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 nine-cemetary contemplations presented in the Satipatthana Sutta work with elemental perspectives on the parts of the body by simulating their condition after death. The clarity of mind realized in these special practices sheds light on how valuable death contemplations are for a wholesome and happy life. Not only does the mind gain immense lucidity and peace, but we are able to access and develop special qualities of mental composure, joy and discernment. A talk given at Sati Saraniya Hermitage in 2017.
The first step towards Truth is taking responsibility for our own actions, intentions, and their consequences. Distractions are not a support but only numb us to what is difficult to face or remember. Truth will always emerge, despite all attempts to bury it. Bring into the light unskillful acts, our own or those of others towards us, and make forgiveness and reconciliation possible. Penetrate into the marrow of life to reveal both the garbage we must purify and the treasure to be discovered in the process. What are we really running away from?
Entering a period of silent retreat simulates the monastic 'Going Forth' with an aspiration to deepen our virtue, samadhi, and wisdom. We take Refuge in our highest spiritual potential as human beings, working from faith in our ability to do this; training and transforming the mind through good-will, wise reflection, and selflessness; and opening our hearts to offer that refuge and safety to others.
What are we, and what are we doing on this planet? We easily get lost in the dream of the world. It is a very good time to wake up. Right here in your own heart is the greatest adventure possible. See the danger and look inwards into the centre of the storm for sanctuary. Then we will create a wave of awakening in this world. A talk given at a joint Theravada Buddhist Community -Satipaññā Insight Meditation Toronto retreat in 2016.