cover image This Fresh Existence: Heart Teachings from Bhikkhuni Dhammananda

This Fresh Existence: Heart Teachings from Bhikkhuni Dhammananda

Cindy Rasicot. Windhorse, $18.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-915342-31-7

Rasicot (Finding Venerable Mother) presents a flattering and digressive biography of Bhikkhuni Dhammananda (born Chatsumarn Kabilsingh), who in 2003 became the first modern Thai woman to receive full monastic ordination. A Buddhist scholar and longtime host of a dharma TV show, Dhammananda had been married for over 30 years when, unfulfilled and lonely, she asked her husband for a divorce and was ordained as a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka. Rasicot met Dhammananda in 2005 and draws on their conversations to reveal, among other insights, how exposure to the feminist movement in the 1980s informed Dhammananda’s activist work, including her attempts to ordain female bhikkhuni in Thailand. Elsewhere, Rasicot discusses backlash from the Buddhist establishment sparked by Dhammananda’s ordination, and outlines lessons on meditation, aging, and compassion. While Rasicot’s insights into the lesser-studied world of female Buddhist monasticism fascinate, her tangents on the struggles that fueled her own spiritual quest, including a divorce and feelings of isolation amid the Covid-19 pandemic, are distracting. The result is a thorough if uneven portrait of a trailblazing Buddhist figure. (Apr.)