Walking the Tiger’s Path by Paul M. Kendel, Tendril Press, 2011
by Ven. Wayne Hughes (Ren Cheng)
The actions expected of soldiers, and the personal choices that they must make during war are the actions and choices we all experience but they are magnified a thousand-fold. In Walking the Tiger’s Path, SSgt Kendel offers a rigorously honest account of the thoughts that led to his own choices and the consequences of those actions that he experienced. He tells his story with a clarity and openness that allows his experiences and struggles with choices to become lessons that others can recognize. SSgt Kendel offers experiential proof that Buddhist teachings can have value in whatever situation we might find ourselves in.
What sets some Buddhist oriented writings apart from others are the lessons that can be realized by those who seek them out. This has been true with books as far apart in subject and presentation as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, to Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo. In Walking the Tiger’s Path, SSgt Kendel practices the Buddha’s teachings in the midst of violence, hatred and fear, not an easy task, but one he relates in a sincere voice. His courage in regards to an aspect of the Eightfold Path, Right Livelihood, can be a “mirror” to others who strive to walk the Middle Path in this time of economic uncertainty. We can commit to a purpose some might not view as “right” but with commitment and effort one person can have a positive karmic effect on how that purpose is pursued.
In an email Kendel writes, “The karmic consequences of my actions over the last six months have really been bothering me. I knew coming over here that I wasn’t going to make a real difference in the greater scheme of things because I’m just a soldier . . .” Throughout this revealing look at the difficult duty of a soldier doing his duty while trying to hold to his values SSgt Kendel causes more positive karmic consequences than he may ever realize.
A moving personal story, a exciting war story, and a difficult spiritual journey Walking the Tiger’s Path offers elements of all three. For anyone looking to learn how the Buddhist path can be a useful and productive component of contemporary life I recommend experiencing SSgt Kendel’s story.