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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 14:00 GMT
First female monk ordained in Thailand
Dhammarakhita (R)
Dhammarakhita (R): I know I am doing the right thing
A woman has been ordained as a Buddhist monk for the first time in Thailand, sparking controversy among the religious authorities.

Varangghana Vanavichayen, a 56-year-old divorced mother of two, was ordained on Sunday by a Sri Lankan woman monk. She has been renamed Dhammarakhita.

She was quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying: "I know that there might be resistance. But I am prepared, knowing that I am doing the right thing."

Thai Buddhism is regarded as conservative in outlook. It recognises nuns but only men are allowed to become monks.

'Confusing'

Officials at the religious department said the move would confuse the Thai people, and could set a divisive precedent.

They said the department would not recognise Dhammarakhita as a monk but had no plans to take any action against her.

Sri Lanka revived the ordination of women in Theravada Buddhism in 1998.

Simple ceremony Seven other female monks from Sri Lanka, Tibet, Indonesia and Taiwan attended the simple ordination ceremony at a temple in Nakhon Pathom, a suburb of Bangkok.

The temple is run by female monk Chatsumarn Kabilasinga, who was ordained in Sri Lanka before returning to Thailand last year.

Dhammarakhita has already completed nine years service as a nun - she divorced her husband to fulfil a vow of celibacy before joining the clergy.

See also:

09 Nov 99 | South Asia
Sri Lanka's nuns make a comeback
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