Monday, July 19, 2010

A Soldier's Journey

Claude Anshin Thomas was a young hapikdo and zen student when he was sent to fight for his country in the jungles of Vietnam.
A few years ago I stumbled upon his book, At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace, and I still cannot get it out of my head. To sum it up, the work is a compilation of Thomas' memoirs of the pain of battle, the trauma of returning home, and his difficult search for peace in post-Vietnam America.
Explains Zen at Warrior author Brian Victoria:
"Thomas was deeply moved when (Zen master) Thich Nhat Hanh (said): 'You veterans are the light at the tip of the candle. You burn hot and bright. You understand deeply the true nature of suffering'. He also informed them that the only way to heal, to transform their suffering, was to stand face-to-face with suffering, to realise the intimate details of suffering and how their life in the present is affected by it. By doing this, the Vietnamese master explained, the veterans had the potential to become a powerful force for healing in the world." --
Since 1994, Thomas has walked over 19,000 miles as part of "peace pilgramages" and is the founder of the Web site, "A spiritually based foundation committed to ending violence by encouraging and establishing socially engaged projects in schools, communities, organizations, and families, with an emphasis on the most important ingredient, the individual." --
Anyway, the book just sticks with you in a haunting yet positive way. It gives real insight into the hardships of a modern-era warrior monk. A monk who realizes the value of peace over violence.

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