Brief History of Sakyadhita International


The name Sakyadhita means “Daughter of the Buddha.” Based on Pali and Sanskrit, two ancient Buddhist languages, the term was coined at the first international gathering of Buddhist women held in Bodhgaya, India, in 1987.

Sakyadhita International was formed that year, at the conclusion of a truly historic gathering, as an independent non-governmental organization. The aim was to work together to benefit Buddhist women, to reduce gender injustice, and awaken women to their potential for awakening the world.

Since 1987, through a series of biennial international conferences, Sakyadhita has worked for gender equity in Buddhist communities, focusing especially on improving opportunities for women in education, health, spiritual practice, and ordination. Encouraged by Sakyadhita, members have established retreat centers, education projects, women’s shelters, and initiated translation, research, and publication projects.

Sakyadhita links Buddhist women with similar initiatives in other countries around the world to encourage cooperation and cultural and educational exchange. Firmly grounded at the grassroots, Sakyadhita seeks to empower women who have previously been neglected in international development. As a result of these initiatives, Buddhist women are gaining confidence and recognition as scholars, teachers, artists, writers, counselors, and mentors, tackling the problems of poverty, malnutrition, sex trafficking, and the other social ills that beset their communities.

In addition to becoming a world leader in Buddhist social activism and gender development, Sakyadhita provides training in conflict resolution, environmental ethics, healthcare, and human rights to girls and women of all ages in vulnerable communities. We are the core of a global movement to end gender injustice and work for better health and education services for the world’s 300 to 600 million Buddhist women.

For a PDF file of Sakyadhita's history click here.
To read more about our aims and achievements click here.

Letter from Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

Bhiksuni Pratimoksa on the full moon night on Thursday, January 15, 1987

Founding members of Sakyadhita International who read the Bhiksuni Pratimoksa on the full moon night, January 15, 1987. Back row (left to right): Bhikshunis Karuna Dharma, Yi Hang, Jenhua Shih, Miao Kwang Sudharma, Pema Chodron, and Yi Hang. Front row: Bhikshunis Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Jampa Tsedroen, Yung Kai Shih, and Thubten Chodron.

A Moment in History


Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women is a global alliance founded at the conclusion of the first International Conference on Buddhist Women, held in Bodhgaya, India, in 1987, under the patronage of the Dalai Lama. The initiative for the conference came from the German nun Ayya Khema; the American nun Karma Lekshe Tsomo; and the Thai professor Chatsumarn Kabilsingh (now Bhikkhuni Dhammananda). The organization aims to unite Buddhist women of various countries and traditions, to promote their welfare, and to facilitate their work for the benefit of humanity. Sakyadhita now has nearly 2,000 members in 45 countries around the world. Biennial international conferences bring laywomen and nuns from various countries and traditions together to share their research and experience and to encourage projects to improve conditions for Buddhist women, especially in developing countries. Sakyadhita has been registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit in the State of California since 1988.

Interested in learning more about our founding members? Visit the Executive Committee page here.

Achievements: Conferences

Since our beginning in 1987, we have been dedicated to fostering gender equity, scholarship, social networking, and harmony among Buddhist women. This tradition continues to unite dedicated practitioners and allies, and to encourage their work for the spiritual and secular well-being of the world.

Achievements: Publications

Our publications are helping recover Buddhist women's history and document their lives and contributions. Published annually, the Sakyadhita newsletter keeps members up-to-date on events, publications, and new projects.

Women Initiatives

We support Buddhist women's initiatives to create education projects, retreat facilities, training centers, women's shelters, and local conferences and discussion groups. Buddhist women are acting from the grassroots level to create a positive impact on the world.


Working at the grassroots level, Sakyadhita provides a communications network among Buddhist women internationally. We promote research and publications on Buddhist women's history and other topics of interest. Our members strive to create equal opportunities for women in all Buddhist traditions. Read More

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