Claude AnShin Thomas
Claude AnShin Thomas, began the practice of Zen through his study of martial arts (hop ki do) in 1961. Upon graduation from high school, he enlisted in the United States Army and volunteered for duty in Vietnam, where he served as an assault helicopter crew chief. Although he was awarded numerous medals and honorably discharged, he witnessed horrifying cruelty, narrowly escaped death on multiple occasions, and was responsible for the deaths of many people.
In the years after his army service, Thomas received a bachelor’s degree in English at Slippery Rock University and pursued a musical career that spanned 11 years, yielding four independent albums of what has been defined as socially conscious rock and roll. Throughout this period of his life, he was very politically and socially active, working for student rights, to end the war in Vietnam, and later to address the plight of many of his fellow veterans, who were being socially ostracized and suffering homelessness, drug addiction, unemployability, social isolation, and abnormally high rates of suicide, divorce, and imprisonment. He also became a master in another martial art, Shaolin Kung Fu, teaching as many as 500 students, and graduated from Lesley College with a master’s degree in management.
In 1991, Thomas joined the Vietnamese monastery and retreat center Plum Village in southern France, founded and guided by the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh. There he became awake to the devastating and lasting effects of war and how to make peace with the unpeacefulness. In 1995, he was ordained a Zen priest by Roshi Bernie Glassman, founder of the Greystone Foundation, New York City.
Claude AnShin Thomas is founder of the Zaltho Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to promote peace and nonviolence in and among individuals, families, societies, and countries, supporting all efforts to attain this goal through whatever peaceful and nonviolent means available. He is active in creating and working for socially engaged projects serving the disenfranchised, speaks publicly on the subjects of peace, nonviolence, and the waking up to and healing of suffering, both personal and collective, and leads mindfulness retreats throughout the world. He is also creator of the veterans retreat, The Costs of War, Violence & Denial: A Veterans Retreat Open to Their Families & Friends.
Thomas is author of At Hell’s Gate: A Soldier’s Journey from War to Peace, winner of the 2005 Omni Media, Nautilus Book Award for Best Autobiography/Memoir and the 2005 Spirituality and Health Magazine Award for Best Spiritual Book.