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.
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.
Though we feel powerless to effect change globally, we can purify the mind and restore trust, peace, and harmony in our own lives. Six special qualities of reconciliation help us nurture the balm of forgiveness. We learn to see how our suffering begins and how to stop the bombs in our own minds. Practising kindness and compassion, we let go hostility. We put down our weapons and enter the temple of the heart.
Are you interested in becoming fully awakened? The development of determination (aditthana) is one of the Ten Perfections that will allow you to persevere with your practice in spite of difficulties and distractions. A talk given at the Melbourne Buddhist Society of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia in 2005.