Remembering Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri on Her 70th Birthday – Story 1 : Please do not point your feet to the shrine or the teacher


by Ayya Seri Bhikkhuni

I attended my first weekend retreat at Safety Bay with Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri in 1998 or 1999.

I was not familiar with the Theravada tradition and practice at that time. I rushed from work and arrived at Safety Bay at 5.30pm for the weekend retreat.

I rushed into the meditation hall and sat on the floor with my feet unintentionally pointing to the shrine. Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri said to me: “The lady in the red T-shirt, please do not point your feet to the shrine or the teacher. It is disrespectful to the Buddha and the teacher.” She said it firmly but gently. I politely put my feet away and sat cross legged. However, I was not happy the whole weekend and was even rebellious towards Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri.

During the group walking meditation session, Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri instructed us to walk according to the beat of her wooden fish. I intentionally walked slow when the beat was fast, and intentionally walked fast when the beat was slow. It caused a bit of disturbance to the retreatants.

Even though I was not happy with Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri for ‘telling me off’ on my first weekend retreat, her firm and gentle instruction left an impression in my heart.

I attended a few more weekend retreats with Ayya Vayama Bhikkhuni Theri later. I recognized her willingness to teach and give instructions for the benefit of her students.

I entered monastic training in June 2002 with my teacher.


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