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Zen in the Art of Archery

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The path to achieving Zen (a balance between the body and the mind) is brilliantly explained by Professor Eugen Herrigel in this timeless account. This book is the result of the author’s six year quest to learn archery in the hands of Japanese Zen masters. It is an honest account of one man’s journey to complete abandonment of ‘the self’ and the Western principl The path to achieving Zen (a balance between the body and the mind) is brilliantly explained by Professor Eugen Herrigel in this timeless account. This book is the result of the author’s six year quest to learn archery in the hands of Japanese Zen masters. It is an honest account of one man’s journey to complete abandonment of ‘the self’ and the Western principles that we use to define ourselves. Professor Herrigel imparts knowledge from his experiences and guides the reader through physical and spiritual lessons in a clear and insightful way. Mastering archery is not the key to achieving Zen, and this is not a practical guide to archery. It is more a guide to Zen principles and learning and perfect for practitioners and non-practitioners alike.


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The path to achieving Zen (a balance between the body and the mind) is brilliantly explained by Professor Eugen Herrigel in this timeless account. This book is the result of the author’s six year quest to learn archery in the hands of Japanese Zen masters. It is an honest account of one man’s journey to complete abandonment of ‘the self’ and the Western principl The path to achieving Zen (a balance between the body and the mind) is brilliantly explained by Professor Eugen Herrigel in this timeless account. This book is the result of the author’s six year quest to learn archery in the hands of Japanese Zen masters. It is an honest account of one man’s journey to complete abandonment of ‘the self’ and the Western principles that we use to define ourselves. Professor Herrigel imparts knowledge from his experiences and guides the reader through physical and spiritual lessons in a clear and insightful way. Mastering archery is not the key to achieving Zen, and this is not a practical guide to archery. It is more a guide to Zen principles and learning and perfect for practitioners and non-practitioners alike.

30 review for Zen in the Art of Archery

  1. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Are we all such helpless and inexperienced beginners with not the slightest clue on how to correct our aims or on how to draw our bowstrings right? This supposedly uplifting book has depressed me amidst its poetry and beauty into a realization that I will probably never 'correct my own stance' or 'let the arrow fall at the moment of highest tension', effortlessly hit any goal or even realize what the real goal is... Why is there no art in life anymore? Isn't it all that should exist? Are we all such helpless and inexperienced beginners with not the slightest clue on how to correct our aims or on how to draw our bowstrings right? This supposedly uplifting book has depressed me amidst its poetry and beauty into a realization that I will probably never 'correct my own stance' or 'let the arrow fall at the moment of highest tension', effortlessly hit any goal or even realize what the real goal is... Why is there no art in life anymore? Isn't it all that should exist? Can we please ban money and all its accouterments and live by the High Arts; that might then bring some insipid meaning back to our lives?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Second review Oh, wow. In Britain Spring may well be here and with spring come the lambs new born, which means that Mothering Sunday is upon us (view spoiler)[ see there is a logic of sorts (hide spoiler)] and naturally due to my bibilophila what better way of making the solemn day than by giving a book. Ah, you are thinking you gave your Mother Zen in the Art of Archery...how...singular - but of course not - quite how crazy do you think I am? No, I bought her a blood thirsty murder tale set Second review Oh, wow. In Britain Spring may well be here and with spring come the lambs new born, which means that Mothering Sunday is upon us (view spoiler)[ see there is a logic of sorts (hide spoiler)] and naturally due to my bibilophila what better way of making the solemn day than by giving a book. Ah, you are thinking you gave your Mother Zen in the Art of Archery...how...singular - but of course not - quite how crazy do you think I am? No, I bought her a blood thirsty murder tale set in the Swedish Arctic full of moss, body parts, snow and police procedure, departing the bookshop well satisfied the feel arose and condensed in the nether regions of my brain where I don't normally go that the things we do for entertainment can be a bit strange. I reflected on this to a dear friend and mentioned by way of clarification that what I was reading was perfectly normal the memoir of a Nazi-ish(view spoiler)[ he became a party member after the events of this book (hide spoiler)] middle aged German professor of his struggle to learn Japanese style archery as a means of understanding Zen in Japan in the 1920s. As I was saying, perfectly normal reading. Since Herrigal was over forty when he started his archery studies we can see this a mid-life crisis book - you've heard of buying the motorbike, the sport's car or if you can afford it - a divorce and a disgracefully younger wife, but let us add Archery to the list as an attempt to recapture the illusion of lost youth etc, etc. About Zen, despite Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind I don't know enough, or maybe actually too much already, to say anything. But the other thing that I mull upon is that one of the things (view spoiler)[ or in my opinion the only thing (hide spoiler)] that is interesting about sport is that beyond the achievement of pure technical capacity, it is all psychological. Whatever weird gear they wear one can assume that the sportsperson is technically capable of striking a ball with a peculiarly shaped stick or kicking it or jumping or running or whatever else they do in a consistent and proficient manner, however frequently they don't which is what gives it such interest as it has, one can't know what it is that takes them out of the zone or the flow, only that it happens. Eugene Herrigel's mid-life crisis memoir with its flavourings of fascism is about the other side of the performance - not the viewer watching the sport but how a person cultivates a specific form of self unawareness in order to become simply a component part of a whole process in this case the flight of the arrow to the target. The main point is that it is an exhaustive process, he spends years practising drawing the bow until he holds the tension of the bow not in the muscles but in the breath, after this he is allowed to graduate to releasing the arrow, not shooting properly, but releasing it into a target that is a couple of meters away only when the bow is at maximum tension at which point the arrow must slip free like snow slipping off a banana leaf, until then the fingers grip the arrow as a small child grips an adult's finger until it sees something more attractive to grab. This one can hardly learn in Herrigel's account, one must become convinced of it, but through the experience of the body not the conscious work of the brain. Anyhow years pass, occasionally Herrigel allows a glimmer of frustration to shine through and occasionally his teacher says something like "Der Weg zum Ziel, ist nicht auszumessen, was bedeuten da Wochen, Monate, Jahre?" (p.63), plainly that's true and nobody but Herrigel himself made the commitment to Archery, but he gets to progress to firing at a proper target which is a good distance away, now he has to learn not to be disappointed when he misses, nor to be triumphant when he hits the bull's eye since he is not letting loose the arrow - the arrow fires itself and if that sounds crazy I can only advise you to try it yourself, read the book, or in extremis think about walking and notice how you walk over an uneven surface and how you adapt to it apparently automatically without conscious effort. Anyhow the teacher then says "Sie Koennen ein Bogenmeister werden, auch wenn nicht jeder Schuss trifft" (p.70), which I also find interesting evoking as it does the picture of the great bow master who couldn't hit the proverbial barn door at a dozen paces, presumably though a certain average technical competency is required to be regarded as a master of the bow with out others quivering with laughter. The master makes a present of his allegedly best bow to the student(view spoiler)[ we've only got Herrigal's word for it (hide spoiler)] when it is time for him after six or so years to return to Germany(view spoiler)[ I guess in those days one could still take a bow on board an aeroplane as hand luggage (view spoiler)[ but not on to a Zeppelin, that would just be asking for trouble (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] One can see in this an episode of the meeting or miscommunication between East and West, specifically that Japan became entranced with it's own medieval marital heritage as a result of exposure to the European Gothic revival - the Japanese liked all the castles and the knights and armour, but felt that the whole Romantic side with long-haired pre-Raphaelite ladies was all a bit soppy and not martial enough -their taste was for fewer Ladies in Lakes and more decapitations. In which case this book is a German response to a Japanese response to a European fantasy of a mythic past. But that's the nature of cultural history I guess, the dream of having been a butterfly dreaming that one was human more important than what may not have been. first review In the 1920s Eugene Herrigel, a university professor of philosophy, took up archery in Japan as a way to get closer to an understanding of Zen. Zen in the Art of Archery, published in 1948, is his entertaining account of the process of learning archery. The relationship between archery and Zen that Herrigel presents can be criticised on at least three grounds: his archery teachers relationship to Zen, the problem of translation - Herrigel's Japanese was very limited, his translator struggled with the explanations while the teacher did not speak German and Herrigel's own desire for a mystical experience (in particular to achieve a personal understanding of Meister Eckhart's spiritual experiences). Allowing such doubts then truly this volume is the direct ancestor of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and numerous martial arts films. Stripped away of archery and Zen we still have a memoir of a forty-year old ex-patriot attempting to learn something intuitive that is being taught to him by an indirect method. It is a story in which years pass before Herrigel is allowed to move on from firing at a target only two meters away, and my phrase completely misses the point. Herrigel spent several years learning what he needed to learn before his teacher considered it was time for him to shot over the normal thirty meter distance. The target in the beginning was not the target, the centre of the target was Herrigel himself. His breathing, stance, relaxation and grip. Once that was in place and he could be a natural counterpart to the long Japanese bow and arrow then the training could be expanded to include the interrelationship with a target thirty meters distant. As to whether any of this is of interest in understanding Zen, I don't know. However the effort of learning and explaining to the reader the attempt to come to an intuitive feeling for a physical activity is fascinating. The relationship between the teacher and the taught involving; and if as Yamada Shoji argues (The Myth of Zen and the Art of Archery)the archery teacher had no formal insight, background in or knowledge of Zen many of their conversations become inadvertently humorous. Further there was deep cultural misunderstanding on at least one occasion. Herrigel saw his teacher shoot twice at a target in the dark and was deeply impressed that both hit the centre and even more that the second arrow split the first. This we know from Robin Hood is very good and Herrigel's feel for the event is mystical. In the Japanese archery tradition apparently, at least as it is taught, splitting your arrow is very bad simply because you've ruined your own arrow. For me from my sadly limited experience of archery the incident is a demonstration of a thoroughly practical nature. If you have a thorough understanding of yourself, your bow and how to shoot, developed over years, standing in an enclosed space opposite the target then why wouldn't you hit the target? At a certain point of self-knowledge your eyes are irrelevant rather as a blind person can negotiate a familiar space without banging in their furniture or bumping into walls. In another moment that I thought particularly fine when Herrigel shoots well his teacher breaks off the lesson and sends him home - he didn't want Herrigel to be distracted by reversion to the mean. I am not sure how far Herrigel's accommodation to the NS regime went, he was made Rector of the university of Erlangen during the 30s which suggests he was at the very least regarded as a safe pair of hands. His politics to my mind is a warning that right practise of any kind does not immunize or of itself allow a person to transcend their circumstances. Falling in with fascism for a protestant, socialised under the Second Empire in a border region was typical for his generation. One can suspect that his desire for the mystical left him particularly open to infection. Anyhow reading this put me in mind of Toyota Production System by Taiichi Ohno in which he explained his role in the development of the Toyota car manufacturing business. The two for me are linked in an interest in the deeply practical. A feeling for practical issues, perhaps on a very small-scale that have wide implications. Then again both are about teaching something that is alien to the learner, there doesn't seem to be any need to go as far as Herrigel and to repeat D.T. Suzuki's claim that Japanese culture and Zen are deeply interconnected, that the Japanese lifestyle, art, morals and aesthetics sit on a Zen foundation (p.15).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    A painless book to read. I'm just not into the Zen thing. Reading this book made me realize that I never will be this type of person, I couldn't go through with the ssssssslllllllooooooooowwwwwwwww process of learning each step of something to perfection. I'm sure I'd be a better person if I could just be in this way, but I never will, just like I will never be an Astronaut or a Fireman, and that's okey dokey because the world needs anxiously high-strung neurotic people just as much as they need A painless book to read. I'm just not into the Zen thing. Reading this book made me realize that I never will be this type of person, I couldn't go through with the ssssssslllllllooooooooowwwwwwwww process of learning each step of something to perfection. I'm sure I'd be a better person if I could just be in this way, but I never will, just like I will never be an Astronaut or a Fireman, and that's okey dokey because the world needs anxiously high-strung neurotic people just as much as they need tranquil calm folks.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Many persons had recommended this little book over the years of high school and college, it being one of the canon of the counterculture like the novels of Kurt Vonnegut, the meditations of Alan Watts or the more scholarly essays of D.T. Suzuki. I resisted, partly because it was so popular, another herd-phenomenon, and partly because it was about archery of all things. But, seeing the thing and how short it was, I finally sat down and read the thing. I'd read quite a bit about Zen Bud Many persons had recommended this little book over the years of high school and college, it being one of the canon of the counterculture like the novels of Kurt Vonnegut, the meditations of Alan Watts or the more scholarly essays of D.T. Suzuki. I resisted, partly because it was so popular, another herd-phenomenon, and partly because it was about archery of all things. But, seeing the thing and how short it was, I finally sat down and read the thing. I'd read quite a bit about Zen Buddhism by this time, including the apparently much-contested representations of it by the aforementioned Watts and Suzuki, so the general idea was clear enough. Although archery is the instance, the point is to focus the mind/body on the matter at hand and not to be distracted by extraneous concerns. Since I spent (and spend) altogether too much time gnawing over the past or imagined futures, the attitude represented was therapeutic.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Juan

    Ever since my early college days the abstraction apparatus known as western culture seemed to me a useful but essentially flawed way of understanding our place in the world. Zen, when I first met it, seemed to validate Rimbauds "derrangement of the senses" and Blake's "path of excess" procedures. It gave a method, albeit a strange, incomprehensible one, to mysticism propounded by western artists. It would seem from Herrigel's book, that there is no one path to Zen and the absolute: archery will Ever since my early college days the abstraction apparatus known as western culture seemed to me a useful but essentially flawed way of understanding our place in the world. Zen, when I first met it, seemed to validate Rimbaud´s "derrangement of the senses" and Blake's "path of excess" procedures. It gave a method, albeit a strange, incomprehensible one, to mysticism propounded by western artists. It would seem from Herrigel's book, that there is no one path to Zen and the absolute: archery will do as good as any other discipline. Archery, however, like swordsmanship are great metaphores for our culture, though. I think archery will do just fine as an art, and it relates deeply to the goals of writing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Eryk Banatt

    This book is what The Inner Game of Tennis would have been if it were much shorter, less repetitive, more interesting, harder to read, and told through the vehicle of one person's path to mastery of their craft. With regards to that book, this one is superior in pretty much every way, almost the point where I am embarrassed to have read Inner Game first. I picked up this book on recommendation from a friend, and I was interested in how I would think of it since as a general rule I love works ab This book is what The Inner Game of Tennis would have been if it were much shorter, less repetitive, more interesting, harder to read, and told through the vehicle of one person's path to mastery of their craft. With regards to that book, this one is superior in pretty much every way, almost the point where I am embarrassed to have read Inner Game first. I picked up this book on recommendation from a friend, and I was interested in how I would think of it since as a general rule I love works about mastery and usually dislike works about mysticism. To put it bluntly, I was initially much more interested in the Archery than I was in the Zen, and was at least tangentially curious on how these seemingly completely unrelated disciplines would intersect. But after reading it, I would almost hesitate to say this book, or even really Zen as Herrigel describes it, contains much mysticism at all. Despite some of the language in this book being reverent on the unknowable, I think a lot of it might perhaps be better described as the unconscious. Herrigel's journey to mastery over the art of archery is one characterized by progressively growing more skilled at losing himself in the skill, in dissolving into the actions he's performing to the point where it's almost like he isn't doing anything at all. His master stresses this over and over - that any technical training available to Herrigel pales in comparison to the long-term gain that comes from abandoning himself to the skill. "I learned to lose myself so effortlessly in the breathing that I sometimes had the feeling that I myself was not breathing but, strange as this may sound, was being breathed" "In the end, the pupil no longer knows which of the two, mind or hand, was responsible for the work" This flow state, where you aren't thinking but simply doing, in conscious thought as if doing for the first time, with the training and practice doing all the heavy lifting, is the skill that Herrigel develops in his many years exploring this art. This too, is where Archery finds it's intersection with Zen - in the cultivation of a detached, egoless state; to think without thinking, to understand without understanding, to fire an arrow without firing it. These aren't riddles, although they seem like it at first glance. It's shockingly literal - you, as in, your conscious mind are pretty much doing nothing. The arrow fires when it is time for it to be fired, and your meddling with the biomechanics will only serve to get in the way (example: try thinking about every single muscle movement you make while shooting a basketball and then try shooting a basketball - you'll do horribly.) "What must I do, then?" I asked thoughtfully. "You must learn to wait properly." "And how does one learn that?" "By letting go of yourself, leaving yourself everything yours behind you so decisively that nothing more is left of you but a purposeless tension." "So I must become purposeless on purpose?" I heard myself say. "No pupil has ever asked me that, so I don't know the right answer." "And when do we begin these new exercises?" "Wait until it is time." The thing I really appreciated about this short book was how demystifying it was about Zen and how real it was about mastery. Herrigel spends years on archery, hitting plateau after plateau, putting a monumental amount of work into it. You can feel his frustration every time he hits a wall, how much effort that he puts into breaking past these walls, his satisfaction upon finally getting it, his confusion over what his master is asking of him, and the underlying struggle of wrapping his head around detachment. This format holds a huge advantage over something like Inner Game precisely because we can try feel what he feels, struggle when he struggles, and ultimately realize that we just can't do it unless we ourselves train. The book offers some surprisingly practical advice on achieving mastery, which I think is safely generalizable to most skills. Near the end, he briefly explores swordplay through the same lens which also had a great deal of interesting ideas in it. Some of my favorite quotes from a practical perspective are below. "'What are you thinking of? You know already that you should not grieve over bad shots; learn now not to rejoice over the good ones. You must free yourself from the buffetings of pleasure and pain, and learn to rise above them in easy equanimity, to rejoice as though not you but another had shot well. This, too, you must practice unceasingly. You cannot conceive how important it is." "You must collect yourselves on your way here. Focus your minds on what happens in the practice hall. Walk past everything without noticing it, as if there were only one thing in the world that is important and real, and that is archery!" "let's stop talking about it and go on practicing." "The meditative repose in which he performs them gives him that vital loosening and equability of all his powers, that collectedness and presence of mind, without which no right work can be done" "Bow, arrow, goal and ego, all melt into one another, so that I can no longer separate them. And even the need to separate has gone. For as soon as I take the bow and shoot, everything becomes so clear and straightforward and so ridiculously simple..." "now at last, the bowstring has cut right through you." "I must only warn you of one thing. You have become a different person in the course of these years. For this is what the art of archery means: a profound and far-reaching contest of the archer within himself." "The more he tries to make the brilliance of his swordplay dependent on his own reflection, on the conscious utilization of his skill, on his fighting experience and tactics, the more he inhibits the free 'working of the heart'" "This, then, is what counts: a lightning reaction which has no further need of conscious observation. In this respect at least the pupil makes himself independent of all conscious purpose. And that is a great gain." "Like the beginner, the swordmaster is fearless, but, unlike him, he grows daily less and less accessible to fear." Overall a phenomenal read - i'd like to give it a 4.5/5 but since goodreads won't let me do that I'll round up to 5. Highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kirtida Gautam

    Books with Master and Pupil theme always work for me. I can hear all the variations of this myth and enjoy them. Again and again. Yet, this book didn't work for me. I failed to see a genuine learning in the voice of the author. It was almost caricaturish. Lately I have also become very sensitive to cultural appropriation, and I no longer enjoy reading books on Yog that are written by someone who can't read Sanskrit, or a book on Zen by someone who doesn't understand Japanese language. Essence or Books with Master and Pupil theme always work for me. I can hear all the variations of this myth and enjoy them. Again and again. Yet, this book didn't work for me. I failed to see a genuine learning in the voice of the author. It was almost caricaturish. Lately I have also become very sensitive to cultural appropriation, and I no longer enjoy reading books on Yog that are written by someone who can't read Sanskrit, or a book on Zen by someone who doesn't understand Japanese language. Essence or what the author calls "It" in this book, is in roots. Let the people from a culture tell their stories. Let root be watered, and not fruits. Please for heaven's sake, stop going to India, China, or Japan, learn a craft (or about a culture), and come back to Western countries to share the 'knowledge.' If people born and raised in western countries truly want to bridge the cultural gape, they should create platform for indigenous people to tell the stories of their art and culture.

  8. 4 out of 5

    trivialchemy

    I was surprised that I enjoyed this book fairly well. My dad -- who believes that I am an incorrigible materialist, simply because he has wacky pseudo-scientific ideas about quantum mechanics that I am constantly forced to rebut -- sneaked this into my bag when I left after Christmas vacation. But I was having trouble finding something to read last night and I picked it up and was done before I knew it. It's really not as much la-la and hand-waving as I anticipated. I did cringe every time Herri I was surprised that I enjoyed this book fairly well. My dad -- who believes that I am an incorrigible materialist, simply because he has wacky pseudo-scientific ideas about quantum mechanics that I am constantly forced to rebut -- sneaked this into my bag when I left after Christmas vacation. But I was having trouble finding something to read last night and I picked it up and was done before I knew it. It's really not as much la-la and hand-waving as I anticipated. I did cringe every time Herrigel refers to being something and not-something, or focusing and not-focusing, or the Karate-kid mumbo jumbo of 'not hitting the target, but hitting oneself become one with the target' kind of thing. Or "I found I was not breathing, but being breathed." But the Eastern mysticism aside, it is altogether a rewarding meditation on concentration, focus, and dedication to a task.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adrian Colesberry

    I read this book either immediately before or immediately after Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I liked this book very much. The concept of relaxed attention was interesting to me. I remember that for the whole semester after reading this, I would hold books and papers and bags with the minimal amount of force needed to keep them from falling out of my hands, just like the archer should hold the bowstring with the minimal amount of force, waiting for the moment of effortless release.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Hákon Gunnarsson

    I can't say I liked this one very much. I know it did have certain power when it was originally published. For example it may be worth pointing out how influential the title has been. Do you see any resemblance with the titles of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values and Zen in the Art of Writing? It was one of the earlier books to introduce zen to the west. It is autobiographical in nature. The German professor Eugen Herrigel was interested in the occult, (as I think it is put in I can't say I liked this one very much. I know it did have certain power when it was originally published. For example it may be worth pointing out how influential the title has been. Do you see any resemblance with the titles of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values and Zen in the Art of Writing? It was one of the earlier books to introduce zen to the west. It is autobiographical in nature. The German professor Eugen Herrigel was interested in the occult, (as I think it is put in the book,) and when he got a change to move to Japan he jumped at it so he could learn more about zen buddhism. In Japan he started to learn archery under the master Awa Kenzô. Herrigel stayed in Japan from 1924 to 1929, and the book covers this period, mostly focusing on the time with Kenzô. It just didn't teach me much about archery, nor zen to be honest. If you know nothing about either of those two subjects, you'll probably get more of an idea about zen than archery, but I still don't think it is among the more interesting books on the subject. Still it was an okay read. It was mostly the relationship between the two men that I felt was interesting.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marshall

    A short and simple book about how Zen masters practice archery, and a memoir of the author's archery training in Japan. Become one with the bow, let the arrow shoot itself, that sort of thing. It's interesting to read a book about Zen when it was still very new in the West. It reminded me of An Experiment in Mindfulness. This may sound cheesy, but it also reminded me of the jedi in Star Wars. Probably the most intriguing part in this book is when the archery teacher shoots a perfect bulls-eye in the pitch d A short and simple book about how Zen masters practice archery, and a memoir of the author's archery training in Japan. Become one with the bow, let the arrow shoot itself, that sort of thing. It's interesting to read a book about Zen when it was still very new in the West. It reminded me of An Experiment in Mindfulness. This may sound cheesy, but it also reminded me of the jedi in Star Wars. Probably the most intriguing part in this book is when the archery teacher shoots a perfect bulls-eye in the pitch dark, and then shoots a second arrow so consistently that it sliced through the first arrow.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emanuele

    Ohmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  13. 4 out of 5

    Abhi

    Zen takes Buddhism a step beyond the simple dictums of Theravada. The feeling I had while reading this was similar to the one I had when I read Jiddu Krishnamurti. The underlying idea is the same but expressed in different ways. With Krishnamurti the idea is to be one with nature and be oblivious to the self or anything beyond the moment, you are one with it and thus don't have an independent existence during that moment. With Zen the idea is to learn the same through the medium of an associated Zen takes Buddhism a step beyond the simple dictums of Theravada. The feeling I had while reading this was similar to the one I had when I read Jiddu Krishnamurti. The underlying idea is the same but expressed in different ways. With Krishnamurti the idea is to be one with nature and be oblivious to the self or anything beyond the moment, you are one with it and thus don't have an independent existence during that moment. With Zen the idea is to learn the same through the medium of an associated discipline be it archery, swordsmanship, painting, or flower arrangement. The idea still remains to enter a state of awareness so deep that you are one with everything around you, especially the discipline you're practicing at the moment. There is no end to the practice of a zen discipline. The practice itself is a means to realize the Great Discipline. There are no ends, just the purposelessness of being present with the practice. I realize the difficulty of capturing the essence of Zen in words for it is something that is felt through experience but the author does a remarkable job of getting the point across by simply relating his own journey and allowing the reader to find what's implied between the lines. Great book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Helina Sommer

    I loved this book! It was interesting and very spiritual. Yes, it was hard to understand sometimes because it is a lot further from my mind. But since I deal with archery myself, I'm definitely going to think about these things when I practice. And in the summer I want to read it again, just to remind myself of 'it'.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shaifali

    The book in itself was fine but it was the ideology of zen itself that didn't sit well with me, hence 3 stars. The first three-fourth part of the book till it focuses on the author's journey/struggle to master archery from the lens of zen, the book was interesting and full of 'wisdom'—such as, the importance of subconscious in an artistic endeavour, something covered in many other 'western' books too, like 'Becoming a Writer' by Dorothea Brande. But the last few chapters that are straight up abo The book in itself was fine but it was the ideology of zen itself that didn't sit well with me, hence 3 stars. The first three-fourth part of the book till it focuses on the author's journey/struggle to master archery from the lens of zen, the book was interesting and full of 'wisdom'—such as, the importance of subconscious in an artistic endeavour, something covered in many other 'western' books too, like 'Becoming a Writer' by Dorothea Brande. But the last few chapters that are straight up about zen ideology (too much talk of void, death, and purposelessness), and are taken straight from other books on this subject, were too hohwash for me, and left a bitter taste in my mouth. The questions that trouble me about zen went on full 'on' mode during these chapters because they didn't have the sensible voice of the author to ask them with us—like it did in the majority of the book. It is a well-written and well-edited book. The author is clear about his target audience—it is someone whom he was before he became a master archer. Someone who might want to know more about this eastern spirituality and might even want to attain it himself but who is too set in the western way of thinking and being with a focus on conscious and will power, which act as roadblocks on this journey. The questions that a reader asks, the author asks. And because this book is a recounting of his personal journey, the author tells us the answers that cleared the fog on his path. In that sense, it is a very satisfying book. But like all good books based on personal experiences, I am very interested to know about his life *after* this 6-year quest. 'Did he actually feel a difference in his relationship with old friends, as his Master had suggested he would, when he returned to his old life?' is one of the many. The last chapters (the only thing that I disliked in this book) that talk about zen very directly—through literature on art of swordsmanship and fencing—add a depth to the book, giving enough taste of the true zen philosophy plus recommendations for readings for anyone interested in knowing more.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    I've read books like this before, most of them for a class I think. Most never range more than 100 pages but they never fail to send my brain round in circles trying to really comprehend what I just read. Some bits are more clear than others, I will say, but there are plenty of passages I end up reading more than once. I won't even attempt to give a description of what Zen is. Like Zen itself, my understanding of it is both there and not there, I can't verbalize it or write it but it exists to m I've read books like this before, most of them for a class I think. Most never range more than 100 pages but they never fail to send my brain round in circles trying to really comprehend what I just read. Some bits are more clear than others, I will say, but there are plenty of passages I end up reading more than once. I won't even attempt to give a description of what Zen is. Like Zen itself, my understanding of it is both there and not there, I can't verbalize it or write it but it exists to me in me head, like another part of me. (Even that bit of rambling is probably a terrible representation of the art.) I suppose a good way to sum up my experience of this book is that it, for now, will be the closest I come to seeing what Zen is. To really know I think you have to experience it, you have to go through years of training like the author, Eugen Herrigel did. Like I said, Zen doesn't really have anything to do with archery, the skill and perfecting of technique. It is just a tool that is used to help the student understand the "Great Doctrine." There is a lot of unself-consciousness, purposelessness, and egolessness that takes place when trying to experience the unexplainable "it." Zen is something that always fascinates me and I always have this small desire to pursue an experience like Herrigel did but I have yet to get there. Perhaps someday. ~Ren

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mark Valentine

    Even though this short study of zen--[scratch that]--Even though this short study of archery--[scratch that too because it becomes difficult to name--] Even though this short study of the relationship between thought and action, between subject and object, between exertion and idleness, between inhaling and exhaling focuses almost entirely upon archery as a metaphor of zen Buddhism, it can still be read as a testament to faith, knowledge, sanity, perception, effort, achievement, peace Even though this short study of zen--[scratch that]--Even though this short study of archery--[scratch that too because it becomes difficult to name--] Even though this short study of the relationship between thought and action, between subject and object, between exertion and idleness, between inhaling and exhaling focuses almost entirely upon archery as a metaphor of zen Buddhism, it can still be read as a testament to faith, knowledge, sanity, perception, effort, achievement, peace, discipline, hope, thoughtlessness, skill, energy, longing, and faithlessness. For all of its brevity, do not be deceived; it is as shallow as it is thin. And for all its word-fulness, do not be deceived; it has the depth of many oceans. If it resonates with you like it did me, it has hit its target.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Annette Fuller

    SUM: Eugen Herrigel recounts his interesting experience training under a zen archery master in Japan. As a western man, Herrigel encounters problems with the process of archery, and his journey toward zen is framed in a perspective that a western audience can appreciate and understand. REV: I absolutely love this book. I draw connections, of course, with my own pursuit of writing as an art-form. For anyone remotely creatively-inclined, this book is a must-read. Some of the things that SUM: Eugen Herrigel recounts his interesting experience training under a zen archery master in Japan. As a western man, Herrigel encounters problems with the process of archery, and his journey toward zen is framed in a perspective that a western audience can appreciate and understand. REV: I absolutely love this book. I draw connections, of course, with my own pursuit of writing as an art-form. For anyone remotely creatively-inclined, this book is a must-read. Some of the things that Herrigel quotes his master as saying just cut you to the quick, they're so insightful and beautiful. And, of course, much of it is difficult to understand, and the process seems like a flower opening, petal by petal, until true understanding (and not some sham facsimile) is reached. Oh that we could all train under a zen master.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Annette Abbott

    Whenever I take on a new task or start studying something new, I find that this is my "go to" book. More than Zen, it is a book about how being slow and disciplined allows one to master technique. It was assigned to me first as a textbook for art class. The idea is not to just pick up paints/charcoal/pencil and draw, but to become the the art so that it grows out of one's Unconscious. You dont have to be a student of kyudo to get this book. It's applications as many as there are things in one's Whenever I take on a new task or start studying something new, I find that this is my "go to" book. More than Zen, it is a book about how being slow and disciplined allows one to master technique. It was assigned to me first as a textbook for art class. The idea is not to just pick up paints/charcoal/pencil and draw, but to become the the art so that it grows out of one's Unconscious. You dont have to be a student of kyudo to get this book. It's applications as many as there are things in one's life that they wish to master. Note: I cant imagine that this book would bode well for Westerners who have issues regarding instant gratification.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Buroker

    "observe bamboo for 10 years, become bamboo, then forget everything and paint"

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dan'l Danehy-oakes

    I liked this, but wanted to like it more. It might be partly the translation, by R.C.F. Hull, but I suspect that it is the essential German-ness of the writing: heavy and a bit plodding, a disease that affects most of the translated German writers I've read, even Hesse. (Or maybe even _especially_ Hesse?) Anyway, it's either a memoir with embedded Zen musings, or a Zen tract with embedded autobiographical musings. Six of one; I suspect that the need to pick one over the other would be I liked this, but wanted to like it more. It might be partly the translation, by R.C.F. Hull, but I suspect that it is the essential German-ness of the writing: heavy and a bit plodding, a disease that affects most of the translated German writers I've read, even Hesse. (Or maybe even _especially_ Hesse?) Anyway, it's either a memoir with embedded Zen musings, or a Zen tract with embedded autobiographical musings. Six of one; I suspect that the need to pick one over the other would be un-Zennish. (It would most certainly be un-Taoish.) Herrigel was a professor of philosophy in Germany when he was invited to teach Western philosophy at the Imperial University at Sendai. Here, he took up instruction in kyūdō from master archer Awa Kenzô, and this book is a brief discussion of that experience and of what he learned about Zen from it. I frankly learned little about Zen from this little book, that I did not already know - not that I'm an expert on Zen! My understanding of it is mostly intellectual (and "speculative"), so I essentially know nothing of Zen, if I understand correctly what I _do_ understand. There are bits that might have been humorous if they were not so heavily narrated, but they were. All in all, I'm kind of glad I read it, but not very.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ernie Truman

    Nearly two years ago I bought this book with the hopes of reading something that pointed to being the state of "Zen" but could not bring myself to read it. I was not interested in Archery and found it difficult to get into the right mindset to labor on. Nearly two years later I had a nagging feeling that I was ready to give it a try so I plucked it from the book shelf and started reading. I read it twice in three days (it is quite short). In this writing I found things that pointed to similar ex Nearly two years ago I bought this book with the hopes of reading something that pointed to being the state of "Zen" but could not bring myself to read it. I was not interested in Archery and found it difficult to get into the right mindset to labor on. Nearly two years later I had a nagging feeling that I was ready to give it a try so I plucked it from the book shelf and started reading. I read it twice in three days (it is quite short). In this writing I found things that pointed to similar experiences I have had in my own life, though I have never participated in Archery and hesitate to call the presence of mind "Zen" I resonated with the writings. It is true that nothing you do that is spiritual is due to you the person but you the spirit that act through the person. I now have an interest in Archery but even more the Great Doctrine that is practiced through Archery. This is the best book I have read since first picking up The Power of Now.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Maybe it would have helped if I had at least once picked up a genuine bow and arrow (I'm sure I had play ones as a kid... you know, with the suction cups as "points"). Or maybe if I read a little more patiently about breathing, "not being," "not shooting," and all that Zen stuff. It just occurred to me, as I read, that I need a master, too. Reading about Zen doesn't translate so well. I need to breathe. Mindful inhale. Mindful exhale. And not fear death. (I'll get to that someday, after I die, b Maybe it would have helped if I had at least once picked up a genuine bow and arrow (I'm sure I had play ones as a kid... you know, with the suction cups as "points"). Or maybe if I read a little more patiently about breathing, "not being," "not shooting," and all that Zen stuff. It just occurred to me, as I read, that I need a master, too. Reading about Zen doesn't translate so well. I need to breathe. Mindful inhale. Mindful exhale. And not fear death. (I'll get to that someday, after I die, but for now I'm allowing him healthy respect.) If you're into it, try it. Maybe you will be a better student of this tale of a western student who struggles under a Japanese master but overcomes to become William Tell San.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    Short book on archery and mastering zen.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    Excellent book! Great look into not only the art of archery but the essence behind other Japanese arts and what it means to be a student and master in life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rosalind

    I found this book very interesting. Though if you want a guide to archery beginners or improvement, not the best to look at. Ii took me a while to read, and its interesting to dip a toe into Zen. Worth a read. Also if you have never watched Japanese archery definitely take few minutes to look it up.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    At first, I thought I'd just enjoy reading this book because it would be interesting to see how gurus talk to their followers, but there is a moment in which Herrigel is shooting the bow incorrectly and his master chides him. Herrigel worries that he'll never understand the teaching because he has been studying for four years. What difference do years make?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ties

    Combined with the companion book this is sure to inspire. Read it if zen, archery, Japan or mastery in whatever skill is on your mind.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Abishek

    Zen in the Art of Archery is my first introduction to Zen. Accounts of Herrigel definitely leaves you thinking as to what it means to truly be egoless - focusing on the art or the task at hand, without worrying about the target.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mandy Jo

    This week’s headline? it happens automagically Why this book? sold on Amazon Which book format? from campus bookstore Primary reading environment? quickly, before shipping Any preconceived notions? struggling to breathe Identify most with? someday, the author Three little words? “experience can teach” Goes well with? the tea ceremony I’ve been selling off my personal library through Amazon. At one point, I had over 500 books in my house – procured mostly through employee discounts at four different boo/>Goes/>Three/>Identify/>Any/>Primary/>Which/>Why This week’s headline? it happens automagically Why this book? sold on Amazon Which book format? from campus bookstore Primary reading environment? quickly, before shipping Any preconceived notions? struggling to breathe Identify most with? someday, the author Three little words? “experience can teach” Goes well with? the tea ceremony I’ve been selling off my personal library through Amazon. At one point, I had over 500 books in my house – procured mostly through employee discounts at four different bookstores - but lately I’ve been gripped by this need to get rid of my material possessions. My sister says it’s a very Zen attitude. One of the ways I learned to let go was to convince myself that, by giving my books a proper send-off, I would have one last chance to appreciate them individually. Many of them had been sitting on my shelves for years, lonely and neglected. As they sell, however, they get dusted off, cleaned, denuded of post-its… and occasionally reread. I first read this book in the spring of 2003, during my junior year of college. I’d just returned from a semester abroad, exhibiting all the classic ex-patriot symptoms and feeling doubly disconnected from a country that was preparing for war. The night we invaded Iraq, someone managed to play Bombs Over Baghdad loud enough to be heard across the entire academic mall. All I remember about my Buddhism class is Siddhartha, a few lifestyle tips, a comment on one of my papers that the professor phrased in Yoda-speak (humor from a teacher of Buddhism), and a single line of the in-class assignment haiku I composed about this book: the bowstring slices the thumb It doesn’t literally slice the thumb; that’s not what this book is about… but I remember beating my head against the wall (again, not literally) trying to understand what this book WAS about, and never fully grasping it. That, I see upon rereading, was entirely the point. Farewell, Zen in der Kunst des Bogenschiessens. May you continue to give college students insight into just how much they still have to learn. Danke Schoen. Other cultural accompaniments: Toy Story 3 (2010), Kill Bill Vol. II (2004), my Kindle. Grade: A I leave you with this: “Strong writing skills you have.” –Professor Yoda

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