Warm greetings dear Venerables & Dhamma friends,
We started to write this message to you almost a month ago, during which time it has ripened, and sweetened, and been touched and informed by most all of our Dhammadharini monastic residents and community members. We send this letter now in our 'transition week,' as we prepare to fully enter into winter retreat, having crossed our Western New Year, moving towards the Lunar New Year, and with the plan to be emerging on the other side at the beginning of April for the South & Southeast Asian Astro-Solar New Year. In every transition, we aim to return to the Dhamma again and again, to look through Dhamma eyes, to enter and deepen in the Noble Stream of the Dhamma, to abide in the Dhamma, to be steeped in and course all the more deeply in the Dhamma, ever and again.
- Ayya Tathālokā
From our Dhammadharini Monastic Community,
As we recollected this past year, 2023, what emerged most strongly to this writer, was all of the beautiful opportunities we’ve had for practice. And appreciation for our great good fortune in having this precious Dhamma which we’ve inherited.
In this letter we look back on the past year, and share our ideas of what is to come.
Appreciating our friends and volunteers
Foremost in our minds, as we've come to the end of 2023 on the western-international Gregorian calendar we all share, and transition into winter retreat, is gratitude, and rejoicing in so many things: For the teachings of the Buddha, and for the supportive conditions that allow us to hear the teachings, practice with them, and nurture and cultivate the path.
We are so grateful for our whole broader community which makes this possible - all who have participated with our community from near and far - your support and participation make our lives here possible, just as the Sangha and these teachings have been supported since the time of the Buddha. Anumodana!
We are especially appreciative of our dedicated Dana coordinator Lal Senanayake, and this year’s Vassa and Kathina sponsors Chathuri Senanayake & Dilshan Amarathunga Family. Throughout the year there have been so many others, both local and international, who have participated in Dhamma programs, volunteered for projects, served on committees, come in person and offered hot meals, brought or sent groceries or fresh things from their gardens, made donations, offered items from the Useful Things List, and — in countless other ways, large and small, offered their practice, friendship, and support. Thank you!
2023 Dhamma Teachings from the Dhammadharini Community
Throughout this year, the regular Tuesday and Sunday Dhamma teachings have been offered online, by Ayya Sobhana, Ayya Brahmavara, Ayya Suvijjana, and Ven Kaccayana. Recordings from these sessions may be found on our YouTube channel.
During Winter Retreat for the first three months of 2023, Ayya Tathaloka offered fortnightly public Uposatha teachings on the four Satipatthana foundations online (with one guest appearance by Ven. Sayadaw U Jagara); a playlist of those teachings may be found here.
Ayya Tathaloka’s winter retreat Uposatha teachings
Upon emerging from her long retreat this past winter, Ayya Sobhana also generously offered two online retreats: “Practicing for Destruction of the Taints” for Vesak soon upon emerging, and “The Nutriments of Existence” in September during the Vassa.
On June 3rd, the Dhammadharini community gathered from both our monastery and hermitage and all around Northern California, together at our monastery, for our Vesak Buddha Day.
Rice pindapata begins the Vesak meal offering
The event was only in-person, (our first such in years!), and everyone appreciated the time being together in the beautiful monastery garden - it’s possible that the work party to clean up, at the end, with so much fellowship together after long years of pandemic, was everyone’s favorite part of the day.
Cleanup party after the conclusion of the Vesak celebration
Wat Buddhanusorn 40th Anniversary
In July, Dhammadharini monastics joined for the 40th anniversary celebration of Wat Buddhanusorn in Fremont, and the 77th birthday of their founding abbot Luang Por (Ajahn) Maha Prasert. Luang Por Maha Prasert and Wat Buddhanusorn have been longtime friends and supporters of Dhammadharini since the beginning, and this day was a wonderful gathering of the four-fold community. Our vice-abbess Ayya Sobhana and new Dhammadharini bhikkhuni Ven Dhammavara were joined by our SoCal bhikkhunī friends, Ayya Nyanadipa and Ayya Souvanna of Mahapajapati, and Ayya Susila of Lotus Meditation Center.
Gathering of the four-fold community at Wat Buddhanusorn
With the full moon of August, the Dhammadharini community entered the Vassa at Dhammadharini Monastery and Aranya Bodhi hermitage. The leading supporters of our 2567 BE/2023 CE Vassa were Chathuri Senanayake & Dilshan Amarathunga Family.
Joining or returning to Dhammadharini for Vassa at Aranya Bodhi were the first four Khmer-Cambodian-heritage Theravada Bhikkhunis in modern times: Ven. Mettajīvī Bhikkhunī (returning to us), Ven. Saddhā Bhikkhunī, Ven. Dhammānusārī Bhikkhunī (returning), and Ven. Jutindharā Bhikkhunī (newly ordained). Over the course of Vassa, Ayya Tathaloka offered more than 20 classes in foundational Bhikkhuni Vinaya Studies, with bonuses in Early Buddhist Bhikkhuni Sangha History, aimed at supporting this fledgling founding international Khmer-Cambodian bhikkhuni sangha together with our other Vassa resident monastics.
One week after the start of Vassa, our whole monastic community gathered at the monastery for the Vassa-period Anagarika precepts of Anagārikā Mittakhantī and Nekkhamma precepts for friend Romona, together with blessing our Dhamma sister Ayyā Mārajinā Bhikkhunī’s return back to the robes, and candlelight chanting of the Anattalakkhana Sutta.
New Anagarika Mittakhanti and Nekkhamma Romona, shortly after the start of Vassa
Evening chanting of the Anattalakkhana Sutta
Anagarika Mittakhanti spent the three months of the Vassa with Dhammadharini, and we are delighted that she plans to return in January 2024 with a commitment to one year of training as an Anagarika with our community.
Honoring Ayya Khema
In August, Dhammadharini served as host to an international gathering online honoring our late groundbreaking bhikkhunī teacher Ayya Khema’s 100th birth anniversary. It was a truly special program, hosted by Ayya Tathaloka and bringing together many of Ayyā Khemā’s friends and students from around the world, to appreciate the enormous benefit of her life and practice. The recording of this event may be found here.
E-painting of Ayya Khema, offered by Dhammadharini in honor of her 100th birth anniversary
International Bhikkhuni Day
In October, Dhammadharini hosted our celebration of our annual International Bhikkhuni Day, which celebrates the lunar founding anniversary of the Bhikkhuni Sangha. This year, we also specially commemorated the 25-year anniversaries of several major milestones in the re-establishment of the Theravāda Bhikkhunī Sangha:
the revival of the Theravāda Bhikkhunī Sangha in India, the Buddha’s homeland (in Feb 1998),
the appointment of the first Theravāda Bhikkhunī Preceptors in modern times (in Mar 1998), and
the restitution of all-Theravāda dual ordination in Sri Lanka (in Mar 1998).
The community reflected on these milestones, the importance of having Bhikkhunīs in our world, the inspiration we have all received from Bhikkhunīs both ancient and modern, and how to create an inspiring future for our Bhikkhunī Sangha. The recording of this event may be found here.
Kathina - Offering the Robe of Merit
On November 4th, upon completion of our 2023 Vassa, our community gathered together in person from near and far the Kathina Robe Offering, which was held at our Aranya Bodhi forest hermitage for the first time in more than ten years. The Kathina robe cloth (and many other helpful things) were offered by leading Kathina donors, the Chathuri Senanayake & Dilshan Amarathunga Family. The Bhikkhuni Sangha elected our "home-grown"
Dhammadharini bhikkhunī Ven Kaccayana, who had the most holes and patches in their robes, to receive the Kathina robe cloth (for their first time), and “spread the Kathina” on behalf of our whole Bhikkhunī Sangha.
Chathuri Senanayake with the Kathina robe offering, and Venerable Kaccayana walking up to the stupa with the completed Kathina robe
Wonderful ambiance of Kathina Dhamma reflection and meditation at the stupa, Aranya Bodhi Hermitage
Ayya Sobhana’s 75th birthday and 20th anniversary of Pabbajja
In December, we gathered online for an event to celebrate Ayya Sobhana’s 75th birthday, and the 20th anniversary of her Pabbajja. It was a perfect opportunity to appreciate our beloved ācarinī and vice-abbess Ayya Sobhana Theri, learn a little more about her, and reflect on the valuable Dhamma she has shared with all of us.
Ayya Sobhana with the Sangha at Dhammadharini Monastery
Sanghamitta Day & New Year’s Eve Daylong retreat
As our last event of 2023, Ayya Sobhana led a day-long retreat in honor of Sanghamitta Day and New Year’s Eve - a day of remembering and appreciating the example of the great Arahant Sanghamitta Theri, culminating in meditating together until midnight, and a Bell Ringing Ceremony, Marking our Determination for a Clear, Peaceful, and Compassionate New Year. There are recordings available of the afternoon Sutta Study and the Evening Program.
Appreciating our DD SF Board of Directors, and upcoming changes
Our Dhammadharini Bhikkhuni Sangha is supported by the registered non-profit Dhammadharini Support Foundation (DD SF), the stewardship organization facilitating support of our Dhammadharini Bhikkhuni Sangha in myriad ways, from managing finances, to owning the monastery property and the vehicles, to leading up on behalf of our lay community and enabling their support.
This year we were so happy to welcome two wonderful new DD SF board members: Paula Snow as Director of Development, and Todd Finnemore as Director of Facilities.
Paula has jumped right in, and was successful in obtaining a Frederick P Lenz: Women Leaders in Buddhism Grant for $17,500, to be awarded in 2024. She also led up this year's Holiday Giving initiative. Much appreciation for her efforts, and for all those who made a Holiday Season gift in support of our Bhikkhuni Sangha and our whole Dhammadharini community.
Todd has also started with enthusiasm, and the Facilities committee has successfully gone ahead with the installation of the long-awaited HVAC system at our monastery – the modern, efficient new system has begun installation and should be fully up and running by mid-January. We have so much appreciation for the friends and supporters who envisioned and contributed to this project over the last several years, and all of the committee and board members who made it possible - especially the leaders for this project: Chainatee Tanakulrungson, Daham Walgama, Dilshan Amarathunga, John Radebold, and foremost, our outgoing support foundation president, Srisakul (Susie) Kliks.
Our Dhammadharini Support Foundation board is also announcing an important transition: After nearly 10 years of service (the maximum term) on board with DD SF, longtime president Susie Kliks retired as president at the end of 2023. She plans to continue being involved with Dhammadharini, and we intend to hold a community event to honor, appreciate and bless her great contributions after we emerge from winter retreat in April at the Astro-Solar New Year.
Our Dhammadharini monastic community joins the DD SF board in warmly welcoming Dhammadharini founding friend, faithful longtime supporter, and 2023 Secretary of the Board, Supatra Chowchuvech, as our new Dhammadharini Support Foundation president, together with longtime local friend and 2023 Assistant Secretary of the board Bob Flax as incoming DD SF vice president.
Entering Winter Retreat
And at last, our monastic community is now in our "transition week" into our annual Winter Retreat, this year scheduled for January 8th to March 31st (with 'transition week' being the 8th thru 18th). During winter retreat, regular weekly Zoom teachings on Sundays and Tuesdays will continue, and there is a plan to offer Uposatha teachings on the full moon days: Thursday 1/25; Sunday 2/25; and Monday 3/25. The Dhamma teaching and practice theme for the retreat this year is “Practicing for Stream Entry.”
We are very happy that Ayya Suvijjana has returned to be with us for winter retreat, and will be offering some of these teachings, along with Ayya Sobhana. Ayya Brahmavara had planned to join us for winter retreat, but will be remaining in the UK for the time being - however we do hope she can make some guest teaching appearances from afar. We invite you to read Ayya Brahmavara's wonderful year-end Dhamma reflection here.
the Dhammadharini monastic community,
Dhammadharini Support Foundation invites your participation in supporting the Dhammadharini Bhikkhuni Sangha as we enter 2024. Please see here for information about how you may join in together in offering your support.