21st Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards (OWBA) Ceremony - 2022- Thailand
The News Story
Bangkok, Thailand I March 10, 2022 I 12.55 PM –
Each international day offers many actors the opportunity to organize activities related to the theme of the day. Organizations and offices of the United Nations system, and most importantly, governments, civil society, the public and private sectors, schools, universities and, more generally, citizens, make an international day a springboard for awareness-raising actions. Women are increasingly being recognized as more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men, as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on the natural resources which climate change threatens the most. At the same time, women and girls are effective and powerful leaders and change-makers for climate adaptation and mitigation. They are involved in sustainability initiatives around the world, and their participation and leadership results in more effective climate action. without gender equality today, a sustainable future, and an equal future, remains beyond our reach. This International Women’s Day, let’s claim “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. According to the Buddhist Canon, women are as capable of reaching nirvana as men. The Canon reports that the order of bhikkhunis was first created by the Buddha at the specific request of his aunt and foster-mother Mahapajapati Gotami, who became the first ordained bhikkhuni. A famous work of the early Buddhist schools is the Therigatha, a collection of poems by elder nuns about enlightenment that was preserved in the Pāli Canon. The Canon describes extra vows required for women to be ordained as bhikkhunīs, the Eight Garudhammas, and legislates the bhikkhunī order as subordinate to and reliant upon the bhikkhu order. In places where the bhikkhuni lineage was historically missing or has died out, due to hardship, alternative forms of renunciation have developed. In Tibetan Buddhism, women officially take the vows of śrāmaṇerīs (novitiates); some Theravadin women may choose to take an informal and limited set of vows similar to the historical vows of the sāmaṇerī, like the maechi of Thailand and thilashin of Myanmar.
The 21st Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards (OWBA) Ceremony, held at the Boonyaniti Temple in Korat, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand on International Women’s Day, March 08, 2022. This year 20 women from around the world awarded and honored for their exceptional contributions to Buddhism. This year the award ceremony held online via Zoom. This Awards Ceremony organized under the leadership by Chairman of the Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards, Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Dr. Lee. The event supported by President of the Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards (OWBA), Deputy President of the World Alliance of Buddhists (WAB) Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Dr. Ming Yu and Co-Founder of the Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Rathnavali. The honorees were selected by a panel of Buddhist scholars and practitioners and received their awards at a ceremony held at the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women.
Two Buddhist nuns, Thai Bhikkhuni Most Venerable Rattanavali and Most Venerable American Bhikkhuni Dr. Lee, got the idea to develop an award in honor of Buddhist women’s accomplishments on the United Nations’ International Women’s Day. This idea arose in March 2001 after the nuns attended two events: The Outstanding Women’s Awards in Thailand organized by the Gender and Development Research Institute, and an invited speech offered by Venerable Bhikkhuni Dr. Lee at the United Nations in Bangkok in honor of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2001. International Women’s Day, March 8th, is an occasion marked by women’s groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at each of the 5 United Nations’ branches in the world. There is also an honoring of the day across the world at universities, schools and educational institutions. Often, the day expands into a week or even a month focusing on the accomplishments of women. When women on all continents, who are often divided by national boundaries, ethnic, racial, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to women’s struggle for equality, justice, peace and development which began in the1840s. Few causes promoted by the United Nations have generated more intense and widespread support than the campaign to promote and protect the equal rights of women. The Charter of the United Nations, signed in San Francisco in 1945, was the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality, as a fundamental human right. Nearly 200 women from 20 countries have been awarded to date. Some of the awardees have included: The Objectives of the Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards (OWBA), Mobilize public opinion and international action to promote the role and status of Theravada Bhikkhunis in southeast Asia, thereby directing assistance to disadvantaged groups of women and girls. Uplift the good deeds of Buddhist women so that others may know. Provide good role models for society. Encourage the award recipients. Promote sorority in the overcoming of obstacles. Promote information of the award recipient’s role in developing her own life, that of her community, her nation and the world. Training, research and the collection of sex-segregated data on the role and status of ordained women in Buddhism. Encourage a movement which uplifts the role and status of Buddhist women within the Buddhist faith. Promote telling the herstory of women in Buddhism. Promote a network of accomplished Buddhist women, ordained and lay. The Categories of the Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards (OWBA), recognize four categories of accomplishments. Meditative Practice, Social Work and Community Development Dharma Propagation: e.g. Dharma Writings, Academic Writings, Radio, TV, Websites, Peace Activism.
2022 - 21st Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards Winners…. (Totally 20 winners)
01 – Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Dr. Jian Hui – Taiwan
Bhikkhuni Dr. Jian Hui is the Abbess of Yuan Dao Chan Monastery. She holds a Master’s Degree in Management (Strategic Management & Organizational Analysis) from the University of Sydney in Australia and a Master’s Degree in Buddhism from Chung Tai Buddhist Institute. Her Ph.D. is in Adult Education from National Kaohsiung Normal University. She writes, “I have been interpreting Buddhism from a diversified perspective by integrating managerial, pedagogical, psychological, anthropological, philosophical, and scientific approaches with the ultimate goal of kindling the general populace’s appreciation of the Buddha’s wisdom.” Bhikkhuni Dr. Jian Hui is a highly effective Buddhist educator. She focuses on assisting learners with the hope of making the Buddha Dharma more accessible to individual student needs. She integrates the mundane and transcendental Dharma. For years she served as a professor and dean of a Buddhist college with the goal of continuing Sangha Education and the propagation of Buddhism, and therefore founded the “Yuan Dao Sangha Group.” Venerable Bhikkhuni Dr. Jian Hui utilizes: cloud-based, group learning, multimedia teaching materials, including short videos to share the Shurangama Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Altar Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, the Essence of Teaching and Meditation, and the Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom. These videos constitute the daily study materials for her students around the world. She has: typeset, printed and circulated 252,000 sets of the Avatamsaka Sutra; led “Vajra Prajna Writing Meditation” workshops worldwide; conducted lectures; created documentaries and videos; led prayer sessions, the “Ten Cities and Ten Assemblies” events; held forums; organized musical concerts; written books; commissioned artists to depict the “Fifty-three Visits of Good Wealth to Youth;” led meditation retreats; and created public welfare projects including the free vegetarian lunch program for students who visit the National Museum of Science and Technology which has fed 36,859 students-to-date. Venerable Bhikkhuni Dr. Jian Hui’s diversified approach to sharing Dharma bespeaks great freshness and creativity!
02 – Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Der Chia – Taiwan
Bhikkhuni Der Chia writes, “I was born and raised in a very frugal, farmer family. Even though, I had four elder siblings, my parents still loved me a lot. My brother and sisters were much older than me, so since young, my best playmates were the chickens, ducks, and geese raised at home. I believed they knew me. I did not see them as animals and felt that they should not be eaten. From time to time, I witnessed their loss of life. Before I was seven years old, I would wonder where they would go after they had passed on. When I was eight years old, my grandma who stayed with me passed away. The funeral was held at home, and I felt depressed and enormous fear. From then on, I lived a meaningless life without seeing a path ahead. This impacted my growth! I lived a drifting life, year after year until I was 25 years old; I broke down and cried in a restroom one day. I wanted to catch hold of the water while washing my hands, but nothing can be caught. Watching the water flow through my hands I thought about my 25 years of life and how nothing could be held onto. What about another 25 years and another 25 years? What could I hold onto in life? The great void within me made me cry in pain. At that time, I didn’t know that, it was impermanence! Later, my friend gave me a book about a person walking in a boundless wilderness. Looking ahead, he didn’t know where to go or how he got there when looking back. This sentence made me break down and weep again, because it was what I was experiencing. I was very curious who could use such a simple metaphor to illustrate the complexity of life. It turned out that this simile came from Buddhist scriptures. I took up the robes in March 1992 and received my full precepts at the end of that year. I was still full of the fear of death. Eventually, I learned that there was a nun Venerable Bhikkhuni Tsung-Tueng, who served in the palliative ward of the hospital to care for dying patients. This kind of Boddisattva act was really admirable. I began training in spiritual care and counseling in palliative wards. … After the completion of my training, I stayed in the same hospital to help Venerable Bhikkhuni Tsung-Tueng train clinical chaplains.” Venerable Bhikkhuni Der-Chia is currently the Supervisor for the Spiritual Care Training Program at Dabei Xueyuan, Taipei and is an Adjunct Lecturer in the Humanities Care Center at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology in Taipei. She has served as an Abbess, Leader of Clinical Buddhist Chaplains, and as the Supervisor for Hospice Spiritual Care Volunteer Training in hospitals, Buddhist temples and at foundations in Taipei. She was also a Consultant Buddhist Chaplain for a Hotline, the Buddhist Lotus Hospice Care Foundation Hotline in Taipei.Venerable Bhikkhuni Der-Chia of Taiwan created a theatrical performance with the spiritual care volunteers entitled “Listen to the Inner Voice.” The purpose of the performance was to let medical staff and the general public understand the physical and mental changes, as well as, spiritual needs of terminal patients. On October 22, 2021, her documentary entitled, “Review” opened at theaters throughout Taiwan. She offered Q & A sessions with the audiences at some theaters on spiritual care. Bhikkhuni Der-Chia’s film is the first film in Taiwan which encourages people to face life and death, and to open the door in a society that has long avoided talking about death. She has also introduced the concept of Buddhist hospice care to China and Hong Kong.
03 – Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Tsung Teung – Taiwan
Bhikkhuni Tsung-Tueng writes: “The two things in this life which I accomplished and am proud of are: first and foremost, I took up the robes when I was nineteen (1982) and received my Bhikkhuni precepts two years later. Second, I engaged in spiritual care for terminally ill patients and developed a hospice care profession in Buddhism from the aspects of clinical service, teaching, and research.” Bhikkhuni Tsung-Tueng is an early pioneer in mainstreaming Hospice-palliative care in Taiwan, and developing a Buddhist model of care. Her journey began at the palliative ward of National Taiwan University Hospital where she began to work with Professor Qing-Yu on a research project entrusted by the Buddhist Lotus Hospice Foundation to integrate Buddha Dharma and medicine. They were on the frontline caring for terminally ill patients and assessing their spiritual needs. Then returned to their research team to discuss care plans. The approach worked and by the third year onwards, they began to train clinical Buddhist Chaplains. Thereafter, Bhikkhuni Tsung-Teung travelled internationally to present papers in various countries: Malaysia, Japan, India, and Rome, and she co-authored, The Mystery of Life and Death: 16 Spiritual Dialogues and End-of-Life Learning in 2016, the first care-guideline book that combines Dharma with clinical applications: Bhikkhuni Tsung-Tueng produced the documentary film, Review in 2021. Supervised and produced Listen to the Inner Voice in 2018. Participated in filming Meeting You at the Turning Point of Life in 2014. And participated in the lead role of The Lotus Blossom-Clinical Buddhist Monastics Practicing in Hospital Sites in 2011. Bhikkhuni Tsung-Tueng writes: “After 24 years of commitment to the front line of clinical care on the scene of life and death, I have faced different subjects and various challenges daily: dying patients, family members, monastics who have just begun their clinical practice, dialogues from cross-field professionals and inter-religious dialogues. All the experiences are helping me deepen my practice of Buddha Dharma. I am grateful for such causes and conditions. I hope that in my lifetime, I can continue to establish a more complete teaching system in applying the Buddha Dharma to clinical care, so as to benefit future generations.”
04 – Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Liao Guo – China
Bhikkhuni Liao Guo is the Abbess of Kushan Temple in Yueyang, Hunan Province, China. She has never asked for alms or donations, and yet she has built three Buddhist pagodas with the support of her parents and siblings, who wholeheartedly commit to seeing Buddhism flourish in China. Bhikkhuni Liao Guo engages in maternal education and fetal education. She also teaches people the Medicine Buddha Sutra. She constructed a meditation hall and every day after the people have completed hard work, they come to engage in Medicine Buddha Yoga practices. They sing Zen songs, create calligraphy of Buddhist adages, have tea ceremonies, study music of the Zither and Guqin, worship, create Buddhist theatrical productions, enjoy vegetarian food without oil or salt, and all the while learn to practice to live a healthy, happy life. To build 3 Buddhist pagodas, she endured many challenges, sold family land, and went from 80 kg to a mere 46 kg now from hard work. She encourages people to forego viewing Buddhism as superstition and encourages them to contemplate serenely all phenomena, deeds, and contexts in life, even political. She views all conditions as they are, as Dhamma, as merely the boat which carries us across suffering. She teaches to go forward in the spirit of Dharma, selflessness and altruism.
05 – Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Choejin Samdrup – Thailand
I, Boonattakarn Passaro, have searched for the meaning of life. I observed 8 precepts and began practicing meditation in 2004. After fully-ordaining as a Bhikkhuni in 2011, I started to work as a volunteer for the Buddhist Youth Society of India. I have dedicated my life to volunteer work since then. In addition to maintaining precepts, practicing meditation and being socially-engaged, I have studied Buddhism at institutes and university and earned my M.A. degree.My motivation to study Buddhism is a search for the meaning of life. Now, it has expanded to, “How to be peaceful? Why do we exist?” My encounter with His Holiness the Dalai Lama answered many questions. Thus, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s way of life is my inspiration. I continued my studies and service activities, including volunteering at the Tibetan Nuns’ Project. While in India, I had a good opportunity to attend Dhamma teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama many times. With strong aspiration, I dedicate my life to working as a volunteer and social worker for the purpose of supporting all beings. I believe that women can work well, and that they should have opportunities to take part in important activities as leaders. Therefore, I am studying for my Ph.D. in Peace Studies at the International Buddhist Studies College of Maha Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. Also, I am a staff member of the Sujata Sikkalaya Center in Rangsit. This center is under the spiritual guidance of Phramedhivajiradom (V.Vajiramedhi). The policy is to support and motivate women to be leaders, as well as, provide meditation programs for daily life. I look forward to meeting good friends from all over the world. Good connections and knowledge empower me to continue to dedicate my life to support all beings
06 – Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Surindra – Thailand
Bhikkhuni Surindra was born in Surin province, Thailand in 1963. She grew up in a rural community of rice farmers. She went to school, planted rice and cared for the buffalos. As a girl she dreamed of being a “Phra Phuying” female monk, also known as a Bhikkhuni. She credits this inspiration to her elderly uncle who had been a wandering monk, for many years and had sojourned to India. After he left the monkhood, he lived with her family and would tell her bedtime stories of Bhikkhunis during the time of the Buddha. He told her that Bhikkhunis travelled from India to Sri Lanka. Time passed. So, as a young girl, she requested and was granted ordination as a Samaneri and attended school in her saffron robes. She was the first in recent modern history to be ordained in Thailand as a Samaneri. She completed grade 4 elementary school. After her temporary ordination, she continued to plant the rice fields and care for the animals. By the age of 15, she told her parents that she wanted to become a saffron-robed Bhikkhuni and her parents refused. So, she ran away from home. She sent a message that she would not return home if they did not agree. They agreed to her ordaining as an eight-precept, white-robed nun at her local village temple. She remained at Kok Buria Temple, Nai Muang, Surin until the age of 18 when she ventured to Bangkok and established residence at Chana Songkram Temple. She began formal studies at Maha Tat Temple, where she studied Dhamma, Abhidhamma and Pali for 3 years. She also completed High School grade 3 by non-formal education, and studied English levels 1, 2 and 3 at Wat Po in Bangkok. She served as a translator of Sanskrit to Pali to Thai for the Bhumi Palo Bhikkhu Foundation of Sakeat Temple in Bangkok, and would travel regularly back to her village temple to engage in traditional holidays, ceremonies, and rural development projects. Her childhood dream remained in her mind. She remembered the stories which her uncle told her of Bhikkhunis. So, she set the goal again to become a Bhikkhuni, and thereby complete the four-fold Sangha: Bhikkhuni, Bhikkhu, Laywoman, Layman. A woman’s movement began in Thailand, and by the age of 46 she was able to ordain as a novice and by the age of 49, she took full ordination in Sri Lanka. She returned to her hometown, while also maintaining her monastic residence in Bangkok and began the process of consciousness-raising with her villagers. As the people knew her for many years, they were very happy to accept her and see her flourish as a fully-ordained woman. She provides the community with spiritual counsel and they likewise provide her with alms offerings. She has organized numerous activities for children, high school students and college students to come to the temple, share a meal together, and have Dhamma discussions and cooperative activities, such as feeding other people or planting rice. She frequently organizes activities with her local battalion of soldiers to come to the temple and make merit by maintaining the temple facilities. She also collaborates with the Humanities Faculty of Rajaphat University Surin to organize Love of Nation activities. Since ordaining, Bhikkhuni Surindra feels very proud. She is opening a path for society to know about Bhikkhunis, and opening the possibility and opportunity for women to ordain as Bhikkhunis in Thailand. She notes that equality for women is allowing women the opportunity to choose to ordain in order to fulfill the 4-fold Sangha. Her teachings include: the Eight-fold path, and the Paticasammupada, connecting with peace of mind, and Anapanasati meditation.
07 – Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Khenmo Drolma – USA
Bhikkhuni Khenmo Drolma is abbess of Vajra Dakini Nunnery. She is the first Western abbot in the Drikung Kagyu lineage of Vajrayana Buddhism. Her complete title is Khenmo Konchog Nyima Drolma, and she has studied with foremost spiritual teachers of our time including: H.H. Dalai Lama, H.H. Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche (the head of the Drikung Kagyu lineage) and Ani Pema Chodron. After her novice ordination by Rinpoche Drikung Kyabgon in 1997, she trained at Gampo Abbey with Ven. Pema Chodron, and attended their Shedra (philosophy College). An artist and a former-professor of art, Bhikkhuni Khenmo Drolma with inspiration and gratitude created and gifted a Gampopa statue for Gampo Abbey’s stupa and altar. In 2002 she took higher ordination as a Bhikkhuni in Taiwan. It was one of the most challenging and wonderfully memorable experiences of her life to be in an Asian context of receiving dana and being supported to make intensive studies for ordination. In 2004 she was installed as a Khenmo (Abbot) in the Drikung lineage; thus, she became the first woman and first westerner in her lineage to officially hold this responsibility. Bhikkhuni Khenmo Drolma teaches the Dharma internationally. Her current responsibilities, in addition to Vajra Dakini Nunnery, include: the Tibetan/Himalayan Nuns Leadership Program, and she chairs the international committee for the Bhikkhuni Shravasti Rains Retreat.
08 – Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Gawa Khandro – Canada
Venerable Gawa Khandro is a Buddhist nun. She is the spiritual director of Gawa Ling Buddhist Center in McLure, British Columbia, Canada. She offers service as a Chaplain at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia. Venerable Gawa Khandro also provides community outreach services to marginalized populations. She is a member of: Sakydhita Canada, United Sangha Vancouver, Zen Peacemakers International, and Interfaith Kamloops. She has studied with Thich Nhat Hanh, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Acharya Pema Chodron, and Lama Tsewang Samdrup. Venerable Gawa Khandro took Mindfulness Trainings with Thich Nhat Hanh and ordained at Thrangu Monastery, where she was precepted by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. Venerable Gawa Khandro has contributed to a book on Interfaith Chaplaincy and is currently writing a book of Contemplations for Daily Practice.
09 – Mingli C. Shih – Taiwan
Mingli Chang Shi is a woman of extraordinary giftedness, concentration and compassion. She was born in 1960, and raised in Taipei, Taiwan. Her parents owned a gift company which they started from scratch. As the eldest daughter of the family, and at the same time seeing the hard work of her parents to support their household, she chose night school, and learned the family business during the day from her father. She inherited unique craft skills. She writes, “With a pair of scissors, I tried to cut out the beauty of Chinese characters and cultivate the abundance and wisdom of life with sincerity.” She married, immigrated to the US, became a vegetarian, joined Huayen Lotus Association, and in 2003 accepted Bodhisattva vows. Her father became ill, and she perceived the impermanence of life and made a vow to copy the Sutras by paper-cutting, each individual character. Throughout more than a decade of Sutra paper-cutting, she presented her artwork in Taiwan and China at: Huayen Lotus Association in Taipei; White Horse Temple in Henan, Luoyang; Anguo Zen Temple in Hubei; Dinglin Temple in Nanjing; and Tamsui Cultural Park. Mingli C. Shih also collaborates in exhibits, offers lectures and performances of her artistic mastery of paper cutting Chinese characters. During exhibitions, she was interviewed by the People’s Daily, China Times, Ruyi Station of Buddhism, Hubei People’s Daily, etc., and Mr. Gao Hong, a well-known art connoisseur in mainland China, once praised her work as “majestic, solemn, ancient and extremely Zen.” Mingli C. Shih’s work inspired the dean of the Karuna Buddhist Center in Nepal to initiate a sutra copying program, which now boasts more than 2,000 students who copy the sutras daily. As of 2020, there are more than 300 Heart Sutra works with collectors in Taiwan, the United States, Canada, Belgium, New Zealand, and China. Large works such as the Diamond Sutra are more temple-like treasures, and may be used for foundation laying or temple fund-raising events, and their lengths have repeatedly broken records with the 7,532-word Infinite Yijing which is 16 meters long. After her mother passed away in 2009, she moved back to Taiwan to care for her father. Through the process of copying and contemplating the sutras, she has worked as a diligent gardener; her focus: on the characters of the Sutras, the skill, and their meaning in every moment of life has brought her great peace and freedom.
10 – Mei Yun Tang – Taiwan
Mei Yun Tang is Chairperson and Artistic Director of the Tang Mei Yun Taiwanese Opera Company. She graduated from Ming Zhi Junior High School in New Taipei City, Taiwan and worked as: the Department Head of National Taiwan College of Performing Arts, an Instructor of Taiwanese Opera Clubs of National Taiwan University and National Taiwan Normal University. Mei Yun Tang is also the Lead Actor of the Ho Lo Taiwanese Opera Troupe and the Hsiu Chih Taiwanese Opera Troupe. Her parents were famous opera actors and they founded the Bao An Taiwanese Opera Troupe. Mei Yun Tang continued the glory of Taiwanese Opera in order to pass the art to future generations. She inherited tradition and innovated trails. She graces Taiwan with exquisite dramas every year at the National Theater and Concert Hall, and brought Taiwanese Opera to the international stage. She contributed to DaAi TV, the Tzu Chi Buddhist Compassion Relief Foundation’s TV Channel in numerous performances including: “Adamant Minds” in 2004; “Hold Your Hands to Conquer All the Hardship” in 2007. Then she filmed the “Buddha Mind” series from 2011-2015 and the “Buddha Mind – Eminent Monks” series from 2016-2021. Also in 2018, she performed “Eminent Monk Hsuan Tsang” at the Serong and Penang branches of Tzu Chi Foundation in Malaysia, and in 2019 “Eminent Monk Chih Che” at Malysian and Singaporean branches of Tzu Chi Foundation. Mei Yun Tang also engaged the world with annual productions of Buddhist drama, including: “The Vengeance” at Taipei Cultural Center in 2010 and “A Benevolent Spirit” in 2011. Her theatrical performances are hundreds-fold and her influence on Taiwan and the Buddhist world is immeasurable.
11 – Chen Yun Chang – Taiwan
People always say that we should do at least one right thing in this life. For me… At 25, I started my journey of learning Buddhism and painting Buddhas. At 30, I studied at the Srimala Institute of Fo Guang Shan and went to Canada by the arrangement of the Institute. In Canada, I met the guiding Venerable of my Buddhist painting class. He told me that he was still waiting for me to return to Taiwan, to serve others as a class leader in continuance. At 35, I became a mother. With my husband’s support, every week my husband, our baby girl and I traveled with Master Chen Yu-Yuan to Fo Guang Shan Temple in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where I volunteered at its Buddhist painting class and learned to become an assistant teacher. At 40, I continued to promote Buddhist painting in Kaohsiung. At 45, I started my new journey of learning to paint Buddhas with a variety of coloring techniques and theories. At 50, already half way through my life. I was still very grateful to have learned from Master Chen who knows the true value of life. Because of painting Buddhas, my ordinary life has become more abundant and meaningful. At 53, I vowed to continue to practice and be perseverant, for these are the core essences of my heart, and also the ultimate philosophy that my teacher has taught me. Therefore, in this life, I have done one thing right, and that is doing my best and being committed to painting Buddhas.
12 – Ching Yi Chi – Taiwan
Ching Yi Chi was born in 1960 in Taichung City, Taiwan into an agricultural family which actively participated in local government affairs. Both of her parents held positions of responsibility for the well being of the community in addition to their familial duties. Today, both of her parents are active in bringing Vajrayana Buddhism to Taiwan, and her family has a meditation hall in their home with a Medicine Buddha. She and her family believe in Taiwanese folk religions, Buddhism and Taoism. Ching Yi Chi graduated from National Taiwan Ocean University. At the age of 27, she studied the Diamond Sutra, the Heart Sutra, and meditation under the guidance of Mr. Gao. At the age of 28, she began to study Tibetan Buddhism. At the age of 31, Ching Yi Chi took refuge in the Triple Gems under Kathog Rigzin Chenpo Rinpoche and received layperson’s vows. At the age of 33, she received Bodhisattva vows in Nepal from her Noble teacher, His Eminence Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche and was given the Dharma name of Sangye Tosgyi. In 2000, she participated in the 3-years-6-months retreat and practiced Dzogchen, including its Preliminaries, Development Stage, Completion Stage and the Great Perfection Stage. Ching Yi Chi is currently the publisher and secretary general of Fa Yuan Cultural Publishing Press, and is the founding president of Kathog Rigizin Chenpo Dharma Association. She is committed to the Kagyu Center of North America, the Padma Raja Society in the USA, the Padmasambhava Pureland Temple of Nepal, the Retreat Center and Tibetan Hospital and School in Mula, China, Theg Chog Ling in Taiwan, Wisdom Sky Zen Garden in Miaoli-Taiwan, and Padma Raja Zen Garden in Malaysia. Her generosity allows monastics to study and practice, and has contributed greatly to the propagation of Vajrayana Buddhism. As the current Secretary General of Kathog Rigzin Chenpo Dharma Association she preserves and promotes Buddhist principles, empowerments and Dharma teachings in Taiwan. Ching Yi Chi brings the Light of Asia to the World!
13 – Dr. Pamela Ayo Yetunde – USA
Dr. Pamela Ayo Yetunde is a woman of authenticity, compassion and great inner awareness. She was born in 1961 in Indianapolis, Indiana. She grew up in a lower-middle class, almost all-Black neighborhood. She experienced being bussed into all-white schools as part of America’s journey towards integrating society. Despite these racial tensions, she played tennis and was popular in high school. Dr. Pamela Ayo Yetunde graduated from Ball State University, and had the transformative experience of participating in a trip to Zimbabwe, Africa along with her History professor. Then she went to the Netherlands as an intern and worked on human rights issues. Dr. Pamela Ayo Yetunde returned to the US, and went on to study law. She graduated from Indiana University Law School. After graduation she realized that her cousin was ill with AIDS. While some refused to visit him, she visited him in his final months. The truth of death, deepened her. After her cousin’s death, she declared her full commitment to life by coming out, an expression of her deep ability to love. Dr. Yetunde entered the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco. She learned about Buddhism, and caring for the dying. Then with great inner strength, and conviction to follow her dreams, she entered the Clinical Program at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. Dr. Yetunde became a Hospice Chaplain, and began her M.A. in Culture and Spirituality at Holy Names University. In 2016, she went on to receive her Doctorate in Theology in Pastoral Counseling from Columbia Theological Seminary. Her courage to seek, her intellectual acumen, her gift-givingnesss to society, resulted in her writing numerous books which integrate: Black studies, women’s studies, and Buddhism. She now stands for “Buddhist Justice.” In 2020, Dr. Pamela Ayo Yetunde co-founded the Center of the Heart, which offers spiritual and emotional healing experiences.
14 – Martine Batchelor – France
Martine Batchelor was born in 1953. She ordained as a Buddhist nun in Korea in 1975 in the Jogye lineage. She studied Jogye Zen Buddhism for ten years at Songgwangsa with Master Kusan Sunim. Batchelor became Kusan Sunim’s interpreter on speaking tours in the United States and Europe from 1981 to 1985, the year she left monastic life. She married Stephen Batchelor and returned to Europe. Martine Batchelor became a member of the Buddhist group, the Sharpham North Community, and then served as a teacher at the Buddhist community of Gaia House, both in Devon, England. She also led a Buddhist studies program at Sharpham College in Totnes, Devon, England. Martine Batchelor works mostly in the United Kingdom and occasionally in the United States. In addition to writing books, she leads meditation groups with her husband that incorporate aspects of Zen, Vipassanā, and Tibetan Buddhism. Martine Batchelor also blogs frequently for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Martine Batchelor speaks English, Korean, French and can read Chinese characters. Her books include: What is this? Ancient questions for modern minds, Spirit of the Buddha, Let Go: A Buddhist Guide to Breaking Free of Habits, Women in Korean Zen, The Path of Compassion: The Bodhisattva Precepts, Women on the Buddhist Path, with Stephen Batchelor, Meditation for Life, Zen, Principles of Zen, with Gill Farrer-Halls, Walking on Lotus Flowers: Buddhist Women Living, Loving and Meditating, with Kerry Brown, Buddhism and Ecology.
15 – Kim Behan – USA
Kim Behan is a founding member of Buddhist Global Relief. She served as Executive Director from 2009 to 2016, and returned to that position in 2019. From 2016-2019, she served as the Director of Programs at Buddhist Global Relief. Kim Behan holds a B.S. in Management from Rutgers University and an M.S. in Software Engineering from the University of Colorado. Before she came to Buddhist Global Relief, she worked as a Project Manager and Software Developer for Bell Laboratories, AT&T, and Avaya. Kim Behan in 2009 early retired in order to earnestly study the Buddha’s teachings. She also made a vow to devote her life to helping the poor of the world with the spiritual guidance of Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi. She is also the co-founder of a nonprofit which provides medical assistance to impoverished communities in Vietnam.Kim Behan is a woman leader who speaks out to end hunger, poverty and injustice and was thus in 2012 named an Oxfam Sisters on the Planet Ambassador. In 2021, Kim Behan received the Dr. Ambedkar Prabuddha Bharata Peace Award
16 – Thanissara – United Kingdom
Thanissara is an Anglo-Irish, Buddhist teacher from London. She started Buddhist practice in the Burmese school of U Ba Khin in 1975. She was inspired to ordain after meeting Ajahn Chah. Thanissara then became a Buddhist nun for 12 years, and was a founding member of Chithurst and Amaravati Buddhist monasteries in England. Her practice and teachings are also influenced by Kuan Yin Dharma via transmission from Master Hsuan Hua, a Chinese meditation master.Thanissara holds an M.A. in Core Process Mindfulness-based Psychotherapy Practice from the Karuna Institute, UK. With Kittisaro, she co-founded Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat in South Africa in 2000. She also helped initiate and support a number of HIV/AIDS response projects in deep, rural South Africa. Together they co-founded Chattanooga Insight, in Tennessee, USA and Sacred Mountain Sangha, in California, which offers a 2-year Dharmapala program. Thanissara is a Climate Activist and applies the Dharma to this time of planetary emergency. Thanissara facilitates meditation retreats and teaches across the United States, in South Africa and in the United Kingdom. She has done so for the past 30 years. Thanissara is the author of several books, including her most recent, Time to Stand Up, An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth, and is co-author with Kittisaro of Listening to the Heart, A Contemplative Journey to Engaged Buddhism.
17 – Merry (Nan) Kham Oo – Myanmar
Merry (Nan) Kham Oo was born on Christmas Day in Muse, Northern Shan State, Myanmar in 1972. She studied at the number 1 State High School in Muse from 1978 – 1984. Upon graduation, she moved to Mandalay in 1984 and continued her studies at State High School 13 of Mandalay. In 1996, she graduated from Mandalay University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Botany. When she studied at Mandalay University, she was active in the Shan Traditional Culture Association. In 1997 she moved to Yangon and learned and worked in fashion and costume design, which integrated well with her actives at the Shan Traditional Culture Association in Yangon. In 2001, she returned home to Muse, Shan State, and opened a fashion shop, began teaching English, and began to teach at the Shan Youth Cultural Association in Muse. She received Costume Designer Awards in 2005, 2006 and 2007 for the Myanmar team in its Celebrations of Friendship between Myanmar and China. In 2011, she moved to Bangkok, Thailand and began work as a hair stylist, while she continued her work with the Shan Youth (Tai Yai) Network of Thailand as an English teacher and teacher of Shan (Tai Yai) Traditional Culture. In 2018 she served as a translator for Burmese monks and as a representative of Shan State Culture at the United Nations in Bangkok for Vesak Day. Then covid came and businesses shuttered. One day, Merry Kham Oo was asked to accompany some Burmese monks as a translator to Dhammakaya Temple. She did so and was invited to remain on December 18, 2020. She has subsequently become the Zoom manager for the Global Buddhist Alliance and Dhammakaya Temple, specializing in international relations between Myanmar and Thailand. She now hosts a daily show online which has successfully reached Buddhist temples and laity despite covid and political conditions. Merry (Nan) Kham Oo is being honored today for her dedication to the preservation of Shan Tai Yai culture and for being a bridge of understanding between countries. Her networking brings hope to Burmese Buddhists, young Burmese monastics, and resources to young nuns-in-need. At this time, the nuns at 9 temples in Myanmar need assistance of funds to pay for internet access. Thank you.
18 – Saijai Wannual – Thailand
Saijai Wannual was born in 1963. She is a Thai government official. She is the Vice-Mayor of District Muang Ban Plu, in Hatyai, Songkla Province, Thailand. She married, and has two children; her husband and two sons are also government officials. A joy of hers in life is to propagate Buddhism, and she does so by creating Dhamma Saturdays full of meditation, mindful eating, and chanting in a natural setting of her rubber tree forest with Maechee Nipawan, “Maechee Nee” as the spiritual director. Every Saturday, villagers, including children, come to hear Dhamma talks in the rubber tree forest. She empowers the society by using the government funds sincerely, to build bathrooms for the differently-abled, homes for those in poverty, help families without enough money to sustain themselves, and she created a program to make eye glasses for senior citizens by using the Districts’ funds for seniors plus private donations. Her dream for her future is to continue working with Maechee Nee to offer Dhamma activities for villagers. Her example as a government official committed to ethics, charity and Buddhism make her an Outstanding Buddhist Laywoman.
19 – Maechee Orawan Maneeratanachot – Thailand
Maechee Orawan Maneeratanachot, also known as, Maechee Ning teaches Vipassana meditation and Anapanasati meditation. She was born in 1974. She graduated from Bangkok University in Accounting. She was a clothing designer and owner of a clothing store. She married and gave birth to a daughter and a son. She, her husband and children went to practice meditation regularly at the temple. She decided to remain at the temple with her two children, and her husband amicably went to work. Eventually, after about two years she gave her children to her mother, and ordained in 2004 at the age of 30. Her husband and mother freely allowed her to fulfill her dream, and they kindly raised the children. Little-by-little, a group of women came around her and they became a spiritual collective of about a dozen. They became wandering alms mendicants unattached even to a particular temple, yet connected as a group of women practitioners to transform suffering. She travels around Thailand teaching meditation and Dhamma accompanied by her women’s Sangha. She enrolled in Maha Chulalongkorn University’s B.A. Buddhist Studies Program in English. She graduated. She teaches when in Chiangmai in English to international persons. This unique spiritual community, led by Maechee Ning, travels throughout Thailand, is highly committed to their individual meditation practice, as well as, to joy, happiness, and the propagation of Buddhism. This manner of practice is ancient and was present during the time of the Buddha. Maechee Ning and her spiritual collective are the only ordained persons in contemporary Thai history to engage in this practice of deep faith and teachings.
20 – Maechee Pittsayaputt Vhititthiranun – Thailand
Maechee Pittsayaputt Vhititthiranun was born in 1965. Since her childhood, she wondered, “Who had me be born? Who decided to divide us into males and females? What was I born for? Only to die?” Ajahn Chah advised her to practice following her breath, and she would understand the answers to her questions. She meditated as he suggested for 13 years, and then in 2007 at the age of 42, she ordained as a white-robed, eight-precept nun. In 2015 at the age of 50, Maechee Pittsayaputt began to build a women’s meditation center in Chiangrai, Thailand, named Pittsaya Dhamma Center. Her goal in creating the Center is to provide women with a safe space in which they can explore their lives and transform suffering. She constructed the buildings, installed a Buddha statue, drilled for water, and established the Ariya Magga Foundation. Her Dhamma Center is headquarters now for all work activities of white-robed nuns in the north of Thailand. The Center’s daily activities include: chanting, walking meditation, seated meditation, alms rounds, and cleaning. On Buddhist holidays, Maechee Pittsayaputt organizes traditional ceremonial activities. She offers 7-day meditation courses, meditation courses for youth during summer recess, Dhamma teachings for nuns, agricultural projects for self-sufficiency, helps repair the rural village dirt roads, offers educational scholarships to youth, and organizes activities for nuns in the north of Thailand. Maechee Pittsayaputt Vhititthiranun is currently raising two girls who were rescued from being sold into sex trade. Her 5 year plan is to teach Dhamma and help her village.
The Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards are part of an international women’s movement which takes a stand for transformation and celebrates the acts of courage and determination by women in the history of Buddhism.
Buddhika Sanjeewa I After visit to Bangkok, Thailand I March 10, 2022 I 12.55 PM