"Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake up and become aware. It does not teach, it points." ~D.T. Suzuki

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Bull's Eye

or The Point of the Arrow
A Bull's Eye
The Point of the Arrow
"The man, the art, the work
--it is all one.”
Eugen Herrigel
(Zen in the Art of Archery)
“The right art," cried the Master, "is purposeless, aimless!
The more obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal,
the less you will succeed in the one and the further the other will recede.
What stands in your way is that you have a much too willful will.
You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen.”
 Eugen Herrigel,  Zen in the Art of Archery

After winning several archery contests,
the young and rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master
who was renowned for his skill as an archer.

The young man demonstrated
remarkable technical proficiency
when he hit a distant bull's eye on his first try, and then split that arrow with his second shot.
"There," he said to the old man, "see if you can match that!"
Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the young archer
to follow him up the mountain.

Curious about the old fellow's intentions,
the champion followed him high into the mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy and shaky log.

Calmly stepping out onto the middle
of the unsteady and certainly perilous bridge,
the old master
picked a far away tree as a target,
drew his bow,
and fired a clean, direct hit.
“You have described only too well," replied the Master, "where the difficulty lies...The right shot at the right moment does not come because you do not let go of yourself. You...brace yourself for failure. So long as that is so, you have no choice but to call forth something yourself that ought to happen independently of you, and so long as you call it forth your hand will not open in the right way--like the hand of a child.”
Eugen Herrigel,  Zen in the Art of Archery
"Now it is your turn,"
he said as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground.
“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.”
Eugen Herrigel,  Zen in the Art of Archery
Staring with terror
into the seemingly bottomless and beckoning abyss,
the young man
could not force himself to step out onto the log,
no less shoot at a target.
"Don't think of what you have to do, don't consider how to carry it out!" he exclaimed.
"The shot will only go smoothly when it takes the archer himself by surprise."
Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery
"You have much skill with your bow," the master said,
sensing his challenger's predicament,
"but you have little skill with the mind
that lets loose the shot."
“And what impels him to repeat this process at every single lesson, and, with the same remorseless insistence, to make his pupils copy it without the least alteration? He sticks to this traditional custom because he knows from experience that the preparations for working put him simultaneously in the right frame of mind for creating. 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.”
Eugen Herrigel,  Zen in the Art of Archery
According to the Nippon Kyudo Federation the supreme goal of kyudo is the state of shin-zen-bi, roughly "truth-goodness-beauty",which can be approximated as: when archers shoot correctly (i.e. truthfully) with virtuous spirit and attitude toward all persons and all things which relate to kyudo (i.e. with goodness), beautiful shooting is realised naturally.
Zen Archery 
Sensei Suzuki

"In the case of archery,
the hitter and the hit
are no longer two opposing objects,
but are one reality." 

Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery
© 2013 MU-Peter Shimon

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