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 trained as a nun in England and Asia from 1993 until 2009, 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 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 and bringing wisdom traditions to the environmental movement. Additionally she also offers teachings in German, her mother tongue.
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.
Before becoming a monastic, Ayya Niyyanika balanced life in Minnesota between work as an ontology consultant for building management and emergency response systems, and practicing with the Common Ground Meditation community.
She received her initial training with the Dhammadharini community from 2014 through 2019 and is currently practicing with the Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery community. Niyyanika Bhikkhuni gratefully practices monastic life within community and, through learning from the teachings and monastic discipline established by the Buddha, works for their own development on the path and the development of others.
Ayya Dhammadīpā has been practicing Buddhism since 1987. She became a resident at Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery in 2017, and was recently ordained a full bhikkhuni in the Theravada Forest Tradition in the West. Prior to taking up Theravada practice, Ayya 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. Her shift to the Theravada tradition is a natural extension of her longtime metta practice and study of the suttas.
In addition to English, Ayya Dhammadipa teaches in Spanish, an expression of her Latin heritage. She is a trained interfaith chaplain, and has provided spiritual care in both hospital and hospice settings. Ayya is mother to a lovely adult daughter, and enjoys watercolor painting and sewing. Learn more about her at Dhamma-dipa.com.
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.
Anagarika Shannon was born in 1976 and was raised by a single mother in Arizona. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school. She pursued scientific research in college and continued onto graduate school, being awarded a Ph.D. in Immunobiology from Yale University in 2006. After leaving research, she taught and mentored pre-health students at San Francisco State University. Additionally, she was very active in a peer-counseling community that focused on healing from early childhood and institutional oppressions. Although her life was full of inspiring and rewarding moments, she felt like something was still lacking, so she quit her job and set off to travel in Southeast Asia with an indefinite return in August 2015.
Anagarika Shannon first encountered Buddhism in 2015 when a friend played a Dhamma talk for her by Ajahn Chah. Although the translation used simple English words, the meaning was quite impenetrable to her, sparking deep curiosity about the Teachings. She attended her first meditation retreat later that year at Suan Mokkh Monastery in Thailand, not having any prior formal experience. A fellow yogi at the Suan Mokkh retreat told Shannon about the Saranaloka nuns in California. She returned to the US to visit Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery in May 2016, excited to practice with fellow Westerners. Shannon lived as a guest, an aspirant and then as an Anagarika until July 2018. She put down the monastic training at that time from a strong sense of “not being done” with lay life. Since then, she has strengthened relationships with her family and has lived almost a year in the Sierra Nevada, most recently as a Wilderness Ranger in Sequoia National Park. Shannon has returned to the monastic training with a heart of gratitude for the continued opportunity and a deep commitment to walk the Path to its end.
Maria was born in Cuba in 1955 and fled with her family to the United States, seeking refuge from an oppressive political regime in 1960. She has been involved in primary and secondary education for over 30 years, and retired from teaching Spanish in high school a few years ago. Maria has lived in Humboldt County in Northern California for 54 years, where she raised two sons and helped build her home.
She is an avid backpacker and has walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, as well as backpacked hundreds of miles in this beautiful country. Maria found the Dhamma five years ago and has never looked back. She often says, “It’s an honor to serve as Kitchen Stewart at Aloka Vihara. It is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life!”