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Sarasvati's Gift

The Autobiography of Mayumi Oda--Artist, Activist, and Modern Buddhist Revolutionary

Mayumi Oda


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The inspiring life story of pioneering feminist artist, activist, and Buddhist teacher Mayumi Oda told through her own words and original thangka paintings.

Sitting in meditation in front of a statue of Goddess Sarasvati, Mayumi Oda heard her say in a loud voice, "Stop the plutonium shipment!" After taking a stunned breath, Mayumi replied, "I can't do that. I'm only an artist," and Sarasvati answered, "Help will be provided." This book is the culmination of a life devoted to responding to Sarasvati's call to cultivate a path of peace, justice, and compassion.

Known as the "Matisse of Japan," Mayumi Oda is a painter, environmental activist, and Buddhist practitioner whose life reflects both the brilliance and shadows of modernity. Sarasvati's Gift explores her upbringing in Japan, her tumultuous marriage and the death of her son, her immigration to the country responsible for the destruction of her home, her inspiration for both her Buddhist practice and her art, and ultimately her commitment to the planet that gives her life both hope and meaning. This raw, heartfelt, and powerful memoir shares Mayumi's story of finding her place and her mission to transform the world.

Praise For Sarasvati's Gift: The Autobiography of Mayumi Oda--Artist, Activist, and Modern Buddhist Revolutionary

Sarasvati’s Gift is a revelation of the glory of Mayumi’s determined artistry, filled with all the kindness, beauty, and power that flows from the indomitable feminine, divine as nature, of nature, in nature, gentle and nurturing and ferocious in the defense of life.”—Robert A. F. Thurman, Jey Tsongkhapa Professor of Buddhology, Columbia University

“An extraordinary book by an extraordinary woman. This remarkable work is a plunge into courage and beauty.”—Joan Halifax, author of Being with Dying and Standing at the Edge
“Mayumi’s vivid, original images of women as goddesses show us a new way to think about Zen Buddhism and, actually, about life. This book tells her marvelous journey from childhood in Japan during the Second World War into her life as a notable artist and activist. A book of great simplicity, sweetness, and beauty.”—John Tarrant, author of The Light Inside the Dark and Bring Me the Rhinoceros

“Attempting to endorse Sarasvati’s Gift is akin to praising the moon and the stars. This is a book of extraordinary resonance, love, and beauty. Mayumi’s heart surpasses all measures of courage in her devotion to the earth.”—Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World
“Mayumi Oda’s action for life on Earth, whether it’s praying, sobbing, organizing, protesting, or farming, is as transformative and captivating as her magnificent creation of eclectic, bold, and enchanting celestial/terrestrial femininity.”—Kazuaki Tanahashi, author of Painting Peace: Art in a Time of Global Crisis
Sarasvati’s Gift soars on the wings of Mayumi Oda’s pure, persevering, and fiercely loving heart and hands. It models ways to walk in beauty and with grace for everyone who feels called by the emergence of the feminine in this time when restoring balance and equilibrium to the human-nature experiment is so urgent and timely.”—Nina Simons, cofounder and Chief Relational Strategist, Bioneers
“Readers interested in Buddhist art or feminism will find this straightforward, impassioned memoir rewarding.”—Publishers Weekly 

“The color reproductions of [Mayumi Oda’s] paintings serve as a welcome complement to her life story, a sensitively told account of the formation of her artistic vocation and antinuclear activism. Oda’s memoir is, at its core, an urgent appeal to the younger generation to salvage our world before it is too late.”—Buddhadharma

Shambhala, 9781611808155, 160pp.

Publication Date: November 10, 2020

About the Author

MAYUMI ODA is a groundbreaking Buddhist teacher, painter, and activist who doesn't separate her art, activism, and Buddhist practice. Born in Tokyo in 1941, she went on to study painting and printmaking and to exhibit her work around the world. Since the early 1990s, while continuing to work as an artist, she has also devoted much of her time to activist causes such as women's rights, the antinuclear movement, and opposition to GMOs. She founded and lives at Gingerhill Farm, an active farm and educational center on the Big Island of Hawai'i.