Summary: Claude Thomas was seventeen when he volunteered for active duty in Vietnam, where he became a crew chief on assault helicopters. By his eighteenth birthday he had been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people. When he returned home, like so many Vietnam veterans, he was haunted by his wartime experiences and also felt abandoned and rejected by civilian society. For many years he struggled with post-traumatic stress, drug and alcohol addiction, isolation, home ...show morelessness, and debilitating despair.
At Hell's Gate is Thomas's dramatic coming-of-age story and also a spiritual travelogue from the horrors of combat to discovering the Buddhist path to healing. "Everyone has their Vietnam," writes Thomas. "Everyone has their war. May we embark together on a pilgrimage of ending these wars and truly living peace."
The turning point for Thomas was attending a meditation retreat for Vietnam veterans led by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (best-selling author of Peace Is Every Step and The Miracle of Mindfulness). Here he encountered the Buddhist teachings on meditation and mindfulness, which helped him to stop running from his past and instead offered him a way of facing the pain of his war experiences directly and compassionately. Thomas soon became a serious student of Zen, studying closely with Thich Nhat Hanh and later with Bernie Glassman (author of Instructions to the Cook and other books). Thomas went on to become ordained as a Zen Buddhist monk and teacher.
In simple and direct language, Thomas tells the story of his life and offers what he has learned from the Buddhist tradition about healing trauma and ending war from the inside out. Today Thomas travels the world teaching meditation and speaking about his experiences in war. He also leads peace pilgrimages through war-torn and war-scarred places around the world. In At Hell's Gate, Thomas writes of these pilgrimages, including one he undertook in 1995, largely on foot, from the site of the concentration camps at Auschwitz to Vietnam. He also describes his 1998 pilgrimage across the United States, from New York to California. ...show less