Ayyā Medhānandī Bhikkhunī, is the founder and guiding teacher of Sati Sārāņīya Hermitage, a 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 lived as an alms-mendicant Buddhist nun for nearly 20 years, she received bhikkhunī ordination at Ling Quan Chan Monastery in Keelung, Taiwan. In 2008, on invitation from the Ottawa Buddhist Society and Toronto Theravāda Buddhist Community, Ayyā returned to her native Canada to establish Sati Sārāņīya Hermitage.
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.
Waking up to our spiritual wealth, we learn the true currency of Covid - it is not fear and frailty but courage, compassion, loving-kindness, community and connection. We see what is protection for ourselves and for each other, dwelling with the Dhamma, the Truth, as our safety - our island and refuge.
To simulate the natural process of death is to experience the impermanence of the five aggregates and a pure awareness that knows the inherent emptiness of things as they truly are. Dying is a potent doorway for liberation of mind and the best death we can die is shattering the ego. Then we can let go of fear once and for all. This guided meditation was given during a death and dying retreat in an Australian church in 2004.