Ayyā Medhānandī Bhikkhunī, is the founder and guiding teacher of Sati Sārāņīya Hermitage, a 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 lived as an alms-mendicant Buddhist nun for nearly 20 years, she received bhikkhunī ordination at Ling Quan Chan Monastery in Keelung, Taiwan. In 2008, on invitation from the Ottawa Buddhist Society and Toronto Theravāda Buddhist Community, Ayyā returned to her native Canada 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.
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.
To free us from our relentless conceptualising and the suffering that comes of it, the Buddha has thrown us a lifeline. We can grab hold of it by continually using the perspective that “this is impermanent”, and, thereby, we can pull ourselves to safety. A breakfast reflection given at Sati Saraniya Hermitage in 2018.
All of us are capable of opening to this core within the heart which is coreless, and seeing the treasures therein. But because we are conditioned by worldly ways to own and to cling, this opening can be excruciating. How can we bear it? Our practice unfolds when we can see through the illusion of things, bow to the law of kamma, and take refuge in awakened wisdom. A breakfast reflection given at Sati Saraniya Hermitage in the fall of 2018.
Satipanna Insight Meditation Toronto (SIMT) Retreat, Chapin Mill, Batavia, N.Y.
Entering the Gate: Four Spiritual Qualities
Though our spiritual paths are many and varied, we can all practice with enough present moment awareness, faith, energy and commitment to realize the boundless nature of the heart that seemed at first beyond our reach.
The Winter of the World is here… How do we bear it? What does the mind need in order to open to the teachings? Dana. Sila. Generosity and virtue. Cultivating generosity, starting with the material, can mature into acts of sharing one’s time, energy, abilities, kindness and compassion. Let us cherish these noble qualities and develop them in a boundless way, for all beings. The Buddha advises us how to be fearless and present with a loved one near death. A talk given at Sati Saraniya Hermitage in November, 2017.
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.