Ayya Ñāṇadīpa

Ayya Ñāṇadīpa was born on April 11, 1975, in South Vietnam.  In a predominantly Buddhist country, she grew up in a non-Buddhist family. In 1989, at 13 years old, she and her older brother left Vietnam as part of the last wave of the boat people.  They ended up in a refugee camp in Malaysia.  After staying there as a refugee for 6 months, the  Christian group Social Lutheran in Minnesota sponsored her to America. As an unaccompanied minor, she was taken in and raised by foster parents in Minnesota. 

In a 1996 chance encounter, she attended a 7-day meditation retreat led by an eminent Buddhist monk, Venerable Khippapañño (Kim Triệu). This was her first introduction to Buddhism and it was a profound experience.  One year later, she was invited to attend the Vesak Day ceremony at the Sakyamuni Buddhist Meditation Association in Riverside, CA. She was so impressed with the life of Buddhist nuns whom she met at the Vesak Day ceremony, she decided to spend the rest of her life as a Buddhist nun and received ordination under the guidance of Venerable Khippapañño.

After her ordination, she stayed at the Riverside Temple for 5 years. During this time, she learned the elementary teachings of the Buddha and also participated in voluntary work at the temple.

Recognizing that she was not deeply rooted in Buddhism, her teacher, the Venerable Khippapañño, advised her to go to Myanmar, one of the Theravada Buddhist countries in South East Asia, in order to practice meditation and to pursue the study of the Buddhist scriptures. Taking the kind advice of her teacher by heart, she left for Myanmar in early 2001.

In Myanmar, she planned to take the entrance examination to attend the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University, which is a government-operated institution.  While waiting for the entrance examination, she practiced insight meditation known as Vipassana at the main Mahasi Meditation Center in Yangon. After practicing strenuously for one year under the guidance of Sayadaw U. Jatila, she took the entrance examination at the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University in Yangon.

To take advantage of her precious time while waiting for the result, she went to Sri Lanka and studied basic Buddhism at a nunnery located in “Gonopala Junction,” in Columbo. She had a memorable time there, learning Buddhism and Sinhalese from the well-versed Sinhalese nuns.

In late 2002, she received a congratulatory letter from the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University, Myanmar, for passing the entrance exam. She was admitted to the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University in the academic year 2003-2004 and completed her study in 2013.

During school breaks at the Buddhist Missionary University, she spent most of the time at various meditation centers, practicing both Calm and Insight meditations to further pursue her spiritual path. She also assisted the local meditation masters as an interpreter during interviews with foreign meditation practitioners.

The centers where she practiced meditation are Mahasi Meditation Center, Chanmya Meditation Center, Pa-Auk Meditation Center, Kyunpin Meditation Center, Panditarama Meditation Center, Shwe Oo Min Meditation Center, and Dhammajoti Vipassana Meditation Center.

While staying in Myanmar, besides dedicating time to study and practice, she also devoted time to organize fundraising events to encourage local donors to practice dāna pāramī. During the same time, she successfully helped to establish two monasteries for Myanmar nuns, one in Kalaw, Southern Shan State, and the other in Mingaladon Township, Yangon. 

As political riots broke out in Myanmar in 2021, the Myanmar government ordered all foreigners to return to their respective countries for their safety. Therefore, on June 18, 2021, she returned back to the United States.

After returning to the United States in 2021, her spiritual teacher Venerable Khippapañño asked her to help organize meditation retreats at the Riverside Temple. She assisted Venerable Khippapañño with the meditation retreats continuously for nearly two years, until December 15, 2022.

At the end of 2022, she unexpectedly received an offer from Ayya Susila & Ayya Kosala to assist the Mahāpajāpati Foundation as the abbess of the Mahāpajāpati Monastery. Though she felt a bit reluctant at first, she decided to accept the responsibility after carefully considering the challenges and impacts on her spiritual path.

In the United States, most of the temples are devoted to monks and it is rare to find a temple dedicated to women who devote their lives to learning and practicing meditation Buddhism. Out of compassion for women, Ayya Ñāṇadīpa decided to assist the Mahāpajāpati Foundation in trying to develop the bhikkhuni order. With sincere confidence in herself, she is committed to trying her best to guide the future women generation to be beneficial not only for themselves but also for spreading Buddha’s teachings. Women’s status must be uplifted in three respects: morality (sīla), concentration (samādhi), and wisdom (paññā). 

Ayya Ñāṇadīpa is looking forward to building a peaceful and loving Mahapajapata Monastery.  She is welcoming all Dhamma friends, especially those who have been kindly supporting the Mahapajapata Monastery. Together we will build Mahapajapata Monastery into a haven for those who seek refuge in the Budhha, Dhamma, and Shanga.

With loving kindness,

Ayya Ñāṇadīpa