Julia Sway

Exploring the Role of Modern Thai Female Buddhist Ordination

Thailand, a nationally Buddhist country, is considered one of the worlds most progressive nation-states, yet it refuses to recognize women who wish to be ordained as nuns. My research surrounds these two seemingly conflicting facts. I intended to explore how Buddhism infiltrates Thai political, social and economic structures. The controversy surrounding Thailand’s strong opposition to woman ordination stems from two main facts. Firstly, historically Nun-hood was granted by the Buddha and nuns played a very considerable role in making Buddhism as wide spread and successful as it is today. Secondly, other Theravada countries that are not considered as politically or economically progressive as Thailand, such as Sri Lanka, have not only recognized ordained nuns, but have reinstated nun orders. My research so far has explored the historical role of women who have wished to be ordained in Thailand, the relationship between Thai history and Buddhism, and the role of women in Thailand alongside Buddhism. I have observed through books and abroad experience that Thai Buddhism depends on women giving offerings to male monks. If women were to have more options in the religious field, innumerable aspects of Thai society would be thrown off balance. In further research I would like to prove that the reason why women are not allowed to become nuns is not based on religious beliefs which is what the government claims, but instead because of social-functional reasons. This conclusion will reinforce the fact that religion is inseparable from all aspects of societies around the world.