Sayadaw U Pandita

Sayadaw U Pandita jiWith palms on my heart, I remember and pay homage to a very rare and great being – Sayādaw U Pandita-bhivamsa of Burma – Theravāda Buddhist meditation master, teacher of teachers and practitioners and great spiritual warrior who left an indelible legacy of the Buddha’s teachings.

My preceptor and most venerable spiritual father, Dhamma benefactor and mentor for the last 30 years, Sayādaw U Pandita passed away on April 16, 2016 at the age of 94. These decades as a nun – my very name, robes, shaved head, whatever requisites I have received, my practice – all are his blessings.

Born on July 29, 1921 in Burma, Sayādaw U Pandita lived through dramatic periods of Burma-Myanmar’s history – under British colonialism, Japanese occupation, independence followed by 25 years of military dictatorship, and just this year, reprieve in the form of a fledgling democracy led by Sayādaw’s own meditation student, Aung San Suu Kyi.

For more than 60 years of his life – even well into his 90’s – Sayādaw travelled the world, tirelessly teaching retreats and serving as spiritual advisor to retreat centers, monasteries and Buddhist organizations. He was revered as a leading authority in the theory and practice of samatha and vipassana meditation.  During his lifetime, Sayādaw’s knowledge, fearlessness, dynamic teaching skills, and wise compassion helped to inspire a modern meditation tradition of global proportions.

Sayādaw first entered the Mahābodhi Monastery at the age of seven. Even before studying meditation under the late Venerable Mahāsī Sayādaw, he had become an accomplished Buddhist scholar. He gained distinction when Mahāsī Sayādaw chose to send him with two other monks to teach Dhamma to the people of Sri Lanka during the 1950’s.

After Mahāsī Sayādaw died in 1982, Sayādaw U Pandita became his lineage heir and abbot of the Mahāsī Sāsana Yeiktha in Yangon, Myanmar. His influence rapidly spread from Burma to the Orient and the West.  In 1991, Sayādaw founded Panditarāma monastery in Yangon and became its Ovādacāriya Sayādaw (head preceptor). It now serves students internationally as one the great Theravāda meditation and study centres of the world with branches in six foreign countries.

Two of his best-known collections of Dhamma talks are In This Very Life: Liberation Teachings of the Buddha and The State of Mind Called Beautiful.

Joseph Goldstein, a founding Insight Meditation Society (IMS) teacher, shared his thoughts about the loss of Sayādaw U Pandita on “He was such a powerful influence in all of our lives, urging us on to realize our highest aspirations. His great service to the Dhamma is inestimable. It feels like the passing of an era.”

Sharon Salzberg, also a founding teacher of IMS, shared her impressions: “We brought Sayādaw U Pandita to the Insight Meditation Society in 1984, to lead a three-month silent retreat. Joseph and I had never met him before but sat that retreat under his guidance. U Pandita Sayādaw turned out to be quite fierce and demanding. He also absolutely brought out my best effort, no holding back, and revitalized my meditation practice. I tell lots and lots of stories about things he said during that retreat. Every once in a while I think, “1984 was a long time ago!” But still they are important experiences!   The following year, 1985, I went to Burma, again for three months, to practice intensive Loving-kindness meditation under U Pandita Sayādaw’s guidance. Once again my practice was transformed, and a whole new direction for my teaching was established. I can’t even find the words to describe how important he’s been for me.”

Sayādaw gave selflessly the gifts of his boundless compassion and wisdom. He instilled us with faith in our ability to awaken. He ignited in us courageous effort, a sense of urgency, and fastidious Dhamma practice.  With reverence, joy, and gratitude, we carry these inestimable blessings forward for generations to come.

Ayyā Medhānandī

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Winter Without Discontent

Miroku Buddha Japan

Winter’s silent retreat – a time for contemplating the ways of the world, the mind, and the way of peace.  In a world full of fear, fear need not be an obstacle.

We can approach it with the mind of a doctor, inquisitive, attentive, and discerning. Or like a scientist in a laboratory studying cancer cells, we examine fear through the microscope of the mind. Then we may see it with new eyes – not frightened of it, not cowering in its presence.

Why do we allow fear to hold us hostage or bow to it as to a powerful monarch? Can we treat it as a meditation object?  Let us for a moment not be averse to it or believe our perception of it as solid. Instead, feel it in the body. Where and how is it felt: in the chest, stomach, throat? Is it a heat, pressure, trembling? Do we shrink as soon as it arises, thinking it will persist?

Now we scan it attentively, knowing its contours, breathing into it as we widen our attention throughout the body. We literally give it more surface area so that the heat lowers. It becomes possible to watch more objectively.

We notice the dukkha of it, the pain, so unpleasant. That pain is also not solid.  It rises up and falls away. It changes in a flow of sense impressions. Knowing that, and feeling it as it really is without jumping to the past or future, we live it as pure sensation; a feeling – mental, physical or both.

We are seeing and learning that it is not fear-full, just a burning, a force; beginning, searing through the body and mind, ripping, then fading, abating, ending, in waves of energy release or mind moments. Natural process.

The Buddha teaches us to examine our conditioned responses to fear by pondering and seeing these nuances – arising and ceasing endlessly.  They reveal fear’s true essence, its nature. It is suffering. And not who we are. It doesn’t last. How can it be ours? That’s the Dhamma of fear – the truth of it.

We can also ask, what is its opposite: trust? confidence? courage? faith?  Bringing up compassion for ourselves, for our effort, even reading this article, or remembering our perseverance through a difficult time; rediscovering what is beautiful within us – our good words and kind acts, however small – we give space in the body for fear to change. It becomes diffuse, losing its usual density, and fades away.

As the mind opens and clears, we usher in gratitude, loving-kindness, more compassion, and with it, wise reflection.  When any of these bright qualities preside, fear withers.  Such is our potential to disarm fear and heal – turning the heart to its own innate goodness and wisdom – again and again and again.

We try this many times, patiently.  Little by little, we learn how it works, how to move from fear to non-fear, from contraction to calm, from disquiet to contentment and ease.  As joy and trust infuse our awareness, we touch the beauty of the present moment.

Each moment of knowing the truth about ‘fear’ and emptying ourselves of it, we gather a garland of peace moments.  Like the empty reed that becomes a flute, we die to fear. And the pure love we seek is known, is here.

Instead of serving fear, may we be the ready servants of compassion.

Ayyā Medhānandī

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Practical Abhidhamma Course

Buddha wood panelWe are pleased to be hosting a special  Practical Abhidhamma Course to be taught by Rob Moult at Sati Sārāņīya Hermitage on the weekend of Oct. 17-18, 2015.

This is an introductory course on the Abhidhamma, the 3rd basket of the Buddha’s teachings, for those with minimal Pāli.

Rob will offer 6 talks over the 2 days on selected topics that are most relevant to daily life practice.  In effect, the lectures also present us with a practical Dhamma course using themes from the Abhidhamma.  We hope that this approach will be both informative as well as beneficial for our spiritual growth.

We are very happy to have Rob Moult with us again for this extended course, by popular request!  Last year, he taught an afternoon workshop on the Abhidhamma at Sati Sārāņīya Hermitage.  His extensive knowledge of the subject and clear dynamic teaching style were deeply appreciated.  A native of Toronto, Rob began studying Buddhism 35 years ago and has been teaching Abhidhamma for 15 years in Malaysia where he lives.

Rob has prepared a set of 11 charts for each participant, to help follow the flow of the talks. Audio recordings of the talks will also be available for those interested.

Morning sessions:     8:30 am – 11:00 am
Afternoon sessions: 12:30 pm – 4:30 pm

This is a non-residential course.  You are welcome to attend both days, part or full time.

We have limited accommodation for those who wish to attend both days.  Please let us know so we can reserve a place for you.

Please bring a packed lunch for each day that you plan to attend.

We hope you will join us!  If you are far away and are interested in hearing the audio talks, please let us know.

Saturday, October 17th

08:30 Arrive, settle in, meditation
09:00 Introduction
09:45 Questions & Answers
10:00 Historical Development of Abhidhamma
10:45 Q&A
11:00 Lunch
12:30 Consciousness
13:45 Q&A
14:00 Break
14:30 Mental Factors
15:45 Q&A
16:00 Guided meditation by Ayyā Medhānandī
16:30 Dedication of Merit

Sunday, October 18th

08:30 Arrive, settle in, meditation
09:00 Q&A from Saturday
09:15 Matter
09:45 Q&A
10:00 Realms of Existence
10:45 Q&A
11:00 Lunch
12:30 Kamma and Natural Decisive Support
13:45 Q&A
14:00 Break
14:30 Processes
15:45 Q&A
16:00 Guided meditation by Ayyā Medhānandī
16:30 Dedication of Merit

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Sāmaņerī Anuruddhā’s Pabbajja Ceremony

Samaneri Anuruddha 2We are blessed to have a new sāmaņerī. On September 13, 2015, with great joy we gathered for Sāmaņerī Anuruddhā’s pabbajja , ‘Going Forth’ (ordination ceremony), in the meditation hall at Sati Saraniya Hermitage (to see the slideshow, click on any photo after following the link).

Boundless gratitude especially to all our parents, teachers, friends in the community – near and far – who helped bring forth these blessings; and to the wider Sangha who continue to inspire us with their dedicated practice on the Noble Eightfold Path.

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A Samaneri in September

the further shore

“Although it is difficult to cross over the storm-swept sea of passion,
those who live in accord with the well-taught Dhamma reach the other shore.”

With great happiness, we would like to share with you the news of a samaneri ordination. 

On Sunday, September 13th, our dear Anagarika Acala will take life vows as a ten-precept nun (samaneri). We warmly welcome you to join us for this special day in her life as well as for our nuns’ community at Sati Saraniya Hermitage.

Anagarika Acala is from the UK and has been training with us for more than a year.  She has quickly gained the respect and admiration of all who have come to know her and has become a treasured member of our community. With her decision to take the samaneri training, she will deepen her commitment to the Path of Awakening by renouncing money and living as an alms-mendicant, wholly reliant on the kindness of the lay community for her requisites.

Please join us to witness this beautiful ceremony and, through your presence, encourage Acala at this pivotal moment on her journey.  If you are unable to attend, please send your blessings from afar.

September 13, 2015 at Sati Saraniya Hermitage:

* 10:30 am  Rice pindapat
* 11:00 am  Pot-luck alms-giving meal
* 1:30 pm    Ordination ceremony

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Summer Retreat

Sunflower seasonAyya Medhanandi will lead a silent retreat sponsored by Satipanna Insight Meditation Toronto (SIMT) from August 15-21, 2015.  The venue for this residential vipassana meditation retreat is Chapin Mill, a beautiful 135 acre purpose-built Buddhist meditation center run by the Rochester Zen community.  Located in rural Batavia, near Rochester, upper New York state, it is 2.5 hours from Toronto, 6 hours from Ottawa.

Registration is now open.  Contact SIMT for registration details

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Anagārikā Chandimā

Anagarika Chandima
Tisaraṇena saddhiṃ
anagārikā sīlaṃ dhammaṃ
samādayitvā sādhukaṃ
surakkhitaṃ katvā
appamādena sampādetha.

With faith in the Triple Refuge
and having undertaken
the anagārikā training,
strive on with diligence
for your welfare and protection.

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