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 deity Brahma Sahampati appeared before the Blessed One and urged the Buddha to teach to those who had little dust in their eyes so that they could learn the Dhamma and practice for their own awakening.
Praising Truth for its own sake, we lean in the direction of Truth. We make our intention not to harm by body, speech, or thought. Harmlessness leads to selflessness. Selflessness leads to the Deathless. To boundless compassion. It will save us from the flames of greed, violence, and delusion raging around us. Like the baby quail. What saved it from the forest fire was the purity of its own truth developed over lifetimes. A talk given in a Toronto Theravada Buddhist Community (TBC) zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the inner sea, we know what is truly true. Knowing is the mother, breathing is the child. Going beyond past hurts, beyond thought, being old or young, desolate or delighted, go even beyond Covid, there in the timeless emptiness of present moment awareness of the breath itself, teach your mind its true home. Given at an online meditation during the Covid pandemic.
Waking up to our spiritual wealth, we learn the true currency of Covid - it is not fear and frailty but courage, compassion, loving-kindness, community and connection. We see what is protection for ourselves and for each other, dwelling with the Dhamma, the Truth, as our safety - our island and refuge.
To simulate the natural process of death is to experience the impermanence of the five aggregates and a pure awareness that knows the inherent emptiness of things as they truly are. Dying is a potent doorway for liberation of mind and the best death we can die is shattering the ego. Then we can let go of fear once and for all. This guided meditation was given during a death and dying retreat in an Australian church in 2004.
Digging deep through the pains we experience with compassion enough to free ourselves from life's trials, we discover the way beyond harming, the way beyond anger. Finally we forgive all the monsters of the mind, all causes and conditions of our suffering, letting them go, setting them free so we can devote ourselves to living harmlessly.
The Fourth Insight known as udayabbaya ñāņa arises bestowing six qualities of upekkha as well as intimate knowledge of anicca through seeing the arising and disappearance of all conditioned things - most importantly, the emptiness of 'self'.
Most highly revered treasures and our true refuges - the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha - are extolled in this devotional chanting of a traditional Pali sutta. The style of the chant arose in the heart while walking in the forests of Sati Saraniya Hermitage.
There are many skills and restorative qualities needed for us to grow in our spiritual work. Let us not underestimate the essential ingredient of mettā. This universal quality of love will unfailingly nurture the unfolding of the Noble Eightfold Path. It enhances our energy to persevere with courage, agility and joy so that the journey is sustainable and our trust becomes unwavering. We reach out more to others and support them in the good, while rejoicing that as we accomplish the Way, we draw close to the Buddha.
What are the prerequisites and supports for walking such a path of awakening? Kindness and a loving forgiveness rank with those qualities that are foremost. They allow us to repair the seemingly unforgivable, to heal what we could not see or wish to see, to dwell in the real not in our concepts, and so to ascend with the strength gained from that groundwork. Try forgiveness first. Recovery opens the way home to healing, to Truth.