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Ayya Medhanandi was born Mary Fiksel in Montréal, Canada. After university and working with the elderly and disabled, she went on pilgrimage to India. There, an Advaita sage became her guru and for several years she lived as a nun in the rural villages. She continued to receive guidance from him until his death thirteen years later. Following a postgraduate degree at Tufts University, she served as a project manager of international aid programs in Thailand, Senegal, Ecuador and Nepal. In 1987, she took ordination in Myanmar with Sayadaw U Pandita and later joined the Amaravati Nuns' Community in England where she spent ten years under the tutelage of Ajaan Sumedho. Since 1999, she has been based in New Zealand.