Chandra Khonnokyoong (20 January 1909 – 10 September 2000) was a Thai Theravada BuddhistDhammakaya nun who founded the Wat Phra Dhammakaya organization. Her full title, as called by her own disciples (not an official title), was Khun Yay Mahā Ratana Upāsikā Chandra Khonnokyoong. She is also known within the Dhammakaya movement as “Kuhn Yay Acariya,” a title meaning “respected lady master of advancing years.”

Early life

On 20 January 1909, Kuhn Yay was born in a farming family in Nakhon Pathom province, of Thailand. She never had a formal education. She claimed that her original reason for practicing meditation was to reach her late father in his afterlife realm to apologise to him for her childhood wrongs and that she wanted to overcome the curse of deafness put on her by her drunken father. Her father died in 1921, but without the opportunity for Kuhn Yay to ask him to lift the curse.

Dharmic Life

In 1927 upon hearing that Phramonkolthepmuni had discovered the Dhammakaya School of Buddhism included knowledge of heaven and hell, she entered domestic service in Bangkok, seeking for someone who practised meditation at Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen. She discovered the household of Liap Sikanchananand in Saphan Han, Bangkok who invited a nun called Thongsuk Samdaengpan from Wat Paknam, to teach meditation at their home. Kuhn Yay applied to be a maid in their household, intending to practise meditation with the nun. She practised meditation with Thongsuk Samdaengpan for about two years, and she claimed to have attain the Dhammakaya and was able to contact her father.

Monastic life and claim of miracle during WW II

She decided to ordain as a nun and was taken by Upasika Thongsuk to meet Phramonkolthepmuni. He allowed her to join the most experienced group of meditation researchers in the temple and was ordained the following morning. She quickly became his most outstanding disciples whom the Abbot praised as “first amongst his disciples – second to none.” Dhammakaya followers firmly believe that by meditation, she and Luang Por Sodh prevented Bangkok from being bombed by the Allies during the Second World War, as the then government of Thailand sided with Japan and the Axis powers. They also believed that she had miraculously caused the atomic bombs (allegedly)aimed for Bangkok to fall onto Hiroshima and Nagasaki instead, a claim that was later ridiculed and criticized by many non-believers of the Dhammakaya school in Thailand, including Thai historians and senior Buddhist scholars and monks.

Teaching the Dhammakaya

After Phramonkolthepmuni died in 1959, Kuhn Yay transmitted the Dhammakaya tradition to a new generation at Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen. Her teaching became so popular that when in 1975 the number of students exceeded the capacity of Wat Paknam she realized the time had come to establish a new meditation centre. When her young disciples graduated from university, Kuhn Yay allowed them to ordain as monks. The first wasPhrathepyanmahamuni. A 80 acres (320,000 m2) plot of paddy-field was donated by a high-ranking lady, landowner for the purpose of building the temple. (It is this land which is now forms the Temple Compound of Wat Phra Dhammakaya.) Having only 3,200 baht ($80) to their name, the group of“Descendants of Dhamma” headed by Kuhn Yay began establishing the temple after making the following vow:

“We will devote all our flesh and blood, body and mind, intelligence and wealth to worship the lord Buddha in order to set up a meditation centre following the Way of Dhammakaya.”

Although illiterate, she is renowned as an example of non-academic Dhamma training as she attracted students, many of whom were graduates. She is credited as the founder of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Patumthani, Thailand.

Soon Buddhacakka Patipatdhamma

The temple was first established on Magha Puja Day, 20 February 1970, as the meditation centre called “Soon Buddhacakka Patipatdhamma” (“the Dhamma Practise Centre”). Phrathepyanmahamuni and Kuhn Yay took responsibility for the finances of the establishment, and the lay-supporter who is now the Most Ven. Phrabhavanaviriyakhun, took responsibility for building on the site. Every canal in the Temple Compound was dredged and excavatedby the volunteers and the trees in the temple were planted by hand. While working to plant the trees, she became seriously under-nourished and at one time came dangerously close to death. She recovered under the medical attention of a doctor from Chulalongkorn University and continue to participate in the life of the temple community.

During the period of establishment, Kuhn Yay sought finance to support the centre and set the regulations for life in the centre. With Great Abbot’s organizations as an example, she created all the rules for the temple community. Nowadays a monk must receive guests in public rooms rather than in his living quarter. And male and female meditators are segregated on either side of the Dhamma Hall, as a result of Kuhn Yay’s directives.

Later life

In her old age Kuhn Yay was still very active in all activities of the temple. Given the success of the temple, many people are surprised to discover that a small illiterate nun of advancing years oversaw the running of the temple.

Khun Yay died peacefully on 10 September 2000 at Kasemrat HospitalBangkok. When her funeral was held, on 3 February 2002, 100,000 monks from 30,000 temples throughout Thailand attended to show their final respects.