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At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace (edition 2006)

by Claude Anshin Thomas

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733164,469 (4.05)4
Member:mirrordrum
Title:At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace
Authors:Claude Anshin Thomas
Info:Shambhala (2006), Paperback, 184 pages
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Rating:***1/2
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At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace by Claude Anshin Thomas

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I read this when it was first released, and remember being quite struck, both by Thomas's story, and by some of the facts and figures about Vietnam veterans that he includes. The profound dysfunction, both social and psychological, that Thomas experienced after his return from serving in Vietnam left me greatly moved. I have not read many memoirs of this kind, so it may very well be that the author covers ground with which other readers are already familiar.

The author's eventual conversion to Buddhism, his growing sense of self, and his slow climb out of his own personal hell are extraordinary. I want to call them "inspirational," though I fear that the word has been so abused that, in using it, I might unintentionally occlude the really visceral nature of some of Thomas's experiences.

Suffice it to say, that despite having read this some time ago, certain passages still stand out quite starkly in my mind. In particular: the author's exchange with an angry veteran during his peace march across the country, in which communication finally becomes possible when the other man discovers that Thomas too is a veteran; the author's profound sense of dislocation and fear when visiting Thich Nhat Hanh's retreat in France, even though he is now a Buddhist. This last was a powerful reminder that the experiences of the past are never entirely behind us... Finally, I was struck by Thomas's assertion that an astonishing number of older homeless men are Vietnam veterans (I forget the exact figure). What an indictment of our nation! ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jun 13, 2013 |
This is a very personal and moving account of one man's journey from soldier to Zen monk. The author describes the anguish and guilt her felt over Viet Nam and how he learned to deal with it through mindfulness and meditation. ( )
  chihuahua | Jul 18, 2007 |
He was in Vietnam, and came back, very all out of touch, and not knowing how to relate, etc... and after years of stumbling around, started going to a Buddhist retreat, and got in touch, and figured out his suffering, and just really good the way he explains matters, and his life experience.

A good section on mindfulness. Clarity of thought, with specific examples how we are all part of war and suffering. ( )
1 vote 6thshephard | Mar 4, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159030134X, Hardcover)

In this raw and moving memoir, Claude Thomas tells the dramatic story of his service in Vietnam, his subsequent emotional collapse, and how he was ultimately able to find healing and peace. Thomas went to Vietnam at the age of eighteen, where he served as a crew chief on assault helicopters. By the end of his tour, he had been awarded numerous medals, including the Purple Heart. He had also killed many people, witnessed horrifying cruelty, and narrowly escaped death on a number of occasions.

When Thomas returned home he found that he continued to live in a state of war. He was overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, fear, anger, and despair, all of which were intensified by the rejection he experienced as a Vietnam veteran. For years, Thomas struggled with post-traumatic stress, drug and alcohol addiction, isolation, and even homelessness.

A turning point came when he attended a meditation retreat for Vietnam veterans led by the renowned Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Here he encountered the Buddhist teachings on meditation and mindfulness, which helped him to stop running from his past and instead confront the pain of his war experiences directly and compassionately. Thomas was eventually ordained as a Zen monk and teacher, and he began making pilgrimages to promote peace and nonviolence in war-scarred places around the world including Bosnia, Auschwitz, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and the Middle East.

At Hell's Gate is Thomas's dramatic coming-of-age story and a spiritual travelogue from the horrors of combat to discovering a spiritual approach to healing violence and ending war from the inside out. In simple and direct language, Thomas shares timeless teachings on healing emotional suffering and offers us practical guidance in using mindfulness and compassion to transform our lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:12 -0400)

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