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Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel

Zen in the Art of Archery (original 1948; edition 1999)

by Eugen Herrigel, R. F. C. Hull (Translator), Daisetz T. Suzuki (Introduction)

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Title:Zen in the Art of Archery
Authors:Eugen Herrigel
Other authors:R. F. C. Hull (Translator), Daisetz T. Suzuki (Introduction)
Info:Vintage Books (1999), Paperback, 81 pages
Collections:Your library

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Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel (1948)



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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
I read this book a long time ago and I have returned to it.

Zen and the Art of Archery is still, for its time, an excellent description of an occidental immersing himself into the cultural and philosophical depths of Asia. When Herrigel visited Japan, he was unique, for there were not too many occidentals who ventured to Japan,nor were there too many who had the open mind or courage to enter into Asian art forms with guileless curiosity.

As a result, his account of his lessons with the master and his experience is about as pure as possible. But, he did still carry the Occidental ideas on learning, and training in an martial art. He was a skilled pistol shooter by his account so some of what his personal accounts were colored by that part of his makeup. His account though is relatively free of overt western arrogance and preconceived notions.

In the time that has elapsed between my first reading of this book and now, I have been changed by my own readings and prejudices. What Herrigel was trying to convey in this book, the modern writers call "flow", a term coined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. A state of being that conforms somewhat to what people used to call being in the zone, or the unconscious state of being completely comfortable with ones surroundings and being at such a heightened state of enhanced performance that performance is simple and unencumbered by the burden of thought. Indeed, the mind is completely unmoored from one's being, some have compared this to be a state of unconscious consciousness.

Ed Slingerland wrote about this in his book Trying Not To Try, a personal favorite. His concept of "flow" comes from Chinese philosophy, and it is called "wu-wei". There is indeed some differences between Slingerland's Chinese philosophy of Confucianism and Daoism versus Herrigel's Zen Buddhism. The Chinese school is much more formalized and more structured, while the Japanese is more mystical and less structured. Regardless of the formalism in their philosophy, the ideas are almost identical, different sides of the same coin.

The drawback for me is that Herrigel's account is showing its age, the accounts are somewhat naive and full of wonder at the vastly different turns of the mind that the master and other practitioners of archery practice versus his own Occidental mind.

I suppose I may be termed jaded after my own readings but Herrigel's account still carries a certain level of wonder as I read through it for the second time. It is indeed an excellent account of an Occidental's foray into the, for its time, mystery and mythical state of the Asian mind. It is still very worthwhile to read this short book and it is still very worthy of its place in the references on learning. ( )
  pw0327 | Jun 10, 2016 |
  Jway | Apr 18, 2016 |
There is only one thing the Zen Master has taught me, and it is that mud is better than words ("...boy"). So I feel kind of underwhelmed by Herrigel's attempt to Teutonize kyūdo into submission. Like, as long as he's trying to isolate its unique conceptual essence in the grand tradition of the idealist philosophers, you're all "yeah right man, I seen the Matrix or the Karate Kid, this never gonna work," and it doesn't, and then he learns to embrace irrationalism and wins the approval of his sensei (and who knows what that means really, since evidently it's not about whether the arrows hit their target exactly, but still kind of is, and I am every kind of a lover of things Japanese but there is a cultic aspect to this stuff that raises the spectre of the spurious for me) but he still hasn't emptied out entirely and you can see that unreason for him is not its own end still a kind of wild man way to break open and plumb this tradition and something doesn't sit right and then you look him up and sure enough, he was a committed Nazi right to the end and beyond. Presumably of the mystical variety, but still, ugh. ( )
1 vote MeditationesMartini | Mar 24, 2016 |
This book is not so much about Zen, and hardly about archery. It is rather a study of the mystical possibilities of traditional technegogy. Given that, and its period, it is perhaps unsurprising that the other book of which it most reminded me was Hesse's Glass Bead Game. Zen in the Art of Archery, though, is not a sprawling pseudo-academic doorstop novel set in an imagined future, but rather a straightforward and concise topical memoir.

In his aspiration to mystical experience, Herrigel writes that "the longing persisted, and, when it grew weary, the longing for this longing" (14). The book itself is a much briefer affair. And yet, it opens onto even broader vistas than the six years that the author spent in his archery training.
3 vote paradoxosalpha | Jul 29, 2015 |
This is a very interesting book. Archery in respects to the Japanese is not a sport. Learning archery involves a spiritual approach. You must detach yourself and learn to breath through everything. If you have enough time and patience, you should try it. The author took more than 4 years to become a master. ( )
  terrygraap | May 18, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eugen Herrigelprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hull, Richard Francis CarringtonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Suzuki, Daisetz T.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
Um dos aspectos mais significativos na prática do tiro com arco – e em qualquer outra arte praticada no Japão e provavelmente também noutros países do Extremo Oriente – é o facto de não ter quaisquer propósitos utilitários, nem se destinar à pura fruição estética. Na verdade, representa um exercício da consciência, com o objectivo de a pôr em contacto com a realidade última. Assim, não se pratica o tiro com arco no mero intuito de acertar no alvo, nem se maneja a espada com o fim de vencer o adversário, o bailarino não dança apenas para executar um movimento rítmico: acima de tudo pretende-se harmonizar o consciente com o inconsciente.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375705090, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:16 -0400)

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