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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 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.

81 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1948

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About the author

Eugen Herrigel

9 books48 followers
Eugen Herrigel was a German philosopher who taught philosophy at Tohoku Imperial University in Sendai, Japan, from 1924 to 1929 and introduced Zen to large parts of Europe through his writings. He was a member of the Militant League for German Culture and a convinced Nazi.

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Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,032 reviews1,675 followers
January 9, 2018
۱.
اویگن هریگل، استاد دانشگاه فلسفه، یک آلمانی با تمام معانی ای که این دو کلمه، فلسفه و آلمانی، در کنار هم می توانند داشته باشند، به دعوت دانشگاهی ژاپنی سر از توکیو در می آورد، و به خاطر آوازه ای که از ذن شنیده و علاقه ای که از قدیم به عرفان و اشراق داشته، در به در دنبال جایی می گردد که او را به شاگردی بپذیرند، و از میان تمام معابد ذن، یک استاد کمانگیری را بر می گزیند. ده سال، ده سال تمام پیش این استاد تیراندازی تمرین می کند، بدون این که کلمه ای از ذن به میان بیاید، به جز اشاراتی بسیار محدود برای ده سال آموزش. و در نهایت، از طریق کمانگیری و تیراندازی، به اشراق می رسد. کتاب سرگذشت کوتاهی است از این تمرینات طولانی، و گاه گاه در میان نقل خاطرات آموزه های ذن را هم با زبانی شاعرانه ولی روان توضیح می دهد.

۲.
در کتاب "ذهن ذن، ذهن نوآموز" سوزوکی بارها و بارها تأکید می کرد که هرچند "ذاذن" (مراقبۀ ذن) بسیار مهم است و نوآموز باید از ذاذن مراقبه را شروع کند، اما مراقبه منحصر به ذاذن نیست. هر کس که به گوهر ذن برسد، در می یابد که هر چیز مراقبه است، آب خوردن، چای درست کردن، خوابیدن، هر فعالیتی ذاذن است.
ذن نمی خواهد سالک را به حقیقتی ملکوتی و آن جهانی برساند. نهایت مقصود ذن رسیدن فرد به حالت بی ذهنی است. به زیستن به شکل طبیعی. به همین دلیل باکی ندارد که از فعالیت های روزمره، مثل کمانگیری، عکاسی، نویسندگی و گل آرایی به عنوان مراقبه استفاده کند. مراقبه از دیدگاه ذن یک شکل خاص نشستن و نفس کشیدن نیست، هر نوع فعالیتی که با ذهنیت ذن انجام گیرد، می تواند تبدیل به مراقبه شود برای رساندن سالک به بی ذهنی مدّنظر ذن.

۳.
ذن قبل از آن که یک مکتب فلسفی باشد، یک مکتب عملی است. منظور این نیست که روشی است برای رسیدن به بازدهی بیشتر در عمل. ذن به شدت مخالف اندیشه های سودگرایانه است. بلکه منظور این است که رستگاری حقیقی و اشراق حقیقی را در بازی کردن با مفاهیم پیچیده و غرق شدن در استدلال ها نمی داند، و حتی این فلسفه ورزی ها را سدّ راه رهایی از رنج می داند. ذن معتقد است که رستگاری را باید زیست، آن هم به زیست شناسانه ترین معنای کلمه. بدون هیچ اندیشه ای، بدون هیچ مقصودی. و گاه حتی برای این که ذهن را هر چه بیشتر از دنبال کردن مفاهیم و مقاصد باز دارد، آیین های زائدی برای هر کار ساده وضع می کند، تا ذهن در لحظه تنها در جریان این آیین های عملی غرق شود و در همین لحظۀ حاضر بماند.

چند وقت پیش با خودم فکر می کردم: کارهایی مثل پیچ سفت کردن در کارخانه، مشابه آن چه چارلی چاپلین در عصر مدرن انجام می داد، به خاطر تکراری بودن و ساده بودن، ذهن را آزاد می گذارند که هر کجا می خواهد بپلکد، هر چند نمی تواند مسیر دوری برود، اما با از این شاخه به آن شاخه پریدن، می تواند از حضور کامل در لحظۀ حاضر اجتناب کند.
در مقابل کارهایی که کمی از پیچ سفت کردن پیچیده ترند اما به همان اندازه بی معنا هستند، می توانند مانع شوند ذهن به هر کجا که خواست برود. چون به خاطر پیچیده بودن مجبور می شود هر لحظه به کاری که دارد انجام می دهد توجه کند و نتواند به طور خودکار آن را سرهم بندی کند.
آن زمان فکر می کردم این کارها غیرانسانی ترند، چون حتی ذهن را از کارگر می گیرند.
اما آیا از دیدگاه ذن، این کارها به مراقبۀ مدّنظر نزدیک تر نیستند؟ تنها ذهنیت درست لازم است تا کارگر بتواند از کار بی معنای خود، مراقبه ای برای رسیدن به بی معنایی حیات بسازد.

۴.
خواندن این کتاب بسیار لذت بخش بود، چون مثل کتاب های دیگر کمتر حالت تحلیلی یا موعظه گونه داشت. در عوض نویسنده خاطرات شخصی خود را تعریف می کرد. هر چند کتاب از صحنه های زیبا پر بود، ولی دو سه صحنه به صورت خاص مرا جذب کردند. یکی وقتی که اویگن هریگل در مسافرت چند روزه اش، به تکنیکی در کمانگیری می رسد که به وسیلۀ آن می تواند بهتر تیراندازی کند. از بس ذهنش به "بهتر تیراندازی کردن" مشغول شده که فراموش کرده او از اول به دنبال ذن بود، نه تیراندازی. و وقتی این تکنیک جدید را در مقابل استاد اجرا می کند، استاد کمان را از او می گیرد و به حالت قهر پشتش را به او می کند. بعداً از طریق یک واسطه به او می گوید که دیگر نمی خواهد به او درس بدهد، چون او خواسته به استاد خود گول بزند.

یکی دیگر وقتی بود که هریگل باورش نمی شد مقصود اصلی از تمرینات تیراندازی رسیدن به اشراق درونی است، و با رسیدن به اشراق درونی، تیراندازی بیرونی هم ارتقا می یابد. و استاد برای این که یک بار برای همیشه این را به او ثابت کند، نیمه شب و تنها با یک شمع، به میدان تیراندازی رفت و در تاریکی محض دو تیر انداخت که اولی در قلب هدف نشست و دومی اولی را شکافت و باز در قلب هدف فرو رفت.

صحنۀ دیگر وقتی بود که استاد وقتی دید نمی تواند بر ناتوانی ها و ضعف ها و اعتماد به نفس پایین هریگل غلبه کند، ناچار رفت کتاب مقدماتی ای از فلسفه خواند تا بتواند طرز فکر هریگل را بفهمد و از همان طریق به او آموزش دهد، اما با نگرانی و نارضایتی کتاب را نیمه کاره کنار گذاشت و گفت: معلوم است که نمی تواند ذن را درک کند، وقتی ذهنش را با این چیزها پر کرده.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews6,926 followers
December 31, 2017
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?
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,524 reviews1,770 followers
Read
August 17, 2020
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 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 feeling 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 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 that is interesting about sport is that beyond the achievement of pure technical capacity, is that 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 without others quivering with laughter. The master makes a present of his allegedly best bow to the student when it is time for him after six or so years to return to Germany

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).
Profile Image for Greg.
1,106 reviews1,803 followers
March 23, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
4,750 reviews636 followers
September 22, 2022
One of the best martial-arts books I have ever read. Eugen Herrigel is a German professor teaching in Japan during the period between WWI and WWII. When he decides to learn Kyudo (Japanese archery) he finds that he must abandon all the analytical skills he has utilized to solve problems; his teacher (Awa Kenzo) tells him the more he tries to hit the target the more he will fail! What follows is a deeply personalized journey of self discovery that is also very relatable. If you know someone starting on their own martial-arts journey this is a gift they will treasure. Highest recommendation.
Profile Image for Nood-Lesse.
299 reviews144 followers
April 6, 2018
Il pub e i tiri con le freccette

Dopo quattro -sottolineo QUATTRO- anni di esercizio quotidiano a tendere la corda, l’allievo tedesco si rivolge al Sensei nipponico
Questo mi spinse a chiedere al Maestro perché non ci avesse ancora spiegato come si mira. Ci deve pure essere, supponevo, un rapporto tra bersaglio e punta della freccia, e così un modo di mirare che renda possibile far centro. «Naturalmente c'è,» rispose il Maestro «e lei potrà trovare facilmente da sé l'impostatura adatta. Ma se anche poi ogni suo tiro colpisce il bersaglio lei non sarebbe che un virtuoso dell'arco, che può esibirsi. Per l'ambizioso, che conta quante volte fa centro, il bersaglio non è che un povero pezzo di carta che egli fa a pezzi.
La mia condizione di occidentale etilico mal si coniuga con la pazienza orientale. La filosofia Zen mi infastidisce, ma da sempre mi attrae. L’alcool è la sostanza più incompatibile con questo tipo di filosofia, è una scorciatoia dannosa ed inutile che ad Oriente disprezzano. Ammiro l’applicazione ferrea del Maestro e la fedeltà canina dell’allievo, ma allo stesso tempo mi chiedo: se tiri la corda per quattro anni, non è che alla fine la corda si strappa? Se occorrono quattro anni per passare alla fase successiva in cui finalmente si prende la mira, quanti ne occorrono per arrivare all’ultimo grado della maestria, alla meta, al budda, alla pace dei sensi? Talvolta mi verrebbe da pensare che gli orientali si sentano immortali, oppure che passino tutta la vita a combattere la paura di morire e nei casi più favorevoli, una volta che ci sono riusciti, muoiano. Se chiedessi ad uno dei maestri che senso abbia passare la vita a cercare di colpire il proprio bersaglio interno mentre se ne mira uno di carta, potrebbe ribattere e invece il senso di 2 pinte di birra (+2 +2 +2.. con il passar di settimane, mesi, anni)?. Io sto sul confine fra serio e faceto, ma Eugen Herrigel era un professore di filosofia, uno seriamente interessato ad avvicinarsi allo Zen non speculativo, che prese lezioni d’arco quando venne a sapere che i maestri di questa disciplina avrebbero potuto introdurlo allo Zen “applicato”.
Soltanto quando gli assicurai solennemente che un maestro che prendeva tanto sul serio il suo compito avrebbe potuto trattarmi come il suo più giovane allievo, perché volevo apprendere quell'arte non per divertimento ma per amore della 'Grande Dottrina', mi accettò come allievo…
Tanto distante da noi, quanto affascinante in alcuni passaggi. E’ un libro breve che si legge in poche ore, si percepisce che abbia un senso ma ci si sente pigri ed impazienti per scoprirlo. Scusate mi suona il telefono…
-Ohilà Dragone! Al pub stasera..? Certo che sì!
-Ok..! Freccette alcoliche dopo il secondo giro, chi perde paga il terzo..
Profile Image for Erik Graff.
4,984 reviews1,083 followers
February 4, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Nariman.
163 reviews72 followers
May 18, 2019
ساده‌خوان بود و روان، خصوصا نسبت به کتاب «روش ذن» هریگل که در همون شروعش به مشکل خوردم.

*
حالا که یک سالی از خوندنش گذشته و مقداری مطالعهٔ دیگه هم داشتم، فکر می‌کنم باید ارزیابیم رو مقداری عوض کنم. به نظرم ضعف اساسی کتاب در نشان ندادن نقطهٔ تمایز این شیوهٔ تمرین با تفکر شاخه‌های اصلی‌تر و مورد وثوق‌تر ذن باشه.
اینکه هنر آگاهی و مراقبه در هر فعالیتی خودش رو می‌تونه نشون بده، صحبت بسیاری مکاتب دیگه هم هست (و من هم با تجربهٔ کمی که پیدا کردم، میتونم بگم تا حدی درک می‌کنم این گزاره رو)، ولی برداشت شخصی هریگل و حتی استادش تا حدی برام جای سوال داره
بابت همین، فکر می‌کنم نویسنده، باید در طی این کتاب، مرز بین اون چیزی که خودش ذن و تمرین ذن نامیده، و مکاتب دیگر ذن رو تا حدی ترسیم می‌کرد.

من اگر نظریهٔ جدیدی داشته باشم، مثلا در فیزیکِ مکانیک، نباید صرفا بیام نظریهٔ خودم رو شرح بدم و اون رو به اسم فیزیک به مخاطبم بقبولانم، بدون اینکه حداقل آدرسی بدم،‌ اشاره‌ای کنم که دیگرانی هم هستند که به این مجموعهٔ دلایل، حرف دیگری هم دارند

این روزها، فکر می‌کنم اگر چنین کاری نکنیم، ۲ حالت داره:
یا اونقدر خودمون رو دانش مطلق دانسته‌ایم که اساسا نیازی نمی‌بینیم به حاشیه‌های فرعی اشاره‌ای کنیم (خودمون رو مرجع اون حوزه دانسته‌ایم) یا بنا به دلایلی دیگه اون کار رو نکردیم. بین اون دلیل دیگه، مطالعه و بررسی ضعیف، خوش‌بینانه‌ترین دلیله
Profile Image for A. Raca.
713 reviews139 followers
June 11, 2020
"Başlangıçta işini hafife alan öğrenci, daha sonra o oranda büyük zorluklara maruz kalır."

Profile Image for Juan.
Author 5 books33 followers
May 24, 2013
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.

Profile Image for Eryk Banatt.
35 reviews10 followers
March 21, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Stu.
73 reviews1 follower
December 19, 2013
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 in writing the book. In brief, Shoji maintains that Herrigel's concept of Zen was not in line with how most adherents would have understood that body of thought, that the teachers Herrigel and his wife sought out were very atypical for their time and place, and as such, many of the concepts in Zen in the Art of Archery are not representative of Zen practice. In finishing the book, I came to agree with Shoji. Though Herrigel does draw on traditional Zen in emphasizing the breath control typical of Zen meditation, as well as aspects of Zen unattachment, this is ultimately not a satisfying book for Zen seekers, and is useful more as an artifact of interwar German Orientalism than a book of actual Zen practice.

If you are looking for comparable texts that may be more relevant, I would recommend Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki and The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thích Nhất Hạnh.
Profile Image for trivialchemy.
77 reviews452 followers
January 24, 2010
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.
Profile Image for Annette Abbott.
104 reviews23 followers
March 10, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Hákon Gunnarsson.
Author 27 books130 followers
April 14, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Kirtida Gautam.
Author 2 books124 followers
December 22, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Adrian Colesberry.
Author 3 books43 followers
July 8, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Joseph Hirsch.
Author 25 books89 followers
December 10, 2019
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 level and at the metaphoric. Even rarer is for something to be at once practical and spiritual. "Zen in the Art of Archery," though, rightfully has its place in the canon of such rarefied and concise works of spiritual literature.

It describes the journey, physical, spiritual, and intellectual, of a man named Eugen Herrigel, a German philosopher who traveled to Japan initially to teach with his wife, and then set out on a multi-year course in Kyūdō, the Japanese martial art of archery. His days consist of training with the bow and arrow, cursing his poor luck as he tries to seat the arrow in the nock and fire to the heart of the target true.

His trainer, referred to mostly (or maybe solely) throughout the text as Master, has dialogues with his pupil, answers some of his questions straightforwardly, others in epigrammatic quips pitched somewhere between haiku and drollery. The author, Herr Herrigel, grows in proficiency in the bow, gaining strength, insight, and humility, meditating on everything from death to the elusive and ineffable nature of perfection and the essence of Zen.

The book is is only a hundred pages are so, but brims with more knowledge than some libraries. It is, like the course of instruction it describes, the kind of work from which one gets out what they put in. If you want a couple hours' worth of fascinating and clear insight to unfurl before your eyes as two men talk to each other, this is a pretty good book. If you want to leave the world behind, retreat to an ashram or a cave for a few decades and ponder the mysteries of the universe, this is one of the books worth packing. Even if you pack light. Highest recommendation.
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books885 followers
January 27, 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, 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.
Profile Image for Maryam Samiei.
209 reviews65 followers
August 24, 2019
تمام و کمال لذت بردم. از تک تک بالا و پایین رفتن‌های شاگرد در مسیر آموختن لذت بردم. حتی از اون لحظاتی که به نظر به بن‌بست ناامیدی ختم می‌شد. در سوگ تائو نشستم، در سوگ خودِ واقعی نشستم، در حسرتِ بی‌روحی ماندم....
Profile Image for Ndrunella.
70 reviews2 followers
September 25, 2021
Un piccolo promemoria per scoprire come un lungo apprendistato, di un occidentale presso un maestro d'arco giapponese, possa permettere di cogliere quell'elemento che è capace di regalare la pace e il distacco da sé.
Profile Image for Stefano Saini.
78 reviews5 followers
April 12, 2022
Questo libro mi è stato suggerito per la prima volta con grande entusiasmo una decina d'anni fa da un amico, e trovandolo di recente a buon prezzo in perfette condizioni non ho esitato ad acquistarlo. Caso vuole che abbia poi incontrato nuovamente lo stesso amico e riconoscendo il volume nella sua biblioteca gli abbia chiesto di nuovo un parere. Non ricordava nulla del suo contenuto. Ad ogni modo veniva citato ne L'arte di amare che ho appena concluso, quindi si è inserito bene nel mio attuale flusso di letture.

Il libro è breve, schematico e gradevole. L'autore è un attento osservatore, riflessivo e meticoloso. Non penso si possa chiedere di meglio come narratore di un'esperienza di apprendimento. La parte più ostica rimane il tema. Lo Zen. La mia conclusione è che il tentativo di esprimere a parole un concetto astratto sia inevitabilmente destinato al fallimento a meno che l'audience non lo abbia già sperimentato personalmente. Lo Zen per quanto mi riguarda ricade nella vasta gamma degli stati d'animo, di percezione, coscienza ed affini. È possibile forse descrivere la tristezza a chi non l'abbia mai provata? Quindi, nonostante la bravura dell'autore, forse bisogna accettare il fatto che non tutto si possa apprendere dai libri. Mi viene da dire peraltro che non ci aspetteremmo nemmeno di imparare a nuotare grazie ad un manuale, quindi questa situazione non dovrebbe risultarci così anomala.

Aggiungo, come mi ha fatto notare un altro amico che l'ha letto nel mio stesso periodo, che l'autore non ci dice nulla di sé e dello Zen dopo la conclusione del suo apprendimento. Questa è forse l'unica accusa che mi sento di muovergli. Nel libro ci viene raccontata l'esperienza come se avesse effetti stravolgenti sull'esistenza umana. Non era forse fondamentale descrivere come e se è mutata la sua vita successivamente ad essa?

Per chiudere, questo volumetto è così rapido e ben fatto che suppongo sia un'ottima lettura per chiunque abbia interesse o quantomeno curiosità nello Zen. Dubito però da solo sarà sufficiente a condurvi all'Illuminazione. Qualunque cosa essa sia.
Profile Image for Laia Terré.
50 reviews3 followers
January 9, 2023
Relat autobiogràfic d'un alemany aprenent tir amb arc a Japó, amb tota la filosofia i espiritualitat que això comporta. Pel contingut i per la mateixa lectura (ritme, escriptura, contemplació, etc) et deixa en un estat de relaxació i "zen" que m'agrada.
Profile Image for Maartje.
35 reviews1 follower
Read
February 23, 2020
"Voor de eerzuchtige die zijn treffers telt, is de schijf een armzalig stuk papier, dat hij verscheurt." - blz. 67

"Zoals een blaadje kersebloesem zich in de straal van de morgenzon losmaakt en helglanzend naar de aarde glijdt, zo moet ook de vreesloze zich van het bestaan kunnen losmaken, geluidloos en innerlijk onbewogen." - blz 87
Profile Image for Abhi.
77 reviews42 followers
April 19, 2020
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.
403 reviews66 followers
February 9, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Justin Taylor.
12 reviews1 follower
December 17, 2021
I wonder what motivation an ardent member of the Nazi Party would have had to write a book about the importance of absolutely never questioning authority even when their orders conflict with your own views?
Profile Image for Lyubina Litsova.
368 reviews36 followers
February 19, 2018
Твоето съзнание е заето от въпроса: „Как да победя?“

Днешният свят се занимава само с техниката.

Когато ти си в определено състояние, освободен от всякакво съзнание, когато ти действуваш, без намерение, в съгласие с голямата Природа, само тогава ти си върху Верния път. Така че, забрави всяко намерение, упражнявай се в отсъствие от намерение и остави нещата да бъда вършени от Съществото.

Да бъдеш свободен от всякакво нещо, все пак не означава една празна празнота. Съществото в самото себе си няма собствена природа. То е зад всякаква форма, то не събира нищо в себе си. Ако човек спре или ако задържи каквото и да било, едва-едва и дори само за един миг, голямата сила остава прикрепена към него и равновесието на енергиите, които изтичат естествено от източниците, е изгубено.

Ако човек се освободи напълно от притежанието на самия себе си, ако така се освободи до дъното на душата си от всяко нещо, той се озовава в хармония със света, става едно с всички неща в голяма единност на цялото. Дори когато формата на противника се разпада, човек не осъзнава това. Не че той вътрешно не си дава сметка, но той не се спира и съзнанието продължвава да се движи свободно от всякакво ограничение. Неговото действие отвръща просто и свободно чрез съществото.

В цялата безбрежност на Небето и земята, следователно нищо не струва повече от нашата същност, усилието да бъде позната.

Смисълът на едно преподаване е само да подскаже търсенето на това, което всеки носи у себе си, без да го знае.

Из предговора от Дайсец Тейтеро Сузуки
Ако човек наистина желае да стане майстор в дадено Изкуство, техническото познание не е достатъчно.

Онова, което отличава най-характерно Дзен от всички останали учения – религиозни, философски или мистични е, че въпреки цялата си практичност и конкретност на принципа „тук и сега“, Дзен притежава нещо, което го поставя встрани от световния безпорядък и безпокойство. Тук стигаме до връзката между Дзен, от една страна, и стрелбата с лък, от друга страна, до връзката и с други изкуства, като бой с мечове, подреждането на цветя, чаената церемония и някои изящни изкуства.

Под „стрелба с лък“ в традиционния смисъл, която цени като изкуство и почита като национално наследство – японецът не разбира спорт, а колкото и странно да звучи първоначално това, религиозен ритуал. И съответно под „изкуството“ на стрелбата с лък той не разбира умението на спортиста, което може да бъде контролирано, повече или по-малко, чрез физически упражнения, а способност, чийто корен трябва да се търси в духовните упражнения и чиято цел се състои в това да улучи една духовна мишена, така че фундаментално стрелецът се цели в себе си и дори, че той може да успее да улучи себе си.

... за стрелеца е необходимо да се превърне, въпреки самия себе си, в неподвижен център. После идва върховното и последно чудо: изкуството става „безизкуствено“, стрелбата се превръща в „нестрелба“, стрелба без лък и стрели; Учителят отново става ученик, Майсторът – начинаещ, краят – начало, а началото – съвършенство.

Лъкът и стрелбата са само претекст за нещо, което може да се случи съвсем спокойно и без тях, т.е. само път към дадена цел, а не самата цел. Те са само спомагателни средства за последния решителен скок.

Точният изстрел в точното време не идва, защото ти не го пускаш от себе си.

- Истинското изкуство – извика Майсторът – е безцелно, то не си поставя цел! Колкото по-твърдоглаво се опитваш да научиш как да пуснеш стрелата, за да улучиш целта, толкова по-малко ще упееш в първото и толкова по-безуспешно ще ти се удава второто.

Това състояние, в което за нищо не мислиш, нищо не планираш, към нищо не се стремиш, желаеш или очакваш; което не е насочено в никоя определена посока и все пак се познава като способност и на възможното, и на невъзможното; чиято сила е толокав непоколебима – това състояние, което в основата си е безцелно и „без-аз-но“, Майсторът нарича истински „духовно“.

Стръмен е пътят към майсторството. Често нищо не поддържа ученика по време на обучението, освен неговата вяра в Учителя, чието майсторство сега е започнало да му просветва. Той е живият пример за вътрешна работа и всъщност той убеждава ученика просто с присъствието си.

Изтъкнах пред Майстора, че вече четвърта година се обучавам, а престоят ми в Япония е ограничен.
- Пътят към целта не трябва да се измерва! Какво значение имат седмиците, месеците, годините?
- Ами ако се наложи да се откажа по средата? – попитах аз.
- След като веднъж наистина се освободиш от своето его, можеш да се откажеш винаги. Продължавай да се упражняваш.

Преминаха седмици, без да направя и крачка напред. В същото време открих, че това въобще не ме безпокои. Уморил ли се бях от всичко това? Дали ще изуча изкуството или не, дали ще разбера какво има предвид Майсторът под „То“ или не, всичко това бе започнало изведнъж да ми се струва толкова далеч от мен, толкова безразлично, че вече съвсем не ме тревожеше. На няколко пъти решавах да се доверя на Майстора, но когато заставах пред него, изгубвах кураж; бях убеден, че никога няма да чуя нищо друго освен еднообразния отговор: „Не питай, упражнявай се!“ Така че престанах дапитам и ми се искаше да престана и да се упражнявам, ако Майсторът не беше ме уловил неумолимо в хватката си.

Стрелите ви не успяват – отбеляза Майсторът – защото не стигат достатъчно далеч „духовно“. Трябва да действувате така, сякаш целта е безкрайно далеч.

Вместо да изпълнявате церемонията като нещо научено наизуст, тя би трябвало да бъде сякаш вие я създавате под вдъхновението на мига, точно така, както танцьорът и танцът са едно и също.

Улучването на мишената е само външно доказателство и потвърждение на твоята безцелност в най-висшата ѝ степен, на твоята липса на его, твоето самоотречение или както ти харесва да наричаш това състояние. Има различни степени на майсторство, но само когато си овладял и последната, можеш да бъдеш сигурен, че няма да пропуснеш целта.

- Боя се, че не съм разбрал нищо повече – отвърнах аз. – Дори и най-простите неща ми се виждат объркани. „Аз“ ли опъвам лъка, или лъкът опъва мен до състояние на най-голямо напрежение? „Аз“ ли улучвам целта, или целта ме улучва? „То“ духовно ли е, когато го виждам през очите на тялото или телесно, когато го виждам през очите на духа – или и двете, или нито едното? Лък, стрела, цел и его – всички преливат едно в друго и аз вече не мога да ги отделям. И дори нуждата за отделяне е изчезнала. Защото веднага щом взема лъка и стрелям, всичко става толкова ясно и прямо, и толкова абсурдно просто...
- Сега най-после – намеси се Майсторът – тетивата на лъка се е врязала в теб.

Трябва да те предупредя само за едно. През тези години ти се превърна в различен от преди човек. И точно това означава Изкуството на стрелба с лък: дълбоко, стигащо далеч състезание на стрелеца със самия себе си.

Из „Дзен и изкуството на стрелба с лък“ - Ойген Херигъл
Превод от английски - Комо
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