"All things are impermanent They arise and pass away Having arisen they come to an end Their coming to peace is bliss."
Aniccā vata saṅkhārā Uppāda vaya dhamminō Uuppajjitvā nirujjhanti Tesaṃ vūpa samō sukhō
The first monastic for whom i served as bhikkhuni preceptor back in 2009, my dear Dhamma Sister and colleague, Ajahn Vayama (Ven. Bhikkhuni Vayama Theri), has passed through the great transition.
Ajahn Vayama was 70 years old, she entered monastic life 35 years ago, and she completed 12 Vassas, one full zodiac cycle as a bhikkhuni, before passing away "extremely peacefully" on November 20th at 4:25pm at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage in Western Australia. Ajahn Vayama entered monastic life in 1985 on Sri Lanka's Parappuduwa Nuns Island with Ayya Khema as teacher and Most Venerable Anuragoda Piyaratana Mahathero as preceptor. She later accepted Ajahn Brahm's invitation to found a nuns' monastery as part of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, and served as the founding abbot of Dhammasara, becoming an "ajahn" (Thai for acariya, teacher). In 2009, she and three other ten precepts nuns of Dhammasara took the great and brave step of fully ordaining as bhikkhunis. At their invitation, i served as their bhikkhuni preceptor. It was the first Theravada Bhikkhuni Ordination in Australia, and Ajahn Vayama (Ven Bhikkhuni Vayama Theri), was the first ordained. (So, the first bhikkhuni for whom i served as preceptor.)
Midnight, after the Anusavana: Ajahn Vayama with her bhikkhuni preceptor at Dhammasara Nuns Monastery on the night of her Bhikkhuni Upasampada 12 years ago in 2009.
Her longtime student Ven Bhikkhuni Seri Theri, who ordained as a bhikkhuni together on that same day, has served as her caregiver in this final period, and was with her when she died.
She had been in "home hospice" at Patacara Hermitage since May before Vesak, after being hospitalized briefly for pneumonia. I appreciate that she gave us all several months to prepare for her transition. And yet, of course, we all know (or do we?) that we and all who we love will die...but do we properly prepare? Still, i appreciate that she gave us this great opportunity and incentive in Dhamma to do so.
In this last photo, sitting together with Ayya Vayama and Ayya Sobhana with the new Dhammasara bhikkhunis and monastic community:
The woman in white on the left is now Ayya Gotami (Ven Bhikkhuni Gotami), now a long time member of the Dhammasara bhikkhunis' community. Also pictured here: then-new bhikkhuni now-theri Ayya Nirodha, and now-theri Ayya Hasapanna, the current abbot of Dhammasara.
More about the life of Ajahn Vayama:
Ayya Vayama's 30 Years in Monastic Life (6 years ago)
"Ayya Vayama: Inspirational Bhikkhuni and Spiritual Warrior"
Short epic video about re-establishing the Bhikkhuni Sangha in Australia
Ajahn Vayama's Dhamma teaching:
During her death watch these past couple of days and until now, the "swan leaving" verses from the Arahanta Vagga of Dhammapada kept rising to mind. You can read them here. Welcome to join me in reading and listening to them beautifully recited in Pali and Hindi here.
May Venerable Bhikkhunī Ajahn Vāyāmā Therī enjoy the supreme bliss, peace and happiness of Nibbāna
Tathālokā Therī & the Dhammadharini Community
November 21, 2021