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
Learn about entering monastic life, and our daily practice, on this page.
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
To reconnect to the ancient luminary bhikkhuni leaders, teachers and sanghas of the past through research, publications, teaching and education.
Venerable Niyyanika Bhikkhuni
Before becoming a monastic, Ayya Niyyanika balanced life in Minnesota between work as an ontology consultant for building management and emergency response systems, and practicing with the Common Ground Meditation community. Ayya Niyyanika came to Dhammadharini in 2014 and received full ordination in December of 2017 with Venerable Tathaloka Theri as preceptor. Having completed her basic training and now independent in monastic life, Niyyanika Bhikkhuni has been on long-term leave of absence from the Dhammadharini community since 2019, and is currently practicing at Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery in Placerville, CA. Ayya Niyyanika gratefully practices monastic life within community and, through learning from the teachings and monastic discipline established by the Buddha, works for their own development on the path and the development of others.
Novice 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, Novice 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.
Samanerin 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.
Anagarika Sama encountered the Dhamma while looking for resources to help her cope with the aging and illnesses of her parents. She initially learned to meditate from books, but began attending retreats and volunteering at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre Massachusetts in 2007. In 2008 she left her job as a web developer for Eastern Mountain Sports and spent the next three years as a “dharma bum” volunteering and attending retreats at Gaia House in England, IMS and the Forest Refuge in Massachusetts, Chanmyay Myaing Meditation Center in Myanmar, and the Bhavana Society in West Virginia. At the Bhavana Society she met her first Bhikkhuni - Ayya Sobhana, and became interested in monastic life, but felt she needed to stay on the east coast because of her parents’ health issues. Instead she lived and worked at IMS and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies from 2011-2017. A fortunate meeting with Ayya Adhimutti reconnected her with the aspiration for monastic life, and in 2018 she came to California to live at Bhikkhuni monasteries - first at Aloka Vihara for 4 1/2 months and then in May at Dhammadharini. She took the Anagarika precepts in September 2018.
Venerable Ayya Tathālokā Mahātherī
Venerable (Ayya) Tathālokā is an American-born member of the Buddhist Monastic Sangha. She entered monastic life in 1988 and received bhikkhunī upasampadā (full ordination) with the Sri Lankan Sangha in California in 1997, with the late Ven. Havanpola Ratanasāra Mahāthera as preceptor. In 2005 she
co-founded Dhammadharini Support Foundation together with the first monastic community for Theravāda bhikkhunīs in the Americas. Inspired by Buddhist Forest traditions, in 2008, she co-founded Aranya Bodhi Hermitage, and later Dhammadharini Monastery. In 2009, she became the first contemporary western 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.
Venerable Ayya Sucitta Therī
Venerable Sucitta Bhikkhuni undertook ten precepts as an anagarika in South Korea in 1995 in the Korean Buddhist Jogye Order. After training and practicing for five years at Donghak-sa Bhikkhuni Sangha College, she received her full bhikkhuni ordination in the year 2000. As a Bhikkhuni she practiced the Buddha's Satipatthana (Four Foundations of Mindfulness) teaching and Zen meditation for thirteen years with the guidance of Master Seungsahn Seon-sa-nim’s lineage. In 2013, she left Korea to assist one of the Korean Seon (禪)-tradition temples in Hungary. Ayya Sucitta has also practiced at Amaravati Monastery in the Thai forest tradition of Ajahn Chah under the guidance of Ajahn Amaro; the Pa-Auk Forest Meditation Center in Mawlamyine in Burma, and Australia with Ajahn Brahm. Eventually meeting Ayya Tathaloka, she undertook dalhikamma re-ordination to formally enter the Theravada Pali-text-based Buddhist monastic communion (samvasa).
Venerable Ayya Sobhana Theri
Ayya Sobhana is a Harvard graduate and trained with master Dhamma and meditation teacher Bhante Henepola Gunaratana 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 Samaneri in 2003 and obtained full Bhikkhuni ordination at Dambulla, Sri Lanka in 2006. In 2010 Ayya Sobhana moved from the Bhavana Society of West Virginia to Aranya Bodhi Awakening Forest Hermitage. In 2016 she was appointed Vice Abbess of Dhammadharini. She teaches around the 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 and Cloud Mountain Retreat Center.
Venerable Ayya Suvijjana
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 Tathaaloka 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 2011 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.