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At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace

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Overview

In this raw and moving memoir, Claude Thomas describes his service in Vietnam, his subsequent emotional collapse, and his remarkable journey toward healing. At Hell's Gate is not only a gripping coming-of-age story but a spiritual travelogue from the horrors of combat to the discovery of inner peace—a journey that inspired Thomas to become a Zen monk and peace activist who travels to war-scarred regions around the world. "Everyone has their Vietnam," Thomas writes. "Everyone has their own experience of violence, ...
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At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace

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Overview

In this raw and moving memoir, Claude Thomas describes his service in Vietnam, his subsequent emotional collapse, and his remarkable journey toward healing. At Hell's Gate is not only a gripping coming-of-age story but a spiritual travelogue from the horrors of combat to the discovery of inner peace—a journey that inspired Thomas to become a Zen monk and peace activist who travels to war-scarred regions around the world. "Everyone has their Vietnam," Thomas writes. "Everyone has their own experience of violence, calamity, or trauma." With simplicity and power, this book offers timeless teachings on how we can all find healing, and it presents practical guidance on how mindfulness and compassion can transform our lives.

This expanded paperback edition features:

   •  Discussion questions for reading groups
   •  A new afterword by the author reflecting on how the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are affecting soldiers—and offering advice on how to help returning soldiers to cope with their combat experiences

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Thomas's presentation of this difficult experience is searingly honest."—Shambhala Sun

"This gripping spiritual memoir bears witness to the transforming meditation and mindfulness in the life of a Vietnam Veteran."—Spirituality and Health

"Let me start by simply recommending that you buy, read, and think about Claude Anshin Thomas's book, At Hell's Gate. It was a long time coming but worth the wait, especially in this time of war and rampant violence."—Turning Wheel

"What gives Thomas's perspective so much weight is that it carries the rare and undeniable authority of one who has seen firsthand the extremes of both good and evil that lie in the human soul."—What Is Enlightenment?

"This is a book of great power. Thomas's story has the power to heal, to inspire, to teach."—John Laurence, former CBS News correspondent and author of The Cat from Hué: A Vietnam War Story

"A powerful, wise, and genuinely profound spiritual odyssey from the insanity of violence (in the world, within ourselves, and in the assumptions of American culture) to the peace and compassion of mindfulness practice. Thomas beautifully models Zen teachings in his daily life, and by doing so he enlightens and liberates us all."—Charles Johnson, winner of the National Book Award for Middle Passage

"Claude Anshin Thomas has been an inspiration to me. Our world urgently needs to listen to him tell of his life in war and then in peace."—Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Woman Warrior

"In these strange times, when fear and aggression often seem to be the only responses we can imagine to a perceived threat, this powerful book provides an honest, open-hearted, and very moving testimony to the power of Buddhist practice to break this cycle. Thomas is a hero in the truest sense of the word: having undergone an epic trial, he has generously come back to help others in need."—George Saunders, author of Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

"Thomas's journey from the killing fields of Vietnam to the path of peace and pilgrimage testifies to his—and our—powerful urge to awaken. At the same time, this is not a pretty story. Anshin Thomas has lived in hell, knows its smell and taste, and continues to confront it every day of his life. Yet he remains undeterred in his work to make peace in himself and the world at large."—Bernie Glassman, author of Instructions to the Cook and Bearing Witness

Publishers Weekly
In 1965, after a difficult childhood and an unruly adolescence, Thomas, aged 17, joined the army at his father's suggestion. He put in a combat-heavy tour of duty as a door gunner and crew chief with the 116th Assault Helicopter Assault Company in Vietnam, an experience that left deep emotional scars. After coming home, he endured drug-fueled suicidal, antisocial and violent episodes before turning his life around in the early 1980s as a result of studying with the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He now devotes his life to doing the work of "a wandering mendicant monk," and he wrote this short volume, he says, as a form of therapy, "something to help me keep a grip on my sanity." The result is a combination memoir, Zen primer and how-to book of meditative techniques. Thomas evokes his experiences in Vietnam and the emotional trauma he has gone through since the war with clarity and insight; the Zen lessons emphasize mindfulness and meditation. Thomas, unfortunately, repeats an egregious, unsubstantiated allegation about Vietnam veterans: that "more than 100,000" have committed suicide since the war. That is a myth, even though it is true that Vietnam veterans have had disproportionately high readjustment problems since returning from the war. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590302712
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/10/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 184
  • Sales rank: 327,049
  • Product dimensions: 5.45 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Claude Anshin Thomas went to Vietnam at the age of eighteen, where he received numerous awards and decorations, including twenty-seven Air Medals, a Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Purple Heart. Today he is a monk in the Soto Zen tradition and an active speaker and Zen teacher in the United States and Europe. He is also the founder of the Zaltho Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes peace and nonviolence (www.zaltho.org). This is his first book.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2011

    Phony Peacenik

    After reading this book I noticed a picture of the author next to Palestinian terrorists carrying guns and grenades smiling in the picture with their arm around the author. What kind of peaceful monk would pose a picture with these kind of people? Looks like Claud Anshin Thomas hates Israel and is a hateful anti semite. I wish I could join the anti war movement but I have noticed an increasing hateful and spiteful anti semitisem creaping into the anti war movement that only denounces Israel and stays silent on Palestinian terrorist attacks. Hypocrasy at its worst.

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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