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.
The Buddha gave us seven factors of enlightenment to brighten and polish the mind. Three of these factors are dynamic - they are the spiritual skills that help us to remove obstacles, make the path smooth, and allow us to practice forgiveness and compassion. These in turn give rise to the four brightening enlightenment factors which wash out the defilements and enable us to move towards freedom.
Virtue creates a force in the heart, a field of goodness, from generosity to joy to enlightenment and back again. Once there is joy in the heart, the mind finds ease to go to its depths. Be your own doctor, self-examine, see with the inner eye to discern and resolve our inner dis-ease and free the mind. Dukkha is not the problem, it is our teacher.
Just like the Buddha, we have the potential to touch the Truth with our own mind if we follow the precise instructions he has given us. No doubt, we will cross many intersections and, at each one, we must patiently examine the state of the heart, discerning what is harmful and what is wholesome in everything we face. In this way, we gain the benefits of wisdom, happiness, and inner peace. A talk given at Toronto Theravada Buddhist Community in 2015.
What are we doing on this planet? How do we cope with feelings of fear? Can we observe wisely and penetrate through the fictions of the mind? To abandon them, we must understand them. Ayyā Medhānandī coaches us to investigate emotions like fear and anger, viewing their characteristics as tiny fragments of physical sensation and learning how to refresh the mind in one instant. Then we touch the space of non-fear, serenity and joy within us. A talk given at Toronto Theravada Buddhist Community in 2015.