Fulfilling the Buddha’s Legacy for Women

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After a hiatus of a thousand years, Theravada Buddhism has been experiencing a true renaissance of the Bhikkhuni Sangha in North America.  On Dec. 3, 2017, Ayya Anuruddha together with Ayya Niyyanika received their full ordination as bhikkhunis in a beautiful ceremony at Dhammadharini Monastery in Penngrove, California.  These joyful ordinations by an act of the dual Theravada Sangha were led by Ven. Pallawela Rahula Mahathero for the bhikkhus and Ven. Tathaaloka Mahatheri for the bhikkhunis.

Ayya Anuruddha will remain at Sati Saraniya Hermitage to continue her training in Perth, Ontario, Canada and Ayya Niyyanika will continue her spiritual life at Dhammadharini Monastery in California, USA.

In fulfilling the Buddha’s legacy, these rites of passage revive an ancient spiritual pathway for women to awaken and serve as protectors of peace, compassion, and wisdom in our troubled world.

A Bhikkhuni Ordination in California

Samaneri Niyyanika on almsroundSamaneri Anuruddha pindapat
With great joy we share auspicious news!

On Dec. 3, 2017, the Sanghamitta full moon day, two bhikkhuni candidates will receive their Upasampada – higher ordination as bhikkhunis – at Dhammadharini Monastery in Penngrove, California.

Both have been training devotedly for several years at their respective monasteries; Samaneri Anuruddha, from the UK, here in Canada at Sati Saraniya Hermitage; and Samaneri Niyyanika, of the USA, at our sister monastery,  the Dhammadharini Bhikkhuni community in California.

This will be a dual ordination with ten members of the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Sanghas each attending, for a total of 20 monastics with Ayya Tathaloka Maha Theri as preceptor.

Bhikkhuni Ordination Invitation P 1 Dec. 3, 2017

Bhikkhuni Ordination Invitation 2 Dec. 3, 2017

Meditation Practice in Toronto

Late November meditation practice opportunities:

Ayyā Medhānandī will be leading three meditation events in Toronto: November 24-26, 2017, co-sponsored by Satipaññā Insight Meditation Toronto (SIMT) and the Therāvada Buddhist Community of Toronto (TBC).  All 3 sessions will be held at The Centre, 316 Dupont St., Toronto.

Nov. 24 – 25: Friday evening meditation and public talk and a weekend of insight meditation practice:

  • Friday, Nov. 24, 7 – 9 pm
  • Saturday, Nov. 25, 9 am – 4:00 pm
  • Sunday Nov. 26, 9 am – 4:00 pm

This retreat is now full.  To waitlist, please contact:
multi-dayretreats@satipanna.com or janicepriddy@gmail.com

VenueThe Centre, 316 Dupont Ave, Toronto (west of Spadina, north side of Dupont)

Kathina 2017

With our monastic brothers for the 2017 Kathina
This year three Sati Saraniya nuns attended the Kathina ceremony marking the end of Vassa 2017 with the bhikkhus of Hilda Jayawardena Temple in Ottawa, Ajahn Viradhammo and some 3 dozen monastics from all over USA and Canada. How uplifting it is to gather with wise elders and monastic brethren and the laity who encourage us in the holy life.  Those who foster generosity, virtue, compassion, good-will and wisdom at a time of widespread fear, greed, and violence embody the precious blessings of the Buddha’s teachings. May we continue to cultivate peace of heart within and around us.  May all beings live in peace and well-being.  May all beings work hard for the good of others.

October Almsgiving Ceremony

receiving alms.jpg.jpg

“Blessed are they who sever the ties of hatred, and,
with a tranquil heart, cultivate the way beyond suffering.”

Our ‘Vassa’ has been blessed with abundant rains and many wonderful beings in our forest.  As the Vassa comes to an end, we welcome you to join us for an Almsgiving Ceremony to honour our budding Bhikkhuni Sangha on Sunday Oct. 1, 2017 .

We will be marking Ayya Medhanandi’s three decades as an alms mendicant nun as well as the bhikkkhuni ordination of Samaneri Anuruddha on Dec. 3 in California to be attended by Ayya Medhanandi and Ayya Nimmala.

The October 1st programme at Sati Saraniya Hermitage will be:

    • 9:45  am: Arrival
    • 10:00 am: Rice pindapat
    • 10:30 am: Blessing and offering potluck dana
    • 11:30 am: Preparation for afternoon events
    • 1:00 pm: Precepts, auspicious chants & meditation
    • 1:45 pm: Dhamma reflections & Almsgiving to the Sangha
    • 2:45 pm: Closing Homage

Please let us know if you plan to attend, and if so, kindly carpool for this event.  Your presence in itself is an offering.  If you wish to also offer a requisite to the Sangha, please see the requisite list.

We have much gratitude for your many expressions of support, generosity, and loving-kindness.

Inner Disarmament

French Version: Désarmement Intérieur

Deer in the forest

On one occasion two and a half millenia ago, the Buddha was walking alone through a forest in India when a bandit who had killed nine hundred and ninety-nine people chased him at top-speed. Even though the Buddha was walking at his normal pace, the bandit could not catch up with him. Intrigued and amazed at this phenomenon, the bandit cried out: “Stop, recluse. Stop, recluse.”

The Buddha replied, “I have stopped, Angulimala. Now you stop too.”

What had the Buddha stopped that he wanted the serial killer to stop? And what can we also stop? The Buddha wanted us to stop – not just suicide and homicide. He wanted us to stop killing the goodness in ourselves and others through our violent and destructive thoughts and emotions.

It is not easy to stop when we feel trapped in deep despair or shut off from the world; and when the desire to self-harm or to harm another has all the force of a hurricane. Likewise, a mind obsessed by jealousy, judgment, blame; or inflamed by righteous anger is more prone to violently lash out at someone else.

When we harm ourselves, we inevitably harm others. When we harm others, we ourselves are harmed. Conversely, when we feel blessed, we bless others.  And blessing others, we too are blessed.

How can we effectively protect ourselves from falling prey to toxic states of mind? Ironically, the clues we need lie hidden in the ways we think about happiness in everyday life. We should consider that there is no true happiness without virtue, that is, wholesome qualities of mind, such as gratitude, truthfulness, loving-kindness, compassion.

In our pursuit of happiness, we should consider whether we feel peaceful or not. Are we filled with remorse, anxiety, sadness – or not? Whenever unwholesome mind states are present, we know that we are not on the path of true happiness.

Therefore we should always consider whether or not our actions – through body and speech – uphold ethical, wholesome, benevolent conduct. If our conduct causes no harm to ourselves or others, we should persevere in it. And if it brings harm to ourselves or others, we should avoid or abandon it – because we are no longer on the way to true happiness.

How do we manifest harmlessness? Harmlessness is gained through developing moral restraint and good-will; respecting life and being sensitive to our own needs as well as the needs of others; observing ethical precepts; and directing the mind well.

Harmlessness is a strength – a force of goodness. We are called to be courageous, kind and fearless; to be selfless rather than selfish. Good-will is the sister of harmlessness and the guardian of our inner peace.

We have to treasure these qualities of non-harming and good-will. For without them, we suffer a spiritual death. Even our critical opinions or righteous indignation have the power to murder the goodness in us or others; and they cripple our ability to forgive.

For our own moral well-being and happiness, it is important for us to recognize and remove the toxins of the mind and uproot our inner and outer ways of violence. How do we meet this challenge? What obstacles do we face?

Perhaps the greatest obstacle is not acknowledging the depth of our pain or our fear of it. We fear the inner terrorist – fear itself; our anger, and our greed; and we hold on to them. We are driven by our tenacious mental habits. They can feel unbearably painful and overpowering as if we cannot escape them.

So when fear arises, we feel immobilized to draw from our inner resources or those outside of us for help. We feel isolated and unable to articulate or even understand our own predicament. What remedies will support us in our quest to overcome these terrifying mental habits?

First, we take care of ourselves. In Buddhism, wise moral decision-making and restraint are self-care. Instead of being captive to our fear and rage, we investigate them. We see them arise, knowing them for what they truly are: insubstantial; they appear and disappear within us; and we learn how to loosen their grip until they cease. We feel much relief, release and we discover a new sense of freedom.

Also, instead of isolating ourselves, feeling unworthy or self-critical, we learn to be a friend to ourselves. And we endeavor to seek the company of true friends who, by their own good qualities, bring out our moral best.

This will help us to develop inner stability, trust, and confidence. A quiet mind gains resilience, wisdom and moral integrity. We follow a refined ethical code of thought, word and deed and train the mind to restrain the inner tyrants – those painful, unskillful states of inward or outward aggression.

This is kindness to ourselves. In being truly kind to ourselves, we could never harm anyone else. Like a mirror, whatever goodness we have within us is reflected outward for all to receive. Aggression may arise but we calm it. If we can learn to dissipate aggression in its multiple disguises by starving it, we polish the mirror.

Then, gradually, we bring mindfulness, wisdom, and self-compassion to maturity. We perfect the skill of pure attention – listening to and being truly present with unwavering awareness. Such pure presence and awareness is healing; and it is benignly contagious, opening us to a forgiving, kind and loving mind, both to ourselves and others.

This process is really nourished by meditation practice. It sharpens our ability to see and listen, brightens our awareness, and tunes us in to the tremblings and torments of the mind. When we meditate, we pacify and still the mind so that it can directly experience the truth about our own predicament.

With ongoing commitment to this path of practice, we peel away layer after layer of emotional debris and dissolve the identity that we have created around it. We see ourselves and others with greater clarity, truth, and gentleness. Instead of hating what seems unbearable, again and again and again we look with new eyes and see the emptiness of all things. Our ‘self’ view and our world view are literally transformed.

Now we have a new compass – a contemplative way of seeing that takes us wisely through the rapids of life.  We use kindness, calm, intuitive insight and wisdom to get our bearings; and, in doing so, we disarm the enemies of our own well-being and happiness.

My first teacher demonstrated this to me in India many years ago, when he was shot and fatally wounded by a drunk villager. “Poor man,” was his immediate response as he lay bleeding, “He will have to go to prison now. What will happen to his children?”

And we remember how the Buddha’s absolute compassion for Angulimala stopped the bandits’ killing spree and turned his life around – the serial killer became a monk, a man of peace; and he realized full awakening. By loving one who to us seems so impossible to love, the Buddha bestowed upon him the greatest gift a human being can receive.

We too can wake up to our own innate goodness and begin to pierce through our delusion. Although we get confused by fear and hatred, and all our other human foibles, we can realize the futility of taking them to be ‘me’ or ‘mine’. They are merely energy, turbulence, heat or wind.

We have to see that and know it directly for ourselves – patiently, step by step. This is the purification of the heart. Blessing ourselves with pure awareness, we bless others.  When we bless others, we, in turn, are blessed. We are free. We are at peace.

If we want this freedom and peace, each of us must do whatever we can to enter the process of inner disarmament.

Stop harming. Try forgiveness. Speak and act with kindness. Keep turning away from ill-will. Don’t give in to it. Find the pearl of goodness within you. It’s there. Touch the true happiness and unshakeable peace in your heart. It’s there.

© Ayyā Medhānandī 2017

Through the Dark Night

Bluebell2-08Revering the jewel of the Buddha,
our greatest treasure and resource,
unequalled in this universe, immeasurable,
the supreme, excellent protection
that benefits gods and humans –
By the power of the Buddha, may you be safe,
may all dangers be prevented,
and all your sorrows pass away.

Revering the jewel of the Dhamma,
our greatest treasure and resource,
unequalled in this universe, immeasurable,
the supreme, excellent protection
which calms all fevered states of mind –
By the power of the Dhamma, may you be safe,
may all dangers be prevented,
and all your fears pass away.

Revering the jewel of the Sangha,
our greatest treasure and resource,
unequalled in this universe, immeasurable,
the supreme, excellent protection,
those worthy of respect, gifts and hospitality –
By the power of the Sangha, may you be safe,
may all dangers be prevented,
and all your sickness pass away.

Ratana Sutta

Years ago, during a dark night of the heart, I asked an elder Cistercian monk how to penetrate the darkness, how to sustain faith in one’s ability to keep going on the Path. He replied in his thick Irish accent, “When yah get really close to the sun, it burrrns.” I listened and reflected deeply on his words. He meant for me to trust; to keep searching for light in the unfathomable depths, the interior darkness; and to persevere even though I felt unequal to the task.

We are prone to discouragement and easily underestimate our innate goodness and fortitude; we bear shame or believe that we are not good enough.  But our strength and courage are not diminished thereby.  They come to life as we burn through the layers of our conditioning with a generosity of heart that is both forgiving and fierce.

That burning opens us to the truth of change; and to a vastness of being beyond our frailty; it is indestructible. It is deathless. It allows us to be with the inferno of our day to day struggles, doubts, bouts of grief, fear, anxiety, shame, and so much more.

Our instinct is to run from this fire. Instead, we must keep turning towards it, balancing it with mindfulness and wise attention so that it purifies the dust of lifetimes while replenishing our strength and illuminating our minds in the process.  Whatever the thinking mind presents, we notice where it takes the heart. . . and when it isn’t good, we turn down the volume and discover the emptiness of all the thought waves.

We listen continuously to these mental waves. Like the breath of the ocean, they crash ashore – rising, falling, rising, falling; sometimes dangerous, shocking, or overwhelming; sometimes smooth, pleasurable, calming.  Constantly changing, impermanent, fearful or beautiful, we helplessly succumb to their power. Until one day, awareness disarms the angst and turmoil of the mind, giving way to the voice of compassion, integrity and reconciliation.

As spiritual beings on a human journey, we discover this by opening to the spaciousness within us. Feeling our own struggle and pain – and that of others – with discernment, we enter into a process of waking up that is conciliatory and restorative rather than judgmental or destructive.

What is love?”
“The total absence of fear,” said the Master.
“What do we fear?”
“Love,” said the Master.

Awareness is the field of love and forgiveness, the Buddha’s map to freedom from fear and suffering.  With a peaceful presence of mind, we direct attention to the heart’s native goodness. Grounded in contemplation of the body, we see the karmic repercussions of negative mind states and how to escape from them skillfully before they cause harm to ourselves or anyone else.

In this work, we will not be perfect from the ‘get go’. At times, the journey will feel too much – but we know the impermanence, suffering (dukkha) and emptiness that are universal, and that ours is the journey of all beings. Like a mountain climber, we gather the right equipment and gradually gain altitude to be able to breathe at the top.

On the path of awakening, we are emptying out delusion. First we have to awaken to all the dross within us and clear it out – moment by moment, breath by breath, day by day. Sometimes one step forwards two steps back – but we keep going. We have to learn to breathe, walk, speak and interact with a pure mind. Literally, we have to be re-trained from a to z, to let go of ideas, opinions, and our attachments to them.

Whatever misfortunes arise in life, through the darkest night, we learn to bow to the magnanimous face of Great Compassion, to bring forth from within – as diamonds from coal – the riches of a loving fearlessness.

Without dukkha, how would we grow free? Wherever we go, the Path is full of challenges. Dukkha is everywhere in different forms – because ultimately, its origin is within us. And it is there to be understood, and to teach us.

In the midst of the storm, at the thunder’s roll and the crashing of rain, the heart’s peace.

Ayyā Medhānandī