This Fresh Existence

Heart Teachings from Bhikkhuni Dhammananda

By Cindy Rasicot

Bhikkhuni Dhammananda defied convention to become the first woman fully ordained in the Thai Theravada Buddhist tradition. Dubbed “Rebel Monk” by the Thai press, she faced enormous opposition by the media, the public, and senior orthodox Thai monks. She has given a fresh existence to the ancient tradition. 

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Photo by Anita Scharf

About the Author

Cindy Rasicot

Cindy Rasicot is a retired psychotherapist and author of This Fresh Existence: Heart Teachings from Bhikkhuni Dhammananda. In 2005 she travelled to Thailand with her family where she met Bhikkhuni Dhammananda — an encounter that changed her life forever. In 2020 she wrote the award winning memoir Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughter’s Spiritual Quest to Thailand. Her memoir is a soulful story of spiritual healing through her loving connection with Bhikkhuni Dhammananda. The book was a finalist in the international Book awards, The Sarton Awards, and Chanticleer International Book Awards.

Photo by Anita Scharf

Praise & Reviews

A beautiful dialogue with a wonderful and wise teacher. Dhammananda is a courageous pioneer, a nun who embodies blessings and points us to our inner freedom and compassion.

— Jack Kornfield author of A Path With Heart

We welcome this biography of Venerable Dhammananda Mahatheri, written by her close student Cindy Rasicot, which covers the life and challenges of the first Thai bhikkhuni, formerly known as Dr. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh. Included in this inspiring account are teachings by Ven. Dhammananda, showing her own clarity and depth of understanding. 

Actually, there was no one more qualified in Thailand to have taken on this historic role of restoring the Fourfold Sangha, as originally envisioned by the Buddha. Nonetheless, it took immense courage and innate dignity to receive this higher ordination for nuns in the face of the extreme criticism and personal denunciation that it evoked.

In the following years Ven. Dhammananda Mahatheri has trained generations of women in the monastic role and, despite ongoing opposition from high-level ecclesiastics, she has continued to inspire many women to go forth as bhikkhunis in the Theravadin tradition. We rejoice in her achievement and are grateful to the author for writing this important book.

— Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, author of The Heroic Heart, founder of Dongyu Monastery Gatsal Ling Nunnery, and co-president of the International Buddhist Conference

As told by her devoted follower, Cindy Rasicot, Venerable Dhammananda’s story is one of courage, patience, and most of all compassion. Tracing her journey from scholar and TV personality to one of the first ordained nuns in modern-day Thailand, Rasicot’s account of Ven. Dhammananda’s life paints an inspiring picture of the woman responsible for reviving the bhikkhuni order in Thailand.

— Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Life

Cindy has written an engaging and informative book about her beloved teacher Ven. Dhammananda, who through personal example has opened a viable pathway for Thai women to ordain as bhikkhunis in the Theravada tradition. We get a window into the considered thought, determination, and courage behind Ven. Dhammananda’s decision to take ordination in 2003, and her tireless efforts since then to support and train other Thai women to do similarly. Prior to ordination as a bhikkhuni, she took the Bodhisattva Vow, which perfumes her whole approach. In the chapters exploring topics such as anger, patience, forgiveness, despair, and loneliness, which draw on dialogues between Ven. Dhammananda and those who are turning to her for guidance, her honesty, accessibility, kindness, and empathy come across, as well as her forthrightness.

— Dharmacharini Anagarika Sanghadevi, co-founder Taraloka Buddhist Retreat Centre for Women, author of Living Together

Cindy Rasicot’s relationship with Bhikkhuni Dhammananda provides us with a precious opportunity to hear about Bhikkhuni Dhammananda’s extraordinary life, her teachings, and some of the challenges she faced as she helped pave the road for Theravada Buddhist women to ordain. Rasicot’s writing is elegant, sincere, profoundly inviting. With this book, we catch a glimpse of a remarkable teacher. What a wonderful contribution!

— Vanessa Sasson Author of Yasodhara and the Buddha and The Gathering: A Story of the First Buddhist Women

This Fresh Existence

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