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Zen in the Art of Archery Paperback – January 26, 1999
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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.
“In this wonderful . . . and illuminating account . . . 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.” —from the introduction by Daisetz T. Suzuki
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Top customer reviews
But the translation is horrible - for such a small book, the precise and succinct wording is of utter importance - the translation failed to do that and more.
The book in itself is worthy the while - you just have to bear through the layered and often erroneous text to get to the jewel.
And when you are done you can ponder how a man like Herrigel, so passionate about a basic tenet of Buddhist thought, could end up a devoted Nazi. Buy it.
Favorite quote: “For them [Japanese Masters] the contest consists in the archer aiming at himself - and yet not at himself, in hitting himself – and yet not himself, and thus becoming simultaneously the aimer and the aim, the hitter and the hit.” (5)
The book revolves around Herrigel's attempt to understand Zen through the practice of kyudo (Japanese archery). Although I am no expert in either Zen or kyudo, I think he does a pretty good job. The concepts that Herrigel communicates to the reader are extremely esoteric and I found them easy to grasp through this slim volume. However, reading the book solely as a story about one person's search for Zen is to read the book far too narrowly.
The concepts that Herrigel addresses are universal concepts. They are not strictly religious (Zen), martial (kyudo) or even Asian (Japanese). Any substantial activity, be it learning kyudo, becoming a chess grandmaster or practicing to become a classical pianist, requires one to reach beyond psychological and internal barriers. This is what should be taken from this book.
During Herrigel's study, he focused not on the target, but on himself as the archer. The struggle was both an internal one, including physical aspects such as breathing properly and relaxing, as well as a refocusing of his mind, such as NOT focusing on the ultimate destination of the arrows he was shooting. The transcendence was within Herrigel himself.
This lesson is applicable to numerous situations across cultures and across activities. ZEN IN THE ART OF ARCHERY provides a good example of this phenomenon but not the only possible example. Read more broadly, this book provides anyone undertaking a long and arduous activity a simple framework for reaching beyond those plateaus that we all frustratingly find ourselves on from time to time. I recommend it on that basis.
Really enjoyed it.