You can imagine how their eyes grow round when Ayya Khema's students are treated to tidbits of her life. "There was that time with the anaconda in Brazil.... We crashed on a cliffside Himalayan road on our way to meet the mir of Hunza.... Torched by rebels, and I had to decide what to do with my nuns on our island..." Of course, her students badger her to write a book. The Jewish/German refugee, California housewife, Australian farmer, global nomad, and Buddhist nun comes through with a quiet, methodical story, that, if written in any other way, would seem more hyperbole than biography.
At the age of 55, when most people are mulling how many tulip bulbs to plant for next spring, Ayya Khema took Buddhist vows. She then established three monasteries, arranged Buddhist women's conferences, and gave teachings on a lost meditation technique at venues around the world. And that's only the second half of the book. With 25 titles to her credit and an established reputation, Ayya Khema hardly needed more publicity. Fortunately, she gave in to her students' goading, offering not only a fast-paced story but a model of freedom, energy, and accomplishment. --Brian Bruya
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From Library Journal
Very possibly, the central figures of these two books?one German, the other British?met during their Buddhist training and charitable work. They undergo similar transformations, abandoning established middle-class lives to adhere to strict Buddhist rules of self-denial, meditation, and hardship. Khema, however, escaped Nazi Germany and had a remarkably peripatetic life that entailed two marriages and much travel. Her telling of her search for Buddhism and life as a nun dwells on the facts of her travels and good works rather than inner thoughts. Despite professions of humility and selflessness, she appears arrogant and proud. But perhaps this impression comes from the process of dictation and a translation from German that is full of cliches and inappropriate expressions. On the other hand, in Cave in the Snow, Mackenzie, a journalist with a special interest in Buddhism, recounts with passion and beauty the story of Tenzin Palmo (nee Diane Perry), which involved 12 years of living in an Indian cave, snowbound for eight months of each year. She delves into Palmo's motivations, feelings, thoughts, and teachings, presenting the facts of her life while preserving the anguish, desire, conviction, and conflict that accompanied her conversion to Buddhism. The result is thoroughly engrossing.?Kitty Chen Dean, Nassau Coll., Garden City, NY
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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