Bangkok Podcast: Bhikkuni Suvijjana

2017-10-18T21:48:00+07:00August 15th, 2011|Bangkok Podcast Season 1, Buddhism Series|12 Comments

Bangkok Podcast 66: Bhikkuni Suvijjana

In our continuing Buddhism series, we are joined by a special guest, Bhikkuni Suvijjana, a female monk who is visiting Thailand from the US. Female monks are rare, but the tide is slowly turning, and Bhikkuni Suvijjana gives us an interesting look into how she sees Buddhism on a daily basis.

From differences in how female monks must act in public, to the efforts to promote all-female monasteries to eschewing virtual communities like Facebook and Twitter to focus on building real communities, she shares some of the challenges she faces. But it’s not all hardship – she tells us of the great relationship she has with her son, now a grown musician, laughs at the time some Christian missionaries tried to convert her, and ponders the differences between how British and Thai immigration treat female monks.

We’re also joined by Kathleen Speake, Executive Director of ECPAT International, an organization dedicated to eliminating child prostitution and the underage sex trade. She tells us about the projects they have going right now, and how easy it is for you, me, and everyone, to visit a Body Shop store and help contribute to a very important initiative that will affect positive change in the lives of a great number of abused children.

And don’t forget to check out our sponsor Village in the City, a great new company that takes old, run-down Thai houses and fixes them up into trendy lofts and condos with style. If you’re looking for a funky, well-built place to live close to downtown, check them out.

Show Links:

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BK Magazine Bangkok Podcast

Bangkok Podcast Poetry Night Bangkok Poetry
Popular open mic night, this time under the theme of “Science/Fiction.” If you want to be a part of the show, e-mail Both Thai and English language work is welcome. Aug 18, 8pm. WTF Gallery and Cafe, 7 Sukhumvit Soi 51, 02-662- 6246. BTS Thong Lor. Free entry.

Bangkok Podcast Burchetts Pin Ups. Burchett’s Pin Ups
30 photographs from the Vietnam War, taken by late Australian journalist Wilfred burchett, in honor of his 100th birthday. Through Aug 31, FCCT, Penthouse, Maneeya Center, 518/5 Ploenchit Rd. 02-652-0580/1.

For information on these events and more pick up a copy of BK Magazine


  1. alman August 15, 2011 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    you guys have to show respect with your guest… i dont need to explain i listen all the time.. you guys are not doing a good job commenting..

  2. Gary August 16, 2011 at 1:29 am - Reply

    @ Alman Do you understand English or Western culture? That is a honestly a foolish comment. I’ve listened to every episode and not once have Greg or Tony said anything with a condescending attitude. Yes, there is humor, but it is once again in no way condescending. Also, if you are looking for a politically correct show then listen to something else because asking interesting and thought provoking questions is usually not considered politically correct.

  3. Tanet August 16, 2011 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    Greg, Tony. Thanks for a great episode, but as a fan of your show and also a Thai, there are two things that I would like to add here.

    1) At some point in the episode, Greg and Tony asked Bhikkuni Suvijjana whether there are Thai cultural aspects that plays the role against female ordaining into monks. While I cannot say anything about the past or for every Thai, my awareness regarding this issue is that general Thai population and our current mindset are not against female becoming monks. We do not think that it’s a social stigma in any sense. Actually, I am really surprised when the guest quoted a fifty-fifty statistics, and with all due respect to the guest, I am doubting the reliability of that survey.

    2) The terminology “Mae Shee” (or “แม่ชี” in Thai) is pretty much a common or layman term for Bhikkuni (it will be Lhuang Por for Bhikku like Pra Pandit). While I am not sure whether this layman term is a correct term to refer to Bhikkhuni or not, Thais generally reserve this term for fully ordained female monks only, not precepts. Personally, I have been calling female monks as Mae Shee since I can remember, and although the guest maybe correct that this terminology is not the most correct one, I find that Thai people respect them as much as any other ordained monks, even if they may use an incorrect term, which is still questionable in my humble opinion.

    Since my childhood, I don’t remember seeing one real instance of people disrespecting female monks or criticizing females who want to be ordained. Somehow, I feel that this great episode also casts a slight misperception that sexism is currently stronger than it actually is in our culture. (I am not saying that it doesn’t exist though)

    I sincerely hope that the issue I discussed here will be touched at some point in a future episode.

  4. Tanet August 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    @Gary. I don’t know Alman, but I think I understand his (or her) point. I totally agree with you that the host were not in any respect being condescending or impolite to the guests (Both Pra Pandit and Bhikkuni Suvijjana) and did a great job in commenting. However, it’s just that an average Thai would never talk so casually and informally to an elder monk, which I assume the guests are. While I do not think that Greg and Tony are doing anything wrong, it is just out of ordinary for Thais (I am assuming that Alman is Thai) to see a layperson joking with elder monks.

    Unfortunately, this is Thailand… Some (like me) maybe fine with a talk show host joking amicably with elder monks, but some would not, and I don’t think they should be lambasted for that. It’s just as a devout Catholic probably would not speak informally to the Pope.

    • Tony August 16, 2011 at 5:38 pm - Reply

      Great points Tanet!!

      While the nature of our show is very casual we should be aware of how our questions and tone could be mis-interpreted by the audience. Unfortunately what the audience doesn’t hear is all the joking around we and our guests do before we start recording, especially Phra Pandit! 😉

      • Tanet August 16, 2011 at 6:01 pm - Reply

        Tony, thanks for acknowledging my opinion. Ironically for a Thai person like me, episodes in the Bhuddhism series are among my favorites. So, I do hope that your next episode with Phra Pandit won’t be the last one in the series.

        • Tony August 17, 2011 at 11:10 pm - Reply

          Many Thais who contact us say the same thing, that they enjoy the Buddhism series the most. Unfortunately I’m leaving for Japan in September so our next show with Phra Pandit will be the last. 🙁

  5. Greg August 17, 2011 at 11:55 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the replies everyone. Tanet brings up a good point, and Tony a good rebuttal. We’ve talked about this in the past with Pandit (off mic, of course), but monks are just regular people who have devoted themselves to a cause more fully than others, and are happy to share their wisdom. It is possible to have great respect for someone and still joke with them; as Tony mentioned, Phra Pandit’s sense of humor is as dry and sharp as anyone I know!

    On a similar theme, our last show with Pandit will likely cover some of these topics when he grills us on Buddhism, religion, and western lay-person perceptions of both.

  6. Pandit August 19, 2011 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Good points.
    Personally I fool about continually as Greg says – all my friends are used to this. But perhaps we should be more decorous in public.
    I’d point out that Thai monks are big fun lovers, and if you hang around in a temple outside of formal occasions, you see they are as boisterous, goofy and playful as regular Thai men. Then suddenly they go into ‘monk-mode’ when the public eye is on them. At first I thought this hypocritical, but after a while relaxed my view. Why not?
    But I guess there is a proper place and time, which I also should become more aware of.
    On the point about the term ‘Mae Chee’ to Thais it really means ‘ordained female’, without distinction as to the the number of precepts. However I have noted that all the Bhikkhunis get very prickly when this term is applied to them, as they feel their ordination is ‘higher’ than Mae Chee. In a way they are right, but I would not consider it an issue myself. People call me all kinds of things – like ‘Luang Phor’, or even ‘Atamaa’, which is just the first person pronoun for monks.
    As you might be wrapping up the podcast I will pay some thought to a Buddhism podcast via

  7. Gary August 20, 2011 at 1:20 am - Reply

    @ Alman, Tanet,Greg,Tony, and anyone else reading. I sincerely apologize. This is why I usually write a comment, only to erase it a few minutes later after I have thought about it more. In my hastiness I only made myself look foolish as this is not how I would speak with others and I really appreciate Alman for correcting me so kindly. Also, thank you all for clearly explaining that humor and honest knowledge seeking questions can be misunderstood, but it really is possible to have great respect for someone and still ask these questions as well as joke with them.
    ผมอยากจะขอโทษทุกๆ คนนะครับ ผมผิดเองจริงๆ ครับ คนเราก็ค้องรู้จักอธิบายดีๆ ย่างคณTanet,Tony, และ Greg ไม่ใช่ไปว่าคนอื่นเวลามีการเข้าใจผิดกันเกิดขึ้นนะครับผม ผมขอโทษอีกครั้งแล้วจะไม่ทำอย่างนี้อีกเลยนะครับผม

  8. daniella December 23, 2011 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    The goal is to attain, ultimate enlightenment. This is a key, to the truth of things. This religion holds a piece of the human puzzle. Every major ancient religion, holds a crucial piece. With the discovery of America, we can now unite all of the pieces, in order to complete the picture once and for all.

  9. Alaina December 29, 2011 at 9:48 am - Reply

    Theravada Buddhist schools are based around one form of Buddhism. These schools tend to be based around the Southern parts of Asia, such as India, Southern China, Thailand, etc. Theravada Buddhists tend to aim for Arhat, or sainthood. As a result, they tend to isolate themselves from the world, living in monasteries. They try and follow the earliest Buddhist teachings, especially Buddha?s Pali Canon. Theravada is known as ?Teachings of the Elders.?

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