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 meaning of the words “commitment” and “sacrifice” are spoken of in relationship to taking vows and training as an anagārikā as well as to practice as a householder. Regardless of the form we use, it is possible for each of us to find an island of refuge in ourselves. A talk given during an Ottawa Buddhist Society 10 day retreat at the Sisters of St. Joseph Convent, Pembroke, Ontario, Canada in 2008.
Reflections on how to approach the development of insight meditation, vipasanna, like a spiritual athlete with comparisons to the rigorous training of bhikkhunis. It requires strong determination and hard work to beat a path to awakening. But if you can bear with the difficulties, you will learn to manage the mind and see clearly what is happening as it happens - a key to awakened awareness and freedom. A talk given at a 10 day retreat at the Sisters of St. Joseph Convent, Pembroke, Canada in 2008.
We must not underestimate the significance of dedicating ourselves to the five precepts. Such a commitment to virtue provides a moral and ethical basis for life that will ultimately lessen our suffering. We find ourselves embodying qualities of truthfulness, kindness and care for ourselves and others that touch a new level of inner happiness, one of the factors of enlightenment.
How training the mind in following precepts, such as the rules regarding the use of four monastic requisites - food, robes, shelter, and medicines, can win us greater patience, faith, gratitude, calm, courage, and mindfulness. Such ways of renunciation test our commitment to the path and teach us how to forgive and let go even our fears so that we harvest the riches of joy, compassion and inner peace.