Thanissara, originally from London, started Buddhist practice in the Burmese school of U Ba Khin in 1975. She was inspired to ordain after meeting Ajahn Chah and spent 12 years as a Buddhist nun where she was a founding member of Chithurst Monastery and Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in the UK.
Thanissara has facilitated meditation retreats internationally for the last 30 years and has an MA in Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy Practice from Middlesex University & the Karuna Institute in the UK. With Kittisaro, she co-founded Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat in 2000 in South Africa, where they taught in-depth retreats, including annual month-long retreats. During their 28 years working in South Africa, they also co-initiated and supported several HIV/Aids response projects in rural KwaZulu Natal.
In 2017, Thanissara and Kittisaro co-founded the Non-Profit Sacred Mountain Sangha in Northern California, which hosts training classes, retreats, and events grounded in their unique synthesis of Insight Meditation and the Kuan Yin Dharmas. In early 2022, Thanissara co-founded PAEAN: Peoples Alliance for Earth Action Now, focused on Dharma-based climate activism.
Thanissara has written several books, including two poetry books, Garden of the Midnight Rosary informed by her monastic life and The Heart of the Bitter Almond Hedge Sutra informed by her time in South Africa. Thanissara co-authored Listening to the Heart with Kittisaro. In 2015, she was commissioned to write Time To Stand Up, An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth for the North Atlantic Books Sacred Activism series. Thanissara is a member of the Spirit Rock Teacher Council and currently lives in Sebastopol, CA.