Bhiksuni Dr.Karuna Dharma


Bhiksuni Dr. Karuna Dharma earned a B.A. in English at the University of California, an M.A. in Secondary Education at California State University, a second M.A. in Comparative Religions and a Doctor of Dharma in Buddhist Studies both from the University of Oriental Studies in Los Angeles, California, USA.

Ordained in 1976, the Venerable is the United States of America’s first Bhiksuni. Her teacher was the Vietnamese Bhiksu Dr. Thich Thien-An. Together they established the International Buddhist Meditation Center, Chua Vietnam, the first Vietnamese US temple and the University of Oriental Studies.

She has served as: Past-President, American Buddhist Congress; Vice-President, Buddhist Sangha Council; Vice-President, College of Buddhist Studies; Founding President, Sakyadhita; Founding Member, Buddhist – Catholic Dialogue, Los Angles, California.

As Abbess of the International Buddhist Meditation Center, for the past ten years Bhiksuni Dr. Karuna Dharma has been writing to prisoners around the U.S. She explains: “About 80 of them are studying Buddhism with me. Another 500 of them receive the Monthly Guide every month. So I spend a lot of my time in front of a computer. My staff has taken on a lot of my duties at the Center, leaving me time to do my prison work. Besides ordaining people, I believe my prison work is the most valuable work I do. I rarely visit the prisons, however. Most of my work with prisoners is through writing to them.” It is very beautiful work and skillful use of the older years in life.

Bhiksuni Dr. Karuna Dharma also performs ceremonies, teaches, and does inter-faith and inter-sectarian Buddhist work. She is well known and profiled in Meetings with Remarkable Women: Buddhist Teachers in America. Bhiksuni Dr. Karuna Dharma has also contributed to Buddhism through American Women’s Eyes; edited Zen Philosophy, Zen Practice; co-authored An Early Journey: Buddhist Catholic Dialogue; co-authored Buddhist Concept of Mind; and contributed to Buddhist Concepts by American Disciples.

Venerable Bhiksuni Dr. Karuna Dharma has conducted several higher ordination ceremonies to date: in 1981 the first Grand Ordination Ceremony in English, in 1994 the first Grand Ordination on all levels in all three lineages (with Venerable Bhikkhu Dr. Ratanasara), in 1997 the second Grand Ordination Ceremony, and in 2004 the third Grand Ordination Ceremony in which western monastics flew in from many countries abroad to attend.