Sunday, October 14, 2012

Building our own toolshed

Over the past few months, the bhikkhunis and residents of Aranya Bodhi, along with many skillful friends, have been building a beautiful new toolshed.  Sherene, Justin, Janaka, Lal, Erika, Malachi, Lulu, Julie and Ais,  Jamyrson, Kat  Kelly and Lisa, Wink, Joan, Maheshi, Kitty, Nancy, Geri, Teresa, Dina Marie, Healah, Ven. Pasada, Sr. Santacari, Ayya Sudinna ... all of them now have left their mark on our hermitage in this helpful structure.

 It is certainly suitable for a hermitage to create such a clean and orderly space for our building supplies and tools.  In the Suttas and Vinaya, we hear stories of the first monastics building their own huts.  This is a proper kind of work, to be done mindfully and in full awareness. 
We may compare this physical project to our right effort in the Dhamma practice: There is the decisive moment when we arouse energy to begin the work.  Then we apply energy, stepping on the gas, but in a well directed way, balanced and sustained. Then, we don't give up.  Although the body may need to rest, we sustain unremitting, seamless mindfulness, not stopping, not giving up and not turning aside until the goal is finally reached.


We will get a skilled builder to take care of the shingles on that steep roof, but there is still time for volunteers to help finish up this project in October and November, before the winter rains set in.  Contact here if you are interested.

We have put a few items in our Kathina useful things list, coming on November 3.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A new samaneri enters the world

A very beautiful thing ~

A new samaneri entered the world on Sunday 2 September, together at our Aranya Bodhi Forest Hermitag.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tranquil Progress

Meritorious work 
Another meritorious work 

To all friends of Aranya Bodhi Hermitage,

During the past few weeks, our Aranya Bodhi Hermitage has been blessed with the brief visits of several women who are exploring how to go deeper into the full practice of Dhamma, whether through bhikkhuni training or as upasikas, close friends of the monastic community.  We have felt inspired and uplifted by Wink, Joan, Maheshi, Kitty, Nancy, Geri, and Teresa.  Each one is glad to be here in the forest, appreciative of our Dhamma teaching, content to follow the daily rhythms of silence and courteous conversation, manual work and the internal work of meditation, accomplishment and doing nothing at all.

And at the very same time, Ayya Tathaaloka and the Dhammadharini Board of Directors, assisted by our Vassatime resident Sayalay Santacari, have been looking for Dhammadharini's next in-town monastery, envisioned as the place where we can more easily be in contact with our local lay friends, and provide a suitable dwelling for those bhikkhunis who are not physically well to spend the whole year in a primitive camp-style abode.  

The in-town monastery and the forest hermitage will then complement each other. Actually, the existence of a strong in-town monastery makes it possible for the hermitage to fulfill its role.  In town, there may be the chance to serve and assist the frail or elderly monastics. In the forest, the chance to be alone among the elements. In town, the chance to offer teaching and ministry for many people and families. In the forest, the chance to teach one or two students at a time. In town, the chance for close, loving supervision of novices and new bhikkhunis.  In the forest, the space for those who can practice on their own. In town, the chance to network with the world on high-speed internet. In the forest, the chance for a more ancient life-style.  

What a gift it is, and what an accomplishment that Dhammadharini is able to pursue this important new project  without losing the momentum of our community life.  We particularly appreciate that Ayya Tathaaloka and Sy. Santacari are subjecting themselves to many hours of computer work, driving around the Bay Area, and talking to many people, while we at Aranya Bodhi Hermitage have the pleasant chores of constructing a toolshed with our own hands, re-tapping the spring and building a natural filtration system.  

Recently the number of women coming to us as well qualified monastic life aspirants has increased from a trickle to a steady stream. Ayya Tathaaloka and our sangha have been considering, how can Dhammadharini welcome this next generation. What is best for sustainable growth of our sangha? 
  • Job one is to develop a mature monastic sangha, with numbers of well trained and well practicing bhikkhunis who see eye-to-eye on the way to practice our Dhamma and Discipline.  This work takes time, but it is well underway.  
  • Then we need the ongoing sustained relationship with our lay community. For various reasons, during the past two years while the Aranya Bodhi Hermitage was getting established, Dhammadharini has had less presence than before in Fremont and East Bay Area.  There was not the constant 24-7 availability to our lay supporters, as had been developing in the previous years. When we get into our new in-town center, this lack will be corrected.
  • And finally, there is a need for a proportionate match between our practical needs and the available support. As it is now, a few large gifts have made it possible for Dhammadharini to carry on, with its town center at Bodhi House and forest hermitage at Aranya Bodhi.  The construction of a simple infrastructure for the Hermitage and medical insurance for a growing sangha have been the major items, as our community grew from 2 to an average of 6 residents. To the extent that enough support is forthcoming, both for the purchase of the new center and for our ongoing expenses, we can open more opportunities for those women at our gate who wish to go forth as bhikkhunis.

Then, when well-practicing monastic women and lay practioners are in constant contact, the inspiration is mutual.  We all benefit.  We fulfill the Buddha's plan for his Dhamma and Discipline to thrive for a long time.

With Metta, 
Ayya Sobhana 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bhikkhuni Ordination - May 6, 2012

Dhammadharini Support Foundation 
and our Bhikkhuni Sangha, 
together with the Bhikkhu Sangha of the American Buddhist Seminary, 
are pleased to announce the upcoming 
full bhikkhuni ordination 
of our Dhamma Sisters 
Samaneri Marajina and Samaneri Nibbida, 
on this next full moon, 
May 6, 2012.

This year's ordination is meant to be simple and quiet, a normal event in the cycle of Buddhist monastic life. The first part of the ordination will be a sunrise ceremony at our Aranya Bodhi Hermitage. In accord with the ancient procedure, the candidates will first be questioned, accepted and ordained within the Bhikkhuni Sangha. The ceremony at Aranya Bodhi will begin at 5:00 a.m. with pre-dawn meditation, concluding at 7:30 a.m.

We will then take the new bhikkhunis, "ordained on one side," to the Bhikkhu Sangha at the American Buddhist Seminary Temple in West Sacramento. At 11:00 a.m. we will join the ABS Temple's Vesak Dana and Celebration honoring the Buddha's birth, awakening, and parinirvana. In the early afternoon, the new bhikkhunis will present themselves for acceptance by the Bhikkhu Sangha. This ceremony completes the ordination. Our sisters Marajina and Nibbida will then be established as full and complete members of the Dual Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Sangha.

All are welcome to attend.

The ABS Temple's Vesak Celebration and Bhikkhuni Ordination will begin with precept ceremony and meditation at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 6, at the ABS Temple, 423 Glide Avenue, West Sacramento, CA 95691. You are welcome to bring a cooked dish for the 11:00 a.m. Dana. For information about the ABS Temple, visit If you will attend the ceremonies at ABS Temple, please rsvp to Eunice "Samvaree" Cerezo,

If you will attend the early morning ceremony at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 6, at Aranya Bodhi Hermitage, please rsvp to We will email the driving directions. Those wishing to sleep overnight in our meditation hall (yurt) may bring their own sleeping bags and arrive after 4:00 pm on Saturday, May 5. The hermitage is located within a gated community, so you must have the gate code to reach us.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Look who's coming for Vassa

A full Bhikkhuni Sangha will again come together for Vassa 2012 at Aranya Bodhi Hermitage, practicing close to nature, living very simply, and carrying out the ancient monastic forms set forth by the Buddha. 
Vassa is a traditional yearly retreat period when Buddhist monastics give up wandering and practice in one place for three months. In order to synchronize the lunar calendar and the solar calendar, 2012 has been determined as a Buddhist “leap year” by Thai astrologers, which means that our Vassa will be later than usual, from August 3rd to October 30th  
Most of our Bhikkhuni Sangha will also be on the land before Vassa, for the long, pleasant days of May, June and July. We hope to make these months a special time to share with our lay supporters and friends. We will be welcoming visitors at the Aranya Bodhi Hermitage on the Sonoma Coast; maintaining a presence at our in-town center, the Bodhi House in Fremont; and teaching in both places.  
Ayya Tathaaloka Theri (left), will be dividing her time between Aranya Bodhi Hermitage and the Bodhi House in Fremont. Ayya Sobhana Bhikkhuni (right), will be on the land at our hermitage.
 Ayya Sudinna Theri, who participated in our first Bhikkhuni Sangha Camping Retreat four years ago and led at Dhammadharini Vihara while Ayya Tathaaloka was in India 5 years ago, will join the Hermitage at the beginning of May and plans to stay through Vassa. What a blessing it will be to have two theris with us!  
Ven. Suvijjana, member of the Dhammadharini women's monastic community since 2006, will be continuing on at the Hermitage.
 Ayya Anandabodhi Bhikkhuni (right) and Ayya Santacitta Bhikkhuni (left), will be staying at the Aloka Vihara in San Francisco, and frequently visiting the hermitage on Uposatha full moon and new moon days.
 Ven. Munissara Bhikkhuni (left) and Ven. Pasada Bhikkhuni (right) recently ordained at Dhammasara Monastery in Australia under Ayya Tathaaloka's auspices. Ven. Pasada hopes to be at the hermitage this Vassa and Ven Munissara for the 2013 Vassa.
  Samaneri Marajina, trained here on the land, plans to receive full bhikkhuni ordination on May 6, and hopes to divide her time between the hermitage and outside training. She will be at the hermitage for Vassa.
 Samaneri Nibbida plans to receive full bhikkhuni ordination on May 6 returning on June 12 to Australia on June 12 to continue her training at Sanghamittarama.
Sayalay Santacari (from Australia), trained with Ven. Ariya Ñani in Myanmar, and is now with Ayya Upekkha Bhikkhuni at Sanghamitttarama, Australia. She will be joining the Hermitage in June and staying through Vassa. She aspires to going forth as a samaneri.
Our lay residents will include Upasika-to-be Margaret Darby, who served at the Dhammadharini Vihara in 2010, along with Geri Feldman and Sherene Smith.  There is still room for another lay resident, particularly during May-June and September-October.
Our friends around the world
The renascent Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha is still young, and we are developing our communities, building traditions, and supporting younger monastic women to establish themselves and grow in the Dhamma.
We rejoice in all the new bhikkhunis and samaneris obtaining ordination this year, here at Aranya Bodhi, at the Dhammasara Monastery of Australia,  and at the Dharma Vijaya Temple in Los Angeles. Every year they are more abundant, like the luxurious crop of dandelions on our lower landing.
And we rejoice for those who trained with us over the past two years, now riding the wind like dandelion seeds to far corners of our world.
  • Amma Thanasanti Bhikkhuni at Awakening Truth, Colorado.
  • Ven. Phalanyani Bhikkhuni at the Ekayana Magga Aranya, Sri Lanka.
  • Ven. Adhimutta Bhikkhuni, creating a new community under care of the New Zealand Bhikkhuni Trust
  • Sister (soon to be Ven.) Nibbida, returning to Sanghamittarama, in Australia, where she will join with Ayya Upekkha Bhikkhuni (of Singapore) and Bhante Jaganatha in creation of a new Dual Sangha monastery.
A net of friendship and sangha is gradually evolving, as the various centers are established. We are particularly close to these monastic women at other places who were ordained with Ayya Tathaaloka as preceptor.
We also share the special ties of friendship with our colleagues who have frequently joined together in the ordaining sangha.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Someone LIghts a Fire

seasoned woodfire oak,

exhales into the gray ocean air,

the two entwine in

gray, tinged with space

tinged with salt

tinged with a memory of snow that rests on breathing

here a whale is breathing

here a slug is breathing

baby ant breathing

newt, salamander, frog breathing

sisters and brothers, mothers, all beings


words crumple in a damp newspaper ball,

damp fir twigs

cardboard toilet paper roll


the oak, a gift from her teacher

someone lights a fire

pīti softens the corners of the room.

Marajina Samaneri

March 26, 2012

Aranya Bodhi Hermitage

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What's Cooking

Dear Dhamma Friends,
The kitchen trailer work was completed last week and we were able to resume cooking inside a building. We had been cooking outdoors. Walls to protect from wind and cold, and a roof to protect from rain are very welcome during our winter season. Everyday when we return to our kutis, the monastics reflect on the wise use of shelter. "Wisely reflecting, we use shelter only to protect from heat and cold, merely to ward off the touch of gadflies, mosquites wind, sun and reptiles; for the enjoyment of seclusion." On the Sonoma Coast during winter, our shelters also protect from frost and forest beings seeking warm, dry places. Though buildings require maintenance, they enable us to stay here - the only Theravadin bhikkhuni hermitage in the United States and one of only two hermitages for bhikkhunis on the American continents.
The kitchen now has a dehumidifier that has been collecting up to two gallons of moisture from the air everyday. By reducing humidity and increasing air circulation, two conditions for mold growth, it helps to ensure a healthier environment for all of us. There is also a freezer to keep perishable food for longer periods of time when cold and rain prevents our family of supporters from visiting.
We are very grateful for your loving attention and generosity. Without you, there would be one less place for Buddhist women to find refuge in, one less place in the world for the benefit of all sentient beings. Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
Rejoicing in your merit
and with Metta,
the Aranya Bodhi Monastics

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Challenges of Winter

Dear Friends,

I hope the holidays brought you and your families joy and the happiness of being together. Thank you for the lovely support you've provided to our monastics during these winter months at Aranya Bodhi. It is because of your generous gifts of such things as heaters, electricity, shelter, food and clothing that they are able to live the Holy Life, a rare and priceless opportunity.

This winter has brought a few unforeseen challenges. The wonderful kitchen trailer, recently purchased has been found to have structural deterioration which allowed mold to grow inside a couple of walls and possibly the ceiling. Minor renovation must be undertaken to eliminate the mold and replace the deteriorating wood. To provide the proper conditions after the repair, a dehumidifier, which provides air circulation and moisture removal from the air is very important. In addition, we were unable to repair our hermitage chest refrigerator and it has become necessary to purchase a small freezer for food storage in our remote forest. The freezer would be very helpful when friends make the long trip and bring larger quantities of grocery dana.

These essential repairs will cost about $2500. Your generous support of this emerging bhikkhuni hermitage is essential and gratefully appreciated by all of us.

Much gratitude for your friendship and support,

Shari Gent, President
Dhammadharini Board of Directors