The Medicine Buddha

In the year 1982 when Ven.Dhammananda was still Dr.Chatsumarn Kabilsingh teaching at Thammasat University, she translated the Medicine Buddha Sutra into Thai for the first time.

                In 1994 she was still a layperson, she saw the Medicine Buddha in her meditation. The Buddha was huge carved out of solid rock, there was an entrance on his right knee. People were seen going inside through this entrance to be blessed by the Buddha for healing.

                She sketched what she saw and forgot all about it.

                In 2001 after her ordination, that was 7 years after that vision. She recalled the Medicine Buddha again and realized that possibly that would be the mission that the Medicine Buddha wanted her to do.

                She spent one year travelling to various countries to see if there was such Medicine Buddha. Finally she decided to have it casted as Thailand is best known for Lost wax technique of casting images. She was particular about the facial expression and the lost wax technique would allow her to have the closest look of the Buddha which she saw in her vision.

                The statue was ready in 2005 and placed on the first floor of the unfinished Vihara, the vihara itself was completed in 2008 when we celebrated Ven.Ta Tao Fa Tzu or Ven.Grandma’s centenary.

                Since we started the project we recite 108 rounds of his mantra every week on the 8th  and 15th day of both waxing and waning moon. Tibetan Rimpoche also came to break the ground before the building took place and when the Vihara was completed the Rimpoche also came to bless both the Medicine Buddha and the Vihara.

                People come and ask for the Buddha’s blessing particularly for healing, but their prayers will be answered with their own commitment to observe precepts and avoid harming living things at least for 7 days.

                The Thanka on the right (of the Buddha) is done by Chatthakur Kabilsingh. ( 1 Picture)

                The Vihara style was the work of Dr.Wanchai, and the interior decoration and many suggestions were given by Khun Anchalee Sirisamatthakarn.

                The artist was Mr.Somchit who worked for Ven.Grandma also. He first created the wax image of the Buddha according to the sketch given to him.

                The statue is 3.25 m. in height, the width at the knees is 108 inches, auspicious and popular number. The lotus seat is 50 cm. high and the throne was made with a special technique, it is one meter high. When the statue was casted, people added 486.4 gram of gold into the melting caldron.

Ven. Dhammananda

Associate Professor Dr. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, her daughter is well prepared to take the responsibility. She spent 30 years in academic life doing research, teaching and attending conferences at international level. Also, she interviewed her guests on TV for 7 years hence being somewhat known to Thai society. This lay background prepared her to do what she chose to do in the latter part of her life.

                She went for her first lower ordination in Sri Lanka in Feb.2001, and returned to Sri Lanka again to receive full ordination in 2003 to become the first Theravada bhikkhuni in Thailand. From then on she is known by her ordained name, Dhammananda.

                The first year after ordination was difficult with a storm of criticism from Thai society. But the social media were mostly friendly to the news of ordained woman. She passed through this particular difficult time by holding on to the teaching of the Buddha, namely one who practices dhamma will be protected by dhamma.

                She was conscious to fill in the gap that was not possible in her mother’s time.

                She went all the way to make sure that she received full training as bhikkhuni to be able to train other samaneris and bhikkhunis after her. She arranged for a proper sima (boundary) in order for the future sangha to have a proper place to perform the sanghakamma, i.e. ordination, etc.

                The first decade of her ordained life, she focused much on educating the mass by bringing out books, brochures, tape cassettes, CDs, etc. so that Thai society is well informed about the rightful heritage of bhikkhunis from the Buddha’s time.

                She started giving temporary lower ordination to Thai women as a way to spread the teaching of the Buddha. These women once returned to lay life,they have turned out to be strong supporters of the temple. Women started to join the temple activities and also ordination.
                Ven. Dhammananda, has followed closely to the inspiration of the founder. She emphasizes Bodhisattva’s path in her writing, teaching and most important of all, in the way she leads her life.

                A dynamic personality, active, alert and witty, she could be direct, very direct at times, yet she radiates with her beautiful genuine smile that disarms her audience. She often moves her audience in tears in the way she relates the stories of old which she re-enacts and makes it so vividly. She puts 100% energy in whatever she is at. A personality you should not miss; a rare gem in the sangha. You will love her for this unique quality of sincerity.Further information about Ven. Dhammananda:
Wikipedia article on Ven. Dhammananda: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhammananda_Bhikkhuni

Ven. Ta Tao Fa Tzu

Ven.Voramai Kabilsingh as she was known by her layname, was born in 1908 in Rajburi province. She was the first abbot who led a very colorful and interesting life. In 1972 she travelled by bicycle from Bangkok to Singapore.   She was the only Girl Scout to travel by bicycle.  It took her 29 days, a record that still stands today. 
                She was a writer, a poet, a novelist apart from being a teacher serving the Thai Government for the first part of her life. During World War II, she was married to Mr.K.Shatsena, a member of Parliament from Trang in the southern part of Thailand. With this connection, it changed her direction, and she had to stay in the south for a short period of time. 
                When her daughter, Chatsumarn Shatsena was born, she moved back to Bangkok mainly concerned about the quality of education for her child.
                By accident, she became interested and curious about meditation and became further committed to study Buddhism directly from the texts, the Tripitaka. She started publishing Buddhist monthly magazine in 1955 and kept on this commitment for 32 years.
                She was inspired by the teaching of the Buddha and took her first ordination  in 1956 from Chaokhun Prommuni (Vice abbot of Wat Bowonniwet Vihara, a royal temple, http://watbowon.org). That was how she started her monastic life. At this time, the ordination of women as monks (bhikkhuni) was not practiced in Thailand, 15 years later, in 1971 she went to Taiwan and received full ordination. She became the first Thai woman to have taken this full ordination properly as bhikkhuni.

                Even before bhikkhuni ordination, Ven. Ta Tao Fa Tzu was preparing the ground for the temple. The uposatha (main hall) a three-storey building with sima boundery took her 10 years to bring it to full completion. This is the most important building as sanghakamma (monastic ceremony) must be performed within sima.
                Along with the uposatha, she also built the school for kindergarten up to grade 6. There were some 500 students attending the school. The school was run by Ms. Marndaratna Shatsena for more than 30 years and closed when Ms.Marndaratna Shatsena took her retirement in 2003 during the time of the second abbot, Ven.Dhammananda.
                Ven. Ta Tao Fa Tzu tried to train young women to become monastics, but it was only short-lived. Being the only bhikkhuni did not allow her to perform any proper sanghakamma. But she did much work on social welfare, i.e. giving out food, clothing to poor students in rural area. She sponsored more than 100 Buddha statues to send them to far away temples or Buddhist centers in remote area. Also for some years she arranged regular food offering to 108 monks.
                She lived through her peaceful ripe old age of 95 before passing away on June 24th, 2003, leaving behind her daughter just received full ordination as bhikkhuni to continue the bhikkhuni heritage. It may be said that this temple has an unbroken lineage of bhikkhuni since 1971.

                For the interested reader, Chatsumarn Kabilsingh tells the story of her mother’s path herself in this article Eminent Buddhist Women – Bhikkhuni Ta Taoan excerpt of the book “Eminent Buddhist Women” (see publication list). You can also find details on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhammananda_Bhikkhuni .