Zen in the Art of Archery

Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel.

It is almost impossible to understand Zen by studying it as you would other intellectual pursuits. The best way to understand Zen is, simply, to Zen. This is what author Eugen Herrigel allows us to do by sharing his own fascinating journey toward a comprehension of this illuminating philosophy.

In Japan, an art such as archery is not practiced solely for utilitarian purposes such as learning to hit targets. Archery is also meant to train the mind and bring it into contact with the ultimate reality.

If one really wishes to be master of an art, technical knowledge of it is not enough. One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an “artless art” growing out of the Unconsciousness. In this way, as the author simply, clearly demonstrates, archery becomes a path to greater understanding and enlightenment.

This program is an outstanding way to experience Zen–and an intriguing, influential work of literature.

Eugen Herrigel

Eugen Herrigel (1884–1955) was a German professor of philosophy, with a special interest in Japanese mysticism who brought Zen to Europe after WWII.

From 1924 to 1929 he taught philosophy in Japan, and studied Kyūdō (the art of the Japanese bow) under a master named Awa Kenzô. Awa taught kyūdō in a way that was regarded by some as a mystical religion, called Daishadokyo.

Daishadokyo was an approach to kyūdō that placed great emphasis on the spiritual aspect and differed from much of the mainstream practice at the time.

In 1936, Herrigel wrote a 20-page essay about his experiences, and then in 1948 expanded the essay into a short book Zen In The Art Of Archery. The book was translated into English in 1953 and Japanese in 1955.