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.
Wisdom is foremost for liberation and it comes with a cluster of vital supports; among them - associating with good people, developing good mind states with a sense of urgency, and practising contentment and gratitude to overcome the complaining mind. This includes respect and gratitude for our parents. When gratitude is not forthcoming, we discover compassion as a healing agent to help deepen our understanding of their suffering – and our own. A talk given during a 7 day Satipaññā Insight Meditation Toronto retreat at Chapin Mill Retreat Centre, Rochester, NY.
Intuitive wisdom develops gradually as we learn more and more to drop the story and view the flood of impermanence in the silence of the mind. Eventually we will be able to answer the question: what remains after the work of purification? A talk given during a Satipaññā Insight Meditation Toronto retreat in 2016.
The mind is so easily duped by its own delusion. By holding perceptions, views and opinions - our own, as well as others - as "uncertain", and being circumspect, we can bear witness to experience as the Knowing Mind, unburdened by its conditioning. When the five faculties are strengthened through practice, this knowing mind can arise in its utmost purity. We can overcome delusion by stripping our experience of any packaging; only when we know things authentically for what they truly are, can we let them go. We practice fearlessness, harmlessness, selflessness, until there is nothing to fear, except delusion itself. If we are awake to that Truth, then we can be sitting under the Bodhi Tree in the truest way. A talk given during a 7 day Satipaññā Insight Meditation Toronto retreat at Chapin Mill Retreat Centre, Batavia, Rochester, NY.
On the question of striving: early practice needs to be precise and strategic, focused on precepts, developing mindfulness, and faith in the Buddha's awakening. Later, working in community, with support, one protects the process as it unfolds, while trying not to control, to let go of competitiveness. Ways of the world do not work in this practice. We are not taught by the world to let go with complete surrender using skills not revered by the world. We need to give up what the world is telling us to go for. This is a path of selflessness and breaking it all down. A talk given at a 7 day SIMT retreat in the Chapin Mill Zen Retreat Center, Batavia, NY.
Ajahn Chah describes his process of overcoming fear while staying in a charnel ground in Thailand and urges us to try it out! What he means is not in the charnel ground, but right here wherever we are and with the ghosts of our own minds. A reading given during a Satipaññā Insight Meditation Toronto retreat in 2016.
The jhana factors serve as antidotes to the five hindrances as well as supports in developing the Noble Eightfold Path. But they are not enough in and of themselves to establish wisdom. Studying the body and mind through samatha and vipassana, we come to understand the Four Noble Truths. As we transform consciousness, we transcend the world. A talk given at a 7 day Satipaññā Insight Meditation Toronto retreat in the Chapin Mill Zen Retreat Centre, Batavia, NY.
The practice of metta bhavana leads to liberation and has 11 benefits
1) One sleep well; 2) One awakens happily; 3) One does not have bad dreams; 4) One is pleasing to human beings; 5) One is pleasing to spirits; 6) One is protected by dieties; 7) One is not injured by fire, poison or weapons; 8) One's mind quickly becomes concentrated; 9) One's facial complexion is serene; 10) One dies unconfused; and 11) If one does not penetrate further, one fares on to the Brahma world. AN 11:15