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.
The Buddha teaches us about seven lights to gain true freedom. They are none other than the factors of enlightenment. Three are dynamic skills that deeply cleanse the mind. In turn, these give rise to four 'septic friendly' brightening agents that lead us to inner wisdom. We learn how to practice forgiveness and compassion, and how to awaken to a selfless benevolence - an unassailable joy, peace and complete freedom of heart.
Virtue creates a force in the heart, a field of goodness, from generosity to joy to enlightenment and back again. Once there is joy in the heart, the mind finds ease to go to its depths. Be your own doctor, self-examine, see with the inner eye to discern and resolve our inner dis-ease and free the mind. Dukkha is not the problem, it is our teacher.
Just like the Buddha, we have the potential to touch the Truth with our own mind if we follow the precise instructions he has given us. No doubt, we will cross many intersections and, at each one, we must patiently examine the state of the heart, discerning what is harmful and what is wholesome in everything we face. In this way, we gain the benefits of wisdom, happiness, and inner peace. A talk given at Toronto Theravada Buddhist Community in 2015.
The Buddha himself touched the Truth with his own mind. And so can we. It’s a purifying, intimate process - internal, invisible and crossing many intersections. At each one, we patiently examine the state of the heart, discerning what is harmful and what is wholesome in everything we face. The way opens for us to enter the domain of no fear and receive the gifts of wisdom, peace, and the heart’s unshakeable freedom.
What are we doing on this planet? How do we cope with feelings of fear? Can we observe wisely and penetrate through the fictions of the mind? To abandon them, we must understand them. Ayyā Medhānandī coaches us to investigate emotions like fear and anger, viewing their characteristics as tiny fragments of physical sensation and learning how to refresh the mind in one instant. Then we touch the space of non-fear, serenity and joy within us. A talk given at Toronto Theravada Buddhist Community in 2015.
Has there ever been a time when the world was not filled with fear and violence? Millenia ago just as now, humans have been bound in a cycle of delusion, fear, and harm. The way out is within us – learning to find the still-point in the mind, where fleeting conditions subside. Awake to the present, anxiety and clinging bow to an inner contentment and peace. We are on the Middle Way.
The real path to peace lies in developing moral integrity. Our spiritual strength depends on purity of heart and action. We learn to identify unwholesome habits that obstruct our well-being and discover the joy of harmlessness. With courageous compassion, we walk the way of the noble ones to the summit of our human potential.
Using the breath to move into the silent space in the heart and attentively following its rhythm, the breath becomes our whole world. We let go of all objects that arise, all thought, as we stay present and aware in the simple current of breathing. In these moments of pure presence, we are planting the priceless seeds of our awakening.