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2011 Dhammadharini Year in Review

Dhammadharini   Year in Review
sharing in the good Dhamma

Good in the Beginning, 
Good in the Middle & Good in the End"
-- The Buddha

The Year 2011 Began for Dhammadharini with Ayya Tathaaloka's "New Year's Dhamma Reflection: On Gates, Doorways, Beginnings and Time".  Our year was regularly blessed by Ayya T's reflections.  Even when her health was poor and it was hard for her to meet friends and speak more than a few words together, she continued to write, sharing Dhamma both via this group and on her Facebook page.  (Many of her Dhamma Reflections and Letters of this past year have been collected here.)

 new main dhammadharini.net website

The first Dhamma Reflection was followed by the gift of a new main website for Dhammadharini -- the offering of many hours of loving care of nearly 20 volunteer members of Dhammadharini's webteam together with months of gathering suggestions from Dhammadharini friends and board.  Our main website has allowed us to share information about Dhammadharini and the revival of our Bhikkhuni Sangha and how to offer support to an increasing number of people both locally and internationally.  It has been and is a great gift -- one that was often asked for and desired for several years before coming into existence. Write to dhammadharini@gmail.com if you have any skills you would like to offer for the development of our web presence in the Year 2012. 

 sharing in the Path of Practice

"Good companionship ~
I do not know one thing that is more conducive to growth in the spiritual life."
-- The Buddha


This year Dhammadharini was blessed with the full-time presence of Ayya Sobhana Bhikkhuni in addition to our Ayya Tathaaloka Theri. It has been a great blessing to once again have more senior bhikkhuni teachers living, teaching and practicing here in this area together. We were also joined for much of the year by new bhikkhunis Ven Adhimutta, Ven Suvijjana and Ven Phalanyani, and new samaneris Sr Marajina and Sr Nibbida, as well as former-anagarika Gwyn. Teacher Ven Ajahn Thanasanti Bhikkhuni also joined us at our hermitage for visits, as did the Venerable Master Bhikkhuni Metteyya from the mountain forest of Taiwan.

For several months prior and fortnightly throughout the entire three month Vassa-time Retreat this year, we were delighted to share in Dhamma, meditation and monastic sisterhood with the now new-bhikkhunis, then samaneris, Ajahns Anandabodhi and Santacitta for Aloka Vihara in San Francisco, both of them also established Dhamma and meditation teachers and retreat leaders, as they prepared for their full bhikkhuni ordination.

Not only were we joined by visiting bhikkhunis, but by visiting bhikkhu teachers as well, with our first bhikkhus staying on the mountain neighboring our Aranya Bodhi Hermitage.  This past year we enjoyed visits from Ven Ajahn Pasanno from Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in Redwood Valley, Ajahn Brahmali from Bodhinyana Monastery in Australia, Bhante Khemaratana from Mahamevnawa and Bhante Jaganatha from the Buddhist Society of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. Bhante Khemaratana and Bhante Jag became the first bhikkhus to camp on the base of the adjacent mountain peak across the saddle in the area Ayya Tathaaloka had dreamed could be an abiding place for visiting bhikkhu teachers.  

 offering teachings & retreats

"What greater gift?..."

From the beginning of the year and throughout our time has been enriched by the presence and the sharing of teachings and retreat offering by our women's monastic community.  With Ayya Tathaaloka staying quietly, Ayya Sobhana gladly and fortunately fulfilled many of her scheduled teaching offerings at San Jose Vipassana, Insight Meditation South Bay and for the Buddhist Council of Northern California's Day of Vesak in Berkeley.  In addition, Ayya Sobhana contributed her own offering of regular teachings and daylong retreats in Sacramento at the American Buddhist Seminary, giving talks at places local to our Sonoma Coast Hermitage, and leading her yearly retreat at the Southern Dharma Center.  

In addition to these public teachings and retreats, the Jewel of the Presence of the Sangha shone in the personal teachings offered most days together when friends came to visit our Hermitage or the Bodhi House.  Personal teachings and the time to ask questions, ad well as to regularly discuss and share in the Dhamma together where said by the Buddha to be amongst the highest blessings.  We are grateful for the presence of both Ayya Tathaaloka and Ayya Sobhana, as well as to many of the younger bhikkhunis and samaneris for their very regular offering and sharing of personal words of Dhamma, meditation and daily life practice guidance and advice throughout the year.  

We are also grateful to Ayyas Anandabodhi and Thanasanti for their sharing words of Dhamma for all of our friends at the Aranya Bodhi Kathina celebration, as well as in so many venues around Northern California this past year together with Ayyas Medhanandi and Santacitta.  This is truly a treasure for all the people of our local Northern California area.


 over-wintering at our Aranya Bodhi Hermitage 

"There are these huts, these roots of trees...
Go, practice the way for the complete ending of suffering." 
-- The Buddha
2011 was the first year for us to have Sangha staying over-winter at our Aranya Bodhi Hermitage.  Ayya Sobhana and Sr Marajina were the first to brave the winter winds and rains staying long-term on our hermitage land as the Awakening Forest blog post "Are We Surviving?" recounts.  During this time, not only did Chantrel mushrooms and Douglas Irises arise in the forest, but also kutis--little meditation shelters, with a total of six now at our hermitage, and 100% increase from the three built the previous year.  These six were very well used, for we regularly had a shortage of shelter during the vassa when the rains came in early September and October, and of warm places as autumn cold crept in the last month of the Vassa and in the month of the Kathina following.  The number of women monastics and stewards who wished to be able to stay warm and dry together practicing on the land was more than we have yet been able to provide for, and yet, we were so happy to able to provide what we did-- which is so very much more than we've ever been able to do before here.  Such great progress.  

 offering monastic medical care
"Care for one another as you would care for me"
-- The Buddha

In our modern culture and times, of the gifts of the four requisites for life: food, clothing, shelter and medicine, the gifts of lodging and of medicine have become tremondously much greater.  

As the fortunate recipient of two larger and a good number of smaller donations as well as a grant early in the year, 2011 was the first year that Dhammadharini has ever been able to fully provide the Medicine Requisite to both medical insurance and care to both the bhikkhunis and samaneris of our women's monastic community.  This has been a great gladness and relief for us, as it was an area were we felt a shortfall in the past. We very much hope to be able to continue to provide medical coverage and care to our women's monastic community in this coming year of 2012.  Please click here if you would like to contribute to Dhammadharini's Medical Fund for the Year 2012.

 compassionate relief

"I will abide pervading one quarter of the all-encompassing world with a heart of compassion;
like-wise the second, like-wise the third, like-wise the forth;
I will abide pervading the all-encompassing world with a heart of compassion: abundant, exhalted, immeasurable, 
without hostility and without ill will, I will abide..."
-- The Buddha

In response to the terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan, in 2011, as spearheaded by Ayya Tathaaloka, the Friends of Dhammadharini, along with our North American and international Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha joined together with Tzu-Chi Compassionate Relief Foundation, ARC Bark and the National Women's Sangha Association of Japan in offering general relief and aid for humans, as well as for human cat and dog friends, and for the Japanese Women's Sangha.  As led by Dhammadharini board president Shari Gent and Supatra Chowchuvech, Friends of Dhammadharini also joined in supporting aid for the flash floods and mudslides in southern Thailand, as well as in recent flooding of the Bangkok plain.  We have continued, for the second year in a row, to support the ongoing and developing work of Buddhist Global Relief founded by Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi.  

We feel honored to have been able to participate together in acting compassionately in response to the grave suffering of our fellow human beings, together with our care for the world in forest stewardship and development of an off-the-grid eco- women's monastic hermitage. We are also delighted to participate not only in forest stewardship, but stewardship of the protection and re-growth of this ancient women's wisdom tradition in the lineage of the Buddha.

 2600-year anniversary of the Buddha's enlightenment 
& one end of the world

"The end of the world can be found in this fathom-long body;
It is here in this fathom-long body that I have found the end of the world."
-- The Buddha

This past year, one predicted end of the world and the 2600-year anniversary of the Buddha's enlightenment fell in near proximately to one another.  Buddhist's were celebrating the birth, enlightenment and final passing of the Buddha while doomsayers predicted the rapture.  
But isn't every moment the end of the world as we have known it?

"Each moment there is the passing of the old and the arising of the new.  Each moment there is transformation."
-- Ayya Tathaaloka

If you value the presence of the Bhikkhuni Sangha in the world, please know that it, as all things, is a co-dependant arising.  Thanks to you: your intentions, your initial actions, and your subsequent actions, come together to fulfillment, and we come to enlightenment and fulfillment together, mutually uplifting and supporting one another.
  three month vassa-time retreat
We are delighted to have been able to support the coming together of a full Bhikkhuni Sangha this year for the vassa, the traditional three-month summer-autumn time retreat.  It is the second year in a row that we have been able to offer this-- the second year ever that we have been able to offer such an opportunity -- for our whole community's benefit here in Northern California.  It was the first year that we have ever been able to offer the great benefit of one full month of fully supported secluded retreat time to all participants of the entire vassa -- bhikkhunis, samaneris, and dedicated lay practitioners alike.
The revival of the Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha in its Western incarnation has seen strong luminary women appear one by one, scattered around the US and abroad.  The refuge of community is now slowly beginning to gather around them as knowledge grows and bases of support also come into being.  This year, in the communal coming together of bhikkhunis, samaneris and monastic life aspirants and dedicated and supportive lay friends, we experienced a great shift and growth in the development of harmonious community together -- a women's monastic community that had the will and the love to stay together. This is very precious.


We hope as our base of support and the facilities that we are able to offer grow and develop that we will be able to offer this opportunity of Refuge in Sangha to more women who search for and aspire to be a part of such. 
 first international bhikkhuni day
Among the historic milestones of 2011, the first International Bhikkhuni Day was certainly one them.  The inspiration of Susan Pembroke, the founder of the Alliance for Bhikkhunis, it was a great success.  Jill Rayna organized a fundraiser for our local Northern California area, bring lots of supportive friends to our hermitage.  As the day was very close to the real lunar anniversary of the founding of the Bhikkhuni Sangha 2595 years ago, we chose that day to together inaugurate, bless and dedicate the ancient granite Sakyan stupa that had been brought to our hermitage land.  Many people who participated were deeply touched by the mood and ambiance of the hermitage in the midst of vassa, being immersed in the space and good energy of a community of women practicing in the Buddha's Way together.
 bhikkhuni ordinations at spirit rock
Not only were we able to see the pabbaja -- the "going forth" as a novice -- of four women this year at the Bodhi House and Aranya Bodhi Hermitage, but also to see the vutthapana -- the "raising up" -- and the upasampada -- the "entry into full communion" -- of three of our novice friends, now full-fledged bhikkhunis.  It is our great joy and gladness to have been able to support this and participate in its coming into being in our lifetimes.  Not only did we see the first generation, but also the second generation of women who had formerly been ten precept nuns/siladharas both being fully ordained as bhikkhunis themselves as well as supporting the ordination of their own students, in the true revival of a women's monastic lineage in the Theravada.  (For those who have not seen yet), please go to this page for a slideshow of the ordination. 

 Photo courtesty of Ed Ritger | www.edritger.com
 special gratitude 
Dhammadharini would especially like to thank the anonymous donor of the ongoing use of the great coastal forest land that has become our Aranya Bodhi Awakening Hermitage, Liz Crisp, the donor of the space for our women's monastic residence at the Bodhi House, and all the teachers and staff of Spirit Rock Meditation Center for their offering of the space for the great gathering of the Four-fold Sangha to witness and participate in the October 17th ordinations together.  
We would like to thank all of those who have offered alms food to our monastic community every day of this past year, whether at the Hermitage, at the Bodhi House, at your local temple, out on pindapat (almsround), or in your own homes.  And our great gratitude to those who have offered ongoing medical support.  Finally, we would like to offer our special thanks to Dhammika Ekanayake and all of her Dhamma friends and family for her special support of this year's Vassa-time retreat and the offering of the Kathina robe cloth, dyes, and threads, for the making of our monastics' robes.

We would also especially like to thank all of those good women and men who have offered themselves -- their care, their time, their efforts, and their hearts, in stewardship of our women's monastic community -- both on the ground, from near and from afar. In this regard we particularly thank those who have served and are serving as the board members of Dhammadharini (aka the Dhammadharini Support Foundation), as well as the Alliance for Bhikkhunis, for all of your support.


wild Douglas Irises winter bloom
Aranya Bodhi Forest Hermitage



May All Be Well Happy & Peaceful this New Year.  
May you not be parted from the good fortune you have attained.