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KF 32

Personal blogspace of Thomas Turpen, aka, Xian Tan Ju Shi — The Blockhead Buddhist.

The name, “Blockhead Buddhist,” is a joking reference to my Dharma name, Xian Tan Ju Shi, from the Linji Chan Buddhist tradition. All of us within the same generation in this lineage have the same last name, Xian. Tan, my given name refers to a special kind of sandalwood, one that has an obvious quality that even the uninitiated will readily recognize. But, sandalwood is still a chunk of wood; and so I’ve jokingly called myself, the Blockhead Buddhist. It is also a double entendre to the Taoist idea of the Uncarved Block, the Tao.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to the hidden reality behind that appearances of things. I’ve been studying Eastern philosophy since the mid-80s; and took a brief foray into Christianity receiving a dual degree in religion and philosophy. During my Christian era, I was fortunate to study and practice the contemplative/mystical aspect of Christianity that has spiritual practices very similar to, and often the same as, those found in the East. Over time, I found that I had more in common with the mystics of all traditions regardless of labels. As the coat of Christianity became too constricting, I shucked the garment and returned to my earlier practice within Taoism. After a spiritual epiphany, the central teachings of Buddhism make complete sense to me. And so there was yet another conversion – Buddhism; and from that, another 10 years of formal training and practice.

Never quite one to tow the party line, I call myself these days a Buddhist heretic although admittedly much of what I think still fits within it all somehow. The label, though, is of little concern to me these days. I’m still the contemplative; and although still a Buddhist, I allow myself to be enriched by my mystical brothers and sisters in all traditions such as Rumi, St. John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, and Zhuangzi. . And still the philosopher, I explore the writings of my predecessors like Nietzsche, Sartre, etc. And as a student of the mind, I explore the works of those such as Jung, Rollo May, and Yalom.

I’ve also spent nearly 35 years practicing Kung Fu earning recently my 7th Degree black sash. And, although I no longer teach publicly, it remains an important part of my life. Less concerned these days with personal protection (I feel pretty safe in my ability), I am more drawn to the art as moving meditation that involves the whole body. I earn my living as an acupuncturist. I’ve been practicing for about 20 years; and the subject of East Asian medicine thrills my mind still.

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