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.
Removing our harness to the world, we really detach and make the intention in the mind to stop. Having moved inwardly into this now moment, we pause and secure our internal connection to truth. This work requires our faith, vigilance, sustained attention, care and perseverance. We long for freedom and it will arise, releasing us to roam free in the vast space of the mind – empty and awake. A guided meditation and Dhamma talk.
In a dialogue between King Milinda and Venerable Nagasena, we hear the Buddha’s instruction on mental training and how to apply our allies of mindfulness, restraint and wisdom. Devoted to the training, we can overcome ignorance, take hold of the mind and cut off the defilements just as the barley reaper cuts his barley. Our mission is to lean towards Nibbāna, not believing the self-making stories, and gradually, patiently, wrestle free from ignorance, waking up right in the middle of any storm we may face.
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 first step towards Truth is taking responsibility for our own actions, intentions, and their consequences. Distractions are not a support but only numb us to what is difficult to face or remember. Truth will always emerge, despite all attempts to bury it. Bring into the light unskillful acts, our own or those of others towards us, and make forgiveness and reconciliation possible. Penetrate into the marrow of life to reveal both the garbage we must purify and the treasure to be discovered in the process. What are we really running away from?
One way animals restore themselves after an attack and regain their inner equilibrium is through the trembling of the body. We too as human beings can create this inner rhythmic movement through chanting and resonating vibrational waves in the body that help to settle, cleanse and clear traumatic events from our nervous system. Using the beginning of the homage to the Buddha chant, the collected assembly experiment with this purifying vibrational healing sound. Recorded at an Ottawa Buddhist Society daylong retreat.
A dedication to a member of the community who is in the last stages of life. She struggles with breathing but is composed and at peace with the process. We are reminded how important it is to train the mind while we are able to do so. A talk given at Quaker House, Ottawa.
You can conduct an energy audit on the strength of your attention when you sit down to meditate. Notice if your attention is wavering and then patiently seal up the leaks so that your mind is no longer tempted by the world that the ego builds. A talk given at Quaker House for the Ottawa Buddhist Society.
Are you watching your breath or watching your opinions? It is not enough to just watch the breath; you must reflect closely on what is arising. Come to the truth of the way things are by identifying and letting go of your opinions.
Ayya Medhanandi reflects on the meaning of the different mudras or hand gestures used by the Buddha himself when he gave teachings. Each represents an important quality for us to practise and develop such as fearlessness or compassion. You can see these mudras that she describes on the batik cloth that was gifted to the Ottawa Buddhist Society at https://ottawabuddhistsociety.com/about-the-obs/latvian-buddha-batik/
How do we overcome obstacles on the path? An obstacle can, in fact, provide a doorway into the opening of the heart. You can learn to be a spiritual ally to yourself and to others by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion. A talk given during a 10 day Ottawa Buddhist Society retreat at the Sisters of St. Joseph convent in Pembroke, Ontario, Canada in 2009.