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Zen in the Art of Archery

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  11,643 ratings  ·  593 reviews
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 u
Mass Market Paperback, 81 pages
Published 1999 by Vintage (first published 1948)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  11,643 ratings  ·  593 reviews

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Riku Sayuj
Sep 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Rithu Soumyaj, Rohini Nair, Soumya Sayujya
Shelves: spiritual, r-r-rs
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 pleas
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) 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 - but of course not - quite how crazy do you think I am? No, I bought her a blood-thirsty murder tale set in t
Mar 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion
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 ...more
Erik Graff
May 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Zen fans
Recommended to Erik by: many people
Shelves: religion
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 thi
Eryk Banatt
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 abou
May 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Hákon Gunnarsson
Apr 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, zen, buddhism
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
Jan 23, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Annette Abbott
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
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
Kirtida Gautam
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: chakra-3
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
Adrian Colesberry
Jul 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Martial artists and Zen students
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 ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: finished-in-2017
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 ...more
Nicholas Buroker
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
"observe bamboo for 10 years, become bamboo, then forget everything and paint" ...more
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Joseph Hirsch
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book comes highly recommended by personages as disparate as Mike Tyson and Norman Mailer (actually, Tyson and Mailer might not be all that different). Wary of Western appropriations of Eastern arts and mysteries, I put off reading this book for some time.

And now that it has been read ...I'm frankly at a loss for words. But, since a review is a collection of words, I should at least try to say something. Here goes: It is very rare that a book or story functions perfectly at the literal leve
Patrick Kennedy
Dec 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, religion
Nice little introduction to Zen. I’m not interested in archery but had read this was a good book for any artist to read. I can see why. Lots to think about.
Helina Sommer
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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'. ...more
Ralph Zoontjens
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality
This is a good account of how to become a master of any skill.
Counter-intuitively, one first has to drop the concept of how it should be done, including the concept of having to drop the concept. It all just happens by means of something larger than we call 'the self', 'I'.

For example, a Western bowman typically focuses his gaze until he found the right shot, then releases the arrow. But the ancient technique is far more effortless and actually useful in battle. By rendering the activity a game
Dec 23, 2018 rated it liked it
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
Dec 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
About halfway through Zen in the Art of Archery, I became confused. Herrigel's conception of Zen as a practice where one loses oneself and gains mastery of a specific art through surrender seemed at odds with the other Zen works I had studied, most of which emphasized mindfulness as opposed to the habituation that Herrigel endorsed. I did some addition investigation (which in the 2013 means consulting Wikipedia) and found a fine article by Yamada Shoji that contextualized Herrigel's experience i ...more
Annette Fuller
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 qu
Mark Valentine
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Javier Villar
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
A good starting point to understand the power of surrender.
Dan'l Danehy-oakes
Dec 31, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
Ernie Truman
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Short book on archery and mastering zen.
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Samuel Moss
The only writing manual (or manual for any creative endeavor) necessary.
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