One doctor's 'mental vaccination'

by Chatrarat Kaewmorakot, The Nation, March 7, 2006

Bangkok, Thailand -- Applying her interest in Dhamma to treating her patients has finally made Dr Amara Malila, 67, one among 18 women contributors to Buddhism from various countries who are named on the United Nations' list of Outstanding Women in Buddhism for 2006.

Among them there are seven Thais, including a female monk, a novice and two nuns." I feel so glad," was Amara's simple summary of her feelings yesterday.

She is a former lecturer in the Science Faculty of Mahidol University, a graduate from Siriraj Medical University, and holder of a PhD in anatomy from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, in the US. It was only after this academic achievement that Amara began to study Dhamma.

"As a doctor, I have to see people with illnesses and death again and again," she said.

"So, I thought it would be good if I brought my understanding of Dhamma to heal patients' minds, instead of placing importance on their physical health alone.

"I have found that it's a kind of vaccination - a 'mental vaccination'."

The Dhamma master has also written more than 50 books, with more than 100,000 copies published, and they are free to the public. For many years, she has given Dhamma talks at

Siriraj Hospital, Ramathibodi Hospital, Chulalongkorn Hospital, Dhammasathaan and Chulalong-korn University.

She said women can play a key role in instilling Dhamma to society. As mothers or teachers, they can easily instil religious precepts in children, she said.

Another of the UN's Outstanding Women in Buddhism, Mae chee [nun] Rachada Amatayakul, said: "I never thought of, or expected, any honour. However, I can say that I am proud of getting it."

Mae chee Rachada's interest in Dhamma began at an early age. After earning a master's degree in public administration, she became a nun at Phraputthabat Takpa Temple in northern Lamphun province in 1983.

For years she taught Dhamma in public schools, to housewives and even to prostitutes in the North and Northeast of the Kingdom.

In 2000, she published the Buddhist Canon in Thai and Nepalese as a gift to HM the King of Nepal. Mae chee Rachada was a member of the official Buddhist monastic delegation to the Himalayan kingdom.

Another five Thai women received the UN's recognition. Among them is Dr Suteera Thomson Vichitranond, president of the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women, and a female monk, Dhamarakitta, the first woman ordained to the monkhood in Thailand despite the disapproval of the Mahathera Council.