In mid-September, we were blessed to welcome Ajahn Sucitto to Sati Saraniya Hermitage for a joyful sharing of the Dhamma. We marvelled at the benevolent impact of his wise, gracious presence on our inner well-being, and how – both during and long after his visit – we experienced the profound virtues of kalyanamitta so frequently extolled by the Buddha.
In the spontaneity and fullness of this occasion, no recordings were made. Fortunately, Ajahn Sucitto’s talks are freely and widely available.
In one of his recent reflections, The Practice of Inclusivity, Ajahn Sucitto describes how our external and internal worlds come to be built upon exclusion. And he encourages us to give up the exhausting endeavor of excluding the uncomfortable in favour of meeting the suffering of the 1st Noble Truth. In this way, we can release suffering through embodied presence with all that arises.
“The revival of the bhikkhuni tradition is…the most significant development for the Theravada tradition of the 21st century.” Bhikkhu Analayo
With respect to the bhikkhu ordinations at Tisarana Buddhist Monastery on Sept. 16th, we have delayed our annual almsgiving ceremony this year to September 30th.
Traditionally, we celebrate the Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha by paying homage to the Buddha’s mother, Arahant Mahapajapati Theri and all the arahant bhikkhunis of ancient times and down through the ages.
This year, we also rejoice in the restoration of full-ordination for Theravada Buddhist women emerging in this second millenium and the growth of our community here in Perth, Ontario. And, at this time, we feel especially blessed that Ayya Anuruddha’s Permanent Resident status in Canada has been granted!
The program will be as follows:
10:00 am: Almsgiving ceremony, precepts, meal blessings and dana potluck meal
1:30 pm : Chanting, meditation and Dhamma teaching
If possible, please carpool for this event. We look forward to welcoming you.
This year our community was blessed with a Spring visit from Ayya Tathaloka Mahatheri and Ayya Niyyanika of Dhammadharini Monastery in Penngrove, California.
Since Ayya Anuruddha and Ayya Niyyanika were both ordained as bhikkhunis at Dhammadharini with Ayya Tathaloka as their preceptor on Dec. 3, 2017, their visit became a spiritual reunion as well as the first occasion for four bhikkhunis to gather here at Sati Saraniya Hermitage.
In the twilight of our final evening together, we chanted auspicious verses to establish a ‘sima‘ (formal boundary) for our monastery, after a week of sharing spiritual dialogue, silent meditations, meal blessings, and the many joys of our monastic journey.
On May 13, 2018, we were blessed with a visit by Ajahn Amaro, abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, members of the Tisarana monastic community, and many devotees from near and far who were also present to listen to his Dhamma talk on Mothering: A Quintessential Quality of Practice. He spoke about the extraordinary qualities of ‘Mother’ that are manifest in the Buddha’s teachings and within each of us through our Dhamma practice. May his words continue to enrich and uplift us.
On Sunday, April 22, 2017, with hardly a trace of the snow storms that had blanketed the area just 24 hours before we began, we held a special day of remembrance attended by nearly 120 members of the Tisarana Monastery and Sati Saraniya Hermitage communities to honour our parents.
We quickly felt united in the joy of bringing together our good intentions and gratitude for mothers, fathers, teachers, family members, friends, and loved ones. We decorated a memorial shrine to our parents with precious photos and colourful Spring tulips; we shared nutritious foods and joined our voices in a chorus of chants of peace, homage and thanksgiving; and we listened with rapt attention to the heart-warming Dhamma talk by Ajahn Viradhammo about the meaning of gratitude to our parents and the journey they set us on through this life.
May we always remember the gratitude we have to our parents and teachers by supporting and nurturing them both physically and spiritually – while we still can. In this spirit, may we learn to parent ourselves in the ways of wisdom, compassion and true happiness. And may these blessings, in turn, be shared with all beings in the ten directions.
“These three manifestations are rare in the world:
A Buddha is rare in the world.
A person who teaches the Dhamma and Vinaya is rare in the world.
A grateful and appreciative person is rare in the world.”
(adapted) Anguttara 3:114, ‘Rare’
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 serving the community in Canada. 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.
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:
Venue: The Centre, 316 Dupont Ave, Toronto (west of Spadina, north side of Dupont)
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.
“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:
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.
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