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Sacred places as development spaces: Songdhammakalyani monastery and gender equity
Anna Halafoff, Matthew Clarke

Last modified: 2015-08-13


Religions have long played an important role in enhancing the welfare of local communities. This paper presents the findings of a research project that considers how religious sacred places, real and virtual, play an important social role as development spaces in the Asia-Pacific region. While religious places can be constructed to enforce and preserve dominant power structures, they can also be used to challenge them. Online sacred places can also support and enhance realworld activism, inspired by religious teachings, and provide therapeutic landscapes to assist with healing and spiritual development. This paper focuses on a case study of Wat Songdhammakalyani, a Thai Bhikkhuni Monastery on the outskirts of Bangkok, and it’s abbess Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni. It explores the specific role that the sacred places at Wat Songdhammakalyani, including buildings, gardens, virtual sites and networks, have in implementing and promoting the Bhikkhunis commitment to promoting gender equity in Thai and global Buddhism. We argue that the temples, statues, and gardens of Wat Songdhammakalyani have been planned and constructed to create a harmonious space, conducive to healing, practice and higher learning, and to inspire and support the Bhikkhunis by highlighting the significance of both historical and contemporary Buddhist women.


religion, development, Buddhism, gender, equality