  

Maechee Sarocha has performed these good deeds and countless others for the benefit of society and the next generation.

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Ouyporn Khuankaew

Thailand  

Ouyporn Khuankaew of Chiang Mai is a gender and development specialist who has incorporated Buddhist philosophies of non-violence in her work.  She has served on the advisory boards of numerous social change projects such as the Burma Relief Center, Shan Women’s Action Network, Earth Rights International, Women’s Education for Advancement & Empowerment, Women Peacemakers, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Buddhist Think Sangha, and Non-Violence Global Peace Force.  She has held consultancy and training positions with the Thai-German Technical Cooperation Program, Thai-German Highland Development Project, the United Nations, Thai Worldview International Foundation, Malaysian Institute of Cultural Affairs, and Wongsanit Ashram.  She has conducted training programs on peacemaking, non-violent conflict resolution, democracy and politics, women’s rights, counseling women survivors of trauma, and community and team building.  

Ouyporn Khuankaew has lectured on Thai Women & Buddhism, Women’s Roles in Thai Social Movements, Feminism & Buddhism, Feminists Working Across Cultures, and The Impact of Globalization on Women.  She has written widely and translated many feminist & Buddhists texts into Thai:  What is Patriarchy?, Our Bodies Ourselves, Walking on Lotus Flowers, Mindful Meditation: A Handbook for the Buddhist Peacemaker, Buddhism & Domestic Violence, Thai Prostitution, and Higher Ordination for Thai Women.  She is renowned in Thailand for having held the position of coordinator of the Women & Gender Program of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists.  Currently, this dedicated feminist peace activist holds the distinguished position of Director of the International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice. People throughout south and southeast Asia have greatly benefited from her ocean-like compassion and wisdom.

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Ruth Denison  

USA  

Ruth Denison (born 1922) was the first Buddhist teacher in the United States to lead an all women’s retreat for Buddhist meditation and instruction.  Her center Dhamma Dena Desert Vipassana Center is located in the Mojave Desert, in Joshua Tree, California.  She was also a teacher at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts.  She sometimes teaches at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California.  

After spending her youth in Germany she immigrated to the United States.  In the 1960s and 1970s she was part of the alternative and counter culture scene.  

She is one of four Westerners who received permission to teach from Burmese master U Ba Khin, a lay person known for a particular method of awareness practice, called “sweeping,” in which the meditator closely observes bodily sensations.  

She is among the pioneers who introduced vipassana meditation to the United States.

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Sandy Boucher

USA  

Sandy Boucher of Oakland , California , U.S.A. , is a major spokeswoman for Western women involved in Buddhist practice.  For twenty-five years, she has been active in the exploration of women’s participation in Buddhism and in support of our vibrant contribution to Buddhism’s movement to the West.  She has written numerous articles on the subject, and has co-organized several national Women and Buddhism conferences.  She has also reached out to her Asian sisters through several trips to Buddhist institutions in Southeast Asia and a short period spent in the robes in the Theravada tradition with Ayya Khema in Sri Lanka .  

Her most powerful contribution consists of her books, which include:  Turning the Wheel:  American Women Creating the New Buddhism; Opening the Lotus:  A Woman’s Guide to Buddhism; Discovering Kwan Yin:  Buddhist Goddess of Compassion; Hidden Spring:   A Buddhist Woman Confronts Cancer; and Dancing in the Dharma:  The Life and Teachings of Ruth Denison.  Ms. Boucher continues to be a tireless resource for Buddhist women and a sincere student of the Dharma.

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