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.
During times of global pandemic, it’s easier to see how deeply connected we are in our vulnerability to disease. Meditating and touching the silent space of the heart, we see how deeply connected we are at all times – connected in dis-ease – in fear, in sorrow, in suffering; and also in our potential for joy. And we discover the well-spring of goodness within us from which that joy arises. A guided meditation and Dhamma reflections.
Four astounding things happen when the Buddha teaches the Dhamma. When he teaches about non-attachment, people want to listen and to understand how to give up attachment. When he teaches about the removal of conceit, people lend ear and try to understand it. People delight in excitement, but when he teaches the way to peace, people want to lend ear and understand it. And when he teaches how to remove ignorance, people want to listen and follow the Way.
In the Sallekha Sutta, MN 8, the Buddha teaches us how not to imitate the faults of others, and how to be fearless in the good and vanquish unwholesome mental habits. We start where we are and trust the path, learning to live wisely, to glimpse the fruits of letting go, reaching for the farther shore so that when fear dies, unconditional love will prevail. A talk given online during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fear is the absence of love. Our inner purification is a movement away from fear to the embodiment of pure love - even to love the dying moment. We grow in stillness and peace as if sailing an ocean of joy, in the peace of the mind's deepest waters where we can touch the Deathless. A guided meditation and reflections offered during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Responding to questions about social change during pandemic time protests: seeing that we are the owners of our actions, subject to the law of kamma, we can embody the Buddha's teachings by respecting all beings with compassion, nonviolence and our foundation in virtue, and choosing wise leaders who uphold these principles.
When change and unrest foment around us, we must guard the mind and protect it from disruptive emotions such as fear or anger that may lead us to speak or act unskillfully. In this pandemic of moral decay and heightened fear, seeing how we are not in control, we care both for ourselves and others, morally and spiritually. To bring reform or healing in the world, we speak or act from an inner quiet, not boiling with anger or resentment, but from a heart tempered with patience, compassion, wisdom and peace. A talk given online during Covid-19 and global anti-racism protests.
A guided meditation into the heart of our struggles and fears where, on the altar of our tears, the jewels of the Dhamma are revealed radiant within us. Breath by breath, wisely seeing through and courageously defying all obstacles to our freedom, we embark into the miracle of pure presence in this moment.
The deity Brahma Sahampati appeared before the Blessed One and urged the Buddha to teach to those who had little dust in their eyes so that they could learn the Dhamma and practice for their own awakening.
Praising Truth for its own sake, we lean in the direction of Truth. We make our intention not to harm by body, speech, or thought. Harmlessness leads to selflessness. Selflessness leads to the Deathless. To boundless compassion. It will save us from the flames of greed, violence, and delusion raging around us. Like the baby quail. What saved it from the forest fire was the purity of its own truth developed over lifetimes. A talk given in a Toronto Theravada Buddhist Community (TBC) zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the inner sea, we know what is truly true. Knowing is the mother, breathing is the child. Going beyond past hurts, beyond thought, being old or young, desolate or delighted, go even beyond Covid, there in the timeless emptiness of present moment awareness of the breath itself, teach your mind its true home. Given at an online meditation during the Covid pandemic.