Ayya Khema bhikkhunī

bhikkhunī & Buddhist Teacher

Ayya Khema's Writings

Ayya Khema wrote over 20 books on Buddhism and meditation, including: Being Nobody, Going Nowhere; When The Iron Eagle Flies; Who Is My Self? - A Guide to Buddhist Meditation; Be An Island - The Buddhist Practice of Inner Peace.

Ayya Khema bhikkhunī

Ayya Khema was born in Berlin in 1923 of Jewish parents. In 1938 she escaped from Germany with a transport of two hundred other children and was taken to Scotland. Her parents went to China and, two years later, Ayya Khema joined them in Shanghai. In 1944, however, the family was put into a Japanese concentration camp and it was here that her father died.

Four years after the American liberation of the camp, Ayya Khema was able to emigrate to America, where she married and had a son and daughter. Between 1960 and 1964 she traveled with her husband and son throughout Asia, including the Himalayan countries, and it was at this time that she learned meditation. Ten years later she began to teach meditation herself throughout Europe, America, and Australia. Her experiences led her to become ordained as a Buddhist nun in Sri Lanka in 1979, when she was given the name of "Khema", meaning safety and security ("Ayya" means "Sister").

She established Wat Buddha Dhamma, a forest monastery in the Theravada tradition, near Sydney, Australia, in 1978. In Colombo she set up the International Buddhist Women"s Center as a training center for Sri Lankan nuns, and Parappuduwa Nuns" Island for women who want to practice intensively and/or ordain as nuns. She was the spiritual director of Buddha-Haus in Germany, established in 1989 under her auspices.  In 1997 she also founded Metta Vihara, a thriving monastery not far from Buddha Haus. 

In 1987 she co-ordinated the first international conference of Buddhist nuns in the history of Buddhism, which resulted in the creation of Sakyadhita, a world-wide Buddhist women"s organization. H.H. the Dalai Lama was the keynote speaker at the conference. In May 1987, as an invited lecturer, she was the first Buddhist ever to have addressed the United Nations in New York.

Ayya Khema passed away on 2 November, 1997, at home at Buddha-Haus, in Germany. Buddha-Haus continues to teach retreats in German in Ayya Khema's tradition. 

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