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.
We can bear witness to each others’ suffering by recognizing genuine spiritual friends or kalyānamitta who share our values and our desire for awakening. Spiritual friends can help us identify our individual pitfalls and support our letting go of these obstacles. It is a joy to share the Dhamma together.
The Sārāņīya dhammas are conciliatory qualities of harmony, friendship, and good will in community. Sārāņīya can also mean remembering our true refuge, shelter, and protection. We gain peace and happiness in life especially when we face difficulties in relationships with ‘sārāņīya’ qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.
How can we avoid the pitfalls that Mara sets for us on the path? Develop Sati (mindfulness) to act as a gatekeeper that can recognize the earliest signs of delusion, ill will, and greed. At the same time, cultivate paññā, wisdom and sharp discernment to protect against unskillful speech, conduct, and intention or thought. These foundational practices will be both refuge and rescue from the snares of Mara!
When we remember to empty out all the distraction, all the movement, all the roughness of life, nameless, formless, without identity - we touch the shore of truth as waves touch the shores of the ocean, reaching our true home in the fullness of this moment exactly as it is.
Learn how to cultivate the Master’s Way by dedicating mind and body to the path that leads to the purification of mind. With time and patience, the hindrances will fall away and the clarity, serenity, and joy of the Dhamma will be revealed.