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Shots in the Dark: Japan, Zen, and the West (Buddhism and Modernity) Hardcover – May 1, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
As a martial artist and Japanophile I found this book fascinating and could barely put it down. Like so many I was enchanted by "Zen in the Art of Archery " which I read at university (circa 1977). During the 80s I lived in Japan for three years during which I studied Japanese martial arts (Jodo and Jojutsu), a practice I continued for another 8 years. I've visited Ryoanji six or seven times.
For me, Herrigel's book seemed a definitive account of zen development thru martial arts training. But is it? Herrigel's teacher, Awa-sensei, was not a teacher, practitioner, nor adherent of zen buddhism, nor was he part of mainstream kyudo / kyujutsu tradition, and the "great doctrine" of which he speaks is not zen, its daishadokyo, a religion invented by Awa. Herrigel only spoke limited Japanese, and his translator admitted he often could not understand and translate what Awa-sensei was saying to Herrigel.
How then did this book become so influential that it has changed even the Japanese perception of Kyudo and become part and parcel of Japanese discussions of "Japaneseness"? I found this to be fascinating.
Just as Herrigel's book has become an archetype, so has the rock garden at Ryoanji. The author shows that its status as an icon of Japanese culture and in fact its identity with Zen are both very recent - dating from the 1950s - this of a garden that might have been constructed in the 1500s.Read more ›
While only recently a practitioner in kyudo, I've been involved in martial arts for a bit. As an avid reader, I see MA books as being part of 3 categories: 1) The woefully inept: the dreamers, the charlatans, the McDojo's w/ publishing backing, the very basic of basic martial arts books. Unfortunately, this is the vast majority of publications. (2) The pragmatic - specialized technical details on special fields...great on technical detail, lacking much else. (3) The historical - pure history, little culture, little in the way of opinionated arguments.
For me though, there is a 4th kind - the one's that are largely historical, but asks and expounds upon the bigger questions - 'Yes this happened...but how, and what does it mean, how is it to be remembered, what are the perspectives' - these books are the most enjoyable, and unfortunately the hardest to find. This book, enjoyably, belongs in that category.
The author has certainly done his research, and the book is well presented in an academic manner. It is roughly divided into 3 parts but all asking a central question: how and why has Zen become so inundated as the preeminent cultural trait of Japan. The first part is about Herrigel and kyudo, the 2nd about the rock garden at Ryoanji, and the 3rd a general wrap of up how these views were presented and re-accepted n modern context both abroad and back to Japan.Read more ›