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.
What stops us from realizing Truth? We face the human condition besieged with obstacles in the mind that can be overcome with a total commitment to giving up our many forms of addiction. We learn to stay present and to develop the enlightenment factors which defy all the hindrances until we see the jewels in the mind that are brighter than the sun. These are the gifts of the Path. A talk given during a 7 day Satipaññā Insight Meditation Toronto retreat at Chapin Mill Retreat Centre, Batavia, Rochester, NY.
Just as a gardener cultivates seedlings by watering them well, metta is praised as a foundational quality for watering the full liberation of the heart. As a spiritual gardener, work to deeply understand and integrate metta in all aspects of life and practice. It is present in every skillful mind-state and ripens in the awakened mind as unconditional and universal spiritual love.
As we establish awareness on the breath, notice where the mind is, polishing it until it shines like a bright moon. Use the sublime abidings to spread calming energy throughout the breath and the body. The hindrances fall away. Relieved of our attachments, we become like a lotus, a violin, able to hear our true voice in the silence. We tune the instrument of the mind to full understanding. A guided meditation given during a 7 day Satipaññā Insight Meditation Toronto retreat at Chapin Mill Retreat Centre, Batavia, Rochester, NY.
The heart is a moral tapestry of clear coordinates for liberation. Caught between duality and proliferation, we vanquish the ‘self’ using the Buddha’s pithy instruction to Bahiya of the Bark Cloth. “In the seen, there is only the seen. In the heard. . . only the heard. In the sensed. . . only the sensed. In the known. . . only the known. When for you there will be only the seen . . . there is no you there.” We too shall come out of the jungle of our attachments.
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.
Can we face what we most fear and touch the well-spring of goodness, kindness and compassion within us? The first step towards Truth is taking responsibility for our own actions, intentions, and their consequences. Denial and distraction only numb us to what is painful to remember let alone face up to. But the Truth will always emerge. There is no running away from it. So we acknowledge our unskillful acts and open the door to forgiveness and reconciliation. One glimpse into the true marrow of our being reveals the urgency of repairing harm and the healing power of forgiveness.
Ayya Medhanandi talks about developing virtue and moral disarmament for true peace in this world. If we want to protect each other and promote harmlessness and nonviolence, we must do the work of inner disarmament ourselves. A talk given at the 10th Global Conference on Buddhism, Neuroscience, and Mental Health, Toronto 2017.
Standing up in pure presence is one of the four great postures. In this simple act of being present, know one mind-moment at a time, repeatedly. Grateful for one breath, one posture, one point, we gain balance and poise. We allow our suffering to dissolve in the suffering of all the world. This is how we stand for the Dhamma in a practical way – with the body; and in a practice way – with compassion and understanding of the Dhamma.
When delusion, impatience and lack of trust prevail in our spiritual work, we rape our own goodness and execute ourselves over and over again. This suffering, clearly known, helps us to see how we cling and how we let go. When clinging again, let go again – stop the subterfuge of clinging and undermining ourselves. Actually, we are our own liberators. We are powerful beyond our understanding.