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Zen in the Art of Archery Paperback – Jan 26 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (Jan. 26 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375705090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375705090
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 0.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 91 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #53,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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 little book, Mr. Herrigel, a German philosopher who came to Japan and took up the practice of archery toward an understanding of Zen, gives an illuminating account of his own experience. Through his expression, 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.”—D.T. Suzuki, author of Zen in Japanese Culture
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback
I have played the piano for thirty-five years and taught it for over twenty. I have written a book on teaching piano that is in the Lincoln Center Library for Performing Arts. The ideas and examples in this book, along with my mentor, helped me achieve breakthroughs in music when many other methods failed. In a way, I owe much of my teaching success to this book.
The book's beauty lies in a westerner's desperate attempts to make logical sense of concepts that are irrational and experiential. For example, the master told the author to let go of the string but also to not let go... Let the spirit "It" pull the string from the hand. Gradually releasing it, the string should leave the hand as though passing through butter.

I can attest to this idea's power. In piano, achieving pleasant tone is a contradictory skill. On the one hand, you have to play with enough force to project tone, on the other hand, you have to attack the key gently to create a rounded sound. The solution I found is called the "controlled drop," where you must let the arm drop but catch it. Like letting go of a bowstring, letting go of my arm to make pleasant sound at the piano is a joint effort between conscious and unconscious will.
Illustrating the sometimes difficult ideas are great anecdotes and quotes in the book. Like when the author challenged the master to shoot blindfolded, thinking it would be a rhetorical request. Instead, the master did just that, hitting the bullseye and splitting the first arrow with a second. And like when the master said, when you make a good shot, do not celebrate, bow and thank the spirit It. You are not responsible.
Perhaps the quotes and stories in this book anger some students of kyudo because they are kind of movie cliches by now, but at the time, it was new.
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Format: Paperback
"Zen In the Art of Archery" is, hands down, the absolute worst book one could possibly read if, by reading it, one hopes to get a clear understanding of what kyudo is.
I am the translator of the article "The Myth of Zen in the Art of Archery" by professor Yamada Shoji, mentioned upthread by another reviewer. Professor Yamada is an experienced kyudo practitoner. I also have been practicing kyudo for 30 years, 11 of them in Japan under the tutelage of some of the most senior instructors in Japan.
To put it bluntly, Herrigel got everything, and I mean everything, wrong. He himself only practiced kyudo for three years, if his translator Sozo Komachiya is to be believed (he started in 1926 and returned to Germany in 1929). He spoke no Japanese. He was himself a mystic (or he wanted to be one, anyway) intent on understanding Zen, not archery, and he had very definite pre-formed ideas about what he was looking for and what he believed Zen, and, by extension kyudo, to be. Given such a situation, the impending disaster was a forgone conclusion. Even with the best instruction he would not have understood kyudo.
His book is very seductive, filled as it is with tantalizing mystical stories about a seeker on the road to "enlightenment". So, it will appeal to romantics who have no experience in either Zen or kyudo, and it has been my experience that the book indeed appeals primarily to such people. It is instructive to note that those people who have experience in either discipline are quick to point out how thoroughly Herrigel bollixed it up.
I began kyudo under the influence of his book, and it was only after many years that I fully realized exactly how pernicious that influence was.
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Format: Paperback
Before I begin, I would like to mention that I have been a student of Zen Buddhism for some years and have also been a kyudo practitioner for some time. Thus, I think I can speak a little from both sides. I shall first state that this book is truly an inspirational account of Mr.Herrigel's own personal, spiritual journey and should be recognized as a good read. It is also a good starting point for a Western beginner of Zen Buddhism as it gives him/her a glimpse from a Westerner's perspective. Having said that, Zen in the Art of Archery has some fundamental problems and errors that misrepresents both Zen Buddhism and kyudo.It might surprise some readers to learn that it has been severely criticized by modern teachers and practitioners of kyudo. To start with, as stated in the book, Herrigel has only one intention of learning kyudo-to become a Zen mystic. Thus his heart is not in kyudo at all. Just as one should do zazen for the sake of zazen one should also do kyudo for the sake of kyudo. Herrigel came to study kyudo with his cup half-full. Next, one must also know that Awa, Herrigel's teacher himself has never been a Zen practitioner and has never done a formal Zen training at all, which is all-important for someone who wishes to understand Zen. Awa, while a fantastic archer, has also been regarded as highly unorthodox in his teaching and views and one should thus not equate his teachings to be the norm of kyudo and Zen. Another glaring problem is that Mr. Herrigel himself does not understand Japanese and relies on an interpreter, Mr. Komachiya. Mr. Komachiya has himself wrote that he has taken liberty in explaining some of Awa's words to Herrigel. One of the most important part of the book, the Target in the Dark, highlights this problem.Read more ›
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