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.
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.
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.
What happens when we sit in a sacred space and can empty and purify ourselves? We are able to taste only sacredness, to experience another level of being that is vast and without boundaries, to be in awe of the wondrous quality of the pure heart. A talk given during a 10 day retreat at the Sisters of St. Joseph Convent, Pembroke, Ontario, Canada in 2009.
With the advent of the Winter Solstice - the shortest day of the year - comes the promise that the light will return. We can honour this principle in our practice by turning towards the light that is revealed in our own minds. The goodness and purity of this light can connect us to unconditional peace and love. A talk given at the Ottawa Buddhist Society in 2008.
When you move towards what is fearful step by step with courage, it is possible to overcome the darkest moments breath by breath. Draw together all the threads of your life, and let each one go strand by strand. A guided meditation on death at a 10 day retreat, Galilee Centre, Arnprior, Ontario Canada.