Dhammadharini

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Our core value is upholding the development and
practice of the Noble Eight-fold Path.

In Pali, the language of the earliest Buddhist texts, Dhammadharini means "to uphold the Dhamma in the feminine form." Dhammadharini was founded by Ayya Tathaloka and friends in 2005 to offer a support network for bhikkhunis
in Theravada Buddhism. Dhammadharini is dedicated to providing support for women monastic aspirants locally and worldwide. With training focused on the Buddha’s teachings on virtue, meditation and wisdom, women are guided towards full ordination.

Our monastics have served as a vanguard of the Theravada bhikkhuni revival, with training focused on the Buddha’s teaching on virtue, samadhi and wisdom, as a guide towards full  ordination. We use the bodhi leaf
and three currents in the stream of Awakening (of sila, samadhi and panna) as our symbol of awakening and
its embodiment.

Learn about entering monastic life, and our daily practice, on this page.

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Vision

​The vision of Dhammadharini is: 

  • To nurture and cultivate networks by which aspiring women can explore and enter into monastic life, and be able to fully ordain as bhikkhunis.
     

  • To develop the optimal container for liberation in monastic life — complete in Dhamma & Vinaya, in virtue, meditation and wisdom.
     

  • To channel and provide the basic requisite needs for bhikkhunis, novices and aspirants: food, shelter, robes and medicine.
     

  • To support deep practice periods of intensive retreat, integrated with the cultivation of strong mindfulness, and full practice of the noble Eightfold Path in daily community life.
     

  • To support the growth of bhikkhunis as Dhamma teachers and Buddhist
    community leaders.

     

  • To reconnect to the ancient luminary bhikkhuni leaders, teachers and sanghas of the past through research, publications, teaching and education.

 
 

Monastics

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Venerable Kaccāyana Bhikkhuni

Venerable Kaccāyana first began meditating while in graduate school, working on a PhD in linguistics at UCLA and taking mindfulness meditation classes through UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. Inspired by a wish to go deeper with the practice, as well as a long-standing interest in monastic life (originally imagined in a Christian context during an Episcopalian childhood), Kaccāyana spent every break during the 2013-2014 academic year visiting Buddhist monasteries. The first was Aranya Bodhi hermitage, where they felt an immediate sense of connection and rightness. After a three year discernment process, involving a number of return visits to the Dhammadharini community, Venerable Kaccāyana joined the community as a resident lay steward in early 2017, and undertook the anāgārika precepts and training in August 2018, followed by samaneri pabbajja in July 2019, and upasampada in September 2021.

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Samaneri Dhammavara

Samaneri Dhammavara remembers with great affection the engaging professor who introduced her to Buddhism while a student. Over many years, her interest in the Dhamma was nourished through books, listening to recorded talks, and attending dhamma talks in person. Most recently, while living and serving at several meditation centers, she realized how important the Dhamma was in her life, and how necessary it was to put meditation and Buddhism first, and let everything else revolve around that. However, she discovered that even living at lay meditation centers was not enough and asked herself  whether she was ready to devote her life to the Dhamma? After some investigation, she was led to Dhammadharini where she was accepted into the community and undertook samaneri pabbajja in September 2020.

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Samaneri Thavira

Samaneri Thavira was initially introduced to mindfulness practice by her Mom, as a teenager, to which she was of course resistant (as is the nature of teenagers). However something must have soaked in, because over the following years she began to read books about the Dhamma and occasionally meditate, finally beginning to attend retreats and cultivate a more serious practice in her mid-20s. For about 10 years, she developed a successful engineering career working in aviation safety, while attending retreats and visiting monasteries during her vacations from work. During this time, she also actively supported Bhikkhunis, eventually joining the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Bhikkhunis and becoming its president. 

Samaneri Thavira gradually realized that her Dhamma practice was, by far, the most satisfying and interesting part of her life, and decided to consider pursuing it more fully. In 2018 she left her engineering career, spending a year traveling, visiting monasteries, and in retreat. In 2019 she became a resident at Dhammadharini, and remains completely happy with this choice and grateful for the opportunity to practice in the monastic form. She undertook samaneri pabbajja in September 2021 with Ayya Tathālokā.

Ayya Tathaloka Mahātherī

Venerable Ayya Tathālokā Mahātherī

Venerable (Ayya) Tathālokā is an American-born member of the Buddhist Monastic Sangha, the first non-Sri Lankan woman to receive bhikkhunī ordination into the Theravāda tradition in modern times. She entered monastic life as an anāgārikā in 1988, received pabbajjā with her senior bhikkhunī mentor in Korea in 1993 followed by sāmanerī precepts in 1995, and received bhikkhunī upasampadā (full ordination) with the Sri Lankan Sangha in California in 1997, with the late Ven. Havanpola Ratanasāra Mahāthera as preceptor. After further studies, a three-year retreat, and time back in Asia in Sangha university and on tudong in Thailand, in 2005 she returned to the U.S. There she co-founded Dhammadharini Support Foundation together with the Dhammadharini Sangha, the first monastic community for Theravāda bhikkhunīs in the western United States. Inspired by Buddhist Forest traditions, in 2008, she co-founded Aranya Bodhi Hermitage, and later Dhammadharini Monastery. In 2009, she became the first contemporary non-Sri Lankan woman to be appointed a bhikkhunī preceptor. Ven. Tathālokā first received instruction in Mindfulness and Insight practices at age ten, further studying and training with Indian, Korean, Thai, Sri Lankan and Burmese meditation teachers, including the Thai forest traditions of the most venerable Ajahn Mun Bhuridatta, and the Burmese Vipassana meditation masters Sayadaw U Pandita and Pa-auk Sayadaw. Her practice and teaching are profoundly influenced by the Buddha’s teachings as contained in the canonical Early Buddhist suttas, together with the teachings and practices of Forest and Insight meditation traditions.

Detailed bio for Ayya Tathālokā Mahātherī

Ayya Sobhana Theri

Venerable Ayya Sobhanā Therī

Ayya Sobhana is a Harvard graduate and trained with master Dhamma and meditation teacher Venerable Dr. Henepola Gunaratana Nāyaka Mahāthero (known as "Bhante G") since 1989. Her primary practice is the Eightfold Noble Path, that is, integration of meditation with ethical living and compassionate relationships for the sake of liberation. She “went forth” into monastic life as a Sāmanerī in 2003 at the Bhavana Society of West Virginia with Bhante Gunaratana as her teacher, and obtained full Bhikkhuni ordination at Dambulla, Sri Lanka in 2006, with the Most Venerables Sīrī Sumedhā Mahātherī and Sīri Sumangala Mahāthero as her bhikkhunī and bhikkhu preceptors. After nearly five years of monastic life and teacher training with Bhante Gunaratana, in 2010 Ayyā Sobhanā was invited to dwell at the new bhikkhunī hermitage, Aranya Bodhi, on California's Sonoma Coast, which she has played an important and leading role in developing. In 2016, Ayyā Sobhanā was appointed vice abbess of Dhammadharini, and in 2020 she was appointed a bhikkhunī preceptor. Ayyā teaches around the greater San Francisco Bay Area, and on both coasts of the US, offering retreats at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Southern Dharma Retreat Center,and at Buddhist Insights of New York. She also offers regular meditation and Sutta teachings as well as retreats online hosted by Dhammadharini Monastery (see Dhammadharini Monastery on YouTube).

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Venerable Ayya Brahmavarā Bhikkhuni

Ayyā Brahmavarā learned Vipassana meditation from age 24, under the guidance of SN Goenka, after hearing about meditation retreats from a fellow student at Sheffield University. From being a medic striving to alleviate suffering, there was a gradual realignment over the next ten years from the medical field of practice to the monastic one. Same quest, going deeper . . . as she discovered in the Buddha's Path of practice how one could begin to explore and to help alleviate suffering through facing up to its root causes.

Ayyā visited Amaravati monastery with a couple of Goenka friends in 1999 and by the end of 2000 was working as retreat center manager there. In August 2001, she was glad to have the chance to renounce the household life and enter monastic life as an anāgārikā. Sīladharā pabbajjā followed in 2004 and she practiced at Amaravati and Chithurst monasteries in the UK for the next 15 years. Ayyā benefitted from many months on tudong in the UK, Ireland, Italy, and France and from pilgrimages to Burma, India, Taiwan, China, and Malaysia which increased her faith in the sāmaṇa life and broadened her view of Buddhist practice.

In 2019, Ayyā Brahmavarā moved to Thailand and Wat Subthawee to practice under the guidance of Luang Por Ganha. From him she learned the value of sacrifice, of selfless service, and of love. Ayyā Nirodhā is a valued bhikkhuni there and she encouraged Ajahn Brahmavarā to consider full ordination as a bhikkhuni.

In 2021, Ayyā feels blessed to have been invited to receive bhikkhunī upasampadā with Mahātherī Ayyā Tathālokā as preceptor, and to join the auspicious Vassa gathering at Dhammadharinī Monastery and Aranya Bodhi Hermitage. Ayyā Brahmavarā's aspiration is to continue the practice using this form as a way of serving and supporting liberation from suffering for all beings.

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Venerable Ayya Suvijjanā Therī

Ayya Suvijjana began practicing meditation in 1976. She started with Zen meditation and was a student of Kobun Chino Roshi
in Los Altos, CA.  In 1998 she was introduced to Vipassana
at Santa Cruz Insight. Shortly after she visited Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery and soon became a lay student of
Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Pasanno. She moved to Ukiah to be closer to the monastery.  Ayya was called to monastic life herself and became a student of Ayya
Tathālokā in 2006 when she
took up residency and training at the first Dhammadharini Vihara in Fremont. She received full ordination as a bhikkhuni in
August 2010 at Aranya Bodhi Hermitage. She has played a supportive role in establishing Dhammadharini and
Aranya Bodhi Hermitage. 

Ayya Suvijjana has been on a long-term leave of absence from Dhammadharini since 2020, and has been accepting teaching invitations while visiting other communities. 

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