by Paul (Anukampa Facebook Coordinator), 19th April 2023
What a blessing it has been to host Venerables Canda & Upekkha in our little cottage here in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire for a few days this month. Their presence transformed our humble abode into a mini Bhikkhuni Vihara while my partner Richard, our little beagle Amber and I vacated the house for their ease. Breakfast and lunch dana was offered daily, the regular Friday Night Sutta Discussion Class was broadcast live from our lounge and we got to know the learned Ven Upekkha a little better.
We also had the opportunity to do a memorable hike up and over nearby Pendle Hill. With its infamous connection to the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612 and the beginnings of the Quaker Movement with the divine vision of George Fox in 1652 on its summit, Pendle Hill has seen some important historic events including the sojourn of Mahatma Gandhi in a village close by in 1931. The visit of Britain’s only known resident Theravada bhikkhunis at present is no less significant, in particular for the History of Buddhism in Britain. They are probably the first ever fully ordained Buddhist Nuns to ascend her heights!
Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project has brought a lot of joy to my life since becoming a volunteer back in 2016 and this has been a highlight for us. Long may the Bhikkhuni Sangha continue to grow and flourish for the benefit of all living beings!
Paul Burton 🙂
In this thought-provoking and spontaneous interview, Ven Canda & Ven Upekkha speak to three male guests visiting Anukampa Bhikkhuni Vihara about if and why bhikkhuni ordination matters to them as male Buddhists, and what they feel bhikkhunis offer to them – and to the Buddhist world at large.
The conversation is mainly directed toward Ananda (Luke), a devoted 21 year old Buddhist aspiring to ordain as a bhikkhu, and Erlend from Norway, a 47 year old Buddhist who is heavily involved in supporting Ajahn Nitho to develop a monastery in Norway. Ananda’s father Patrick, who came to Buddhism through Taekwondo, offered a few words as well – so the voices of three generations are heard here. We thank Ananda, Erlend and Patrick for their kind participation and thoughts on this important matter.
May all beings fulfill their spiritual aspirations!
Crawling out from under a rock in Gidgegannup, I felt like a neanderthal arriving at Heathrow airport. Prepared with a stack of letters proving that it was alright to enter a country without money, I stood on the 300 or so long e-immigration line that was manned by two people. It may have been Ajahn Brahm and Ven Canda sending metta at the time, but more likely that immigration officers were on strike – I arrived in the UK safely, and my long-awaited visit to Ven Canda had finally come to be.
Peering into a computer screen in the mornings and putting on my thick coat to walk down the quaint streets of Iffley towards the Thames in the afternoons, I wonder at how transient life can be. Having joined a forest monastery almost 14 years ago, I would never have imagined I would be sitting in front of a computer in a small terraced house in Oxford. As our abbot at Dhammasara, Ajahn Hasapanna often says, ‘Whatever you least expected – is probably what will happen’.
It has been a privilege to be part of and witness the growing community taking shape around Anukampa Bhikkhuni Vihara. Having known Ven Canda since before we took bhikkhuni ordination together in 2014, I know how hard she has worked (and still does). A Bhikkhuni Vihara in the UK is a reality. There is a dana hall, a meditation hall, and rooms for nuns and lay guests.
More inspiring than the Vihara (not to be under-estimated, a roof over our heads!) are all those who have come by. Some long-term Buddhists and others inspired by Ven Canda’s ongoing Zoom sessions; the generosity and sincerity of everyone involved is palpable.
The highlight for me so farwas an invitation from the Oxford Buddha Vihara to teach on their eight-precept day. We were warmly welcomed by the bhikkhu community and Venerable Mahasena proudly introduced the two bhikkhunis in the neighbourhood to his supporters.
A long-term supporter of the OBV wrote afterwards in an email:
“It’s just dawning on me how yesterday was such a historical moment – the four-fold assembly meeting together at the Oxford Buddha Vihara in joy and harmony! Because it was so relaxed and informal it might be easy to miss the significance of the event, but I will always remember it.”
I have been very fortunate in my monastic life – to have the opportunity to practice as a fully-ordained nun, in a harmonious community in a vast forest. But I stand on the shoulders of giants. Those who had the guts to make it possible for women to live the Holy Life to its fullest – and those brave women and bhikkhunis who went before me.
May I be able to give back some of all that I have received,
Venerable Upekkha 🙂
Here at Anukampa Vihara we have had many delightful comings and goings, with each and every visitor enriching the community. Guests notice the peaceful, harmonious atmosphere – ‘It feels like a sanctuary, a spiritual home,’ they say. Perhaps it is the silent afternoons, the regular meditation and Dhamma talks, or the faith of the guests who might have driven hours to offer a meal; whatever it is, Anukampa Vihara has become more than the house that was occupied in November – it has become an oasis of calm in a busy and fast-paced world.
There has been a growing stream of overnight guests and drop-in visitors. Venerable Upekkha has doubled the Sangha’s presence and Grace looked after us well for seven weeks. The years of community building through “Zoomi Bhikkhuni” are finally bearing abundant fruit, with the majority of our residential guests having first met us online and since developed a lasting relationship with the community. From Norway to America (and this coming month from Perth!), everyone arrives with a heart of service, united in their aspiration to see the Bhikkhuni Sangha flourish and thrive.
After years of a solitary uphill slog, Anukampa is bursting to life, like the blossoms and leaves on the trees of Iffley Village. Thank you for supporting us in every way, both seemingly small and large.
Finally, to start the month of May on a high, we had the fortunate opportunity to invite two of the Oxford Buddha Vihara monks for lunch dana with us – Ven Mahasena from the Shan state of Myanmar who is currently acting abbot, and Ven Tuan from Vietnam who is studying for his PhD. The meeting was informal and filled with joy (and delicious food!). After lunch we had a fascinating discussion with Ven Tuan about the historical context of the Sarvastivadin and Early Mahayana teachings. We look forward to meeting our Dhamma brothers again at Ajahn Brahmali’s Oxford events – and hopefully seeing you there too!
Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhuuuuuuu!
It has been a long time since I wrote to you personally, and I am so happy to be back in touch.
In this letter, I share photos, memories and videos from Ajahn Brahm’s tour; upcoming regular teachings and special events; registration links for Ajahn Brahmali’s May 2023 retreat; and of course, more about Anukampa Buddhist Vihara – how you can be involved and come and stay in our sanctuary of spiritual friendship!