World’s Famous Buddhist Nuns (Bhikkhunis)

01 – Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Dharma Master Cheng Yen

Dharma Master Cheng Yen was born in 1937 in Qingshui, a small town in Taichung County, Taiwan. As her father’s brother was childless, at a young age, she was adopted by him and his wife to raise as their own, a common practice in that era. When Dharma Master Cheng Yen was around seven, she experienced the air raids that the Second World War brought upon Japanese-occupied Taiwan. What she witnessed deeply imprinted upon her young mind the cruelty of war. Throughout her growing years, she had many questions about life and its meaning. In her town, the young Dharma Master Cheng Yen was known as a very filial daughter to her parents. When her mother needed surgery for acute gastric perforation, a very risky procedure in those times, the 15-year-old Dharma Master Cheng Yen prayed earnestly to Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (the Bodhisattva of Compassion), offering to give up 12 years of her life in exchange for her mother’s health. To express her piety, she undertook a vegetarian fast. When her mother later recovered without need for surgery, the young Dharma Master Cheng Yen, out of gratitude, chose to become a life-long vegetarian.

The Spiritual Calling – When Dharma Master Cheng Yen was 21, an event happened that would change her life. One day, her father suddenly took ill, and he passed away the very next day. His death was a great shock to Dharma Master Cheng Yen and propelled her to seek many answers about life and death. That life could be taken away so precipitously made her reflect, “Why is life so transient? Where then lies its true meaning?” At this time, Dharma Master Cheng Yen came into contact with Buddhism. Learning of the teachings, she gradually came to feel that one should expand the love for one’s own family to the entire society and all humanity. She aspired to take care of the great family of humanity, instead of one small family. With this outlook on life, Dharma Master Cheng Yen left her family home to embark on the spiritual path, giving up a relatively comfortable life. Not long after, however, her family found her and begged her to return home. She acquiesced, but with her spiritual convictions, she could not truly be content living her old life; in late1960, she again left her family to pursue spiritual cultivation. That year, she was 23. From western Taiwan, she traveled to eastern Taiwan and eventually settled down in Hualien, a small town in Taiwan’s relatively undeveloped east coast. Though life was very hard, it did not diminish her commitment to spiritual cultivation.

02 – Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Fa Xun – Singapore

Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Fa Xun was born in Singapore in 1965.  She ordained in 1992 in Taiwan with Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Wu Yin of the Luminary Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Sangha, where she also went through five years of monastic training in the Institute. Upon completion of her monastic training in 1997, Venerable Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Fa Xun returned to Singapore and began conducting Dharma classes in English and Mandarin for both children and adults in Sagaramudra Buddhist Society. In 2001, Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Fa Xun continued to pursue her education by doing a Bachelor of Arts and Education degree at the University of Western Australia.  In 2009, she completed her Honors Degree and wrote a thesis entitled, The Other Path:  Bhikkhunis’ Quest for Liberation. In 2014, as part of her Master’s Degree, she designed a Mindfulness program, “Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness in Education,” and conducted research to explore how mindfulness and loving kindness (M.I.L.K.) help young children to develop their emotional intelligence. Thereafter, she was appointed as the Vice-Principal of the Nuns’ Campus of the Buddhist College of Singapore.  Since then, Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Fa Xun has been teaching at various Buddhist centers in Singapore, Malaysia and Western Australia while contributing articles to Buddhist magazines.  She is also the author of One Life, Five Precepts Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Fa Xun is passionate about Education and takes delight in designing programs and games to address the emotional and developmental needs of young children.  Recently, she published a series of Buddhist jigsaw puzzles to help children play mindfully while staying focused.  She is active in running camps for young children during school holidays.

03 – Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Ming Dao – China

Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Ming Dao was born in Xuhui District of Shanghai, China. As a child she always helped poor children who faced discrimination. She grew up confident, the daughter of a university professor, and attended high school. Upon graduation she went onwards to study in Japan. She returned to China and married. After eight years she became exposed to Buddhism, found it to be of profound cultural heritage, and realized that the basis of Buddhism is benevolence. In April 2004, she, a wealthy pampered wife went to Wutai Mountain on a pilgrimage that changed her life.  By the time she reached the mountain peak, she decided to leave the householder life.  She decided this for three reasons: (1) She wants to alleviate the suffering of others, (2) She could use her character to be a good role model for girls, and (3) She wanted to show that it is good for successful, affluent women to ordain.

04 – Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Sing Kan – Malaysia

At the age of 25, Venerable Bhikkhuni Sing Kan entered Sin Fook Tong Temple as a laywoman for 2 years and another 2 years as a Samaneri under the guidance of her great grandmaster Bhikkuni Sin Pooi and master Bhikkhuni Ku Chung.  After 4 years of training, she took higher ordination as a Bhikkhuni in Kek Lok Si Penang in 1985 under the preceptorship of the late Master Bai Sheng from Taiwan. In 1996 she took a Diploma in Buddhism in the Buddhist Maha Vihara.  She took her second Diploma at the Kelaniya University in Sri Lanka in 1999.  She then studied at the International Buddhist College from 2001 – 2004.  In between her studies, she served as a teacher and the vice-principal of Siang Lin Kindergarten. Bhikkhuni Sing Kan is currently the Abbess of Sam Poh Tong Buddhist Temple in Ampang, Selangor, Malaysia.  She is active in propagating Buddhist education especially to the young.