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.
Remember compassion like the Buddha’s. Remember courage like the Buddha’s – a mind strong, centered, wise and welcoming; spacious, supple and open. We look within and wake up to that seed of awakening. Standing for truth instead of delusion and weakness, even if what we have is not enough – we make it enough. Even from a tiny seed of awakening, plant it in the soil of contentment. Watch it grow into a tall, magnificent refuge in Truth that is not conceptual but is realized intuitively. You are here in the moment like never before.
Walk away from the tigers that have made us run all our lives. Grow, instead, that beautiful space of selfless love deep within. Growth means breaking out of the shell. It hurts. But this is our journey. Trust that it will ripen into greater and greater insight. And in that unfolding, discover when things fall apart, true wisdom arises from the ashes.
Can we resolutely walk the moral high road and discover Dhamma treasures in the fertile ground of the heart? Good-will or heroic metta, will serve as our anti-inflammatory, quelling the fires of greed, anger, fear, and blame along with every other uncharitable mind state. ‘Shaving’ the heart with kindness and compassion, we ascend the mountain until there is no more mountain and no ‘one’ to climb it.
Generosity and virtue are at the heart of waking up. We give nothing less than our full devotion to the practice, day by day, training in present moment awareness and purifying ourselves. Secluded from dangerous mental states, we endure patiently, courageously. As the wisdom of the ancients dawns within us, we are blessed by that sacred gift of the Path – a noble mind.
To escape clinging to the world and the creations of thought, we purify and tame the restless mind until we directly know the impermanence, unsatisfactory and selfless nature of all conditioned things. No matter what comes, we endure. A diet of discernment, gratitude, and the heart's unconditional compassion rescue us from the swamp of fear and unwholesomeness. Seeing the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we walk with the Buddha, a true spiritual friend to ourselves and to all the world.
We live in a world of toxic fear and earnestly wish for a way beyond it. Devoted to the Buddha’s supreme advice, we undertake this holistic training how to live harmlessly, joyful and at peace in ourselves. With courage and patient humility, we don’t back down when it gets tough or pick and choose only the parts we like. Once the inner world of the mind is purified, liberation dawns. We shall reap untold blessings to the end of selfishness. Wisdom is born and the heart is free.
With the Buddha as our guide, we walk in his footsteps. If we fall away from the path, we return to it as soon as we can. Just as you steer your car back on the road should it veer off. The mind may be on fire with wanting, fear, grief or anger. Then feel the heat. Know its origin and see its ending – not owning nor feeding it, let it subside. Here and now, awareness and wisdom deepen. We are waking up. And we discover – that true friend resides within our own heart.
Learning to play an instrument, at first nothing good comes of it. The body is like an instrument. At first, it howls, it screams or cries. Then one day, that cry becomes a chant. So it is freeing the mind. We teach ourselves to walk the path. We fall and we get up again. In the darkest moment, we grow that tiny speck in the heart of not being afraid, not panicking, not being angry, not giving up. Practise freeing yourself so you can free everyone. Patiently keep digging. Trust. One day we will find gold.
Every moment of right mindfulness is a gift of pure attention, clarity and discovering the true origin of our pain. Applying the alchemy of kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others, we break through the veils of delusion to experience a selfless happiness, peace, and wise benevolence. Measureless are these blessings of the Dhamma.
Simplicity is not about wearing one colour, shaving your head or fasting but rather a way of mental fasting. When we choose simplicity, we have time to stop, and to observe and study the mind. We see the extent of our suffering and the origin of it. This is of great value to us. Start simplifying on the outside, then slowly draw inward to see the complex world of our ideas, thoughts, fears, longings, and attachments. Stop defending our vulnerability and investigate it. Make time for what is precious. Simplicity reveals the silence and sameness of life that can help us discover the deepest truth of our conditionality and the way to free ourselves from it. That is our work. No one else can do it for us