There is a consensus that type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) arise from the thermonuclear explosion of white dwarf stars that accrete matter from a binary companion. However, direct observation of SN Ia progenitors is lacking, and the precise nature of the binary companion remains uncertain. A temporal series of high-resolution optical spectra of the SN Ia PTF 11kx reveals a complex circumstellar environment that provides an unprecedentedly detailed view of the progenitor system. Multiple shells of circumstellar material are detected, and the SN ejecta are seen to interact with circumstellar material starting 59 days after the explosion. These features are best described by a symbiotic nova progenitor, similar to RS Ophiuchi.