Female Monastic Community
The community of nuns began in 1979 when four Western women became interested in the monastic lifestyle and were admitted as white-robed anagārikās (Eight Precept nuns) at Chithurst Monastery. For the first five years they lived in a cottage located on the edge of Chithurst Forest, about ten minutes’ walk from the monastery’s main house, observing a celibate, contemplative life. In 1983, with the permission of the Elders in Thailand, the first four anagārikās were given the opportunity to become Ten Precept sīladhārā nuns at Chithurst, with Ajahn Sumedho as a preceptor. (Normally an anagārikā may be admitted as a sīladhārā after two years).
In 1984 the nuns’ cottage was no longer able to accommodate the increasing number of women interested in leading a monastic lifestyle, and the whole nuns’ community, by then five sīladhārās and three anagārikās, moved to Amaravati Monastery. Some years later a small group of nuns returned to Chithurst Monastery to establish a second sīladhārā community there. In 2015, Ajahn Candasirī established a nuns’ hermitage, Milntuim, near Perth in Scotland which is her main residence. Currently, the nuns’ community main place of residence is Amaravati Buddhist Monastery.
Nuns – sīladhārās
Ajahn Sundarā was born in France in 1946. She studied dance in England and France. After working for a few years as a dancer and teacher of contemporary dance, she had the opportunity while living and studying in England to attend a talk and later a retreat led by Ajahn Sumedho. His teachings and experience of the monastic way of life in the Forest tradition impressed her deeply. Before long this led her to visit to Chithurst Monastery, where in 1979 she asked to join the monastic community as one of the first four women novices. In 1983 she received ordination as a sīladhāra, with Ajahn Sumedho as her preceptor. After spending five years at Chithurst Monastery she went to live at Amaravati Monastery, where she took part in establishing the nuns’ community.
Ajahn Sundarā spent the three years from 1995 until 1998 deepening her practice, mostly in forest monasteries in Thailand. In 2000, after spending a year as the senior incumbent of the nuns' community at the Devon vihāra, she went to live for some years at Abhayagiri Monastery in California. She returned to Amaravati in 2004 and has been senior nun here since then.
Ajahn Sundarā is interested in exploring ways of practising, sustaining and integrating Buddhist teachings in Western culture. Since the late eighties, she has taught and led meditation retreats worldwide.
Ajahn Candasirī was born in Scotland in 1947 and was brought up as a Christian. After university she trained and worked as an occupational therapist, mainly in the field of mental illness. In 1977, an interest in meditation led her to meet Ajahn Sumedho, shortly after his arrival from Thailand. Inspired by his teachings and example, she began her monastic training at Chithurst as one of the first four anagārikās.
Within the monastic community she has been actively involved in the evolution of the nuns’ Vinaya training. She has guided many meditation retreats for lay people, and particularly enjoys teaching young people and participating in Christian/Buddhist dialogue.
In 2015, Ajahn Candasirī established Milntuim Hermitage in Scotland, where she now normally resides.
Ajahn Bodhipālā was born in South-East Asia in 1940 and had three children with her now deceased husband. She also has five grandchildren. She studied applied mathematics and worked as a computer programmer for nearly twenty years. She was able to 'go forth' as an anagārikā in 1998 and received sīladhāra ordination in 1999. Venerable Ajahn Sumedho was her preceptor.
Her daily life in the monastery is challenging, since she has to simplify the complexity of her thoughts in order to give space to the intuitive knowledge to develop. Owing to her mathematical training, she is not surprised that this process involves a lot of patience and endurance, and is time-consuming. She considers her work in the monastery as a tool to measure her level of practice, and also as a litmus test of her ability in maintaining herself as an observer instead of as a doer. She realizes that no better place exists on earth for being able to observe the activities of her mind, and at the same time she can accumulate good deeds by serving the sangha at Amaravati.
Ajahn Cittapālā (Jutta Richter) was born in Germany in 1949. She worked for nearly twenty years as a teacher and artist in Hamburg. In 1990/91 she visited Indonesia to study awareness movement, a practice which connected her more and more with the Buddhist teachings. In 1994, overcoming her resistance to visiting a monastery, she followed a retreat with Luang Por Sumedho at Amaravati. His teachings on 'the way it is' were so supportive that she felt drawn to Amaravati, where she has been living since 1996. In 1999 she received ordination as a sīladhāra.
Ajahn Cittapālā now supports the sangha at Amaravati, where until recently she was involved with leading the family activities. She is still continuing to lead the Creative Weekends for adults. During these weekends, she is interested in exploring ways of practice which combine formal meditation with intuitive activities such as painting, play and movement as means of liberating insight. She uses her training in Source Breathwork, as a skilful means of using the breath to become aware and let go of unconscious holding patterns that are based on negative beliefs and reactions acquired during early childhood. She has integrated this into her own practice and teachings, focusing on cultivating loving awareness for the body and breath as gateways to a deeper understanding of how suffering arises and ceases and who we are and are not.
After a year on sabbatical, with visits, teachings and times of solitary retreat at different places in Thailand, Indonesia, Germany, Switzerland and the UK, Ajahn Cittapālā returned to live at Amaravati in November 2014.
Sister Tejasā (Crystal Tan Hankiang) was born in Singapore in 1971. She graduated in the UK from the University of Buckingham in accounting. Her first interest in Buddhism came through the teaching of the Pure Land in Australia. After reading a book of Ajahn Chah that her teacher had given to her she became interested in the vipassana practice. She spent a year at Cittaviveka Monastery to explore the teaching and practice of Dhamma of the Ajahn Chah tradition. She then decided to become an Anagārikā and in 2016 she received the Going-Forth (Pabbajjā) as a Sīladharā, with Ajahn Amaro as preceptor.
Sister Ñāṇasirī was born in Bangkok in 1976 in to a Buddhist family. She was brought up in Bangkok and lived in Thailand until she finished her masters degree in Industrial Engineering at Kasetsart University. Instead of following her career path, she married and moved to England to be with her husband. In her teenage years she had started to search for the purpose of life and become interested in the meditation. In 2014, after attending a retreat being taught by Ajahn Amaro, she became a regular guest at Amaravati. With support from her husband, she left home and took on the anagārikā training in May 2016. She divorced on friendly terms from her husband in order to completely pursue her path and took sīladharā pabbajjā in July 2019 with Ajahn Amaro as her preceptor.
Sister Jayavīrā was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She learned about the Buddha’s teaching through her father when she was young. She began practising Buddhism and meditation more seriously after she finished her training as a Chartered Accountant. She moved to Dublin in 2007 to further her career and has been visiting Amaravati and Chithurst as a regular guest since 2009. She decided to spend more time on her spiritual practice and moved from Dublin to stay in Amaravati in 2016. She took her anagārikā precepts in November 2016 and received the Going Forth (Pabbajjā) as a Sīladharā with Ajahn Amaro as preceptor in July 2019.
Anagārikā – Eight Precept nuns
Born in Hungary, in 1987.
Worked as a freelance caricature artist for more than 10 years. She started to meditate in 2016 and realized how the teachings of the Buddha changed her life in a positive way. She had been part of engaged Buddhist groups in Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition and visited the evening classes of the Dharma Gate Buddhist College in Budapest. The Thai Forest Tradition's approach – especially the teachings of Ajahn Chah - resonated with her on a really deep level. She spent some time in the retreat center of Bajna to offer help in the “to-be theravada monastery” in Hungary. After attending to several meditation retreats in different traditions she realized that to really live a life of renunciation and constant letting go - to give all her time to study the mind - became so important that after a short visit to ABM and CBM monasteries in 2018, she decided to ask for the anagarikaa training.
She took the precepts in August 2019.