Bhante Ānanda is a Buddhist monk trained in the Dhamma-Vinaya (Teaching and Way of Life) of the early times of the Buddha. Born in Le Bic, Québec, Canada in Februrary 17th 1988, his home-base is now the Heartwood Hermitage, near Nelson, British Columbia. There, a tiny house, nestled in a small cedar grove, currently acts as his kuti. This only tiny building, which constitutes the whole of this small hermitage, is temporarily located on a small corner of a supporter’s property.
Bhante lives there, collecting food by way of traditional alms round and daily offerings. He shares time overseas between Sri Lanka, at his monastic home (A forest monastery in Thanjan Tenna, near Balangoda), his hermitage in Canada, and around the world, where he teaches meditation retreats.
After graduating from high school in Rimouski, Bhante (then Daniel Brillant-Picard) left home for the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia. His love for nature inspired him to study Adventure Tourism in Gaspé, Québec, for three years. There, he received a strong training to become a guide for wilderness expeditions in remote natural areas.
He then shared his time between guiding people in the wild, climbing, canoe expeditions, kayaking, skiing, surfing and playing guitar. He worked as a fine woodworker from his own woodworking shop in Saint-Raymond de Portneuf, and as a cedar canoe builder in the upper Gatineau area, while also working in the fields of sylviculture and forestry.
Finally, in the years just preceding his going forth, his keen interest in sustainable and holistic living brought him to homesteading, green building and market gardening. Although successful in these spheres, a growing sense of disenchantment with the current western model of happiness started to grow deeper roots within his heart.
On his spiritual journey, Bhante Ānanda learned and drew from a vast spectrum of spiritual traditions and teachings. His quest for happiness and meaning, lead him to investigate many different styles of meditation and spiritual practices, including; Hatha Yoga, Zen meditation, binaural beat meditation, yogic meditation practices, mantra meditations, absorption concentration practices, heart-base practices and much more.
He started practicing yoga at the age of 18, from a book he found in his mother’s library, and his first interest in Hatha Yoga and Hinduism brought him to spend some time at ashrams and spiritual communities like Śivananda Yoga Farm in California, but mostly, practicing alone in nature always remained his main appeal.
He learned natural sweat lodge cleanses from in Amatlàn de Quetzalcoatl, a small mountain village, near Tepoztlàn, Morelos, in the heartland of Mexico, and, being Mik’Maq Métis by decent, he also sought for the native traditional wisdom of his Mik’Maq community in eastern Canada and other communities of North America.
His love for natural and holistic health systems also led him to learn and study natural health, medicine and spiritual traditions from indigenous and ancestral wisdom cultures, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Kabbalah, Jin Shin Do acupressure, Yoga and Qi gong.
“The Bhagavad Gīta was my bible for a while, this is where I encountered the practice of boundless Love for the first time, as one of the abidings or activities of Brahma, which one can practice to experience union with the divine, here and now, all of the time.
The work and teachings of Drunvalo Melchiezedek, who drew from many diverse ancestral and indegenous traditions on opening and accessing the heart-space had a profound impact on me. I was greatly inspired by Ramdas and Bhagavan Das also, in many ways, as western yogis, who seemed to be able to live in this way in the west.
Then I became enamoured with the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali and his ‘Eight-Limbed Yoga,’ the section on virtue deeply moved me to undertake a celibate and harmless lifestyle and the section on Samādhi inspired me to meditate and become a yogi. The urge and feasibility to dedicate my life to the spiritual path clearly gained momentum after reading the ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramahansa Yogananda. I visited ashrams and monasteries, and loved the life of service and bhakti yoga, but my main ashram always remained nature.
Because of the maddening pace of modern western society, a great deal of my practice, at that time, revolved around finding ground and stability, grounding my body and mind, to natural cycles, to healthy patterns, circadian rythms, to the elements and the doshas, within and without, and to live with both my feet on the ground.
Whether it was in the Yosemite Valley, the redwood forest of North California, Joshua Tree in the desert, Teotihuacán and the pyramids of the volcanic mountains of Central Mexico, the rainforest of the west coast in British Columbia, the Rockies, the Kootenay mountains or any of the American west coast’s natural hot springs or lake I could find, it felt natural to be alone and allow my practice to rest in those places.
Afterwards, I found the Dhammapāda, along with the early discourses of the Buddha himself (Suttas), and it changed everything. This is when I knew that the Buddha’s words were what I had been looking for all my life.”
Encountering the Dhamma
Bhante encountered the teachings of S.N. Goenka and in April 2015, at Dhamma Surabhi in Merritt, BC. From then on, he made the decision to dedicate his life to meditation. A few years later, in 2018, he renounced the household life, shaved off his hair, sold his 25 acres of forest in eastern Canada, along with all of his material possessions and became a long-term server at Dhamma Suttama, the Vipassanā Meditation Center in Montebello, Québec, setting out on his path to ordination.
He then studied the teachings of many famous teachers, namely Pa-Auk Sayadaw, Ajahn Brahm, Sayadaw, U Tejaniya, Ajahn Mun and Bhante Gunaratana. During that time, he visited and served at the Tisarana monastery in Perth, ON and the Pa-Auk Tawya Vipassanā Dhura monastery in Georgia.
Spending time serving well trained monks in forest traditions, Bhante gained much confidence in seeing monks shining by their good example and maintaining excellent Vinaya standards. This served as a great inspiration for his future practice. Seeing well behaved monks taught him the profound wisdom of the Vinaya taught by the Buddha, and its relevance, even in our modern times.
It is then that, Bhante Ānanda, encountered the teachings of the Venerable Bhante Vimalaramsi, his present teacher. Being highly impressed with his meditation technique and his deep wisdom, he decided to go forth (Pabbaja) at Dhamma Sukha Meditation Centre (DSMC) in Missouri, and spent a whole summer in the presence of Bhante Vimalaramsi.
During his stay at DSMC, he had the opportunity to sit on meditators’ interviews by Bhante Vimalaramsi’s side most of the summer, directly learning from him for several months, and to attend on him and his community. At the end of the summer, Bhante Vimalaramsi gave Bhante Ānanda his permission to teach, before he left for Canada.
A Forest Monk in Canada
Bhante Ānanda then moved to Canada as a solitary forest monk. His gratitude for the teachings he had received and his compassion for his home country, where the Buddha’s teaching is hard to find, drew him to bring his practice back to Canada, in the Kootenays, where he had practiced in the past.
A mountainside retreat centre, six kilometers from town (Mountain Waters), served as Bhante’s first winter refuge. Walking for alms required a steep and lengthy trek through the snow, with dependence primarily upon food banks and soup kitchens in place for those experiencing homelessness in the area. There was little knowledge regarding the life and needs of early Buddhist monks then, and even less direct support.
But after some time, interest started to grow around him and Bhante was invited to teach and lead guided meditations at various locations and studios in town. Slowly, a small community began to take shape, from various alms round encounters and teachings. Relying on the generosity of others for his sustenance, Bhante lived closely bound to this group of students and supporters.
& the Heartwood Hermitage
In March 2020, when the pandemic restrictions prevented the collection of alms food, a tiny house was purchased and installed on private land, twelve kilometres from Nelson, to serve as his kuti. There, Bhante was free to practice and study unencumbered amidst those agitated times. This tiny oasis of Dhamma in western Canada is now named the Heartwood Hermitage, and the HeartDhamma website was established to act as anchor for his teachings, translations, books, and for further developments. Since then, Bhante has taught many meditation retreats in the Kootenay area.
Thoughtfully teaching from his own sutta translations of the original discourses of the Buddha, Bhante also published Dhamma books on meditation and mental development. Bhante Ānanda has also been requested to offer weekly Zoom talks, and regular Sunday gatherings at the Hermitage, an opportunity, for those who are interested, to listen to the Dhamma, meditate and practice generosity by offering alms and support.
At present, a retreat center and hermitage is on the slow bloom in the Kootenays, in accordance with the earliest teachings of the Buddha, and boundless love meditation in the spirit of Bhante Vimalaramsi’s tradition (TWIM). Currently situated on private land, the Heartwood Hermitage is not ideally placed for expansion. When a new location is found for a community-owned monastery and retreat center, the kuti will be relocated.
Still in search of higher ordination and a good monastic community, Bhante left for Sri Lanka in November 2021. He finally saw his long-time aspiration fulfilled, in June 2022, and received Upasampadā (full bhikkhu ordination) in the Sri Kaliyani Yogashrama tradition (Galduwa), under his preceptor, Most Ven. Bhante Janananda Mahāthero and his achariya Ven. Bhante Waleboda Ñāṇananda Thero, in Thanjan Tenna, Sri Lanka.
Bhante's Lifestyle and Teaching
Embracing the whole of the Dhamma, Bhante’s approach tends toward Natural collectedness of mind (Dhamma Samādhi) through, what he calls the two wings of awakening; Joy and letting go. Which culminates in the direct experience of Nibbāna, by way of wisely developing the seven supports of awakening (Sambojjhaṅgas) and Boundless Love (Mettā).
Bhante draws upon his previous experience within many other spiritual traditions and brings the teachings he has received in harmony to the principles he has learned from his teacher, Bhante Vimalaramsi and his community, Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation (TWIM).
Apart from his main teacher, Bhante Vimalaramsi, Bhante Ānanda also finds inspiration for his own practice and teachings in other teachers, such as Ajahn Sucitto for his heart wisdom, Ajahn Vīradhammo for similar such qualities, Bhikkhu Bodhi for his deep and thorough knowledge of the early discourses.
In Doug Kraft, for his Easing Awake approach, and his profound understanding of Bhante Vimalaramsi’s teaching, for infusing it with such beautiful humanity, and for his remarkable ability as a speaker, and his capacity to bridge this unique teaching to his vast experience in modern psychology.
Bhante also finds inspiration in the teachings of Tara Brach, for her kind wisdom and her skill in drawing from various modern sources and different ancient wisdom traditions, in Ajahn Sujato for his deep knowledge of the suttas and early Buddhist history, an in Jaya Ashmore for her kind and wise approach with her Deep Rest meditation and Open Dharma, and many more…
Among his growing number of publications, he is the author of:
Open Heart: A Complete Guide from Boundless Love Meditation to Nibbāna
Bhāvanā: The Buddha’s Path to Awakening & Wholesome Mental Development
Pūjā: Recitals of Dhamma
Bhante Ānanda translates Suttas directly from the earliest Buddhist texts in the Pāḷi language, the spoken language of the Buddha, offering fresh insight to Buddha’s Teaching.
When not sitting at the root of a tall Cedar or Douglas Fir, Bhante Ānanda helps meditators in their own practice, teaches retreats around the world, studies and translates Pāli to modern English and French and he offers his work for free, in line with the true Dhamma, all available for free on our community’s website: heartdhamma.love.
“He [monk] takes the straight path; here the straight path is this: wise understanding, wise attitude, wise speech, wise behaviour, wise living, wise practice, wise awareness, and wise meditation (sammā-samādhi).
He dwells with his persistence aroused, [thinking,] “…if I have not attained what can be reached through human steadfastness and striving, there will be no relaxing in my persistence.”
[He] is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, an incomparable field of merit for the world.”
–AN VIII 13 A Thoroughbred