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.
A humble novice with his bowl empty exemplifies where true riches lie in this world. Meditating deep in the unchartered borders within, gain those riches by giving up worldly pursuits. See the value of what is true and what reveals the truth to us. Beyond confusion, beyond wanting, beyond harmful ways of being, purify the mind and seek that jewel of the heart's true peace, clear and free.
How can we be free of anger? To cross a river, walk over it. From a burning house, escape. So too, when your heart is on fire, stay present, forgiving and compassionate. Balance and cleanse the mind to stop it from spinning with fear, to see deeply, to heal. We direct the mind to what is great – the very source of unsurpassable joy.
Are we ready to stop clinging, let go and trust? If we live with gratitude and change for the good; if we learn to really see, we will be able to listen from within and notice the true condition of the mind, going from a state of fear to non-fear, from suffering to non-suffering, from trauma to trust and the truth of the Unconditioned. Putting out the fires of greed, hatred and delusion, we forgive, set our burdens down and embrace kindness. We make wise choices and we live and die with joy, peace, and blessing.
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. That is how we shall bring forth a wave of awakening in this world.
Discover the riches of the Noble Eightfold Path again and again. See into the depths of the mind by rightly remembering and using the Buddha's guidance not only in formal meditation practice but in every waking hour of daily life. Begin, sustain, and deepen the practice of clear seeing and understanding the Path. This is how we step out of suffering into true blessing and joyous freedom.
The Buddha offers us an extraordinary medicine – the medicine of Truth. No one can take it for us nor can we take it for anyone else. And we discover it through our own wisdom, love, and compassion. We are the surgeon and the Dhamma is our saving grace. Even in the midst of the raging fires of the world or the fires of greed, hatred and delusion within us, we gain a foothold to the heart's peace.
One way animals restore themselves after an attack and regain equilibrium is through the trembling of the body. We too, as human beings, can create an inner rhythmic chant to resonate vibrational waves that help us move out of fear and clear traumas from our nervous system. All the senses converge and soak in the sound of the breath itself. Trusting the heart's innate goodness, we feel uplifted. Bless the rain.
Practice wise attention, train in right view, and see things as they are. Touch the fires of trauma and rise from their ashes. Attend to ancient hurts with conscious full-hearted forgiveness. As we disown these old karmas, we augment the higher frequency and pure vibration of loving-kindness. It’s unconditional and ownerless. So the inner fires gradually cool and reveal the Unconditioned. Seeing the truth of the moment we undo all the untruths of the past.
Sariputta said (SN 21.1): “There is nothing in the world with whose change there would arise in me sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair.” It is hard to remember the Buddha’s teachings when the mind is beset with fear and anxiety. But we can escape from these bonds by disempowering the hindrances, calming the mind and seeing with greater wisdom. For this process to bear fruit, we have to fully trust the path alone and not put our trust in the world. A talk given at a 7 day SIMT retreat in the Chapin Mill Zen Retreat Centre, Batavia, Rochester, NY.
To bring the mind to peace, we must learn about all that makes it unpeaceful, unquiet. We learn how to prevent those things from arising, and how to deal with them if they do. Follow virtue. Stay close to spiritual friends, to the Buddha. Practise gratitude, generosity, and kindness. Wake up. Love wisdom more than life.