The Aloka Vihara sisters are a community of bhikkhunis (fully-ordained nuns) 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 sisters are embracing and integrating the realities and challenges of contemporary society into their practice.
Ayya Anandabodhi first encountered the Buddha’s teaching in her early teens, which ignited a deep interest in the Buddha’s Path of Awakening. She has practiced meditation since 1989, and lived in Amaravati and Chithurst monasteries in the UK from 1992 for 18 years. In 2009 she moved to the U.S. on invitation of the Saranaloka Foundation, to help establish Aloka Vihara, a training monastery for women, where she now resides.
She took leave of the Ajahn Chah lineage in 2011, in order to take full bhikkhuni ordination. The teachings and example of Ajahn Chah continue to be an influence and inspiration in her practice and teaching.
Ayya Santacitta was born in Austria and has a multifaceted background in hotel management, cultural anthropology and avant-garde dance theatre. Her first teacher was Ajahn Buddhadasa, who sparked her interest in Buddhist monastic life. She has practiced meditation for over 25 years and trained as a nun in both the East and West since 1993, primarily in the lineage of Ajahn Chah. Since meeting Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche in 2002, she also integrates Dzogchen teachings into her practice.
Ayya Santacitta is co-founder of Aloka Vihara, where she resides since 2009 and received bhikkhuni ordination in 2011. She is particularly interested in learning from nature and bringing faith traditions to the climate movement.
Sister Jayati was born in England in 1974. She first encountered the Buddha’s teachings at the age of twelve while attending a retreat with the F.W.B.O. (Friends of the Western Buddhist Order). She felt a deep sense of resonance with the teachings on Metta and made a commitment to cultivating this in her life. Since 1986 she has continued attending retreats and developing a meditation practice which increasingly became the most important reference point in her life. This eventually led to her decision to ordain as a novice nun at Amaravati Monastery in 2007, in order to fully devote her energy to the practice.
After spending three and a half years in training at Amaravati and Chithurst Monasteries she decided to join Ayya Anandabodhi and Ayya Santacitta in the work of developing a Theravadan Buddhist monastic community for women. Having respectfully taken leave of the Siladhara Sangha, she moved to the U.S. in June 2012. In 2014 she was then given bhikkhuni ordination at Aloka Vihara with Ayya Tathaaloka Theri as preceptor.
Marina – Vihara Manager
Marina was born in Perm, Russia. She has a BA in architecture. After emigrating to the United States in 1991 she worked in the architectural field for 6 years. In 1998 she switched to software quality assurance. After 13 years of a successful career in technology and the appearance of “having it all together”, Marina realized it wasn’t who she was. She left her high paying job to focus on her Buddhist practice and contemplate how she could live in the way most meaningful to her. She then worked to complete a Life & Career Coaching certification program. However, in her heart she knew that her Buddhist practice was the highest priority in her life.
Marina has been practicing in the Theravada tradition since 2008. She met Ayya Anandabodhi and Ayya Santacitta in the Summer of 2011. She was one of the volunteers at their bhikkhuni ordination and has continued to be a committed supporter ever since. Marina has met more than one good friend through her involvement with the vihara and deeply appreciates being part of this community. She moved to Aloka Vihara as its manager on July 30th of 2014.