The vivid story of a hippie, a carpenter, a Vietnam vet, an alcoholic, a marine engineer, and a great dad who battled his demons on the Buddhist path.
From October 16, 1973, to August 17, 1974, Tim Testu walked all the way from San Francisco to Seattle, bowing his head to the ground every three steps. And that’s not even the best part of his story.
Tim Testu was one of the very first Americans to take ordination in Chinese Zen Buddhism. His path—from getting kicked out of school to joyriding in stolen boats in the Navy to squatting in an anarchist commune to wholehearted spiritual engagment in a strict Buddhist monastery—is equal parts rollicking adventure and profound spiritual memoir.
Touching Ground is simultaneously larger than life and entirely relatable; even as Tim finds his spiritual home with his teacher, the legendary Chan master Hsuan Hua, he nonetheless continues to struggle to overcome his addictions and his very human shortcomings.
Tim never did anything halfway, including both drinking and striving for liberation. He died of leukemia in 1998 after packing ten lifetimes into fifty-two years.
In this posthumously published memoir, Buddhist monk Testu recounts misguided adventures through his youth and his eventual spiritual development through his experiences with Chan Buddhism. Growing up in California, Testu repeatedly got in trouble, eventually being kicked out of Catholic school, entering and leaving the Navy, and then becoming an alcoholic. But after a chance meeting with monk Hsuan Hua of the Chan Buddhism lineage, he decided to change his life and became ordained as a monk at the Gold Mountain Monastery in California. Testu underwent his 10-month bowing pilgrimage through California, Oregon, and Washington, walking for world peace during his Chan practice with Hsuan Hua. Testu's faithful, honest depiction of his struggles with desire, disappointments, and dissatisfaction during his monkhood years make this memoir stand out from similar offerings. Testu does not shy away from revealing his greedy side, which sought to occasionally break his vows or to make his practice spiritually materialistic. Though Testu was changed by his bowing pilgrimage, he eventually left the monastery and returned to lay life, where he gave in once again to his addictions. Tetsu's affecting book is a down-to-earth depiction of the joys and sufferings of practice.