Monday, July 21, 2014

Celebrating a Life Well Lived: In Memory of Dhamma Sister Mettapanna Nancy Gil

All conditioned things are impermanent,
arising and passing away;
when this rising and passing also ceases,
this then, is the bliss of perfect peace.

May 24, 2014

Dear Friends,

I haven't written to you for a long time now it seems. For those of you whom I haven't seen recently, I hope the transition of springtime into summer is finding you well, the path unfolding where you are, beautifully, in the way that is just right for you.

Today, May 24, is the memorial day of our dear friend, Mettapanna Nancy Gil at Insight Santa Cruz. Ayya Suvijjana and I met Nancy when she visited the Bodhi House several years ago, interested in exploring temporary ordination as an eight-precept nun. We talked over her aspiration, practiced the precepts together, and explored plans. Then her husband became ill and passed away. By then we had moved off to the hermitage, which was then even more rugged than it is now and whose hillside trails seemed too steep for Nancy, then in her eighties. Recently, I heard from friends in her women's Dhamma circle in Watsonville that Nancy had entered hospice care with late-stage liver cancer. She wished to have a goodbye party with all her sangha friends. And, she still very much wished to ordain, so we chose the following day. Friends sewed her a set of three white robes, and prepared to help me get down from our vihara in Santa Rosa to Watsonville by stages. It was a very good time together, so gladdening my heart.

Ayya Tathaaloka with Sister Mettapanna
Mettapanna Nancy was a very special lady. She came to Buddhism through Bob Stahl's teaching a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class at her local hospital in her later adult life, and the class went very well for her. At the end Bob said, "There is more to it than this" and offered his card and info about Vipassana Santa Cruz. Nancy showed up and was fully there, and in her late adult life became a Buddhist, asking me to undertake the refuges and precepts formally. It was important to her to have the connection with a female monastic teacher, as well as her lay friends at Vipassana Santa Cruz. Intuition told her that she might not always be able to travel so far (an hour or more between Watsonville and Santa Cruz). She asked and obtained permission to form a branch of Vipassana Santa Cruz that came to be called the "Watsonville Outpost" or the "Watsonville Sanghita," offering her home in a retirement community as the meeting place. She made her home open and she was there for people, for meditation groups, for friendship on the path, for sutta study, for women's Dhamma circle and, in her last year, for the "Year to Live" group going through Steven Levine's profound course. Nancy passed away in month eleven of that twelve-month course, the day after she realized her heart's wish to be ordained, two days before this year's Vesak Full Moon, the Blessed One's own day of final passing.

She died as a white-robed nun, as she wished. This was a profound thing for her community. For although such an aspiration is not so uncommon and is revered in Asia, it was not at all common in her family or amongst her friends, and it touched them very deeply, as it touched me too, with much loving-kindness and a sense of true blessedness.

Sister Metapanna passed away quietly only a few hours after her ordination with the blessings of her sisters in our women's monastic community at Aranya Bodhi, our Dhammadharini Vihara, Aloka Vihara, her women's Dhamma circle, teachers Bob Stahl, and Carla Brennen ~ a presence of peace, dear Dhamma friend, kalyanamitta.

May she go quickly to Nibbana, or have her wish to come back and be with us once again sharing in Dhamma, growing in the path, as a presence of great support and blessing to all those who know her.

And for us she leaves behind for now, may we too be a presence of peace, for ourselves, our hearts, and our world. It was good to have her here with us.

With great heart of metta,
and much loving appreciation,

Ayya Tathaaloka

From Dhammadharini Google Groups; reprinted with permission.

Ayya Tathaaloka: Bhikkhuni

Ayya Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni is an American-born Theravada bhikkhuni, Buddhist monastic scholar and teacher. She is the co-founder of Dhammadharini (Women Upholding the Dhamma), the North American Bhikkhuni Association, and Aranya Bodhi Hermitage. In 2006 she was a recipient of the 2006 Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award and a presenting scholar at the 2007 International Congress on Buddhist Women's Role in the Sangha. Ayya Tathaaloka was preceptor for the historically significant bhikkhuni ordinations held in Perth, Australia, and in northern California between 2009 and 2012. She is currently working with the Bhikkhuni Vibhanga Project in an effort to help new bhikkhunis be able to reclaim their full inheritance in the monastic discipline.

Photo credit:
Photo 1 by pareeerica via Compfight cc
Photo 2 courtesy of Ayya Tathaaloka.

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