Ayyā Medhānandī Bhikkhunī, is the founder and guiding teacher of Sati Sārāņīya Hermitage, a Canadian forest monastery for women in the Theravāda tradition. The daughter of Eastern European refugees who emigrated to Montreal after World War II, she began a spiritual quest in childhood that led her to India, Burma, England, New Zealand, Malaysia, Taiwan, and finally, back to Canada.
In 1988, at the Yangon Mahasi retreat centre in Burma, Ayyā requested ordination as a bhikkhunī from her teacher, the Venerable Sayādaw U Pandita Mahāthera. This was not yet possible for Theravāda Buddhist women. Instead, Sayādaw granted her ordination as a 10 precept nun on condition that she take her vows for life. Thus began her monastic training in the Burmese tradition. When the borders were closed to foreigners by a military coup, in 1990 Sayādaw blessed her to join the Ajahn Chah Thai Forest Saņgha at Amaravati, UK.
After ten years in their siladhāra community, Ayyā felt called to more seclusion and solitude in New Zealand and SE Asia. In 2007, having waited nearly 20 years, she received bhikkhunī ordination at Ling Quan Chan Monastery in Keelung, Taiwan and returned to her native Canada in 2008, on invitation from the Ottawa Buddhist Society and Toronto Theravāda Buddhist Community, to establish Sati Sārāņīya Hermitage.
Walk away from the tigers that have made us run all our lives. Grow, instead, that beautiful space of selfless love deep within. Growth means breaking out of the shell. It hurts. But this is our journey. Trust that it will ripen into greater and greater insight. And in that unfolding, discover when things fall apart, true wisdom arises from the ashes.
With the Buddha as our guide, we walk in his footsteps. If we fall away from the path, we return to it as soon as we can. Just as you steer your car back on the road should it veer off. The mind may be on fire with wanting, fear, grief or anger. Then feel the heat. Know its origin and see its ending – not owning nor feeding it, let it subside. Here and now, awareness and wisdom deepen. We are waking up. And we discover – that true friend resides within our own heart.
Every moment of right mindfulness is a gift of pure attention, clarity and discovering the true origin of our pain. Applying the alchemy of kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others, we break through the veils of delusion to experience a selfless happiness, peace, and wise benevolence. Measureless are these blessings of the Dhamma.
Simplicity is not about wearing one colour, shaving your head or fasting but rather a way of mental fasting. When we choose simplicity, we have time to stop, and to observe and study the mind. We see the extent of our suffering and the origin of it. This is of great value to us. Start simplifying on the outside, then slowly draw inward to see the complex world of our ideas, thoughts, fears, longings, and attachments. Stop defending our vulnerability and investigate it. Make time for what is precious. Simplicity reveals the silence and sameness of life that can help us discover the deepest truth of our conditionality and the way to free ourselves from it. That is our work. No one else can do it for us
How well are we spending our time? Do we endlessly cling to all that perpetuates suffering? Death will have no holiday. So what will free us from the tyranny of death? Be courageous enough to see what gives us true happiness and what brings misery; what is harmful and what is beneficial. Keep the company of those who support our virtues and our best qualities. Stay ‘far from the madding crowd’ and walk the way from blindness to bliss.
A mind weeded of impurities is a field of stillness and wisdom where our suffering melts away. How does this happen? We study the mind and apply four facets of an extraordinary proactive mindfulness: exerted effort, penetrating focus on the object of awareness, heroic diligence, and contemplative devotion. In the silence of the undistracted mind, wisdom and a true and sustainable happiness arise.
In the face of horrific suffering, how can we abide in the ground of love, protected from every kind of pain? True path effort – inspired courage leaning on virtue – ardently works its way into the heart. Through the power of forgiveness, patient enough to love without blame, we touch the fount of compassion itself. We invite the miraculous.
The greatest exploration we can make is turning inward to the space of the heart. Our mission is to understand why we are here on this earth. We may think we know but we can only really know when we enter the sanctuary of this inner space and turn the world off. Then we will surely find the pearl of truth we long for - a universal truth not contrived nor concocted by our ignorant mind – and it gives us a peace and happiness that is unshakeable, incorruptible, and unconditional.
Compassion is our worthy compass. Radiating compassionate empathy towards our own suffering and the suffering of the world, the mind is tranquil, protected from danger, and at peace. We have courage enough to evict fear and take our proper seat in the pure presence of the heart.
One who practices true compassion inwardly as well as to others is praised as a superior person, a spiritual warrior on the path of harmlessness. How do we emulate that? Guided by right intention, we abandon the hindrances of the mind and patiently whittle away our ingrained habit of ego construction. We learn to see wisely and to forgive conditions as we journey to transcendence.