Ayya Medhanandi (1949- ) was born Mary Fiksel in Montréal, Canada. After university and working with the elderly and disabled, she went on pilgrimage to India. There, an Advaita sage became her guru and for several years she lived as a nun in the rural villages. She continued to receive guidance from him until his death thirteen years later. Following a postgraduate degree at Tufts University, she served as a project manager of international aid programs in Thailand, Senegal, Ecuador and Nepal.
Ayyā Medhānandī Bhikkhunī, is the founder and guiding teacher of Sati Sārāņīya Hermitage, a forest monastery for women in the Theravāda tradition. The daughter of Eastern European refugees who emigrated to Montreal after World War II, she began a spiritual quest in childhood that led her to India, Burma, England, New Zealand, Malaysia, Taiwan, and finally, back to Canada.
In 1988, at the Yangon Mahasi retreat centre in Burma, Ayyā requested full ordination as a bhikkhunī from her teacher, the Venerable Sayādaw U Pandita. This was not yet possible for Theravāda Buddhist women. Instead, Sayādaw granted her ordination as a ten precept nun on condition that she keep her vows for life. When a military coup closed Myanmar’s border, Sayādaw blessed her to join the Ajahn Chah Thai Forest Saņgha at Amaravati, UK. Ten years later. Ayyā felt called to practice as a hermit nun in New Zealand for 6 years and later in SE Asia.
In 2007, after nearly 20 years as a novice alms-mendicant nun, Ayyā fulfilled her long-held wish for full bhikkhunī ordination at Ling Quan Chan Monastery in Keelung, Taiwan. In 2008, on invitation from the Ottawa Buddhist Society and Toronto Theravāda Buddhist Community, Ayyā returned to her native Canada to establish Sati Sārāņīya Hermitage.
The Food of Kindness by Ayya Medhanandi (2005; 84k/4pp., illustrated (80k)).