Resident Community at Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery
The Aloka Vihara nuns are a community of bhikkhunis and samaneris dedicated to practicing the Buddha’s teaching in the style of the Theravada Forest Tradition. Their practice emphasizes simplicity, renunciation, service and an orientation towards learning from the natural world – all held within the context of the Buddha’s teaching. The nuns are embracing and integrating the realities and challenges of contemporary society into their practice.
Ayya Anandabodhi first encountered the Buddha’s teachings in her early teens, igniting a deep interest in the Buddha’s Path of Awakening. She lived and trained as a nun in the Forest Tradition at Amaravati and Chithurst monasteries in England from 1992 until 2009, when she moved to the US to help establish Aloka Vihara, a training monastery for women.
Her practice and teaching are guided by early Buddhist scriptures and through nature’s pure and immediate Dhamma. In 2011 she took full Bhikkhuni Ordination, joining the growing number of women who are reclaiming this path given by the Buddha.
Santacitta Bhikkhuni was born in Austria and did her graduate studies in Cultural Anthropology, focusing on dance, theatre and ritual. She also worked in avant-garde dance theatre as a performer and costume designer. In 1988 she met Ajahn Buddhadasa in southern Thailand, who sparked her interest in Buddhist monastic life. She has trained as a nun in both the East and West since 1993, primarily in the lineage of Ajahn Chah, and has practiced meditation for over 30 years. Since 2002, she has also received teachings in the lineage of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
Santacitta Bhikkhuni co-founded Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery in 2009 and received Bhikkhuni Ordination in 2011. Since moving to the U.S., she has also greatly benefited from Bhikkhu Analayo’s teachings on Early Buddhism and from the guidance of Khenmo Konchog Nyima Drolma. She is particularly interested in creating sanctuary close to nature, living in community and bringing wisdom traditions to the environmental movement.
Ayya Ahimsa was born in Vancouver, BC in 1959. Her first career was as an orchestral clarinetist. Then, in order to be at home more when her two children were young, she taught preschool music. When her children were in elementary school she herself returned to university to obtain a Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology which enabled her to work with children with developmental differences.
She began to meditate in 2006 and soon after knew she wanted to completely devote her life to training the mind and purifying the heart. In 2008 she was first introduced to monasticism through visiting Ajahn Sona at Birken Forest Monastery. Due to aging parents and teenagers still at home she was not able to leave the householder life and go forth until 2012. Ayya Ahimsa took Anagarika Precepts in January 2012 and then Samaneri Precepts in September 2013 with Ayya Medhanandi at Sati Saraniya Hermitage near Perth, Ontario. In June 2016 she joined the nuns’ community at Aloka Vihara and was given Bhikkhuni Ordination in August 2017 with Ayya Gunasari Theri as her preceptor.
Ven. Dhammadipa has been practicing Buddhism since 1987. She became a resident at Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery in 2017, and began samaneri training in the Theravada Forest Tradition in the West in 2018. Her shift to the Theravada tradition is a natural extension of her longtime metta practice and study of the suttas. She also serves as the Guiding Teacher of Dhamma-dipa.com, an online sangha with students worldwide.
Prior to taking up Theravada practice, Venerable was ordained a nun in the Soto Zen tradition in 2007, after 20 years of lay Zen practice. She is a Dharma Heir in the Suzuki Roshi lineage. In addition to English, Ven. Dhammadipa teaches in Spanish, an expression of her Latin heritage. She is a trained inter-faith chaplain, and has provided spiritual care in both hospital and hospice settings. Ven. Dhammadipa is mother to a lovely adult daughter, and enjoys watercolor painting and sewing.
At 20, she experienced the arrival of the third messenger, the death of her first love, which broke open the question what is life. She began searching by reading spiritual literature and Buddhist writings, and going to her first Goenka retreat in 2005. Five years ago she discovered the distinction of Theravada Buddhism. She was graced to find Bhikkhu Bodhi’s ‘In the Buddhas Words’ in her hands and felt she had finally found the truth. She is inspired by the suttas, Joseph Goldstein, Venerable Análayo, and Ayya Khema. Recently she went on a Dhamma Tour by bus to Theravada locations in the US. She is eminently grateful and fortunate to now be an Anagarika at Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery.
Anagarika Janice holds a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MFA in Video Art from Chicago Art Institute. She has a variety of life experiences such as: Systems Programmer, award winning Underground Video artist making puppet musical shorts, Live Radio Drama Director, collaborating artist working with youth at risk making videos and puppet shows, living in a small Mexican town for 16 years, Orphanage Librarian, member of the local drag queen community and sustainable gardening instructor.