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.
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.
How can we have compassion for others without falling apart? The Buddha's path of awakening teaches us how to disarm our internal armour, to be harmless. This will be for us a true basis for following precepts and thereby developing enough inner quiet to investigate ill-will. We begin to clearly see and understand our mind-states. This full presence enables compassion that is tireless and unconditional.
We can feel torn apart by life and unable to cope. Repair can be a long process but through meditation we learn how to hold things safely. If we can contemplate the ill winds of life in a way that allow us to understand their impermanent nature, we will also understand that they are unsatisfactory and empty of self. Therein is true peace of mind.
Are we ready to look at our opinions? How can we develop the ability to let go and trust? If we can listen within and learn to fully inhabit our bodies, then we will put our burdens down so that we can live and die with joy and peace.
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.
An introduction to the Noble Eightfold Path with instructions for beginners on sitting and walking meditation practices. A talk given at the joint Theravada Buddhist Community of Toronto/ Satipaññā Insight Meditation Toronto retreat in 2016.
On the question of striving: early practice needs to be precise and strategic, focused on precepts, developing mindfulness, and faith in the Buddha's awakening. Later, working in community, with support, one protects the process as it unfolds, while trying not to control, to let go of competitiveness. Ways of the world do not work in this practice. We are not taught by the world to let go with complete surrender using skills not revered by the world. We need to give up what the world is telling us to go for. This is a path of selflessness and breaking it all down. A talk given at a 7 day SIMT retreat in the Chapin Mill Zen Retreat Center, Batavia, NY.
The jhana factors serve as antidotes to the five hindrances as well as supports in developing the Noble Eightfold Path. But they are not enough in and of themselves to establish wisdom. Studying the body and mind through samatha and vipassana, we come to understand the Four Noble Truths. As we transform consciousness, we transcend the world. A talk given at a 7 day Satipaññā Insight Meditation Toronto retreat in the Chapin Mill Zen Retreat Centre, Batavia, NY.