Ayya Khema

Year of birth : 1923
Place of birth : Berlin
Teacher/Guru : Ven. Narada Maha Thera, Ven. Hsing Yun


“ If the whole universe can be found in our own body and mind, this is where we need to make our inquires. We all have the answers within ourselves, we just have not got in touch with them yet. The potential of finding the truth within requires faith in ourselves. ”

“ If we divide into two camps-- even into violent and the nonviolent-- and stand in one camp while attacking the other, the world will never have peace. We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without recognizing the degree of violence within ourselves. We must work on ourselves and also with those we condemn if we want to have a real impact.” 

“ In the spiritual path, there’s nothing to get, and everything to get rid of. Obviously, the first thing to let go of is trying to “get” love, and instead to give it. That’s the secret of the spiritual path. One has to give oneself wholeheartedly. Whatever we do half heartedly, brings halfhearted results. How can we give ourselves? By not holding back.”

Books by the Master

" Come and See for Yourself: The Buddhist Path to Happiness " ...

" When the Iron Eagle Flies: Buddhism for the West " …  ... " Self-Image or Self-Knowledge " ...

" Being Nobody, Going Nowhere: Meditations on the Buddhist Path " ... " Meditating on No-Self " …

" Visible Here and Now: The Buddha's Teachings on the Rewards of Spiritual Practice " …

" 12 Steps on Buddha's Path: Meditations on the Buddhist Path " … " Buddhist Women at the time of the Buddha "

" Be an Island: The Buddhist Practice of Inner Peace " …  " Who Is My Self?: A Guide to Buddhist Meditation "…

" I Give You My Life: The Autobiography of a Western Buddhist Nun " ... " Meditative Mind " ...

" Within Our Own Hearts " ... " All of UsBeset by Birth Decay and Death " ... " Know Where You're Going " ...


Ayya Khema (August 25, 1923 - November 2, 1997), a Buddhist teacher, was born as Ilse Kussel in Berlin, Germany, to Jewish parents. Khema escaped Nazis persecution during World War II. She eventually moved to the United States. After travelling in Asia she decided to become a Buddhist nun in Sri Lanka in 1979. She was very active in providing opportunities for women to practice Buddhism, founding several centers around the world. In 1987 she co-ordinated the first ever International Conference of Buddhist Nuns. Khema wrote over two dozen books in English and German, including her autobiography: I Give You My Life

Four years after the American liberation of the camp, Ayya Khema was able to emigrate to the United States. Between 1960 and 1964 she travelled with her husband and son throughout Asia, including the Himalayan countries, during which she learned meditation. Ten years later, she began to teach meditation throughout Europe and Australia. Her experiences led her to become a Buddhist nun in Sri Lanka in 1979, when she was given the name of "Khema" (Ayya means Venerable) meaning safety and security. In Sri Lanka she met her teacher the Ven. Matara Sri Ñāṇanārāma of Nissarana Vanaya who inspired her to teach jhana meditation. As it was not possible at the time to organize an ordination ceremony for bhikkhunis in the Theravada tradition, Ayya Khema then received complete monastic ordination at the newly built Hsi Lai Temple, a Chinese Mahayana temple under the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order, in 1988.

She helped to establish 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 Centre as a training centre for Sri Lankan nuns, and the Parappuduwa Nun's Island at Dodanduwa. She was the spiritual director of Buddha-Haus in Germany, established in 1989 under her auspices.

In June 1997 "Metta Vihara", the first Buddhist forest monastery in Germany, was inaugurated by her, and the first ordinations in the German language took place there.

Ayya Khema has written twenty-five books on meditation and the Buddha's teachings in English and German; her books have been translated into seven languages. In 1988, her book "Being Nobody, Going Nowhere" received the Christmas Humphreys Memorial Award.

Ayya Khema drew her last breath on November 2, 1997 at Buddha Haus, Uttenbühl (part of the village Oy-Mittelberg) in Germany after a brief illness.