The Passing of our dear Dhamma Sister
Ven. "Achie Ayye" Bhikkhuni Satima Theri
Dear Venerables and Dhamma friends,
All conditioned things are impermanent;
When one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.
Sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā ti, yadā paññāya passati;
Atha nibbindatī dukkhe -- esa maggo visuddhiyā.
—the Buddha, Dhammapāda 276
Our dear venerable Dhamma Sister, known to us affectionately as "Sadhu Achie" or "Achie Ayye" Venerable Bhikkhuni Satima Theri entered the great transition peacefully earlier this week on the morning of May 24th 2020 at Metta Vihara in Colorado USA. She had been in hospice, and saying it was time to go, since April.
Ayya Satima was a native of Sri Lanka and immigrated to the US where she worked as a Montessori teacher. She had a great love of children, and of the Buddha's Teaching and path of practice. She raised her own children and grandchildren in the US. A devout Buddhist, she was ordained a Zen priest before Bhikkhuni Ordination was available in her native Theravada tradition.
When Bhikkhuni Ordination came to be available again, with the support of her teachers at the Minnesota Buddhist Vihara, together with our Dhammadharini vice-abbess and teacher Ven Bhikkhuni Sobhana Theri from Iowa and Ven Bhikkhuni Gunanusari Theri from Vietnam, she received full Bhikkhuni Ordination with the Dambulla Bhikkhuni Sangha in Sri Lanka in 2006 at the age of 70.
In 2007, she joined the vanguard of the rising Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha in North America, actively participating with Ayya Sobhana and me in:
the first Theravada Bhikkhuni Patimokkha Recitation in North America
the First International Congress on Buddhist Women in Hamburg Germany
the 2nd International Tipitaka Recitation in Bodhgaya
Buddha Vision Bhikkhuni Training in Bodhgaya
International Bhikkhuni Parisad in Maharashtra, India
In 2008, she again joined us an active participant in:
the first and enormously groundbreaking Bhikkhuni Seminar at Santi Forest Monastery in Australia
establishment of the Sanghamittarama Sima and First Bhikkhuni Patimokkha Recitation in Australia
And in 2009, she joined for:
the first Theravada Bhikkhuni Ordination at Bodhinyana Monastery in Australia
Bhikkhuni Training Camp at the nascent Aranya Bodhi Hermitage here with us in California
In 2010, she joined for:
the first All-Theravada Dual Sangha Bhikkhuni Ordination with Dhammadharini at Aranya Bodhi Awakening Forest Hermitage in California
In 2011 she was requested by the Dhammasara Bhikkhuni Monastery Sangha and Ajahn Brahm to serve as preceptor for the Samaneri Pabbajja of Anagarika Dr Khemanthie Nandaseni, with my blessings, when I was not able to travel to Australia due to health.
When Ajahn Brahm came to the US for Dhammadharini Benefit Teaching Tour, Ayya Satima was a part of it.
When the time came ripe for the first Bhikkhuni Ordination at Anenja Vihara in Germany, she unhesitatingly flew all that way to join the Bhikkhuni Sangha quorum.
All this in her 70s and with a heart condition! She was that amazing.
The list goes on and on, up to supporting the next generation of Bhikkhunis and Samaneris recently in USA as a teacher, preceptor and exemplar, a Bhikkhuni grandmother to our Sangha. So we called her "Achie Ayye" and our Sri Lankan friends called her "Sadhu Achie". "Achie" means "grandmother" in Ayya Satima's native Sinhalese language.
Wherever she went, our dear "Achie Ayye" was unfailing in kindness, a power pack of goodwill metta and loving kindness, energy and blessings. Although she entered into monastic life at a late age, she was never lacking in energy, enthusiasm, devotion, and the wish to apply herself well to the Buddha's teaching with every last bit of her heart and life energy.
In April "Achie" Ayye Satima entered into hospice, saying she felt ready to go!
Last Friday we received word from Ayya Dhammadhira, who was with her, that she was entering her final time of life. On Monday, we received this message from her:
"This morning [24 May 2020] Ayya Satima passed away peacefully surrounded by many family members and a couple friends. We held a ceremony with chanting and ritual that nine monks and myself participated in. Many kind words were shared recalling Ayya's good qualities. Next Saturday (May 30th) we will gather for a 7-day [memorial] ceremony.
Thank you for your support with chanting and metta. May her destination be bright."
I rejoice to have had the company of such a lovely human being and blessed Dhamma Sister in this lifetime.
In the months before Ayya Satima's passing, Ayya Dhammadhira, together with Ayya Satima, very kindly created this Dhamma Dana book of Ayya Satima's life and teachings, Sadhu Achie, to share with you now. And if you haven't read it already, you may also enjoy her chapter in our bhikkhuni anthology Let the Light Shine (p 63), or you may enjoy reading it one more time again now, perhaps with deeper meaning.
May Ayya Satima's many merits support her swiftly enjoying the highest bliss and happiness of Nibbāna forever, beyond birth and death, and beyond all sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair.
Or, if she has more for this world, may she come back quickly again to join us in these many sufferings as a light and lamp of Dhamma, dedicated to the most beautiful and excellent path of awakening, encouraging, blessing and inspiring us all.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
Rejoicing in the life beautifully lived,
with heart of love, gladness, and so much appreciation,
Ven. Tathālokā Therī
Dhammadharini founding abbess and preceptor
on behalf of our Dhammadharini Sangha
at Dhammadharini Monastery
and Aranya Bodhi Awakening Forest Hermitage
May 27, 2020
Achie Ayya Satima at Karuna Buddhist Vihara (with Bhikkhuni Sangha)
photo thanks to Ayya Anandabodhi
Ayya Satima with International American Bhikkhuni Sangha Kathina (right to left: Ayya Sudhamma from North Carolina now with Charlotte Buddhist Vihara, Ayya Sobhana from Iowa now with Dhammadharini, Ayya Sudinna from Sri Lanka now with Carolina Buddhist Vihara, Achie Ayye, and Ayya Susila from Vietnam now with Lotus Meditation Center in Diamond Bar California)
photo thanks to Ayya Sudhamma
new Bodhi leaves, May 2020 in California
photo thanks to International Buddhist Meditation Center