Bhikkhuni Sudhamma (born 1963) grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. After graduating from New York University School of Law, she practiced law in San Francisco for about one year, then became sick with cancer. The cancer taught her about impermanence, because it destroyed what she treasured: her good health, her career, and her marriage. At that time, she became friends with a Thai student visiting the USA, who introduced her to a Thai Buddhist bhikkhu.
Convinced that the Buddha’s teachings on mental training could help one to overcome suffering, and impressed with the good qualities of the Thai Bhikkhus, Sudhamma soon made the Dhamma the center of her life. After recovering from cancer she built a happy new life with a second career in helping disabled people; however, having learned how all things change, she preferred to seek the holy life. Thus, she left home in 1997, and wandered to the Bhavana Society in West Virginia, where Bhikkhu Gunaratana Nayaka Thera (of Sri Lanka) eventually allowed her to “go forth” as a Samaneri.
In early 2003 Ayya Sudhamma traveled to Sri Lanka , where she became the first American-born woman to receive Bhikkhuni ordination from the newly resurrected Sri Lankan Bhikkhuni community. Currently she runs the Carolina Buddhist Vihara, a small monastic residence located in Greenville , SC. It is the only known residence of any Buddhist monastics within a 95-mile radius. This region is known as “the buckle of the Bible Belt” for its loyalty to Christianity, yet the Vihara is well-supported by the local community.