Among the forest redwoods and high meadows of the California Sonoma Coast, a vibrant new community of Buddhist monastic women has taken root. It is a hermitage given the Pali name Aranya Bodhi, which means Awakening Forest.
A generous donor offered the use of this land to Ayya Tathaaloka Theri several years ago, with the aspiration to make a forest meditation hermitage for Theravada bhikkhunis (fully ordained female monastics) and like-minded women. The area was quiet, secluded, and stunningly beautiful, with no improvements at all except for a network of overgrown old logging roads.
This aspiration has become a reality through inspired leadership, the friendship of the Bhikkhu Sangha, the commitment of monastic women, and the help of many donors.
For the three months of the 2010 and 2011 Vassa rains retreats, a community of eight to ten women lived together in harmony, meditated, and trained in the Dhamma and Discipline. For the first time in American Theravada Buddhism, a Bhikkhuni Sangha has now carried out both the substance and the formality of the Buddha's plan for monastic life.
During the summer and autumn of 2010 and 2011, they trained in an extremely simple, rugged environment, camping in tents or simple kutis. Summers in the coastal forests of northern California are famously cool, and the bhikkhunis withstood the coldest July in 50 years ... sleeping mainly in unheated tents inside sleeping bags. Each woman discovered her own inspiring corner of the forest for her individual practice.
One of our bhikkhu friends wrote after his visit, “The place is stunning, very wild and rugged – and cold. The nuns have worked hard to get together some basic facilities, but it’s still tough – much tougher than any monks’ monastery I’ve ever stayed at. But the nuns were happy and obviously thriving."
We invite your participation in developing this new community. The Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha is still in its tender stage. Only a few of the Bhikkhunis have acquired the spiritual power that comes
from decades of monastic training, and there are not enough practice communities for women seeking to enter monastic life. Your nurturing help in these early years will make a great impact for the welfare of women, and the preservation of Buddhism in the modern world.
Aranya Bodhi Hermitage is lovingly cared for by Dhammadharini,
a religious non-profit organization with 501(c)3 Federal and State of California tax-exempt status.
"According to the Buddha’s teaching, our best chance for enlightenment is not in a heavenly realm but here in midst of elements and aggregates, within these bodies which age and sicken, among the earth, rain, wind, fire and consciousness elements. We wake up here, not in another ideal place. This is the ideal place."
- Ayya Tathaaloka
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