Remembering Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri on Her 70th Birthday – Story 32 : Enjoy the little things in life

STORY 32 – ENJOY THE LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri was admitted to ‘palliative care at home’ in June 2021. Even though she was very sick, she enjoyed all the small ordinary things in life.

She would choose the Dhamma talk whenever we listened to the talks together.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri was thrilled every time we took her out in the wheelchair to the shrine of Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage. She always took the opportunity to offer incense to the Buddha with my help, even though I nearly burnt her head with the incense! Her face lit up whenever I put the Buddha’s relic on top of her head.

She was very happy when we took her to see the Bodhi Tree in the garden. We wheeled her next to the Bodhi tree and let the Bodhi leaves touch and swing on top of her head.

She loved seeing and smelling the roses in the garden. She also enjoyed smelling, touching and watching the lemons grow on the lemon tree.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri was in audience and gave her full attention at the private and personal ukulele concert in the back garden. It was performed by her long-time friend, Brenda, who was visiting from Sydney.  

Her eyes were soft and gentle when her hands touched the doggy friends who visited her in the driveway of the Hermitage.

She used her expressive eyes, eyebrows and hands to communicate, and to find out how we were doing. The physiotherapist always appreciated Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri’s show of concern and care. Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri gave her full attention in listening to our stories with lovingkindness.

She always delighted whenever someone read to her. She enjoyed listening to suttas, stories, poems or news from the newspapers.

I learned a lot about being fully present in every moment in front of us. I also learned about the kindness, the gentleness and the appreciation of the small things in life.

Posted in 2022, Reflections, Tributes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri on Her 70th Birthday – Story 31: I cannot meditate this evening anymore

STORY 31 – I CANNOT MEDITATE THIS EVENING ANYMORE

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

I started the monastic life in June 2002 and spent my first Rains Retreat at the monastery. Before I entered the monastic life, I only had the experience of a few weekend retreats and a three-day stay at the Nuns’ Monastery.

I used to work six days a week. I enjoyed regular coffee and lunch outings at cafés, shopping and relaxing with friends. When I entered the monastic life as a trainee, I was unplugged from ‘normal’ life and planted into the monastery in the middle of the bush. There was no electricity (except the main Nuns’ Cottage), no television, no music, having only breakfast and lunch and consuming food that I was not used to. I lived with other trainees who were strangers to me. It was very challenging.

During my first three months of the Rains Retreat in 2002, Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri had scheduled at least once a month, a week of intensive group meditation practice. One afternoon of the intensive retreat, I had had enough and could not meditate anymore. I pleaded with Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri and asked her: “Please, please, please, can we not have a meditation session this evening? Can we listen to a talk instead? Please. I cannot meditate this evening anymore.”

I could not remember the response from my teacher. I just remembered her smile. We did not have meditation session on that evening. We listened to a talk. I was surprised by my teacher’s compassion and kindness. I was very relieved!

Posted in 2022, Reflections, Tributes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri on Her 70th Birthday – Story 30 : Who is the safe one

STORY 30 – WHO IS THE SAFE ONE

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

I went on a pilgrimage to India as a nun with Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri in 2006. One of our group’s pilgrims was sick and she had to be off loaded from the flight in Mumbai to go to the hospital.

Before the flight took off again, all of us had to identify our luggage. This was to avoid unidentified objects such as a bomb deposited on the flight.

Suddenly, a custom officer came into the middle of the flight and asked for the owner of an unidentified luggage. The whole plane was in dead silence. I could feel the tension and fear in the air.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri was sitting next to me. She pointed out to me that the group was feeling relieved as the sick pilgrim was off loaded and was going to get the help she needed. However, we might be the one to be blown up by a bomb inside the unidentified luggage on our ‘safe’ flight.

Life could change in a matter of seconds. It was a great lesson in the three characteristics of all phenomena: Dukkha (suffering), Annica (impermanence) and Anatta (non-self).

………………………….

Posted in 2022, Reflections, Tributes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri on Her 70th Birthday – Story 29 : Offering of flowers to the Buddha

STORY 29 – OFFERING OF FLOWERS TO THE BUDDHA

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

During our pilgrimage to India in 2006, we visited the New Delhi Museum to pay respect to the Buddha’s relic. The tour leader kindly prepared two bouquets of flowers, one for the monks and one for the nuns to be offered to the Buddha’s relic for the forgiveness ceremony at the museum. However, one of the bouquet of flowers was missing during the time we were inside the museum.

We had our forgiveness ceremony as a group led by the monks. As we were just about to leave, the tour leader found the other bouquet of flowers. I held the flowers in my hand, while the pilgrims from our group, as well as the pilgrims from Sri Lanka present in the hall, came to touch the flowers to join in the offerings.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri led the offering of flowers ceremony and chanted the gatha, like we did in the monastery regularly:

Vanna-gandha-gunopetam
Etam Kusuma-santatim
Pujayami Munindassa
Siripada-saroruhe.

Pujemi Buddham kusumena’nena
Puunena-m-etena ca hotu mokkham
Puppham milayati yatha idam me
Kayo tatha yati vinasa-bhavam.

This bouquet of flowers,
Beautiful, fragrant and excellent,
I offer at the holy lotus feet
Of the noble lord of sages

With these flowers I venerate the Buddha,
By this merit may I gain liberation.
As these flowers fade and wither
So will my body be destroyed.

It was a magical and inspiring moment. Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri and I had the opportunity to offer flowers with our own hands to the Buddha’s relic and chanted the gatha in a sea of white clothed pilgrims.

We bowed down to the Lord Buddha with great respect, gratitude and faith.

………………………….

Posted in 2022, Reflections, Tributes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri on Her 70th Birthday – Story 28 : Equanimity and lovingkindness

STORY 28 – EQUANIMITY AND LOVINGKINDNESS

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri was diagnosed with Multi System Atrophy, a degenerative neurological condition in February 2011. She needed high intensity care for her daily activities due to her disability especially during the last few years of her life. However, she was always equanimous and gracefully accepting her predicament.

I was her disciple for the last 23 years. Her only companion in monastic life and the full-time caregiver in the last eleven and a half years. I had not experienced or felt from Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri any ill will towards anyone. She was always polite and grateful for all the assistance that she received and patiently waited for the help. Even the physiotherapist was amazed by her equanimity and positivity. She told the physiotherapist she was feeling 6 out of 10 during the last week of her life.

She was also extremely considerate to others and full of lovingkindness.

One time, someone was taking me out to get a pair of shoes. She told me that she could not walk anymore and did not need any more shoes. She asked me to choose whatever was most suitable for me and not to worry about being frugal. She said I could get a pair of shoes for the both of us. I nodded. I paid respect to her before I left. When I turned around and walked out, I had tears in my eyes.

………………………………

Posted in 2022, Reflections, Tributes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri on Her 70th Birthday – Story 27 : “Please look after Ayya Seri”

STORY 27 – “PLEASE LOOK AFTER AYYA SERI”

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

On 15th October 2021, Ajahn Brahm visited Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage in Jane Brook. He came to see Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri who was admitted into Palliative Care at Home.

At that time, Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri asked not to be taken to the hospital anymore. Before Ajahn Brahm left, he asked her whether there was anything she would like to say to him or ask him.

I took out the spelling chart that was filled with the alphabets from A to Z and let Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri spell out her sentence. Since she was no longer able to speak, she squeezed my hand if she wanted to spell out a letter.

After some hard work, her sentence was: “Please look after A”. Ajahn Brahm guessed Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri wanted to say to him: “Please look after Ayya Seri.” She squeezed my hand.

I burst into tears. Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri was very weak and fragile at this time. She could have asked for a blessing or any other questions, but she was concerned about my well-being. I was very touched by her lovingkindness, compassion and care. She passed away five weeks later on 20th November 2021.

………………………..

Posted in 2022, Reflections, Tributes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri on Her 70th Birthday – Story 26 : Pavarana ceremony at ED

STORY 26 – PAVARANA CEREMONY AT ED

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri was determined and zealous in carrying out her responsibilities and duties as a bhikkhuni.

She was admitted to Palliative Care at Home in June 2021. Even though she was gravely ill, she would always participate in the Uposatha ceremony. The last Uposatha day we had together at Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage was on 4th November 2021. She passed away on 20th November that year.

I remember the early morning of 13th October 2019, the Pavarana day – the official end of the rains retreat ceremony for monastics, I had to call an ambulance to take Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri to the emergency department of the hospital.

I tried with difficulty to contact Bodhinyana Monastery in the early hours of the morning from the hospital to inform Ajahn Brahm that I might not be able to go the monastery for the Pavarana ceremony with the bhikkhu sangha. Fortunately, Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri’s condition stabilized very quickly.

We knew life could be very unpredictable and changeable.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri and I carried out the bhikkhuni’s Pavarana ceremony in the critical care area of the emergency department of the hospital. She was discharged a few hours later that day. She was stable enough for me to leave her in the capable hands of the support workers and so I travelled to Bodhinyana Monastery late afternoon for the Pavarana ceremony with the bhikkhu sangha. I was very concerned about her condition, but she urged me to go, and she said she would be alright and gave me a radiant smile. I paid respect to her before I left.

I have great respect and was inspired by Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri’s unwavering resolve and faith in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.

………………………………

Posted in 2022, Reflections, Tributes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri on Her 70th Birthday : Story 25 : The radiant smile

STORY 25 – THE RADIANT SMILE

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

All the lay supporters, volunteers, health professionals and support workers loved to come to Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage and loved to see Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri – her beautiful smile, radiating lovingkindness and peace.

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri could not speak much towards the last year of her life. But we were drawn to her beautiful smile, her aura of gentleness and peace. We were also comforted by her ease and compassion.

She remembered the names of the children and grandchildren of the support workers and volunteers and was always interested in what happened in their lives. She made every one of us feel special and important.

We always remember her beautiful, gentle and radiant smile.

………………………………

Posted in 2022, Reflections, Tributes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri on Her 70th Birthday – Story 24 : Gratitude

STORY 24 – GRATITUDE

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri remembered all the positive, kind and generous actions and incidents of people. She also treasured the generous offerings that she received.

She remembered the name of the donors who offered the shrine table at the monastery. She remembered the young woman who offered the shrine table for Patacara Bhikkhuni Hermitage with her first pay from work. She also remembered the people who offered the vases for the shrine and the people who knitted the beanies and woolen warm clothing for her. She even told me the person who offered her the lifetime membership of Buddhist Publication Society in memory of their father.

She still stayed in contact with Dayaseeli, the woman who only speaks Sinhala and who went to the Parappuduwa Nuns’ Island to cook for the nuns. Every year, Dayaseeli used to send us beautiful big Vesak cards from Sri Lanka. Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri would take time to get someone to write a letter back to Dayaseeli in Sinhala. She also continued to stay in contact with her childhood neighbour, Margery (in her late 80’s).

Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri was always very grateful for the help and support that she received. It was very difficult for me to inform Dayaseeli and Margery about her death.

………………………………

Posted in 2022, Reflections, Tributes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri on Her 70th Birthday – Story 23 : Bhava

STORY 23 – BHAVA

by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

I loved to go for walks in the bush at the monastery with Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri. It was a great opportunity to learn about the environment that I lived in and be more at ease with the beings I shared the space with. In addition, my teacher occasionally would offer some teaching during the walk.

When we were walking through the bush this time, Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri pointed to a dead tree log on the ground in the bush. She asked me what I could see. I said: “A dead tree log.” She said: “Look carefully again, what else can you see?” This time I noticed a small branch with green leaves was growing out from the dead tree log. It was unusual. Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri asked again: “What does the growing branch remind you of?” I said: “I don’t know.” She said: “Bhava.” She continued: “Beings strive to survive and continue ‘life’ in every given circumstances. Even in the dead tree log.”

I could not remember the rest of the teaching from her. But I saw a small branch growing out from a dead tree log during my walk a few days ago in Jhana Grove. I remembered Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri’s teaching to me.

Our desire for life after life is so ingrained in us. The practice of Dhamma is going against the grain, like the poem of Arahat Patacara Bhikkhuni: “Then having taken a needle, I pulled down the wick. The liberation of the mind was like the quenching of the lamp”. Until one day the fire extinguished.

The tree branch in Jhana Grove Meditation Retreat Centre May 2022

………………………………

Posted in 2022, Reflections, Tributes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment