Zen in the Art of Archery

Zen in the Art of Archery
by Eugen Herrigel

This was a read it twice book. Sometimes you have to take it all in before you can really take it all in, ya know?

A German philosopher moves to Japan for six years to subject himself to the theory and practice of Zen Buddhism and find it through archery. The author offers an intriguing perspective in that he was a philosophy professor, which is very conceptual, and he is learning Zen, which is technically nothingness. Not within one’s mind. Notice that the title of the book is “Zen IN the art of archery.” Not “Zen AND the Art of Archery.”

Dhyana Buddhism is what we know as Zen. It cannot be understood or achieved through intellectual means. As is the resounding principle of Zen, it is nothing. You know it by not knowing it. The book, or more so the teachings of the authors master, continually comes back to following the flow of being. To not be clouded with conscious thought. To stay away from words and concepts and move into existence itself. In that regard, archery has many concepts, one being, “try to hit the target with the arrow.” The lesson being that if everything is done properly there is no need to think about the target, about the goal. Archery is the way to the goal, and by no means the goal itself.

To see success the master looks at the archer, not the target. Neither celebrating good shots or grieving bad ones because it’s not the end result that is being sought. The take away from the book is to withdraw from attachments to anything. Specifically, expectations and outcomes. To find joy and presence in the process and although most processes have a desired result, to appreciate that moment of being in whatever is, and not stress over what comes out of it.

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