Ayya Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni
In one of the precepts i’ve been writing about recently, the arahant theri Bhadda Kapilani — one of the foremost woman disciples of the Buddha — addresses her fellow bhikkhunis as “Amma” – in that case meaning “Dear Ones”. I was touched by this and wrote to Ven Thanasanti calling her this :-).
Btw, “Bhadda” is the feminine form of “Bhadanta” or “Bhante”. “Bhadda” is what the Buddha himself called three of the greatest ladies in his Sasana: his former wife Yasodhara was called Bhadda Kaccana, Maha Kassapa Thera’s former wife was called Bhadda Kapilani, and the bhikkhuni Foremost in Speed to Gain Enlightenment was called Bhadda Kundalakesi. “Bhadda” means “fortunate, honored, revered, venerable, auspicious, blessed, beloved.”
In the Bhikkhuni Vinaya of the Pali texts, the bhikkhunis mostly use “Ayya” to address both each other and to address the bhikkhus, so all of our Pali formulas us “Ayya”. 2nd century inscriptions still showed “Ayya So and So Bhikkhu” as well as its use for bhikkhunis. I first encountered “Ayya” in this lifetime with Ayya Khema, whose Dhamma teaching and courage i greatly admire.