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 carry the teachings home means we are committed to treasuring virtuous conduct and speech as well as wholesome states of mind in daily life where conditions are not as perfect for practice. We empty ourselves of self-centerdness to embody more and more the realization of anatta, the Truth that there is no one, no solid being to prop us - what a freedom.
To vow for life: not to compromise our faith, our virtue, or our goodness - even in a moment of terror - is a powerful spiritual ally. Not cowering nor retaliating even in a hopeless-feeling-moment, we learn to stay present with compassion and kindness. As long as we remember to keep the practice alive within, we will have the stamina to grow in generosity, equanimity, and wisdom. So, at all times, make good-will the mantra of your heart.
See present moment experience in its most simple expression so as to notice the breakdown of all fearsome qualities. This seeing is insight which delivers us from the conceptual prison of beliefs into the freedom of direct intuitive understanding.
We are here, on the mountain, with a tremendous view. Let the breath speak to us. Stay and watch, even the suffering, investigate patiently like a parent, even if their child objects and runs away - patiently keep trying, be receptive, be available. Gently soften, mellow, give the mind back to the moment, trust, receive it and discover its hidden truths.
Entering a period of silent retreat simulates the monastic 'Going Forth' with an aspiration to deepen our virtue, samadhi, and wisdom. We take Refuge in our highest spiritual potential as human beings, working from faith in our ability to do this; training and transforming the mind through good-will, wise reflection, and selflessness; and opening our hearts to offer that refuge and safety to others.
The practice of metta bhavana leads to liberation and has 11 benefits
1) One sleep well; 2) One awakens happily; 3) One does not have bad dreams; 4) One is pleasing to human beings; 5) One is pleasing to spirits; 6) One is protected by dieties; 7) One is not injured by fire, poison or weapons; 8) One's mind quickly becomes concentrated; 9) One's facial complexion is serene; 10) One dies unconfused; and 11) If one does not penetrate further, one fares on to the Brahma world. AN 11:15