Noted Zen Buddhist Monk Visits the Mount

“I am very excited for the great opportunity to meet this holy man who has dedicated his life to help others learn how mindfulness and compassion can transform our lives,” said Sister Ann Muczynski in her invitation to the sisters and oblates for an informal gathering at the monastery with Claude AnShin Thomas. Claude, a Vietnam War combat Veteran who became a Zen monk and peace activist, was in town for speaking engagements at Allegheny College and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie.

After hearing about the Erie Benedictines’ corporate commitment and Sister Ann’s work* with veterans, Claude agreed to come to the Mount for midday prayer, lunch and sharing.

In his time at the Mount Claude explained that he experienced physical, psychological and spiritual injuries as a result of the deaths of many people while serving in the Vietnam War, a story which he tells in his memoir, At Hell's Gate: a Soldier's Journey from War to Peace. “Healing is not the absence of suffering,” he said, “but rather, the ability to live in a different relationship with the suffering.”

Claude also shared that his introduction to Zen Buddhism and ultimate ordination as a Zen Buddhist monk helped him save his life. “It is mindfulness and compassion, peace and love that can transform us,” he said.

“What a privilege to have Claude share with us,” said Sister Anne Wambach, prioress. “Along with being an international speaker, teacher and writer, he is a true advocate of non-violence.”

*Sister Ann Muczynski is a board-certified clinical social worker and presently works in behavioral health at the Erie Veterans Affairs Medical Center, solely with veterans suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome) and/or MST (Military Sexual Trauma).