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.
A guided meditation into the heart of our struggles and fears where, on the altar of our tears, the jewels of the Dhamma are revealed radiant within us. Breath by breath, wisely seeing through and courageously defying all obstacles to our freedom, we embark into the miracle of pure presence in this moment.
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 life's trials and pains with unfaltering compassion, discover the way beyond harming, the way beyond anger. At last, can we forgive all the monsters of the mind, letting them go, setting them free? Living harmlessly, fearless in the good and devoted to this radical healing, the face of enlightenment appears in the trenches of our own suffering.
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.