In Memorium

Image 1: Ayya Khema 1923-1997. Courtesy of Wisdom Publications.
Image 1: Ayya Khema 1923-1997. Courtesy of Wisdom Publications.

Being Nobody: Meditations on the Buddhist Path. She was ordained a Buddhist nun in Sri Lanka in 1979 and was one of the first pioneers to work on behalf of women in the dharma.

Born to Jewish parents in 1923, Ayya Khema lived in Berlin until she escaped to Scotland at the start of the war. Several years later she and her family, then living in Shanghai, were imprisoned in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, where she suffered the loss of her father. After the war, she traveled extensively throughout Asia, especially within Himalayan countries, and studied meditation.

She emigrated with her husband and their son and daughter to the United States in 1964 and subsequently began teaching meditation throughout the world. She established a Theravadin forest monastery, Wat Buddha Dhamma, near Sydney, Australia, in 1978. She also set up both the International Buddhist Women’s Center and the Parappuduwa Nun’s Island in Sri Lanka for women wanting to train intensively or to become ordained.

In 1987 she helped organize the first international conference of Buddhist nuns, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave the keynote speech. That same year, she became the first person to address the United Nations concerning Buddhism.

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