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This slender book tells the story of Herrigel's efforts to learn about Zen, through the practice of archery, when he lived in Japan.  In essence, he learns that he must clear his mind of all external clutter until all that exists is the bow, the arrow and the target.  But the process of learning this seemingly simple lesson is continually stymied by his stubborn adherence to Western ideas.

This is a pleasant enough little book, but one problem with this and with the exaltation of Zen in general is that Westerners routinely do exactly what practitioners of Zen do, without making such an elaborate production out of it. There is a great scene in John McPhee's A Sense of Where You Are : A Profile of William Warren Bradley, when Bradley is just lighting it up in the NCAA tournament and he feels like he's hogging the ball, but he's so hot that his teammates just keep giving him the ball.  He keeps making shots and they won't take any until he misses, so he starts taking increasingly ridiculous shots and they keep going in.  In the cliche of the moment, he has found the Zone.

Anyone who has ever flashbowled, knows the sensation that occurs when you become one with the lights and start throwing 800's, and, hell, that's typically after 15 beers and you don't see me writing Zen in the Art of Flashbowling..



Grade: (C+)


See also:

Book-related and General Links:
    Dharma: The Buddhist Web Site
    Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
    Zen Buddhist Texts
    Zen Mountain Monastery

If you liked Zen in the Art of Archery, try:

Hesse, Herman

Hoff, Benjamin
    -The Tao of Pooh

McInerney, Jay

Musashi, Miyamoto
    -The Book of Five Rings

Pirsig, Robert
    -Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : An Inquiry into Values

Salzman, Mark
    -Iron and Silk

Watts, Alan
    -The Way of Zen

Yoshikawa, Eiji