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.
How can we stay true to our spiritual aspirations and work to fulfill them without compromise? Diligence in our practice is a great resource for growing the endurance, patience, and courage we will need to guard the mind against the hindrances and keep our focus on present moment awareness. This is the way to free ourselves from all suffering. And it is also a gift we can offer to help others through life's inevitable trials.
The Buddha is our unexcelled guide on the journey of a lifetime – to the end of suffering. We look within and enter the silence of the heart, leaving behind our ideas, fears, attachments, and identities to discover the treasures of pure presence – an unsurpassed happiness and freedom.
On the path to freedom, every moment in every life situation is an opportunity for training the mind. We plant seeds of virtue, watering them with renunciation, respect, contentment, generosity and valiant effort. We clear the cobwebs of lifetimes from the mind with wisdom and mindfulness guarding us from the eight worldly winds, while forgiveness, love and compassion hasten the heart's awakening to Nibbana.
In the grip of painful feelings such as fear, anger, grief, or despair, we are in danger of allowing these to subdue the mind. Discernment and clear awareness help us to see through our pain to the ending of pain – not only for ourselves, but for all beings. We ascend the highest Everest of the spiritual realm. That might seem impossible from where we sit now. But if we trust this process, just like the sudden vanishing of winter snow, we realize a transcendent interior melting of all sorrow.
There is no final cure for the body, but the mind can be freed. No matter how much craving, anger, sorrow, fear or obsessive negative thoughts keep storming the mind, don’t let discouragement become another hindrance. Every new moment is a chance to see these hindrances for what they are with pure awareness itself. Patient, courageous and wise, we are ready to receive the gift of ‘bread’ and to win back the boundaries of our hearts.
Our greatest life journey takes us inward through the Dhamma MRI of mindful, radical investigation. At last, we learn to see clearly - with true discernment. We see the root causes of our suffering, disentangling the web of delusion and despair to take up our spiritual compass. As the heart opens, we teach ourselves to forgive, sure-footed and courageous, ascending to realize the heart’s true deliverance.
If we can deal with the craziness of the mind, we can help to decrease the craziness and violence of the world. But we have to be so patient and keep faith with the process of of cleaning up our own violence. Even when the mind is hot, there will be some good will that we can touch - if we lean towards that which is kind and gentle - harmless - this can lead us towards fearlessness and acceptance.