Claude AnShin Thomas visits Military Resource Center
For the average college student, life, no matter how routine it feels, is about transition. For student veterans, that transition can be far more profound.
From Sept. 21 to 24, Zen Buddhist monk Claude AnShin Thomas caught glimpses of those transitions during a visit to the Radford University campus.
Thomas is a Vietnam veteran, veteran's rights activist and the author "At Hell's Gate," a memoir of his combat service. While at Radford University held a retreat at Selu Conservancy and spent time with student veterans at the Military Resource Center.
He also attended several classes, where he would begin his visit by setting up a small alter and making an incense offering.
"I did this partly for myself, but partly to see if anyone would ask me about it," Thomas said. "I was curious how it would unfold, but I found that the students were quite engaged. They were asking the things that were important, the obvious practical things, to explain the clothes I wear, what a day looks like for me, what my rituals mean."
According to Thomas, much spiritual practice is about the simple things a person does every day. He encouraged students to be conscious of their rituals and practices, and then, more so, their emotional state.
Thomas founded the Zaltho Foundation, a spiritually based non-profit, committed to ending violence by promoting mindfulness and positive change within individuals. In his support of fellow veterans, Thomas brings his teachings to the table, helping others realize that the past isn't something that can be left behind, even if it can be understood, managed and made a separate peace with.
"There's no 'getting on with your life' for the combat veteran," he said. "Waking up to that is painful if we don't have support to help us through the process."
Thomas' visit was sponsored in part by Radford University's Student Veteran Organization and SALUTE Honor Society, both of which are organizations that provide such support to student-veterans.
Additional support came from the Club Programming Committee and the Scholar-Citizen Initiative.