"women upholding the Dhamma"
Our women's monastic community and not-for-profit religious support foundation are named Dhammadharini. In Pali, the language of the Suttas, Dhammadharini means "to uphold the Dhamma in the feminine form". Our symbol is a bodhi leaf (Bodhi meaning Awakening and the leaf symbolizing our embodiment) supported and uplifted by three flowing currents in the stream of the Dhamma: our training in sīla or virtue, samādhi or meditation, and pañña or wisdom.
Our monastic residences at the Peace Pagoda and our women's monastic hermitage, Aranya Bodhi, are led by fully-ordained female monastics, or bhikkhunis (the male form is the bhikkhu), the type of monastic life and ordination established for women and men by the Buddha more than 2500 years ago. Find more bhikkhuni monasteries, hermitages and temples in North America and around the world on our "Places of Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha" page.
The presence of bhikkhunis (pronounced bik-koo-neez) and the establishment of Dhammadharini Vihara, our first women's monastic residence, the Bodhi House and Peace Pagoda, and now the Aranya Bodhi Hermitage, have been historic events for Northern California and for Buddhism. Full monastic ordination for women as established by the Buddha, although continually existent into the present in Northern Asia, is said to have died out in most of Southeastern Asia around a thousand years ago.
revival of the theravada bhikkhuni sangha
In the past decade a modern revival of the ancient tradition of full ordination for women into the Buddhist monastic community, or sangha, has unfurled in South and Southeast Asia as well as in the West. The greater San Francisco Bay Area has benefitted from numerous Buddhist monasteries, temples, Dhamma Centers and meditation retreats led by bhikkhus from Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burma, Loas, Cambodia and other countries. With the establishment of Dhammadharini in 2005, fully-ordained members of the Theravadan bhikkhuni sangha join with them in teaching the Dhamma while providing a unique opportunity for monastic training and residence for women not previously available.
The lifestyle and livelihood of our bhikkhunis follows that of classical Buddhism, which involves training and cultivation in three main fields: virtue, concentration and wisdom. This training first alleviates, then ultimately eliminates greed, hatred and ignorance. Along the way, it leads to personal insight which brings a deep and abiding sense of internal peace, clarity, balance and well-being that benefits not only the individual, but the greater society.
generosity ~ our service
In keeping with classical Buddhist teaching and practice and the sanctity of monastic discipline, the bhikkhunis charge nothing for their meditation instruction or their services to society. They live by the sacred principles of freely-given generosity, kindness and mutual helpfulness, which open and free the heart from its bonds to selfishness. Following the Buddha's example, they do not live in utter seclusion, but may walk quietly through their local community in the morning with their almsbowls, giving them a chance to see their neighborhood closely and to deepen their understanding and compassion, bringing a presence of calm mindfulness and peace.
If you see one of the rust- or saffron-robed monastics on their morning walk ~ the almsbowls are a chance for sharing an offering of food sustenance, not for soliciting monetary donations. According to their monastic rule, the bhikkhunis walk silently, without mega- or micro-phones, pamphlets, door to door calls, or any other sort of disruption, invasiveness or proselytizing. Generous or interested persons who wish to offer support or to learn more about meditation or Buddhism, may visit or contact the Bodhi House or Aranya Bodhi Hermitage at their leisure, or go to the "Supporting our Bhikkhuni Sangha" page on this site.
Meditation instruction for insight, health, stress reduction and awakening, together with traditional Buddhist life counseling are freely available on an ongoing basis. All are welcome. There is no discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender-preference or economic status. See the "Our Practice" page for more information on the meditation and Dhamma that we practice and teach.
Founding residential director of the Bodhi House, abbess and guiding teacher of the Hermitage is the Venerable Ayya Tathaaloka Theri, an American-born member of the Buddhist Sangha, with a background in Zen and Theravadan Buddhism. Ven Tathaaloka began Dhammadharini Vihara in 2005 together with Ayya Sucinta Theri. Ayya Sobhana Bhikkhuni, formerly of the Bhavana Society, is resident co-teacher and prioress of Aranya Bodhi Hermitage. See our "Ancient Bhikkhunis' Teachings" page for more on our original Founding Mothers of the Bhikkhuni Sangha.