Monday, June 07, 2010

Now We Are Three

Warm greetings, dear friends of our sangha,
I am very glad to share the news with you that the Venerable Ayya Sobhana Bhikkhuni has accepted my invitation to become a full time resident of our Aranya Bodhi Hermitage, special Monastic Advisor to our Dhammadharini board, and full time co-leading participant in our hermitage project.
In past years, Ayya Sobhana has visited our Dhammadharini Vihara on numerous occassions, as well as our Bodhi House and hermitage land. We have travelled together to Germany at HH the Dalai Lama's invitation and to Australia on two occassions. She participated in our first bhikkhuni camping retreat together as well as coming this previous winter for a month long retreat on the land together with our Samaneri Suvijjana. She knows the land well and has a great love and respect for it. Her advice was invaluable at our recent Easter weekend Visioning Retreat which she participated in, as well as subsequently with our Dhammadharini board meetings.
Ayya Sobhana has been a student of Bhante Henepola Gunaratana ("Bhante G") since 1989, served on the Board of Directors of the Bhavana Society during the 1990s, and took novice ordination at the Bhavana Society in 2003; her full ordination was at Dambulla, Sri Lanka, in 2006. Bhante G has now given Ayya Sobhana formal independence — meaning that she is competent to independently practice and to serve the Dhamma.
During her eight years of residency at Bhavana Society, Ayya Sobhana worked closely with Bhante G as an assistant; provided continuity for the ever-changing community of female residents and guests; learned Dhamma and teaching skills under Bhante G's tutelage; learned Vinaya rules and protocols and became adept at their modern applications; learned Pali language; counseled and taught lay residents and retreatants; consulted with the Board of Directors; learned to lead traditional rituals of Theravada Buddhists; managed logistics of dozens of retreats led by senior monks, and began leading retreats herself at Bhavana. As her skills have become known, she has been increasingly invited to teach at outside venues including Philadelphia, Annapolis, Hot Springs NC, Washington DC and Calgary. She also revised the Pali-English chanting book, Bhavana Vandana: Devotions for Meditation; managed the Bhavana Society's library; and served as Kammavacacarini (Advocate) in the October 22, 2010, bhikkhuni ordinations in Perth, Australia.
We are blessed by her many skills and talents that she brings with her, and hope that our hermitage will be a most excellent place for the practice in nature that she has found so conducive, together with her heart to share such space and opportunity with fellow monastic-minded women of similar heart and intent.
Bhante Gunaratana's Support
Graciously, Ayya Sobhana's mentor Bhante G has fully blessed and encouraged Ven Sobhana's participation in our Aranya Bodhi Awakening Forest Hermitage project.
We are very appreciative of Bhante G's unstinting outreach to women over many years. He has now announced his support for bhikkhunis to establish their own independent centers, recommending this above our practicing in the shadow of the bhikkhu communities. The Bhavana Society will donate a starter library of Dhamma books to the Aranya Bodhi Hermitage. Bhante G has pledged his ongoing support: to participate in women's full ordination when invited to do so; to visit our hermitage to teach or lead retreats; to continue as an Senior Advisor to the North American Bhikkhuni Association; and to invite qualified monastic women to lead public retreats at the Bhavana Society. Finally, by sending Ayya Sobhana to Aranya Bodhi Hermitage (at some inconvenience to the Bhavana Society), Bhante G is helping in a most practical, tangible and wise fashion. Thank you, Bhante G!
With a heart full of metta and great gladness, gratitude and appreciation,
Ayya Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni
for our Dhammadharini Sangha

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