I am writing to inform you that I am committed to stay in Western Australia to continue Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.
The Hermitage is planning to purchase a property of four-bedroom house, preferably with 2 bathrooms, with land in the southern suburbs of Perth that is easily accessible by our lay supporters especially the female lay supporters.
This will allow the Hermitage to accommodate two to three nuns and the invited lay guests to practise together in the future. It also gives us the opportunity to hold regular meditation and chanting sessions as well as small events such as meditation day on the property with parking space.
We will be looking for a suitable place as soon as we have enough funding. Thank you for your ongoing support for Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage.
Subject: Fund raising for Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage Building.
My name is Patricia, the current Treasurer for Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage (PBH). PBH community is currently looking for a place where we can all come together. We would appreciate your support for any amount during this fund raising campaign.
If you would like to donate, the following are the Bank Details to facilitate online transfers:
Name of bank: BANKWEST
Address: Bankwest, 274 Great Eastern Highway, Shop 1 – 4 Midland Gate Shopping Centre, Midland 6056 WA
Swift Code: BKWAAU6P
BSB number: 306041
Account number: 1013896
Account Name: PATACARA BHIKKHUNI HERMITAGE INC.
Alternatively, Cheques can be issued to:
Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage Inc.
c/o Christine Anderson, Unit 4/31 Preston Rd, East Fremantle 6158 WA.
Kindly state clearly amount is for “BUILDING “
For donations on Betty’s sewing which you ordered, you may use the above method.
Kindy state clearly it’s for “Betty Sewing” in your online transfer or Cheque. Otherwise, donations in cash or cheques to Patacara B Hermitage also can be handed to Betty upon collection of goods.
With your generous contribution, we hope to reach our goal as soon as possible.
Please note that Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage is not eliglble to issue tax deductible receipts. However, we can email or post to you an acknowledgement receipt of funds if you could include your details in the post or email your details to us at:
Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri went forth as a Ten Precept Nun on 17th March 1985 at Parappuduwa Nun’s Island in Dodanduwa, Sri Lanka. Her Preceptor was Venerable Piyaratana from Island Hermitage on (Polgasduwa) Dodanduwa Island, Galle District. Ayya Khema Bhikkhuni was Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri’s teacher.
On Sunday 20th February 2022, Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni led a Meditation Day to remember Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri on three months since her passing away.
The Meditation Day was held at Jhana Grove Meditation Retreat Centre in Serpentine from 9.30am to 5pm. About thirty five lay supporters participated in person and there were also some lay supporters participated on the Zoom.
We dedicated day of practice to Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri.
May Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri be at peace and may she attain Nibbana
PUBLISHED SUNDAY ISLAND NEWSPAPER SRI LANKA 05 DECEMBER 2021
Anicca vata sankhara –Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni
All compounded things are impermanent
Bhikkhuni Seri who was with Bhikkhuni Vayama almost from the time she established Dhammasara Nuns Monastery in Perth in 1998, was her care giver for these past many years. She sent me an email three weeks ago with pictures of a celebration in their Centre. The message was that Bh Vayama was now on palliative care. On 24th came an email with the message “Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni passed away on November 20 at 4.25 p m.” The sad news, though it surprised and caused an initial pang, did not get me mourning.
Ayya Vayama’s connection with Sri Lanka
Bh Vayama, when in her teens, developed an interest in Buddhism through wide reading. Completing her university education in Sydney in social sciences, she chose a career of social service. But the desire to know more about Buddhism grew stronger so she came to Sri Lanka as a tourist in 1977. She met Ven Nyanaponika, resident in the Forest Hermitage in Udawattakele, Kandy. He advised her to read more and study the religion. She did that on her return. In 1984, she was back in Sir Lanka, but this time to spend an entire three months at Nuns’ Island, Parappaduwa, under the tutelage of Ayya Khema Bhikkhuni, who got built an island nunnery on the Ratgama Lake in Dodanduwa. The young woman returned to Australia to almost immediately come back to Sri Lanka with the firm conviction her life had to be one of renunciation; in robes. She was ordained a ten preceptor in Parappuduwa in 1985 and was Ayya Khema’s assistant and helper. It was then that we met her and were immediately struck by her composure and her manner of meditating. Tall as she was, Ayya Vayama would sit ramrod straight but look completely relaxed and remain thus for one hour, two hours, with not the slightest shifting of position.
After two years in Parappuduwa, Ayya Vayama moved with a Sinhalese ten preceptor to a place in Dickwella which soon became a centre for meditation and Dhamma discussion. After 1½ years they moved to Ambalangoda where they lived for five years fully engaged in Dhamma work. Ayya Khema had returned to Germany and those of us who were on the Nuns’ Island Committee maintaining the Island, persuaded the two of them to return to Parappuduwa, which they did, rather reluctantly, feeling committed to their supporters in Ambalangoda. Nuns’ Island flourished again, but Ayya Vayama who bore the brunt of keeping the trees pruned, the boat engine serviced, the water pumps working, found her time for meditation eaten into. She decided to move on and went to the London Monastery Amaravati at the invitation of Ven. Ajahn Sumedho. She lived happy and successful in her religious commitment for a year, when she was delegated to accompany a nun returning for a visit to Australia.
An anecdote is relevant here. Just before she left Sri Lanka for good, Ayya Vayama invited three of her friends/supporters (me included) to visit Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, on a four day stay. On our second day in Anuradhapura, early that morning, we went to Ruwanveliseya to sit quietly in reflection and meditation. We sat apart. Imagine my surprise when I heard two lots of pilgrims comment on a statue that had not been there the last time they visited. I was amused, I must admit, since the statue they were referring to was Ayya Vayama seated deep in meditation in the stillness of the early morning in that hallowed place. I savour most the two hours we spent one early morning in veneration at the Gal Vihara, Polonnaruwa, seated opposite the mighty stone statues. It made all the difference to be in the presence of this saintly ten preceptor in deep brown robes, palpably radiating metta.
Return to Australia
While back in her home city, Sydney, she received an invitation, more a summons, by Ajahn Brahmavamso on behalf of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, to pioneer a nuns’ retreat in Perth. This was a major step to take, a huge responsibility to assume, a burdensome task to agree to, but she faced the challenge of setting up a place for nuns to train and practice in Australia. Just then a businessman, who wished to remain anonymous, donated to the Society 600 acres of bush about 100 km north east of Perth.
Ayya Vayama took on a monstrous challenge – supervising the building of a nuns’ retreat within a huge expanse of remote bush land, living alone in a caravan originally and then training and ordaining others desirous of leading a life of renunciation. Support there was in plenty but she lived alone on the 600 acres for about two years.
“How could you?” I asked. “Weren’t you afraid and lonely?”
“Not at all! I was in the Dhamma. How could I be afraid?”
Buildings were complete in 1997, along with roads and paths. A stream which flowed through the land was dammed for collecting water. Wild life was no bother; kangaroos coming over often for tidbits of food; poisonous snakes slithering around but the nuns and novices walked back and forth from the main building to their kutis at all times, with apparently no fear.
Ayya Vayama was much into teaching and preaching and conducting meditation courses at this first Australian Theravada Forest Nuns’ Monastery in Gidgegannup, named Dhammasara. But totally inexplicably, this devoted and saintly Buddhist nun showed signs of a debilitating illness taking hold of her – Multiple System Atrophy. I say inexplicably because such an illness would be the last affliction one would expect such an excellent person to develop. But as the Buddha taught, karma and vipaka work on human beings in strange ways. In 2012 Ayya Vayama and former pupil Ayya Seri moved to live in the house of a female lay supporter, which they named Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage, in Pilbara Crescent, Western Australia. Its official founding was on June 23, 2011.
These two ten preceptors were ordained bhikkhunis on 22nd October 2009, the first such in the Theravada Tradition in Australia. The ceremony was conducted by Ven Brahmavamso with Ayya Tathaaloka – Bhikkhuni from California.
Visits to Sri Lanka
“I am delighted to be back in Sri Lanka” said Ayya Vayama, no sooner I greeted her in 2005. “My thoughts were constantly with people affected by the tsunami and more especially those who supported us in Dickwella, Ambalangoda and Dodanduwa.” She had been particularly concerned about those she felt could have been in the way of the waves. She made enquiries and was greatly relieved to be told that those who suffered had lost only property.
“I was very happy when Dr Upulmali Govinnage, a supporter of our monastery in Perth, offered to have me accompany her on her visit to Sri Lanka. It was such a great offer because I could revisit the places I had lived in and meet those who supported me, to whom I am ever grateful. As I told my supporters in Dickwella when I met them on Tuesday, they could rejoice in seeing their ‘sil maeni’ again, continuing on the Path and progressing well.”
Ayya Vayama, accompanied by Ayya Seri and their Thai benefactress resident in Perth, visited the Island again in 2012, but very sadly for us, Ayya Vayama was in a wheelchair. That did not restrict her at all in inviting her devotees from the three places she lived in, and her Colombo devotees and friends to meet her at the Colombo hotel they were staying in.
I am one of the very fortunate admirers of this truly pious and wonderful bhikkhuni to whom she extended her hand of friendship. She has stayed in my Kollupitiya flat and continued corresponding. She told me the biggest favour I did her was bringing her to Colombo by car when she left Dodanduwa for good. She dreaded walking to the bus on that day of goodbyes. She has been not only an inspiration to me but a friend too, who shared jokes and giggles. Such her humaneness! One noticeable distinguishing feature was the aura of sanctity and peaceful serenity that was around her. A sense of quiet happiness emanated from her.
She was a strict adherent to the vinaya rules. I tried giving her clear soup for dinner when she stayed with me. “No, that’s food. I will have plain tea or kothamalli.” Travelling to Australia, she was to stop over in Singapore. I attempted slipping in $50 into her cloth bag for a taxi or gilampasa. Again a strong no; “If my friend does not fetch me from the airport, I will just stay put.”
I watched the funeral of Ven Bhikkhuni Vayama which Bhikkhuni Seri informed me would be live stream broadcast. A wicker like casket was surrounded by flowers; many Sri Lankans and others were present; monks too. Ajahn Brahmavamso spoke, so also Bh Seri and several lay women. Ven Brahmavamso Thera and Bh Seri removed two deep brown parcels (robes, I believe) from either side of the casket. And that was the end of the funeral service of 1 ½ hours.
We are proud that a person who was ordained as a Theravada Ten Precept Sil Matha in this land of ours – Sri Lanka – contributed much to the spread of Buddhism in Australia. Ayya Vayama, aged 69 and a nun for 35 years, sure was happy and unshackled by the worries that often coil around us. A wonderful person is no more, and prematurely. But no sorrow since her journey in samsara will be very short; she will surely attain Nibbana that she strove for, and helped others to strive for too.
Tesam vupa samo sukho – Their (formations) calming and cessation is bliss.
Blessings and Bliss – in Memory offered for 7th-day Memorial 27-28th November 2021 byAyya TathālokāBhikkhuni
Back before internet, as a teenager meditating in the 80s, then as a new anāgārikā out exploring the world, these names were living legends for me: Ven Nyanaponika and the Forest Hermitage, Ayya Khema and Nuns Island, Anuradhapura and the sacred Bo tree….It was so encouraging to hear what Ayya Khema was doing with the Nuns Island, and the westerners who came there, living the brave and rugged forest/island monastic life. Sister Vayama was there, among them.
Later in the last years of the 90s, suddenly bhikkhunī ordinations started happening east and west, and the rumors started coming from afar of a lone brown-robed nun out in the bush of Western Australia, striving to make a first place in the west for dedicated women renunciates of meditative forest traditions – amazingly and uniquely, with the support of Ajahn Brahm and the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. That was Ajahn Vayama!
It seemed like there was possibility, things were opening up, there was hope for people with aspirations like me.
Ten years later, during the Bhikkhuni Seminar at Santi Forest in early 2008, I finally met Ajahn Vayama and Ajahn Brahm, and then got to visit the great forested land of Dhammasara that i’d heard of for so long. I can’t tell you how happy and pleased i was to find fellow women renunciates with such commitment to shared values of peace, living with love for the forest, animals and birds. Love for the Buddha’s way, for sīlā, samādhi and paññā, there in the Western Australian bush, amidst the wild bird calls and hopping kangaroos, beneath the deep, (and to me) upside-down and backwards, awesome dark and bright night sky of the bush.
Ajahn Vayama and the sisters had many questions about how to have a well-livable renunciate life of integrity, faithful to the bhikkhunī precepts—for days we met to discuss all the many accumulated important questions of special and unique interest to us, not in public forum, but amongst one another as dedicated practicing sisters.
Later, returning to the US, i too—encouraged and inspired by the time at Dhammasara, and with a better idea of “how such things can work”—moved ahead with launching Aranya Bodhi forest hermitage on California’s Sonoma Coast, and began giving sāmanerī pabbajjā to western women. We can see here the fertile inter-relations spanning the globe.
Then one day, by surprise, a phone call came from Ajahn Brahm, with an invitation to return after Vassa in 2009, for special purpose. A letter came in the post from Ajahn Vayama from Dhammasara, letting me know, in Ajahn Vayama’s respectful way, about her considerations and the unified decision of the Dhammasara nuns’ community to go ahead.
Ajahn Vayama and i had both entered monastic life in the mid- to late-80s. Ajahn had ordained as a ten precept nun in 1985, i had left home life and began entry into monastic life in late 1987-early ’88. Much shared territory and experience and one big difference: I, having received bhikkhunī ordination in 1997, by 2009, that Vassa was my 12th as a bhikkhuni, which allowed me, although younger than her, to be appointed and to serve as a bhikkhunī preceptor (pavattinī-upajjhāya) per Vinaya.
I cannot express how much of an honor it was to serve together with the first bhikkhunīs of Dhammasara, with Ajahn Vayama as first among them—together with the bhikkhu sangha of Bodhinyana, and with the BSWA—in offering the first Theravāda bhikkhunī ordinations in Australia. From the inside, i can testify to how faithful and considerate the process was from among the dedicated women renunciates, the bhikkhunīs. Different than what was being posted in the blogosphere. Faithful to the Buddha. To the Dhamma. To the Sangha. And to the Path, and its full living and fulfillment. I can also testify to how challenging it was.
Even from the time of the Bhikkhuni Seminar at Santi in ’08, Ajahn Vayama already knew her health was seriously awry. Me too: I had been through cancer treatment not long before, and felt this body marked with the sign of death. There is something about such Maraṇasati which can change one’s values, and give bravery and intrepitude. Knowing it is brief and impermanent, one wants to do what will be of value, blessing and benefit for oneself, and for those one loves, or the cause that one loves, with the brief opportunity that one has—like the turtle coming up, its head coming through the “life preserver,” piercing the waves of samasāra, seeing the Island of Nibbāna. It is hard to express with words the gratitude, and the dedication, to the Buddha’s Sāsana in the heart.
I commend Venerable Bhikkhunī Ajahn or Ayyā Vāyāmā Therī for giving the gift of her life to this most excellent and worthy cause. And Venerable Bhikkhunī Serī Therī for her dedication, courage, strength and support, unfailing in Dhamma.
Unwavering in Dhamma is certainly the most excellent and brilliant way to live, in this world of wavering conditions, like an undulating sea or flowing brook.
The stream of the Dhamma is the best of all streams, quenching taṇhā, craving, thirst. The ocean of Nibbāna is truly the best of all oceans, beginningless and endless, unqualified bliss and freedom.
Etaṁ santaṁ…etaṁ panitaṁ.
May our venerable Dhamma Sister, Ajahn Vāyāmā, enjoy this most excellent peace and happiness of Nibbāna, for which good women and men, good people, rightly go forth from the home life into homelessness.
Warm greeting from Canada. I am writing to you on behalf of our community to express our loving compassion to you and to all the close community around you who have been so faithfully caring for Ajahn Vayama these many years.
We just heard that she passed away peacefully. We have been chanting for her regularly and we will also chant for you and continue to hold you in our hearts. Such a life she lived creating boundless blessings and inspiration for this world – a truly noble legacy. She will be deeply missed.
We shall continue to chant for her and make dedications for her. May she realise the highest peace, final Nibbana.
We deeply appreciate your unwavering commitment and loving service to Ajahn Vayama over these many years, providing for all her needs during a very long illness which for ordinary beings would be devastating. And yet you served in the most touching and impeccable ways with joy and courage, giving her the best of care. We have read the posts you kept up on the Patacara Hermitage website over the years describing your incredible life together and we have felt the profound example of both of you, her dignity and faith and your selfless kindness to your beloved teacher.
We are grateful to you and to all who surrounded her during her years of illness to offer joy, comfort and every conceivable medical support to create an environment of so much peace and calm.
May all the good kamma of her life be fulfilled in freedom from all suffering. We wish for you through your strong Dhamma practice and the power of your refuge in the Noble Triple Gems great peace and equanimity at this time of separation. May your heart abide in the clear stream of Dhamma, bearing witness to anicca and abiding in the faith of the Noble Ones.
With hearts of compassion and uplift, in the blessings of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, mahametta-karuna,
I am Bhikkhuni Santini from Indonesia
I want to send a few words below:
The late Ajahn Vayama …
With samvegacitta may you continue your journey to go to the other shore. Anumodana for your wonderful inspiration in this life as a bhikkhuni. All your effort and hard work meant so much for so many beings.
Thank you for the kind message. I feel sad hearing about Ayya Vayama’s
passing but think she has done what she wanted to do in her life. I listened to her teachings many times.
May she attain ultimate peace and the happiness of Nibbana.
Vayama, your smile lit up the room and made the world seem calm.
All my memories of you when we were growing up were of a caring person always reliable and never judgemental.
Our fathers were very close brothers and when Victor, your dad, died too young you were always there for your mum but alas she also died young.
Buddhism could now nurture your life.
I remember feeling lost when you said you were going to become a nun but you returned to my home several times to gather your thoughts and strength.
The glow in your eyes when you told me you were going to take your final vows was plain to see. Everything had fallen into place and you had found your purpose in life and ran to it with your arms wide open.
I will always remember that look and know you have now found peace.
Your loving cousin,
I have fond memories of Ajahn Vayama’s compassion and kindness in 2003 when Iwas very ill. She very kindly invited me to stay at Dhammasara for 10 days to rest.
She very kindly gave me her own private room with an ensuite in the Nuns Cottage and 2 of her anagarikas bunked in together and she slept in one of the anagarika’s rooms. She brought in breakfast and lunch to me on a pretty tray presented so beautifully by the now Ajahn Hasapanna. (who was an anagarika then).
The other Anagarika was asked by Ajahn Vayama to drive me to a medical appointment at the end of my stay and then to drive me home safely. That Anagarika is now Ayya Seri.
I have never forgotten Ajahn Vayama’s kindness and compassion along with her Anagarikas.
I am sincerely thankful that I was welcomed into the Circle of Sister Vayama during the latter years.
There are many qualities that I admired. I would like to mention two.
First, Consideration of Others.
Regardless of her own predicament, no matter how breathless or exhausted, there was always kindness and unwavering politeness.
There was consideration and interest extended to me, even though I was there to provide a treatment. I was always greeted with that genuine, whole face smile, followed by that questioning look saying “How are you?”
In the circumstances this was incredibly selfless.
Secondly, Sister Vayama’s positivity was unrivalled. Despite her decline in health she would tell me that she felt 6 out of 10 in wellness, even in the last week of her life. I think that she experienced a sense of well-being from the devotion respect and love that surrounded her, especially from Sister Seri.
Thank you for the privilege of knowing you. I pray that every day now will be a 10 out of 10 day.
I carry your memory in my heart.
I first met Ajahn Vayama when she was living in the caravan at Gidgegannup many years ago. She told us of her experience living in a forest monastery in remote Sri Lanka. Her resolve to establish the Buddhist Nuns’ monastery at Gidgegannup was so inspiring. She will be remembered for her extraordinary mental strength and of course her kind smile.
May she attain nirvana!
We were visiting Ayya Vayama for the last 15 years and kids love to talk to her regarding their achievements at school, outside school, and events in the future. When we visit Ayya Vayama next time, she remembered to ask how they performed and we were surprised to see her memory and how she remembers all the details, even after few weeks.
Years went by and Ayya Vayama could not speak much but she loved to hear from us about what we are up to and how girls performing in school. Her smile tells all the words she could not express in words and we really miss that smile and her presence. We were so blessed to associate such a wonderful soul and may she attain the supreme bliss of nirvana.
Dilini, Pubudu, Sadeni and Sathmi
Thank you kindly
Dilini Premachandra & Family
I want to express my gratitude for Ayya Vayama’s teachings. I listened to them via podcast and the teachings helped broaden my incremental understanding of Dhamma. She was and will continue to be an inspiration.
Thank you from Ontario, Canada
I have had many good memories and experiences with Ajahn Vayama in the early days. I find it hard to use Past Tense. Below is a short contribute to our dedicated, gentle and kind teacher.
A memorable feature of Ajahn Vayama is her beautiful smile. Her determination to be a fully ordained Bhikkhuni was unwavering. Ajahn Vayama’s words seemed to articulate truths and her ability to explain the Dhamma in such a way that I could understand it clearly. Thank you, Ajahn Vayama.
Dear Ayya Vayama, I live in Viet Nam. I have the good fortune to receive the signed book “Taking Refuge” from you which records your Dhamma talks.
How relieved I was to understand the true meaning of suffering and happiness according to Buddhism through your gentle and loving- kindness teaching.
I understand more and more about taking refuge in myself on the path to liberation, which you had experienced in your spiritual life. Those precious teachings have awakened me, helping me to have a realistic and optimistic view of life. I am truly grateful to you for those Dhamma talks.
May you attain Nibbana.
Huynh Ngoc Diep
With heartfelt gratitude for the generosity, kindness, humour, and wisdom Ayya Vayama expressed to so many beings in immeasurable ways.
I sought the comforting wisdom of Ayya Ajahn Vayama upon the sudden passing of my brother. She not only consoled me in one of life’s darkest moments but used the opportunity to present a Friday night talk titled “Creating Inner Wealth” in the hope of helping others experiencing similar grief and turmoil.
Ayya Ajahn Vayama was truly a wonderful being who leaves an enduring legacy of teaching, care, compassion and espousing the Dhamma to help all. With abundance of gratitude, respect, Metta and love Lucky Kodituwakku
A BYSTANDER …..
She spent the last few years in Jane brook. I met Ajahn Vayama in the 1990s. She was full of optimism, standing in the middle of the property that was to become Dhammasara Monastery: optimism tinged by the knowledge that everything is fleeting. She must have had an inkling? I do not know. There were so many things I wanted to ask her, but time was limited. Perhaps next time ?
But there was to be no next time. When, in 2004, I next visited Perth she was too unwell for us to disturb her and I missed her in Sri Lanka too.
So what makes this single meeting significant? Because it was not the first time I had met her. She had told me of how she donned the saffron robe in Sri Lanka many years ago. And she was surprised that I told her that on, that great occasion, I had been there, too.
My mind went back. It was at Parappu-duwa, in Dodanduwa. Word had got around that Ayya Khema had set up a centre for would-be bhikkunis. It was a rain-and-shine day, and we had to go by boat to the island. There was a lot of boat traffic. Anyway, we made it ashore, we saw the facilities provided, saw Ayya Khema’s “kuti” and then joined the crowd round the hall where she sat. The bhikkus from Polgasduwa were present and the so were the aspirants. There was a Sri Lankan aspirant and two young Europeans. One, with chaste, chiselled features emphasised by a shaven head, was Vayama. We did not know her, then, but we had a few photographs and she was quite pleased to get them, when we sent them to her. It was just one footprint on her journey through Life and Samsara…….
Our paths first met on that day, but it was not by accident. Ayya Khema had been in Colombo. Sri Lanka, and I had been taken to meet her by Bhikkuni Kusuma. I had met her, had long talks with her and meditated with her. But I was not mature enough to realize that I had been privileged and to follow the path more assiduously. Ayya Khema later left Colombo to set up her hermitage in Parappa-duwa, and so, through Ayya Khema, I had my first glimpse of Ajahn Vayama.
So my meeting with her in the 1990s was not the first meeting. I had been a bystander witnessing a glorious procession: Bhikkuni Kusuma > Ayya Khema > Parappa-duwa> Ajahn Brahm > Bhikkuni Thathalokaa> Dhammasara > Ajahn Vayama.
Only a bystander, but a blessed one.
Dayadari Devendra of Sri Lanka
We got to know Sister Vayama around 30 years back. I still remember when she was the first nun to live at the Gidgegannup temple. Then it wasn’t built like now. She lived in a caravan all by herself. We took alms and served outside in the garden. It was a beautiful and peaceful place and sister Vayama always seem to be happy and smiling. She was so courageous and determined.
When the aramaye was built later we used to take the food and other requisites there.
After the Dane we used to go and talk with her. Many people came to get advice from her and sometimes about their personal problems.
She had been in Sri Lanka for 10 years. She said she could speak Sinhalese then. I asked her to talk in Sinhala. She asked me to ask questions in Sinhala and she replied in Sinhalese. It was amazing!
We took Dane there and helped with other things she needed. Sister Seri is so wonderful with her, caring and looking after Sister Vayama.
We have good memories of her and will miss her. May she be at peace and attain nibbana. Theruwan Saranai! Shantha and Vasantha
I am sad to hear this news. And at the same time I am glad to know that she has spent a life dedicated to the Dhamma. Practising, embodying, and sharing the Dhamma with all who were interested.
I am fortunate to have known her. She was an inspiration and good kalyanamitta for me.
I will offer a meal (breakfast) here at the meditation centre in Switzerland (we are in the third week of the three-week meditation retreat) on Saturday, 27 November 2021.
The dedication is:
In memory of Ayya Vayama
A dear kalyanamitta and pioneer for the nuns in Australia
I always knew that Ajahn Vayama was going to die, and likely soon, but I didn’t expect for it to happen when it did. When I first heard that Ajahn Vayama had died, I felt like someone was squeezing my heart, not because I was sad exactly for Ajahn Vayama, because I knew that whatever form, place or state she was in or not in, she would be ok, but because she was such a wonderful and inspirational person and selfishly I admit, I did not want to lose her. I have been so privileged to have known Ajahn Vayama this long – 15 years in fact, the entirety of my life, and it feels so strange knowing that she isn’t there anymore.
I think it is safe to say I speak on the behalf of many when I say that whenever you went to visit Ajahn Vayama, you experienced this all-encompassing peace. It was like a blissful blanket that settled over you whenever you were in her presence. When you were there, you could feel that the space was totally judgement-free, safe, and comfortable. That was the power of the kindness Ajahn Vayama held. But not only that. At least for me, being in Ajahn Vayama’s presence made me believe in the current and potential good qualities we all can develop inside of us. She inspired me to be better.
Some people say that Ajahn Vayama’s gradual deteriorating state meant that the loss wasn’t as sudden or without as large of an impact. That because coming to the end of her life, she couldn’t speak or communicate as clearly, she therefore couldn’t teach. But Ajahn Vayama didn’t need words to teach. She inspired anyone who knew her, with her actions and the way she conducted herself. Her perseverance, her generosity, her resilience, her determination. Even to the end, she had a sharp and clear mind, and her aura of compassion did not fade. And even now, thinking about her and what it was like to be in her presence, I can feel that calm settle over me now, lighten my heart and make me smile like she would have wanted. Everything Ajahn Vayama taught us, was to ultimately make us happy, and I have to say it was a true honour to know a person capable of such good.
Huge admiration and appreciation of Ajahn Vayama’s work in taking on the enormous task of establishing a wonderful monastery for Nuns to practice the precious Dhamma.
This short Dhamma piece is to recollect the virtuous qualities of Ven Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni
Maha Therī who has passed away on Saturday, 20 November 2021.
Ven Ayya Vayama Bhikkuni is a pioneer in many ways!
She was the first female Buddhist mendicant who made Dhammasara monastery her home!
She was the first female Theravada Buddhist mendicant in Western Australia!
She was the first fully ordained Theravada Bhikkhuni in whole of Australia!
She was the first female Theravada Buddhist mendicant who conducted a weekend
meditation retreat in Western Australia!
She was the first female Assistant Spiritual Director of Buddhist Society of Western
So, in the true sense of the words, Ven Ayya Vayama Bhikkuni was a pioneer in many ways!
We recall with gratitude of her early days at Dhammasara. Her early days of existence at Dhammasara was an incredibly a harsh one. It was not for a day, a week or a moth but, the harsh life lasted for a number of years! Yet, Ven Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni has endured all that as a true Buddhist Mendicant, following the Lord Buddha’s advice! Lord Buddha advised HIS followers to eliminate some of the defilements by Enduring, (Adhivāsanāpahātabbaāsava in Sabbāsavasutta). She has truly followed that advice!
Her Dhamma Talks were simple, systematic & penetrative! Her chanting was precise, correct in pronunciation and pleasant to listen to!
Her service to the Buddhist Community in WA has been absolutely fantastic! She was a true daughter of the Lord Buddha!
When we recollect the qualities of Ven Ayya Vayama, we cannot end without mentioning, at least briefly, the tremendous service rendered by Ven Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni! She has been exemplary in attending to the needs of her teacher. We have never come across anyone either a lay person or a mendicant who has rendered such an untiring service purely on a voluntary basis. Ven Ayya Seri too has endured a long period of hardships hardships in attending to the needs of her teacher. As long term supporters of Dhammasara Monastery, right from its inception and of Patacara Hermitage also, from its inception, we have had the good fortune of firsthand knowledge in noticing Ven Ayya Seri’s commitment!
We are truly blessed to have had the opportunity to associate two such Bhikkhunis!
May Ven Ayya Seri be healthy, happy and peaceful!
May her practice be pleasant, attaining to wisdom swiftly, (Sukhā paṭipadā khippābhiññā)!
May the Ven Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Maha Therī attain Nibbana!
With Reverence, Gratitude and Metta,
Shamalee and Ananda Thilakasiri
LỜI CẢM ƠN
Tôi xin thành kính cảm ơn Ni Sư Vayama, người đã cho những bài pháp thoại quý giá này. Đây là món quà Pháp cao quý nhất. Bằng những dẫn dụ sinh động trong thực tế cuộc sống, Ni Sư đã mang đến những lời dạy sâu sắc và hữu ích cho những người đang tu tập chú trọng vào giây phút hiện tại theo truyền thống Phật giáo Nguyên thủy. Tôi rất vui mừng và hân hạnh được Ni Sư Vayama (thông qua Ni Sư Seri) cho phép tôi được chuyển ngữ quyển sách này sang tiếng Việt và phát hành miễn phí cho những người hữu duyên. Con xin được cúng dường quyển sách đã được chuyển ngữ này đến Ni Sư Vayama như món quà mừng sinh nhật lần thứ 69 của Ni Sư. Con thành tâm cầu nguyện cho Ni Sư luôn được bình an, hạnh phúc và sớm đạt đến Niết Bàn.
Tôi xin thành kính cảm ơn Ni Sư Nguyên Hương (Ayya Dhammananda Theri), người mà tôi có duyên may trong đời được một lần làm thị giả cho Ni Sư trong ngày Đại Lễ Dâng Y Kathina tại chùa Hương Đạo, Fort Worth, Texas, Mỹ vào năm 2018. Mặc dù rất bận với Phật sự cũng như sự an tĩnh tu tập trong mùa An Cư Kiết Hạ tại Mỹ, nhưng Ni Sư vẫn dành thời gian để cố vấn và chỉnh sửa những đoạn văn mà tôi lúng túng. Không có Ni Sư tôi không thể hoàn thành việc dịch quyển sách này.
Tôi xin cảm ơn người chị của tôi, Huỳnh Ngọc Thủy, người đã kết nối duyên lành để tôi được đảnh lễ Ni Sư Vayama và Ni Sư Seri ở Pactacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage, Tây Úc. Chị cũng đã kết nối để tôi có được sự cho phép từ tác giả- Ni Sư Vayama- thông qua Ni Sư Seri, dịch quyển sách Taking Refuge sang tiếng Việt.
Mặc dù tôi đã cố gắng hết sức cũng như được sự hỗ trợ trong quá trình chuyển ngữ quyển sách này, nhưng do khả năng bản thân còn nhiều hạn chế nên sẽ không tránh khỏi sai sót. Kính mong các bậc Tôn túc và quý đọc giả niệm tình bỏ qua.
Phước Tuệ Huỳnh Ngọc Điệp
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT WITH APPRECIATION
I would like to respectfully thank Ayya Vayama, for her precious Dhamma Talks. This gift of Dhamma excels all gifts. Through vivid examples from real life, she brings profound and useful teachings to those who are now practicing focusing on the present moment in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. I am very pleased and honored that Ayya Vayama (via Ayya Seri) allowed me to translate this book into Vietnamese and distribute it for free to those who wish to read it. So I would like to offer this book that I have translated into Vietnamese to Ayya Vayama as a present for her 69th birthday. I sincerely pray for her to always have peace, happiness and soon attain to Nibbana.
I would also like to respectfully show my gratitude to Ayya Dhammananda Theri, who I had a good fortune to meet as her attendant once in my life at the Great Kathina Festival Day at Huong Dao temple, Fort Worth, Texas, USA in 2018. Although she is very busy in her Buddhist work as well as practicing meditation during the Rains Retreat in USA, she still took the time to advise and edit my translation passages that I was confused about. I would have not been able to complete the translation of this book without her support and guidance.
Finally, I would like to sincerely thank my older sister, Ngoc Thuy Ly, who made it possible for me to pay homage to Ayya Vayama and Ayya Seri in Pactacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage, in Western Australia. She also connected and allowed me to get permission from the author – Ayya Vayama – via Ayya Seri, to translate this book “Taking Refuge” into Vietnamese.
Although I have tried my best and received a great deal of support in the process of translating this book but due to my limited abilities, mistakes will inevitably occur. I sincerely hope that the readers will forgive any errors in my translation.
Phuoc Tue Huynh Ngoc Diep
I saw your blog post inviting anyone who wishes to share a few words regarding Ajahn Vayama on the occasion of her passing away, hence the email. Thank you for this invitation, it makes me feel a part of your community and celebrate Ajahn Vayama’s life even though I have never set foot in Australia or your hermitage. I am an Indian living in USA, and closely follow the Buddhist group associated with Ajahn Brahm.
I never got to see Ajahn Vayama in person or much even in video/photos (very few of which are online), but I feel very connected to her. I take her as one of my teachers and guide. I have immensely benefited from her teachings. There are very few of her talks available online but even with that less material her teachings have been very powerful and impactful. Her teachings helped me through a difficult period of my life (that I brought upon myself due to poor choices I made). Her calming voice, clarity of thought, the silence in the pauses she takes make for beautiful and powerful talks. I am eternally grateful to her for that.
I do not want to say that I am saddened by Ajahn Vayama’s death. Given her long illness I was mentally prepared for it. Also, I am happy that she lived her life well, full of kindness and compassion, practised the dharma with full dedication, and was well taken care of during the period of her illness. Thank you for dedicating the last ten plus years of your life to take care of her. I heard you speak for the first time at Ajahn’s commemoration ceremony, and it was nice to hear from you. The story of your rebellious streak at your first retreat was a strong reminder of my sense of ego acting up when I interact with my family and friends. The wall clock story served as a reminder for me to make mindfulness a daily practice. I was also inspired to hear how Ajahn related to her illness and was a reminder for me on how I respond to hardships in life.
Although I cannot be there in person to volunteer, I promise to do my best to support you in your journey as nun. Please let me know how I can help.
Ayya Vayama is the first Nun who came to Gidgegannup Western Australia.
Ayya Vayama wanted to establish Theravada Buddhism, to encourage the teaching, practices and realisation of the Dhamma.
Ayya Vayama opened the path for ladies to practice Dhamma. Her unconditional kindness and metta went on to spread the truth of Dhamma that helps us to practice Dhamma by keeping the five precepts or eight precepts.
May all of Ajahn Vayama teachings help her to attain Nibbana.
by Divshah Muthuarachchi age : 8 , Perth Western Australia
Ajahn Vayama has played such a big part in ours and our children’s lives. She was always there to guide us through all the hardships and loss we faced over the years.
We first met Ajahn Vayama when she took up residence at Dhammasara, living in a caravan all by herself without any electricity or water. We went to visit her and offer Dana regularly when she was there.
Earlier this year, Ajahn Vayama mentioned to us through Ayya Seri that we were the first to offer her Dana on that land. To hear that from her, gave us so much honour and joy, as we hadn’t recalled this before.
She was an admirable teacher to many, always warming everyone’s hearts with her light and wisdom. These are many great reasons as to why we have stuck by her, as well as Ayya Seri for all these years now.
I used to teach Dhamma School at BSWA many years ago. I remember approaching Ajahn Vayama knowing that she was a busy, being the Abbott of Dhammasara Nuns’ Monastery, and asking her to conduct the Youth classes for the older teenagers. She had eagerly said yes and took on the challenge for many years. Watching these students listen with open ears to her teachings and grow a closeness, was remarkable and inspiring. She was a true teacher that these kids looked forward to coming back each time.
In 2014, my husband Eddy, had ended up in hospital having to get a triple bypass. Before surgery he was as you can imagine worried and anxious. Ajahn Vayama was aware of this and had guided Eddy to remain positive and think of all the good he has done in helping others. It astounded me the caring, calmness and positivity she had for others no matter what the situation.
Our children have great respect for Ajahn Vayama for the guidance and support she gave them all during their high school, university and adulthood . She encouraged them to carry out volunteer work locally and overseas and follow their dreams wherever that may lead.
Ajahn Vayama was strong in her sickness and she always had a smile on her face. She never showed any distress she felt during her long illness. Her strength in facing her illness, made us all aware of her strong discipline and practice in the Dhamma. She set an example to all her devotees to be strong in old age, sickness and death and the awareness of anicca.
We are beyond blessed to have had Ajayn Vayama in our lives and she will be dearly missed.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
Eddy, Manel and family
I first met Ayya Vayama (then Ajahn Sister Vayama) when I arrived in Perth 20 years ago. My late mother Sonia and I would bring dana to the converted shed next to a caravan she was living in at Dhammasara. Ajahn would always offer a precious Dhamma reflection before accepting the food. I remember once some powerful words she gave on impermanence and it struck me that this scene would one day be the memory that it is now. I rarely missed any of Ajahn Vayama’s Friday night Dhamma talks or weekend retreats at Safety Bay. She was a very articulate speaker whose talks were full of useful and wise reflections on life. On the retreats she would sometimes employ innovative and playful methods to help us with mindfulness practice. “The fish” was a wooden instrument which she would tap at varying speeds while we stood around the room taking a step with each tap – the instructions being to stop when the fish stopped. She distributed sweets for an exercise in observing taste sensations as they unfolded. She helped my mum through her bout of cancer in 2008 and Sonia would mention to me for years afterwards the gratitude she felt towards Ayya Vayama for her counsel. We visited her at Patacara in the early days but Sonia’s own failing health meant that I didn’t go for some years. Upon returning a few months ago, now with husband David, Ayya Vayama was incapacitated with Ayya Seri continuing to devotedly care for her. We both remarked on how despite Ayya being physically imprisoned in her body the sense was of being around someone who radiated peace and was not trapped. We came away each time feeling quiet and happy. May you rest in peace dear Ayya Vayama and may you have a wonderful rebirth.
‘AN INVESTMENT IN THE WORLD’
Last evening I found out that an old friend who played a significant part in my life had died. She was Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri, founding Abbot of the Dhammasara Nun’s Monastery in Perth. My sleep was filled with memories of Vayama, and as soon as I woke I went to the computer to write this. I’m not sure Vayama would approve of my writing it in my nightgown, but I hope she would nod and smile at its content, a familiar, knowing twinkle in her eye.
I met Robyn Pashley as she was then in 1981 or 1982, when, as Hunger Project volunteers, we attended the same meeting. I had come to Sydney to try and break into the world of Theatre, and was again looking for a place to live. Robyn’s parents had died, and she was living with her two dogs in the family home. She offered to rent out her basement flat to me if I was interested, and I didn’t hesitate. I sensed that there were similarities between the two of us – sincerity, a sense of humour and love of animals were just three – and even though I had only known her such a short time I felt I could trust her. I accepted Robyn’s offer, and moved in immediately.
Then in her late 20s and having trained as a social worker, Robyn had been interested in Buddhism since 1977. She told me the story of how, on her first trip to Sri Lanka, she had seen two monks in bright orange robes crossing a busy street. In the mysterious way that our future sometimes comes calling on our present, she knew in that instant knew what she would do with her life.
Robyn had turned an upstairs bedroom into a meditation room, with books on Buddhism and Hinduism lining the shelves, and decorative cushions on the floor. It was these books that introduced me to the Noble Eightfold Path and the Yamas and Niyamas of Hinduism, laying the foundations for my own spiritual seeking. I would often join Robyn as she meditated, and even back then she was a very strict practitioner. She would sit ramrod straight for an hour never moving a muscle, while I twitched, yawned, scratched, and frequently opened my eyes to stare resentfully at the clock that ticked away so slowly. The worst thing about meditating for me were the memories and fears that crowded my mind, making it a painful experience rather than a blissful one. I became better at meditating over the years, but certainly never mastered it the way Robyn seemed to do right from the beginning. Browsing some of the online tributes this morning, I was amused to read that a visitor to the Centre once remarked on the lifelike statue in the grounds. The ‘statue’ she saw was Vayama meditating.
At that stage of my life I was going to make the world a better place through the medium of Theatre. I had acted and directed at University, and also wanted to write plays. But back then – some would say as now! – I lived in a dream world, and wasn’t very practical. To earn money I would spend all day in an office (when I could get relief work) and in the evening could be found acting in a community play in some far-flung suburb of Sydney, often with only half a dozen people in the audience. As time wore on I became exhausted and discouraged, felt I was getting old and going nowhere. My friends were all married with families and mortgages, and I was an expat rolling stone, chasing a dream downhill. I had no money, and increasingly no hope, and thought myself ridiculous. But I continued pushing myself until one day I collapsed in a sobbing, shaking mess.
Always compassionate, generous and practical, Robyn had a hunt through some brochures and placed one of them in front of me saying ‘This is what you need.’ The brochure was advertising a Sunnyasin course (Sunnyasin means ‘renunciate’ in the Hindu tradition) to take place soon in a forested area of New South Wales. Several months long, the course wasn’t cheap, probably around $1,000.00 in today’s currency. I read through the brochure and thought I’d like to register, but knew I couldn’t afford it. ‘I’ll pay for it’ Robyn said simply, and when I protested saying I would never be able to pay it back, she said. ‘It doesn’t matter. It’s an Investment in the World.’ As it turned out, I needn’t have felt so bad about taking Robyn’s money. Soon after this she came to me, a twinkle in her eye, and showed me a cheque she had received as a surprise insurance rebate. It was made out for the exact amount of money she had paid for my course – plus 13 cents!
The renunciate course I did thanks to Robyn’s generosity was life-changing, and one of the outcomes was I trained as a Yoga teacher, subsequently teaching part time for some years. The months I was there was the beginning of my love for India and its spiritual traditions.
I returned to New Zealand in the late 1980s and started working as a Lecturer in a Polytechnic, my Theatre dreams behind me. I kept in touch with Robyn, now Sister Vayama, and in robes. She was living with just one other Nun on a Nun’s Island in Sri Lanka, and I visited her there in 1993 on my first trip to India.
Vayama and her companion shared their fascinating island with huge anthills that dotted the landscape, large monitor lizards that could be seen soaking up the sun on the paths, and venomous snakes! Vayama had a small dog (I’ve just forgotten her name) who had swum across from the mainland, and who Vayama had saved from drowning. She loved her dearly, and the dog was a good lookout for the Nuns.
One day I was in my little hut when I heard her barking, and ran down to the water’s edge. Vayama was there with a broomstick, bravely trying to ward off a cobra who had come ashore. Sadly Vayama was too late, the dog had been bitten, and although she was given antivenom was dead within the hour. I sat outside and listened as the Nuns chanted prayers for her, and then the three of us, as well as another little puppy who had arrived during my stay, set out on a procession to the other end of the Island to bury her. After nearly a month I continued on my way to India, and as the boatman took me across to the mainland, Vayama waved me goodbye. I will never forget her final words to me: ‘Don’t forget your good intentions’ she said.
The memories I have recounted are all vivid, though not nearly exhaustive. My intention is not to outline my friend’s life, that’s been done elsewhere. I just wanted to share some common memories as a way of paying tribute to her. In the intervening years Vayama continued to climb in the Theravada Buddhist world as her innate qualities of intelligence, compassion, generosity, sincerity and self discipline, as well as her leadership and communication skills were recognised. She knew the Dhamma intimately, and practised it impeccably. We continued to correspond a little – her letters often arrived at just the right time for me, emotionally, often pulling me out of a dark place – but eventually the letters stopped.
Just three years ago, I decided to try and find her online, and discovering she was serving as Abbot in a forest monastery in Perth, wrote to her. I was thrilled when an email came back, dictated to her assistant, Ayya Seri. By that stage Vayama was wheelchair bound, suffering from a degenerative disease called Multiple System Atrophy. She was still as clear-minded as ever, and as active as she could be in service of the Dhamma and Sangha (the Buddhist community).
We wrote again for a while, and then stopped again. Just last night she suddenly popped into my mind, and I wrote to Ayya Seri to ask how she was, only to discover that she had passed away in November. I was deeply saddened that I hadn’t made more of an effort to keep up our correspondence in the two years that had intervened. If I needed yet another reminder that we shouldn’t ignore our promptings to reach out to others, then this was it.
Vayama’s passing has hit me as age bears upon me, as well as many of my friends and family. Loved ones are fading, and many have passed. I recall Wordsworth’s words: –
“What is the worst of woes that wait on age?
What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow?
To view each loved one blotted from life’s page…”
Vayama may no longer be here in the flesh, but she made a beautiful contribution to Life’s page, and will be remembered and loved by many. I am just one.
A Buddhist scripture states: “To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.” Vayama had both.
Rest now, my friend, your work this time round is done. Thankyou for your inspiration and friendship. I’m sorry for any grief or pain I ever caused you.