The Founder of Dhammakaya Temple

Khun Yai Ajan

In all of the world, material or spiritual, you cannot depend on others. You need to depend on yourself.

“Khun Yai” Chand Khonnokyoong was born on January 20, 1909, in Nakorn Chaisri, a rural municipality of Thailand. She was the fifth of nine children in the family. Her father, Ploy, and mother, Pan, were rice farmers. The word “Khun Yai” means “grandmother” in Thai. It is a respectful way to call a woman of elderly age. Khun Yai’s given name was Chand, which means “moon”. Her last name was Khonnokyoong, which means  “peacock-feather”.

The farmer’s life had trained Chand to be diligent and steadfast. She would get up  before sunrise to tend to the rice field with her water buffalo and would return home at sunset. Her duties prevented her from attending school, because of this she never learned to read or write. Her youth was spent toiling in the rice patties to support her family. After years of work the family had enough earnings to support itself safely. At the age of 26 Khun Yai left the farm to embark on a spiritual journey to freedom.

We are like a small, helpless baby bird vulnerable to dangers.
Save yourself from danger before thinking and worrying about saving others.
After I left home, I never looked back. I only returned once to attend my mother’s funeral.

Khun Yai sought the teachings of the Great Abbot of Wat PakNam Bhasicharoen. She started by working as a maid for a frequent patron of the temple and eventually became one of the Great Abbot’s most skilled disciples, earning the title “Second to None”.


There are numerous stories about Khun Yai’s extraordinary mental powers and her abilities to recall her own past lives as well as the past lives of others. Despite her lack of education and her inability to read or write, Khun Yai’s insights and wisdoms have inspired millions of people around the world.

With two bare hands and a mere savings of 3,200 Baht (equivalent to US$160 at that time), Khun Yai managed to build the Dhammakaya Temple of Thailand, the biggest Buddhist temple in the world, where thousands of Buddhist monks live a virtuous life and preach goodness to all of mankind


Khun Yai is not only a builder of a great temple but she is also a builder of great people. The foundation for the orderly monastic practices and the good mannerism for laypeople laid out by Khun Yai have brought respect to Buddhist monks as well as the Buddhist religion.

Khun Yai was loved and revered by many. At her Cremation Ceremony in 2001, 100,000 Buddhist monks from 30,000 temples all over Thailand, senior monks from twenty different countries, and hundreds of thousands of others from around the world came to pay their final respect to Khun Yai. This was the biggest assembly of monks in Buddhist history.

I do things for my own benefit and for the benefit of others. We should do something worthwhile for ourselves. After having done something worthwhile for ourselves, we should also do something worthwhile for the mass. Then we can say that this life is worthwhile.

Khun Yai continues to inspire future generations. She is the perfect example that life is what you make of it. She did not let her illiteracy and poor upbringing keep her from founding the biggest temple in Thailand. Her teachings live on in Luang Por Dhammajayo, the current abbot of Dhammakaya temple, and he forges on spreading inner peace throughout world. Khun Yai’s legacy will shine on in all who find there own inner peace.