Amma Thanasanti was born into a loving family of Jewish ancestry in Burbank, California. She was first introduced to Buddhist teaching and insight meditation in 1979 in a class taught by visiting Professor Jack Engler at University of California Santa Cruz. From that time she consciously committed to awakening and envisioned living her life as a nun. From the onset, Ajahn Chah, Dipa Ma and His Holiness the Dalai Lama were primary inspirations to her. Her teachers also included Christopher Titmuss, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfeild, Peace Pilgrim and the work and teachings of Gandhi.
After completing a B.A. in Biology from UC Santa Cruz, she worked for a few years as an analytical chemist. In1987 she went on a pilgrimage to India, Nepal and Thailand to meet, pay her respects, and to practice with His Holiness Dalia Lama, Dipa Ma, Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Buddhadasa.
In 1989, she formally joined the Ajahn Chah lineage and the community of nuns at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery to begin training as a novice. That began the process of intensive study and meditation practice. After two years as an Anagarika, she received Siladhara ordination in 1991 with Ajahn Sumedho as her preceptor. She lived at both Amaravati and Chithurst Buddhist Monasteries in England a total of 20 years.
For several years Amma was involved in the leadership team and guidance of the nuns' community at Chithurst and Amaravati. Since 1996 her community and monastic responsibilities were interspersed with teaching intensive meditation retreats in the US, UK, Switzerland and Australia.
In 2000, she took Bodhisattva vows with His Holiness Dalai Lama en-route to spending extensive time in retreat in the remote bush of Australia. From that point on, the place of compassion and relationship with nature became central to her life and practice.
In order to pursue her vision of how monastic and lay practitioners can work together in the modern world to create viable communities for practice in the United States, she took the significant step of leaving the formal affiliations of Amaravati and associated monastic communities and returned to the USA. In 2009 she founded Awakening Truth, a religious non-profit and 501 (c)3 organization.
In August 2010, after being a nun for 19 years, she was ordained as a Bhikkhuni at Aranya Bodhi Forest Hermitage, in the historic first dual Theravada Bhikkhuni ordination to be conducted in North America. Ayya Tathaaloka is her preceptor.
Currently she is based at the Awakening Truth Learning Center in Santa Rosa, California as a solitary alms mendicant nun where her time is interspersed between writing, teaching, time meditating in the nearby Annadale State Park and caring for her elderly Mom, Marley Fein.