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 and Dhammadharini's second vihara in Santa Rosa's Bennett Valley, 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 benefited 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.
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.