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Zen in the Art of Archery Paperback – January 26, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 81 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; Later Printing edition (January 26, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375705090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375705090
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

So many books have been written about the meditation side of Zen and the everyday, chop wood/carry water side of Zen. But few books have approached Zen the way that most Japanese actually do--through ritualized arts of discipline and beauty--and perhaps that is why Eugen Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery is still popular so long after it first publication in 1953. Herrigel, a philosophy professor, spent six years studying archery and flower-arranging in Japan, practicing every day, and struggling with foreign notions such as "eyes that hear and ears that see." In a short, pithy narrative, he brings the heart of Zen to perfect clarity--intuition, imitation, practice, practice, practice, then, boom, wondrous spontaneity fusing self and art, mind, body, and spirit. Herrigel writes with an attention to subtle profundity and relates it with a simple artistry that itself carries the signature of Zen. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“In this wonderful little book, Mr. Herrigel, a German philosopher who came to Japan and took up the practice of archery toward an understanding of Zen, gives an illuminating account of his own experience. Through his expression, the western reader will find a more familiar manner of dealing with what very often must seem to be a strange and somewhat unapproachable Eastern experience.”—D.T. Suzuki, author of Zen in Japanese Culture
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

An interesting look at how a Westerner learned about Zen using the Japanese art of archery.
Alex
Although a small book it is rich in personal experience and a treasure of a book which can be read again and again to revitalise one's own practice.
Frank Bierbrauer
I put this book down for a minute or two and my father-in-law picked it up and began reading it.
David Milliern

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

109 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
To those who already practice Zen Buddhism, this book will seem awkward. To those nonpractitioners who would like to understand how to practice Zen Buddhism, this book will be a delightful enlightenment -- especially valuable to those who live outside of Asia. Eugen Herrigel takes on the almost impossible task of describing in writing something that has to be experienced to be understood, and is remarkably effective.
The author spent six years in Japan just after World War II, and decided that he wanted to understand Zen Buddhism. He was correctly advised that Zen needed to be experienced as the path to achieving that understanding. Several possible areas were suggested, from sword fighting to flower arrangement to archery. Because he had experience with rifle target shooting, the author chose archery. He was fortunate to be taken on by a Zen master who normally refused to teach Westerners, because they are so difficult to teach.
As a typical high-achieving Westerner, Mr. Herrigel wanted to make rapid progress and to achieve conscious competence in archery. His instructor wanted him to achieve unconscious competence based on experience and build from there into spiritual awareness. This conflict in perceptions created quite a tension for both of them. This tension was ironic, because the purpose of Zen practice is to achieve the ability to be strong like the flexible water. Tension is the enemy of that state of being.
Mr. Herrigel also learned from attending flower arranging classes from his wife, who was studying Zen in this way. He also benefited from finding some wonderful commentaries on sword fighting as a path to Zen that are included in this book. These are more eloquent than Mr. Herrigel, and he chose wisely in saving them for the end.
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66 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Boatner on May 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
If one desires to pursue the path of enlightenment under Zen, one must select as a vehicle one of the Zen arts - archery, swordsmanship, brush-and-ink, the tea ceremony or flower arranging. Eugen (pronounced OI-gen) chronicles his struggle to overcome his "much too willful will" and master the bow. This interesting story is very moving, educational and inspiring, while never becoming heavy as it easily could have under less skillful authorship.
The ultimate challenge Eugen faces ends up being the smooth release of the bowstring and arrow without conscious intent, "like the ripe fruit falls from the tree", "like a baby's hand releases one object to grasp another", "like the bamboo leaf slowly bends under the weight of the snow, then releases the clump of snow without thought". Eugen, during a summer sabbatical, develops a "technique" that he believes will solve this problem and nearly gets himself thrown out of the program for "offending the Spirit of Zen". There is also an interesting account of an after-hours meeting where his teacher gives an amazing demonstration of quiet mastery in order to raise Eugen's morale and level of understanding.
There is much that this little book has to offer and its message will live in your heart for a long time.
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114 of 137 people found the following review helpful By barefeetzen on May 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
Before I begin, I would like to mention that I have been a student of Zen Buddhism for some years and have also been a kyudo practitioner for some time. Thus, I think I can speak a little from both sides.

I shall first state that this book is truly an inspirational account of Mr.Herrigel's own personal, spiritual journey and should be recognized as a good read. It is also a good starting point for a Western beginner of Zen Buddhism as it gives him/her a glimpse from a Westerner's perspective.

Having said that, Zen in the Art of Archery has some fundamental problems and errors that misrepresents both Zen Buddhism and kyudo.It might surprise some readers to learn that it has been severely criticized by modern teachers and practitioners of kyudo.

To start with, as stated in the book, Herrigel has only one intention of learning kyudo-to become a Zen mystic. Thus his heart is not in kyudo at all. Just as one should do zazen for the sake of zazen one should also do kyudo for the sake of kyudo. Herrigel came to study kyudo with his cup half-full.

Next, one must also know that Awa, Herrigel's teacher himself has never been a Zen practitioner and has never done a formal Zen training at all, which is all-important for someone who wishes to understand Zen. Awa, while a fantastic archer, has also been regarded as highly unorthodox in his teaching and views and one should thus not equate his teachings to be the norm of kyudo and Zen.

Another glaring problem is that Mr. Herrigel himself does not understand Japanese and relies on an interpreter, Mr. Komachiya. Mr. Komachiya has himself wrote that he has taken liberty in explaining some of Awa's words to Herrigel.
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43 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Boris Bangemann on April 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is an unpretentious,no-nonsense narrative about the author's initiation into the art of archery and, ultimately, into the concept of Zen Buddhism. It speaks in plain language and tries to avoid mystical jargon. Ironically, it is also a story of self-perfection - ironically because Zen Buddhism teaches the abandonment of the idea of a "self".
There are many ways one may go from this book: One of the main themes of Zen in the Art of Archery is "art becoming artless", which is also at the core of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's bestselling study of creativity in "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience".
Someone who is interested in the spiritual qualities that (sometimes) come with the practice of martial arts might like to read "Iron and Silk" by Mark Salzman - don't expect anything holy or warrior-like, though.
Zen-Buddhism is covered in countless books. One of my favorites is Alan Watts's "The Spirit of Zen". A rather unorthodox, funny, skeptic and disrespectful look at Zen Buddhism can be gained from Janwillem van de Wetering's trilogy "The Empty Mirror" (my favorite of the three), "A Glimpse of Nothingness", and "Afterzen".
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