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The first Bhikkhuni of Nepal.

Ven.Bhikkhuni was born Ganesh Kumari Sakya in July 1934. As a young girl, she was brought up in a middle class family during the autocratic regime of Rana family rulers before tho dawn of democracy in 1951A.D. During the 104 years of Rana rule the education system was not developed, women were not allow to go to school.

Ganesh Kumari had strong determination for higher education in Buddhism. Her first Buddhist education was given by Ven.Bhikkhu Buddhaghosa.

In 1950 she ran away from home to India where she received ordination from Ven.Chandramuni in Kushinagar and came to be known as Dhammawati.

Later in the same year she started her journey to Myanmar by following Ven.Dhammawudha on foot. She endured a great hardship in order to enter Myanmar as she did not have proper paper.

In 1952 she was admitted to Khemarama Nuns' study center, Mawlamyaing.

Initially she faced some financial problem and was busy in helping older nuns to fetch water and collecting fire woods from the forest. Still she managed time for study.

She took ten years to pass Sasanadhaja Dhammacariya. She received the degree at the Mahapasana Cave, Kaba Aye in Yangon where the sixth Buddhist Council was held in 1954.

Upon her return to Nepal, she is striving to establish pure Theravada Dhamma where the majority of the people are Hindus. She is efficient in her way of preaching Dhamma. She soon won the hearts of the Newanis families. With their support, she started to construct Vihara, and establish organization to conduct various religious and social activities.

Dharmakirti Vihara was inaugurated in 1965 and became the first nunnery in Nepal. Ven. Dhammawati offers classes in Abhidhamma, Mahasatipatthana, etc. With her initiation, association, strong effort and devotion other Viharas and meditation centers were also founded.

In Lumbini there are a number of beautiful Viharas constructed by foreign Buddhist Countries. It is a matter of great pride for the Nepalese people that Ven. Dhammawati with her stony determination and vigor constructed Quntanu Vihara in Lumbini. This Vihar is run by The International Buddhist Nuns Association. The Vihar facilitates various religious functions, meditation camp, pabbajja for women, etc. with spiritual guidance of Ven.Ashin Nanissara, the chancellor of Sitagu International Buddhist Academy.

The Sakyadhita International Conference was held here in 2001.

Today one of the most active Buddhist organization in Nepal is "Dharmakirti Buddhist Study Circle" which was established to mobilize the young people under the leadership of Ven. Dhammawati on May 21, 1971. This Study Circle has been conducting lecture programs every Saturday morning incessant. Since its inception "Dharmakirti" monthly magazine is being published regularly since 1972. The organization has published over 134 dhamma books and is the largest publisher of Buddhist literature in Nepal.

Ven. Dhammawati is the first popular women in Nepal to link dhamma with social reforms and social services She teaches people to purify the mind by eradicating defilement and urges them to be real Buddhists with good moral character. She offers also a 12-day retreat for young girls when they start having menstruation. Being concern about the good health of her followers, she opened a free clinic in the vihar and arranges the mobile health clinic to inaccessible villages where medical facilities are not available.

Her compassion also spread to the aged and helpless people. She constructed" The Buddhist home for the Aged" at Banepa to give them a peaceful and comfortable living. She also organizes various other activities to express her concern for society.

In 1988 she went for full ordination in L.A. and became the first bhikkhuni in Nepal. We need more Nepali bhikkhunis who would have strong determination and deep root of practice like Ven.Dhammawati.

Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu

(adopted from Shyam Lal Chitrakar 's article on "Beloved Daughter of Nepal" Published in The Annual Magazine 2001-2002 The International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University, Myanmar.)
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Publication:Yasodhara-Newsletter on International Buddhist Women's Activities
Date:Oct 1, 2004
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