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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to Zen
Whether you are interested in exploring Zen as a discipline or driven by curiosity, this short book is definitely worth a read. Eugen Herrigel's journey through the apprenticeship of archery in Japan - years of hard - and often frustrating - practice, learning to "let go" and achieving absolute focus on the task by eliminating all "distracting"...
Published on 30 Oct 2000

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars more Zen
I felt that this was a diary of a personal journey towards a Zen state using archery as a vehicle. It would be more interesting to students of philosophy or theology than to practising archers, unless they were particularly interested in this specific Japanese ceremonial archery.
Published 15 months ago by A Page


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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to Zen, 30 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Zen in the Art of Archery: Training the Mind and Body to Become One (Arkana) (Paperback)
Whether you are interested in exploring Zen as a discipline or driven by curiosity, this short book is definitely worth a read. Eugen Herrigel's journey through the apprenticeship of archery in Japan - years of hard - and often frustrating - practice, learning to "let go" and achieving absolute focus on the task by eliminating all "distracting" self-centered concerns - are at the same time inspiring by the huge potential it suggests we all bear in ourselves and demystifying thanks to Herrigel's sober account of his experience. The prior reviewer says it right: quite appropriately given its theme, the beauty of this book lies in is simplicity. This is very welcome for what is an often misused and mis-understood topic.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zen In The Art Of Archery., 9 Nov 2010
By 
ShiDaDao Ph.D (London UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Zen in the Art of Archery: Training the Mind and Body to Become One (Arkana) (Paperback)
Eugene Herrigel (1884-1955), studied Japanese archery (Kyujutsu-kyodo), in Japan during his time as a professor between 1924-1929. His teacher was named Awa Kenzo (1880-1939), himself a master of Heki-ryu Sekka-ha kyujutsu. This book started life as an essay written in 1936 by Herrigel, (in German), entitled 'The Chivalrous Art of Archery'. The essay was elaborated and extended in 1948, then becoming the classic book entitled 'Zen in the Art of Archery'. This is one of those rare books that has been written in the West, for a predominantly Western audience, that has been translated into Japanese and published in Japan as 'Yumi To Zen', or 'The Bow of Zen'.

The book has a Forward by DT Suzuki - the famous Zen commentator, and was translated into English by RFC Hull. The book is separated into eleven, short chapters. The content of the book is comprised of Herrigel's experience as a foreigner in pre-second world war Japan. Oddly, Herrigel makes no reference to the dramatic militarisation and modernisation of 1920's Japan, or indeed any reference to the Nazification of Germany. Instead, the book is written in an historical void. Considering the devastation of the times Herrigal lived through, this omission might well be deliberate and designed to focus the reader's attention firmly upon the subject at hand.

Herrigal, a professor in Philosophy, was well aware of Zen Buddhism, a Japanese interpretation of Chinese Ch'an Buddhism. This school originated in India and was known a Dhyana - both Ch'an and Zen are transliterations of this term, which may be defined as to 'meditate', and refer to the enlightened Mind, as well as the insight and wisdom such meditation can produce. In ancient China, martial practice has often carried a spiritual dimension - with the great sage Confucius actually mentioning archery practice itself as a means of character development. Usually, whether Daoist, Confucian or Buddhist, the practice of a an art, martial or otherwise, is really an exercise in calming the Mind and refining inner energy (qi). Although martial arts may be used in time of war for defensive purposes, it is also true that mastery at the highest level transcends violence and aggression, without losing practical ability.

By the time Herrigel left Japan in 1929, his master had conferred upon him the relatively high grade of 5th dan, blackbelt. Master Awa Kenzo also presented Herrigal with a bow to take with him, an act showing very great respect between the two men. Archery in Japan tends to mirror its Chinese counter-part. This practice uses the bow to calm the Mind, control the body and regulate the breath. In this sense, the character development achieved is typical of a Confucian refinement ritual. The practice of focusing upon the breath however, does offer an area where Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist practice over-lap. Herrigel discusses refined breathing at some length in his book. As his practice deepened, Herrigal presented his understanding through the concept of Zen Buddhism, which is not surprising, as Awa himself presented much of his teaching through the philosophy of Zen Buddhism.

This is an endearing book. Its importance transcends the boundaries of Kyudo, and a student of any traditional martial art would benefit greatly from reading it. An interesting book to read alongside is John Stevens' Zen Bow, Zen Arrow - a biography of master Awa Kenzo, the teacher of Herrigal himself. Interestingly, Stevens points out that the English rendering of Herrigel's account (from the original German), might well be responsible for one or two errors that have crept in. For instance, the English rendering claims that Herrigel taught at Tokyo University, when in fact he taught at Tohoku University in Sendai, etc.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Unconscious Competence into Spirituality, 9 Aug 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Zen in the Art of Archery: Training the Mind and Body to Become One (Arkana) (Paperback)
To those who already practice Zen Buddhism, this book will seem awkward. To those nonpractitioners who would like to understand how to practice Zen Buddhism, this book will be a delightful enlightenment -- especially valuable to those who live outside of Asia. Eugen Herrigel takes on the almost impossible task of describing in writing something that has to be experienced to be understood, and is remarkably effective.
The author spent six years in Japan just after World War II, and decided that he wanted to understand Zen Buddhism. He was correctly advised that Zen needed to be experienced as the path to achieving that understanding. Several possible areas were suggested, from sword fighting to flower arrangement to archery. Because he had experience with rifle target shooting, the author chose archery. He was fortunate to be taken on by a Zen master who normally refused to teach Westerners, because they are so difficult to teach.
As a typical high-achieving Westerner, Mr. Herrigel wanted to make rapid progress and to achieve conscious competence in archery. His instructor wanted him to achieve unconscious competence based on experience and build from there into spiritual awareness. This conflict in perceptions created quite a tension for both of them. This tension was ironic, because the purpose of Zen practice is to achieve the ability to be strong like the flexible water. Tension is the enemy of that state of being.
Mr. Herrigel also learned from attending flower arranging classes from his wife, who was studying Zen in this way. He also benefited from finding some wonderful commentaries on sword fighting as a path to Zen that are included in this book. These are more eloquent than Mr. Herrigel, and he chose wisely in saving them for the end.
I suspect that this wonderful book will mean the most to people who have regularly practiced either meditation or Eastern-style breathing. Having followed both kinds of practices for the past six years, I found it was easier to relate to the Zen concepts in that way than through trying to imagine myself performing the archery described here.
By the way, this archery is not at all like what you did in camp as a youngster. It is both much more stylized and difficult. Think of it as being more like a Japanese tea ceremony than like Western-style archery.
You will love the many descriptions of how Zen masters helped their students learn through experience rather than lecturing or demonstrating to them endlessly. Mr. Herrigel makes a good point concerning how Japanese teaching in these ancient arts has remained the same, while newer subjects are taught much differently.
Some of the most beautiful parts of the book are the explanations that employ natural metaphors. The concept of the Samurai is explained through the fragile cherry blossom, for example, in a way you will not soon forget. The metaphors used in the archery are also very compelling and vivid. They spoke very eloquently to me, especially about how the shot is "released."
I got a lot personally from this book in reconsidering how I could and should step back more often to "go with the flow" of the moment rather than trying to orchestrate everything very rationally. The book made me much more aware that I operate in both styles, probably too often in the totally preplanned rational one.
I am also reminded of books about golf that I have read that cite similar principles for becoming more competent. I also remembered how all of my best golf shots have come when I was totally egoless. That lesson was very profound for me. I wonder what will happen in other areas if I follow that lesson, as well.
If you have never tried meditation, I encourage you to experience this if you find this book interesting. That will probably be your best way to begin to explore what is described here. Naturally, if you can find someone to teach you one of the Japanese arts, that will further expand your soul.
A good Western-style book to help you rethink your approach to life that parallels this one in many ways is The Art of Imperfection. The title is a misnomer. What we often think of as perfection is really the height of imperfection, as the author discovered when he began substituting his own methods for those of his Zen master.
Aim straight for yourself!
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and enlightening, 26 Feb 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Zen in the Art of Archery: Training the Mind and Body to Become One (Arkana) (Paperback)
The previous reviews sum it up pretty well - I have been interested in buddism for some time, however not read much about zen itself. This is a beautiful, inspiring book which makes the reader want to book their ticket to Japan right now, and find the Master. What a contrast to western ways of thinking this provides - a true insight into the eastern mindset, and into the nature of zen itself. I have been inspired to take out several books on zen from the library as a consequence.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a classic, 1 Dec 2009
By 
This review is from: Zen in the Art of Archery: Training the Mind and Body to Become One (Arkana) (Paperback)
First published in 1953 this classic still is fresh and full of profound insights today. Earnestly wishing to understand Zen Herrigel with great difficulty manages to get accepted by an archery master in Japan and enters on a troublesome journey to acquire the art of archery. Exasperation and despair follow for two years and yet his determination not to give in to the humiliation of defeat pushes him on to continue unable at this stage to see that it is his very fear of failure that is standing in his way. A further three years of study and Herrigel succeeds in penetrating the essence of Zen.

This is a masterful book giving as it does an almost allegorical description, through his real life struggles with a martial art, of the true purpose that underlines the struggles that the acolyte goes through. The more the struggle to do well is present the less accomplishment comes and it is not until that egoic desire to achieve is relinquished that the perfection of the art is accomplished.

This short and easy read says more than some tomes on the subject of the relinquishment of the conditioned mind in favour of potential enlightenment which is the fundamental teaching of Zen Buddhism. Zen in the Art of Flower Arrangement: An Introduction to the Spirit of the Japanese Art of Flower Arrangement
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captures the escence of "Zen" in a very understated wy., 6 April 2000
This review is from: Zen in the Art of Archery: Training the Mind and Body to Become One (Arkana) (Paperback)
By describing the long years he spent learning archery in Japan Herrigel gives an insight into Zen directly, without concepts or gross over explaining of something which is beyhond explanation. A great book if you have heard the word Zen and want to know what it "aims" at. An ideal introduction to Zen literature. One other reviewer said it just seemed to be book about learning to use a bow rather than enlightenment. Exactly.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zen as it is in doing, 21 April 2007
By 
Frank Bierbrauer (Manchester, Lancashire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Zen in the Art of Archery: Training the Mind and Body to Become One (Arkana) (Paperback)
The task Professor Herrigel set himself was to experience true Zen, he did this without realising that abandonment of self was a primary objective. In other words the practice or the decision to undertake anything very much is a step into the unknown even when the person involved never considers the possibility of his very self undergoing radical change, somehow one believes "I" will always remain afterwards. Little by little Herrigel underwent powerful changes in his Zen experience which literally must be undertaken in an authentic way i.e. by the sort of practice having no limits or bounds, a wholehearted approach somewhat alien to most westerners. The book is an honest and clear account of his experience in Japan and is somewhat akin to that of Jan Whilhelm van de Wetering in "The Empty Mirror", humourous experiences such as when the master wishes to find out more about what he does and in this way try to understand why the practice of archery is so difficult for him : exclaiming after he reads a philosophy book that "no wonder you have so much difficulty", adds to the humanity of the story. Although a small book it is rich in personal experience and a treasure which can be read again and again to revitalise one's own practice. It is also far more readable than his other books which are full of difficult philosophical concepts and lack the depth of humanity shown in this one. The book stresses what must be said again and again, Zen is about doing rather than knowing (in the conventional sense) and Herrigel realises that only in the practice of Zen, rather than just reading about it, can it be truly "known". He also demonstrates the great challenges to be faced in this practice especially as regards the conflicts which arise between the "artless art", Zen, which is free of thought and that of his profession which is never free of the constricting domain of thought. A superb book which never fails to inspire.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A German Philosopher introduces Zen, 8 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Eugen Herrigal was a German philosopher who learned the Japanese traditional form of archery as a way of learning about Zen. This story of his journey covers four years and many trials, but is the best exposition a Western mind can hope for to explain the mysteries of the Zen approach to learning. He becomes an accomplished archer, but that is incidental - and yet core to the experience.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Unconscious Competence into Spirituality, 9 Aug 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
To those who already practice Zen Buddhism, this book will seem awkward. To those nonpractitioners who would like to understand how to practice Zen Buddhism, this book will be a delightful enlightenment -- especially valuable to those who live outside of Asia. Eugen Herrigel takes on the almost impossible task of describing in writing something that has to be experienced to be understood, and is remarkably effective.
The author spent six years in Japan just after World War II, and decided that he wanted to understand Zen Buddhism. He was correctly advised that Zen needed to be experienced as the path to achieving that understanding. Several possible areas were suggested, from sword fighting to flower arrangement to archery. Because he had experience with rifle target shooting, the author chose archery. He was fortunate to be taken on by a Zen master who normally refused to teach Westerners, because they are so difficult to teach.
As a typical high-achieving Westerner, Mr. Herrigel wanted to make rapid progress and to achieve conscious competence in archery. His instructor wanted him to achieve unconscious competence based on experience and build from there into spiritual awareness. This conflict in perceptions created quite a tension for both of them. This tension was ironic, because the purpose of Zen practice is to achieve the ability to be strong like the flexible water. Tension is the enemy of that state of being.
Mr. Herrigel also learned from attending flower arranging classes from his wife, who was studying Zen in this way. He also benefited from finding some wonderful commentaries on sword fighting as a path to Zen that are included in this book. These are more eloquent than Mr. Herrigel, and he chose wisely in saving them for the end.
I suspect that this wonderful book will mean the most to people who have regularly practiced either meditation or Eastern-style breathing. Having followed both kinds of practices for the past six years, I found it was easier to relate to the Zen concepts in that way than through trying to imagine myself performing the archery described here.
By the way, this archery is not at all like what you did in camp as a youngster. It is both much more stylized and difficult. Think of it as being more like a Japanese tea ceremony than like Western-style archery.
You will love the many descriptions of how Zen masters helped their students learn through experience rather than lecturing or demonstrating to them endlessly. Mr. Herrigel makes a good point concerning how Japanese teaching in these ancient arts has remained the same, while newer subjects are taught much differently.
Some of the most beautiful parts of the book are the explanations that employ natural metaphors. The concept of the Samurai is explained through the fragile cherry blossom, for example, in a way you will not soon forget. The metaphors used in the archery are also very compelling and vivid. They spoke very eloquently to me, especially about how the shot is "released."
I got a lot personally from this book in reconsidering how I could and should step back more often to "go with the flow" of the moment rather than trying to orchestrate everything very rationally. The book made me much more aware that I operate in both styles, probably too often in the totally preplanned rational one.
I am also reminded of books about golf that I have read that cite similar principles for becoming more competent. I also remembered how all of my best golf shots have come when I was totally egoless. That lesson was very profound for me. I wonder what will happen in other areas if I follow that lesson, as well.
If you have never tried meditation, I encourage you to experience this if you find this book interesting. That will probably be your best way to begin to explore what is described here. Naturally, if you can find someone to teach you one of the Japanese arts, that will further expand your soul.
A good Western-style book to help you rethink your approach to life that parallels this one in many ways is The Art of Imperfection. The title is a misnomer. What we often think of as perfection is really the height of imperfection, as the author discovered when he began substituting his own methods for those of his Zen master.
Aim straight for yourself!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Unconscious Competence into Spirituality, 9 Aug 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
To those who already practice Zen Buddhism, this book will seem awkward. To those nonpractitioners who would like to understand how to practice Zen Buddhism, this book will be a delightful enlightenment -- especially valuable to those who live outside of Asia. Eugen Herrigel takes on the almost impossible task of describing in writing something that has to be experienced to be understood, and is remarkably effective.
The author spent six years in Japan just after World War II, and decided that he wanted to understand Zen Buddhism. He was correctly advised that Zen needed to be experienced as the path to achieving that understanding. Several possible areas were suggested, from sword fighting to flower arrangement to archery. Because he had experience with rifle target shooting, the author chose archery. He was fortunate to be taken on by a Zen master who normally refused to teach Westerners, because they are so difficult to teach.
As a typical high-achieving Westerner, Mr. Herrigel wanted to make rapid progress and to achieve conscious competence in archery. His instructor wanted him to achieve unconscious competence based on experience and build from there into spiritual awareness. This conflict in perceptions created quite a tension for both of them. This tension was ironic, because the purpose of Zen practice is to achieve the ability to be strong like the flexible water. Tension is the enemy of that state of being.
Mr. Herrigel also learned from attending flower arranging classes from his wife, who was studying Zen in this way. He also benefited from finding some wonderful commentaries on sword fighting as a path to Zen that are included in this book. These are more eloquent than Mr. Herrigel, and he chose wisely in saving them for the end.
I suspect that this wonderful book will mean the most to people who have regularly practiced either meditation or Eastern-style breathing. Having followed both kinds of practices for the past six years, I found it was easier to relate to the Zen concepts in that way than through trying to imagine myself performing the archery described here.
By the way, this archery is not at all like what you did in camp as a youngster. It is both much more stylized and difficult. Think of it as being more like a Japanese tea ceremony than like Western-style archery.
You will love the many descriptions of how Zen masters helped their students learn through experience rather than lecturing or demonstrating to them endlessly. Mr. Herrigel makes a good point concerning how Japanese teaching in these ancient arts has remained the same, while newer subjects are taught much differently.
Some of the most beautiful parts of the book are the explanations that employ natural metaphors. The concept of the Samurai is explained through the fragile cherry blossom, for example, in a way you will not soon forget. The metaphors used in the archery are also very compelling and vivid. They spoke very eloquently to me, especially about how the shot is "released."
I got a lot personally from this book in reconsidering how I could and should step back more often to "go with the flow" of the moment rather than trying to orchestrate everything very rationally. The book made me much more aware that I operate in both styles, probably too often in the totally preplanned rational one.
I am also reminded of books about golf that I have read that cite similar principles for becoming more competent. I also remembered how all of my best golf shots have come when I was totally egoless. That lesson was very profound for me. I wonder what will happen in other areas if I follow that lesson, as well.
If you have never tried meditation, I encourage you to experience this if you find this book interesting. That will probably be your best way to begin to explore what is described here. Naturally, if you can find someone to teach you one of the Japanese arts, that will further expand your soul.
A good Western-style book to help you rethink your approach to life that parallels this one in many ways is The Art of Imperfection. The title is a misnomer. What we often think of as perfection is really the height of imperfection, as the author discovered when he began substituting his own methods for those of his Zen master.
Aim straight for yourself!
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