Secret Tribes: Bhikkhunis in Thailand


This is a short but informative and positive look at the current state of bhikkhunis in Thailand with interviews with people on both sides of the debate.

The documentary is made as part of the Secret Tribes series which is fronted by Malaysian presenter Ezra Zaid.

It is a bit hard to see how bhikkhunis fit in with the series as they are neither secret – they operate quite openly and unashamedly – nor in any meaningful sense a tribe. Nevertheless the film is surprisingly well-informed, balanced and positive towards the bhikkhunis.

The film visits the Office for National Buddhism to get the official perspective on the status of bhikkhunis in the country, but spends most of its time talking to the nuns at Ven Dhammananda’s Songdhamkalyani Temple in Nakhon Pathom, west of Bangkok.

There are now around 150 bhikkhunis in Thailand, and the film includes interviews with the Head of the Temple Ven Dhammananda, and also talks to some of the other bhikkhunis at the temple, and follows their routine to see what their daily life is like.

The film also includes interviews with a former well-known monk Dr. Mettanando, Ven Dhammananda’s son, and Payoong Outtakot, as a representative from the Maechee community of nuns.


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3 comments to Secret Tribes: Bhikkhunis in Thailand

  • Law Thim Fook

    Much thanks for the excellent video, Ezra and team. One suggestion though – “monks” are ‘masculine’ whereas “nuns” are ‘feminine.” So, I think it might be better to say ‘nuns’ vs ‘female monks’ to avoid the misnomer. As for the term ‘tribe,’ initially I thought it might not be a correct choice of word, but then, I looked up the eDictionary, and English language-wise, it’s politically correct. But then again, there’s the other term “secret” …. hmmmmm, I don’t think the Bhikkhuni Sangha is exactly “secretive” in the Buddhist world, even in Theravada Buddhism. Hmmmm, maybe “controversial” is a better word than “secret?”

    Btw, I also appreciate your open-mindedness in going to a non-Muslim/Islamic place of worship – you know how things are back here in Malaysia, aka ‘Bolehland’ – you’ll probably be accused of being an “infidel” – but having viewed you on “That Effing Show,” I can value you being “more progressive.”

    Keep up the good work, guys!

    Cheers and regards!

  • Tony

    I saw this show on Channel NewsAsia here in Thailand and found it quite interesting. The topic has been of much interest to me for some time and I have been watching Ajahn Brahm’s sparring with the Thai sangha after ordaining a woman in Australia, most recently his problem with presenting at a conference in Vietnam.
    Although I agree with your statement about the gender of the terms “monk” and “nun”, I disagree with using the term nun to describe a woman who is the equivalent of a monk, i.e. fully ordained. To me, a person who grew up in the US, my thought when I hear “nun” is a woman of significantly lower “rank” than a monk (which, for convenience, I relate to a western priest). I think we need to use the terms bhikkhu and bhikkhuni. That denotes the same “rank” with just the Pali gender suffix added and I think that anybody interested in the subject will understand these terms (or they should be introduced to them).
    I just discovered your site so will have to do some exploring. From the home page, it looks like you are doing a very good job. Keep it up and thanks for the effort.

  • Teena Amrit Gill

    I have recently made a film (2013) on the discriminatory treatment of women in Thai Theravada Buddhism – “White Robes, Saffron Dreams” – which showed in Chiang Mai and Bangkok in June 2014 (please also see the FB page :

    It premiered at the London Feminist Film Festival last year, and won the 1st prize at the Central Illinois Feminist Film Festival (April 2014).

    I am presently distributing the film and can be contacted at :

    Thanking you.

    With regards,

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