24 Dec. 1936 – 23 Feb. 1995
A woman child, O Lord of men, may prove
Even a better offspring than a male!”
Fuengsin Sarayutpitag was born in Thonburi, near Bangkok in 1936 and was educated at the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, where she obtained a B.A. Liberal Arts and B.Ed. She had an aptitude for teaching and found her first full time job as a lecturer in English at the newly created Thonburi Technical Institute in Bangmod, which has since become the King Mongkut University of Technology, Thonburi. Whilst there she was successful in an application for a UNESCO fellowship programme and eventually chose to undertake studies at the Institute of Education in London.
Brought up as a practising Buddhist, at around the age of 20 she investigated many temples in and around Bangkok for a meditation teacher. After much searching, she found a suitable teacher named Ajahn Gaew, who taught her the practice of Dhammakaya meditation. A few years later, on the day of her departure to a land far away, a large band of monks, as well as friends and colleagues, gathered at Donmuang Airport. In her tribute to Ajahn Gaew, a contribution to a memorial of his life, she relates how he informed her that she would spread the Dhamma in the West. She found this hard to believe, but she was soon gaining experiences in Hampshire and 10 to 15 years later there were developments that made her reflect that the prediction might come true after all…
As her son, I have written a biography, which was recently published. It involved a lot of research, including a couple of visits to Thailand to carry out some interviews of relatives and friends, where I learnt more about her family background and activities. Yet much remains unknown, so I would still welcome any further information and recollections from people who knew her.
Translations of Buddhist teachings
Fuengsin translated a number of teachings of Ven. Ajahn Sanong Katapunnyo from Thai into English, with valuable assistance from a number of people.
- A Taste of Dhamma
- Dependent Origination through The Tibetan Wheel (from a special calendar)
- Attachment – the final translation she completed.
She had also started translating from English into Thai Sangharakshita – a new voice in the Buddhist tradition, by Dharmachari Subhuti about the founder of the FWBO (now Triratna).
Particularly during her later years, Fuengsin was very actively involved in Inter-Faith Dialogue. She was part of the Multi-Faith Centre, based at Harborne Hall in Birmingham, under the direction of Sister Dr. Mary Hall. This centre has been a pioneer in dialogue with a team of representatives from the six major Faiths – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism – travelling around and sharing aspects of their spiritual journeys. A highlight of their work was a series of lectures in North America, including some at the UN building in New York – Fuengsin was a member of this delegation.
Fuengsin worked at a number of other centres, including King Edward’s Sixth Form College in Stourbridge and the federation of colleges in Selly Oak. A Christian-Buddhist Encounter was held at the College of Ascension between June 4th and 6th, 1996. It was been organised by Revd. Andrew Wingate and was partly in her memory.
Rev. Andrew was very generous in his presence and care during Fuengsin’s final weeks. He has subsequently had a response – personal, pastoral and theological – published in the May/June 1997 issue of the journal ‘Theology’:
Some articles and essays
- Woman to Woman: Buddhism as a way of life (Interview in ‘County Express’, 1981)
- Some Buddhists in England (1969)
- A Memorial Tribute to Ajahn Gaew Potikanok
- Buddhist students in the United Kingdom
- The Epic of Ramayana
Fuengsin was often ‘life and soul of the party’, particularly at college where she would entertain her friends, often by singing and playing on the mouth organ.
- Together with a friend, she wrote a cookery book: some of the Thai recipes are available.
Compiling information for the biography has involved a very wide-range of sources. Below are some snippets, which include links to a number of blog posts, where you can find some of the latest research.
- A Prayer to St. Francis of Assisi
- An avid reader
- The World in Scrapbooks
- Her Musical Tastes
- Almost a Pop Star!
- A brief summary of her contribution to the early history of Dhammakaya in the UK (Wikipedia article) includes a few extracts from her tribute to Ajahn Gaew, her teacher.
- Posts relating to Fuengsin on a personal blog