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Zen in the Art of Archery: A Practitioner's View
Author O'Brien, Liam
Source The Middle Way: Journal of the Buddhist Society
Volumev.78 n.4
Date2004.02
Pages195 - 204
PublisherThe Buddhist Society
Publisher Url http://www.thebuddhistsociety.org/
LocationLondon, England, UK [倫敦, 英格蘭, 英國]
Content type期刊論文=Journal Article
Language英文=English
AbstractIn the 1920s the German academic Eugen Herrigel went to Japan in search of the Zen experience. He had studied theology and then philosophy at Heidelberg University, and through his interest in Christian mysticism (Eckhart), he became interested in Zen, which he thought of as one of the most mystical of religions. He wanted to find a way of directly experiencing living Buddhism, which he understood could be found in the practice of Zen Buddhism.

He was advised that as a foreigner with no command of Japanese, he would be better off if he first of all studied an art form (geido) that was related to Zen and through that to gradually find a relationship to Zen Buddhism. On this recommendation he took up the practice of kyudo, the way of the Japanese bow, and wrote about his experiences in his now famous book Zen in the Art of Archery. With the publication of an English-language edition in 1956, further publications followed in many languages, including Japanese. This book helped to popularize an interest in Zen and kyudo and to establish the notion that they are in some way intimately connected.

Herrigel took up his kyudo training under Master Kenzo Awa. He came from the Japanese archery tradition that evolved historically from two main lineages, the warrior tradition (bushakei), which used the bow as a weapon of war, and the ceremonial tradition (reishakei), with its emphasis on ritualized shooting form. When the bow became obsolete as a weapon, it continued to be used for competition and ritual ceremony. Eventually its use became a way of moral and spiritual training.

Awa was considered an expert and was well known for his accuracy. He was capable of hyappatsu hyakuchu -- 100 shots, 100 hits -- and in his earlier period as an instructor he emphasized accuracy. But at a point in his kyudo career, he is purported to have had doubts about his shooting and about Japanese archery as just excellence in technique. He adopted the view nani mo iranu -- nothing is needed -- and held that practice goes beyond technique and that there is a need to create a 'spiritual' release with absolute, deepest effort issha zetsumei -- one shot, one life. It would seem that Awa had some insight or awakening in his own practice, upon which this was founded. Awa's kyudo became more of a spiritual way, almost to the extent of being considered a religion by some of his critics. At this time, Jigoro Kano founded judo, whose concept was opposed to the purely technical jujitsu. At the same time, kyudo was evolving from kyujitsu (Japanese archery) as a way of moral training and cultivating the character. Awa's creation of his own school of the 'great shooting way' (daishado) reflected this shift of focus, but to his own extreme of spiritual intention.

Kyudo practitioners at the time considered Awa unorthodox, if not eccentric. There may even have been some who thought he was mad. He definitely did not represent the mainstream of kyudo. Also, his relationship to Zen practice is not clear. He had a 'brother' student, with whom he had undergone training, in Zen Master Umeji Roshi, who was also considered unconventional in his teaching of kyudo and who used Zen approaches in his teaching method. It is known that he was greatly admired by Awa and that they trained together even after they had established their own training practices. But it seems that Awa never actually formally adopted Zen training or practised sitting meditation (zazen). His approach was to use kyudo as a way of transcendental experience, and he used Zen concepts and terminology to illustrate this, but that is as far as the connection seems to have gone.

For Herrigel in his own quest for insight through a Zen practice, Awa was custom-made. He must have fitted completely Herrigel's romantic notion of the mysterious and mystical master. As was mentioned earlier, Herrigel did not speak or understand Japanese, and this would not have helped him to understand that Awa
ISSN00263214 (P)
Hits1728
Created date2009.09.30
Modified date2020.11.04



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