Bhante Rahula Brings Blessings

Bhante RahulaOn June 13th, Bhante Rahula gave a stunning afternoon talk on the dynamics of meditation practice to a small group of eager listeners who were able to come midweek to hear his teaching at Sati Saraniya Hermitage. His rare and beautiful Dhamma sharing was only recorded in our hearts and minds.  Fortunately, many of his talks are available online. And for his next visit, we will have our recorder ready!

Dhamma Teachings in Western Canada

Visakha Puja 2016 Victoria Ayyā Medhānandī and Ayyā Nimmalā at the Kalayanamitr Buddhist Society Vesak celebration in Victoria, B.C., May 22, 2016 celebrating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and Parinibbāna.  The event included an alms-giving ceremony, guided meditation, Pali chanting, Dhamma talk and discussion time.

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 in 2016, reprieve in the form of a fledgling democracy led by one of his own students.

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

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

Practical Abhidhamma Course

Buddha wood panel
We are pleased to inform you that Rob Moult’s Practical Abhidhamma Course is now available free online in book form. This is the digital version of the Practical Abhidhamma workshop Rob taught at Sati Sārāņīya Hermitage in Oct0ber, 2015.

The course on the Abhidhamma, the 3rd basket of the Buddha’s teachings, is presented in a 200 page book for those with minimal Pāli. It covers selected themes from the Abhidhamma that are most relevant to daily life practice.

Rob’s teaching skill is transmitted in eight lessons with detailed references to the Satipaṭṭṭhāna Sutta and illustrated with helpful diagrams, charts and topic summaries for ease of comprehension and study. Audio recordings of the talks are also available for those interested.

May there be great benefit for all students of the Dhamma and the Abhidhamma.

Sāmaņerī Anuruddhā’s Pabbajja Ceremony

Samaneri Anuruddha 2We are blessed to have a new sāmaņerī Buddhist nun. 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.

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

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.

Friendship with the Lovely

Butterfly in the lilacs

Continuing on the theme of noble friendship, in the Upaddha Sutta, Half of the Holy Life,  Samyutta Nikāya, 45.2, we read as follows:

“Thus have I heard. On one occasion, the Blessed One was dwelling among the Sakyans in the town of Nāgaraka. Then the Venerable Ānanda went to see the Blessed One.  Having approached the Blessed One, he paid homage to the Blessed One, sat down to one side, and said to him:”

“Venerable sir, this is half of the holy life, that is, good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship.”

“Not so, Ānanda! Not so, Ānanda! This is the whole of the holy life, Ānanda, that is, good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship. When a monk has a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade, it is to be expected that he will develop and cultivate the Noble Eightfold Path…”

“And how does a monk who has a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade, develop and cultivate the Noble Eightfold Path? Here, Ānanda, he develops right view based on seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, maturing in release. He develops right intention… right speech… right action… right livelihood… right effort… right mindfulness… right concentration, which is based upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, maturing in release. It is in this way, Ānanda, that a monk who has a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade, develops and cultivates the Noble Eightfold Path.”

“By the following method too, Ānanda, it may be understood how the whole of the holy life is good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship: by relying upon me as a good friend, Ānanda, beings subject to birth are freed from birth; beings subject to aging are freed from aging; beings subject to death are freed from death; beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. By this method, Ānanda, it may be understood how the whole of the holy life is good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship.

More than two and a half millenia after the Blessed One, we find ourselves – contemporary Theravāda Buddhist nuns – somewhat isolated here in rural Lanark County, Ontario from other ordained women of this tradition.

This year, however, we feel blessed to meet and associate with good friends in the holy life – sisters in the robe committed to the teachings and the fulfillment of the Eightfold Noble Path. In early May, Ayya Santacitta Bhikkhuni, co-abbess of Aloka Vihara in California, came for a brief visit.

five samanasSoon, two more nuns joined us for a longer stay. Pictured above with our resident community are Sayalays Kusalanandi, a 10 precept nun from Germany training with Pa-Auk Sayadaw of Myanmar, and Khemanandi, an American 8 precept nun ordained by Sayadaw U Tejaniya of Myanmar.

Five nuns, seeking the heart of wisdom and compassion, gathered together for a few weeks of communal practice, work, alms rounds in Perth and sharing facilities, requisites and good company.  And we experienced the rare occasion of a larger female monastic presence and the joy of monastic community.

How does one sustain such joy while living in close proximity? Foremost in our minds was how we could best honour each others’ deeper aspiration for the purification of mind. We committed to the ongoing work of nurturing wholesome intentions, resolving to listen well, to speak well, to act well – with forgiveness, compassion, gentleness and kindness.

And, in these ways, we learn to penetrate to the deeper strata of spiritual friendship through our refuge in the Noble Triple Jewels – ever inspired by the clarity of the Buddha’s wisdom:

“In this whole world, I am the supreme spiritual friend of living beings.
Because, it is in dependence upon me, by relying upon me,
that those who are subject to birth, old age, and death
become liberated from birth, old age, and death.”

Indeed, friendship with the lovely – the highest in each of us – stirs us towards that liberation of the heart for which we have gone forth in faith from home to homelessness.

100% of the Path

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIt was the last Sunday of April – cool, bright, brimming with birdsong and the sounds of the Hermitage woodland, and remarkably for early Spring, no black fly to be seen!

We gathered for a day of mindful work and practice, two dozen strong, unhurried, working in teams with our shovels, rakes, loppers, spades, wheel barrows as well as sparkling humour, joy and mindfulness. We moved sand, old logs, weeds and mulch – clearing the grounds for Spring flowers and clover seeds; pruning overgrowth from paths; and creating weed-free spaces around meditation cabins.

By morning’s end, we were glad to hear the sound of the meal gong. It was a bountiful feast – blessed, offered, and eaten in friendship and beauty – and a fitting preamble to our silent meditation in the Buddha Hall.  We chanted and sat together, practising the Buddha’s teachings and reflecting on the strength of spiritual community.

Work, eat, meditate, praise the Blessed One, garner strength from each other and unfold the Noble Eightfold Path.  What is one hundred per cent of the Path?

Wise and noble friendship.