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.
As we follow the steps of the Eightfold Noble Path, our hatred, greed, and delusion abate. We may yet suffer, but we use our suffering to fathom the meaning of it, see its causes, and see the possibility for ending suffering. The four Noble Truths come alive within. Invariably, our suffering manifests in many forms. It may never ‘end’ but it ceases to be a problem as our fear or aversion to it die. Persevering in this work is the way to make peace with our suffering.
What is renunciation? Patiently we learn how to let go of the thoughts and actions that enslave us to samsara. And we begin to understand what it takes to tame the ego and cultivate greater and greater compassion in its boundless quality. Through this magnificent process, we study the way to ascend the altar and sit with our teacher, the Buddha.
Were you able to taste the silence? Do compelling thoughts continue to grab at you? Is it difficult to find the off button? Know that we all deal with these thoughts. We can train ourselves to practice in good conditions so that we are prepared for the vicissitudes of everyday life. We can indeed realize freedom. A talk given at a retreat at the Padua Centre in Montreal, Quebec in 2008.
Is your mind full of the present moment at all times? We can learn to integrate our practice with our everyday lives as awareness develops when we are both on and off the meditation cushion. With diligence, we can realize a mind that is bright and radiant, full of joy and peace. A talk given at a True North Insight weekend retreat in the Padua Centre, Montreal, Canada.