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I Give You My Life: The Autobiography of a Western Buddhist Nun Paperback – 1 Sep 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications Inc; New edition edition (1 Sept. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570625719
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570625718
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 66,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By adele redfern on 25 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Love, love, love it. This woman was amazing and she leaves me stunned by her life and how she has managed it. She writes simply and clearly and I found very engaging and was drawn into her life so much that I couldn't put it down. She includes some Buddhist teachings but nothing is heavy or pushed down your throat so I think that even non Buddhists would enjoy this book.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
From Ilse Kussel to Ayya Khema 9 Jun. 2004
By Robin Friedman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Ayya Khema (1923-1997)played an important role in the ongoing revival of Western interest in Buddhism. Her autobiography "I give you my Life" (1997), completed just before her death, tells the story of the development of her commitment to Buddhism and spirituality and of her decision at age 55 to become a Buddhist nun. Each chapter in her brief book is introduced by a verse from the Dhammapada, a seminal Buddhist scriptural text consisting of short poems, which illuminates in a telling way the portion of her life under discussion.
Ayya Khema ("Ayya" is an honorific title for Buddhist nuns while "Khema" was the name of a nun during the Buddha's lifetime) was born Ilse Kussel in 1923 in Berlin to a prosperous, assimilated Jewish family. The family fled Germany before the Holocaust and Ilse, as a teenager, travelled by steamer to Glasgow, Scotland before joining her family shortly thereafter in Shanghai. She married in her late teens and travelled to California with her husband where she worked in a bank, had two children, and appeared settled into an American middle-class life. As a result, she tells us, of a deepening sense of spiritual unrest, she divorced her husband and married a childhood acquaintance named Gerd, whose family had also fled the Holocaust. She and Gern lived a wandering type of life in South America and Asia, where her husband was an engineer. The couple ultimately settled in Australia, bought a farm and raised shetland ponies. This marriage too ended with Ilse's, continued search for spiritual wisdom and her growing interest in meditation. Ilse became a Buddhist nun at the age of 55, helped establish three Buddhist convents in Sri Lanka, Australia, and Germany, became a meditation master, worked ceaselessly to revive the Buddhist order of nuns, and wrote prolifically about Buddhism.
Ayya Khema lived an inspiring and full life on many levels and she tells her story well. Apart from her decision to become a nun, I learned a great deal from her willingness to make a radical change in mid-life. It is important to see how people may change and develop throughout their lives, and I was moved to see this realized in Ayya Khema's story.
In many ways, Ayya Khema's autobiography radiates sincerity and purpose and fulfills its goal of speaking directly to the reader. This is especially true in her introduction and in the sections of her book following her ordination where she explains what the Buddhist path has meant to her. The final pages of the book, written when Ayya Khema knew she would soon die, have a rare immediacy and poignancy.
Most autobiographies conceal as much about their subject as they reveal, and Ayya Khema's autobiography is no exception. The book gives a good picture of the externals of Ilse Kussel's life but, I thought, too little of what was going on inside. I found myself wanting to know more about Ilse's two marriages and the reasons for their failures. There is a brief discussion of Ilse's attempt to recover her spirituality through Judaism, and I would have liked to hear more. Beyond references to the suffering of life and to the inevitability of change, I would have liked more detail of Ilse's early study of spiritual texts. And I would have liked more details on the course she pursued during her meditation retreats and on what it was she learned from the Indian and Buddhist masters she reveres as her teachers.
This autobiography shows effectively Ilse Kussel's transformation into Ayya Khema. It shows what was important to Ayya Khema when she became a nun and how she worked to realize herself as a Buddhist nun. We see Ilse Kussel/Ayya Khema througout her life as an intelligent strong-willed and determined woman. I still do not fully understand, after reading this inspiring story, the internal process by which Isle Kussel became transformed into Ayya Khema.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
What a story! 9 Jan. 2001
By LuelCanyon - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Ayya Khema's beautifully written account of her life reads like a rocket ship! From barely escaping Hitler's evil in Germany as a young Jewish girl, through marriages, children, and a thoroughgoing journey of sparkling life through myriad cultures and continents, to Buddhist nun and founder of a monastery -Nun's Island in Sri Lanka- to the final beautifully poignant full circle back with the founding of Buddha-Haus in Germany, here is an authentic story of liberation and of a gifted woman's joy of religion. Spiritual-odyssey-memoirs are a dime a dozen these days, many of them barely worth the effort, but 'I Give You My Life' has a genuine spirit attending it; not only a wonderful memoir, it contains a few memorable moments of supremely confident religious experience conveyed without guile, and with admirable simplicity. It's a pleasure to read and ends too quickly, yet everything has been covered beautifully and fully. Khema effortlessly leaves her spirit with you, the mark of a true teacher - and probably of a buddha. It's a wonderful book.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Deeply Interesting 18 Sept. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I met Ayya Khema a number of times and found an extraordinarily strong & uncompromising personality, one incidentally I didn't like at all. I have never met anyone who felt ambiguous about her, it seems we either "loved her or loathed her" This book gives a lot of information on how that personality was formed. She tells it as it was, no sense of anything other than someone simply saying "I began my journey here and this is what happened along the way". It is the commonality of her journey, all of us Westerners are making a similar if much less dramatic journey to Ayya Khema, that makes this a book a worthwhile read.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Ayya Khema in a different light 10 Jun. 2007
By Floyd J. Fantelli - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have read all of Ayya Khemas other books and many of her Dhamma talks on but this book is written from the heart of Ayya Khema descibing her and her family's incredible journey from Nazi Germany to Shanghai, to US then to South America and finally her journey to the far east and back to Germany where she established Buddha Haus. This is such a well written book that I simply could not put it down and felt her genuine sense wanting to give us her life on every page. I felt connected to sister Khema from the first to last page. I highly recommend it. Floyd in Idaho
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
inspirational 11 Jan. 2002
By danyew - Published on
Format: Hardcover
i've read some of her other instructional books and have always found them to be very helpful . that sort of piqued my interest in the person itself , which is why i bought this book .
i hadn't quite expected to read about someone with such a florid history . i half expected her to be someone with a dreary life bordering on the mundane . she's really compressed a great deal into that life of hers .
more importantly , she speaks of herself in a matter of fact manner . it is this detached manner that i found enlightening . i recommend this book to others because i think its inspirational . which one of us doesn't need some inspiration every now and then .
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