History of Dhammatiriya

In 2012 with Ayya Tathālokā’s visit to Aotearoa (a visit organized by Ayya Adhimutti, and supported by Ayya Adhimutti’s family, and Alison Hoffmann), the idea of establishing a place to support the flourishing of Theravada Bhikkhunis in New Zealand was first initiated by Ayya Tathaaloka [during her stay. Ayya Adhimutti also organized and hosted the first Vinaya Intensive during that time]. The primary aims were to support the deep practice, study and Dhamma sharing of bhikkhunis. With the higher ordination of Ayya Adhimutti as the first kiwi born Theravada Bhikkhuni, and with the support and encouragement of her preceptor and bhikkhuni mentor Ayya Tathaaloka, it was possible to start taking beginning steps towards the establishment of the Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha in New Zealand.

After the end of her visit in 2012 Ayya Tathaaloka created a website for an envisaged Zealand Bhikkhuni Trust and turned it over to Ayya Adhimutti’s Wellington university friend, Jamie Norrish (and in time Janice Hill). In order to hold the funds donated at a talk given by Ayya Tathaaloka in Wellington during her visit, Alison Hoffmann and Janice Hill opened a trust account under the name of New Zealand Bhikkhuni Trust and Janice added information about the trust account to the website. 

In early 2015, with Sr Rohini’s intention to go forth, Ayya Adhimutti was invited to Wellington to meet a group of lay people there. Present at the meeting were interested Sri Lankan friends and family, and a group of Ayya Medhanandi’s supporters. Then in November 2015 this group of Ayya Medhanandi’s supporters (comprising Alison Hoffmann, Karen Finch and Janice Hill, who continues with the NZBST to this day – anumodana!) and Jamie Norrish, stepped forward to establish the NZBST, in collaboration and consultation with the monastic advisors Ayya Tathālokā, Ayya Medhanandi and Ayya Adhimutti, and with lay advisors Willa-Thaniya and Eliza.

During 2016, having established a formal trust (NZBST) and inspired by the visit of Ayya Adhimutti to Wellington the previous year, the NZBST trustees invited like-minded former monastics Willa Thaniya Reid and Eliza Day to teach in Wellington to help raise funds. As a result a supportive bond was established with them.

Late 2016, early 2017 Ayya Tathālokā once again visited Aotearoa/ New Zealand, a visit organized and co-ordinated by Ayya Adhimutti, and supported by Ayya Adhimutti’s family, Dushyanthi Samarathne, friends in Hamilton, and Penelope Trevathan. During this period Ayya Tathālokā documented the important early history of the current Theravada Bhikkhuni revival, which resulted in the following article, outlining the 20th Century revival of the Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha: here. Also, inspired by Ayya Tathālokā’s second visit to New Zealand Penelope Trevathan, Dr Hiruni, and Dr Dushyanti Samarasinghe joined the NZBST.

Also, during the return of Ayya Tathālokā to New Zealand, Alison and Karen came to visit in Hamilton.  And the first NZBST meeting with advisors was held at the home of Willa and Eliza.   Present were Ayya Tathālokā, Ayya Adhimutti, Willa and Eliza, Penelope, Alison and Karen (while Janice Hill and Jamie Norrish dialed in from Wellington).  

During this first meeting a visioning session was held for supporting the establishment of Bhikkhunis in New Zealand.  Ayya Adhimutti further worked on and refined this vision during her time in Myanmar, as well as staying active as a monastic advisor of the NZBST.

In 2019, a generous Sri Lankan devotee donated a very generous amount towards the establishment of a hermitage for the bhikkhunis, and then a year later there was another substantial donation pledged, which made the vision of buying property and establishing a bhikkhuni monastery in Aotearoa/New Zealand possible. During this period of time Erica Weerakoon also joined the NZBST as did Prasanthi Amerasinghe.

With Ayya Adhimutti’s arrival back from Myanmar and her willingness to step into the role of founding and resident bhikkhuni of the monastery, and with a strong and supportive group of trustees, and the support of the local bhikkhus (Bhante Metteyya Thero having been quietly supporting and encouraging Ayya Adhimutti to found a place for bhikkhunis for more than a decade) and community, the long held vision to establish a place in New Zealand for bhikkhunis became possible.

Within two years, Dhammatiriya had become the umbrella platform for bhikkhunis associated with Ayya Tathālokā and Ayya Adhimuttī in New Zealand. Most recently, out of Dhammaitirya has emerged a new hermitage in Sri Lanka with deep connections to devoted mutual friends from New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Ayya Adhimuttī and Anagarika Upacala are practicing quietly and intently, steadily building both the internal and external supports for a thriving and deeply rooted community of bhikkhunis in New Zealand.