The lesson is this:

The arrow is already sitting in the center of the target. There is no past, when the arrow was in the bow. There is no future where the arrow can be elsewhere. There is only NOW, and the arrow is in the center of the target now. Already.

No sport has greater affinity to this than golf. The other closest two would be billiards (pool) and darts.

When you feel as if you might hit a bad golf shot, you will. When you feel the bliss of the moment, the ball will travel to the target. Tiger Woods is currently the best example of zen archery on the PGA Tour.

A long, long time ago, I hazily recalled reading about a middle-ages sentry robot of sorts - install a meditative archer-type atop a peak overlooking a narrow mountain pass, tell him to aim at the opening... and leave him running in that suspended state, peeling the universe away until his world was reduced to that opening, a binary cosmology where the 1 of his arrow could be called upon at an eyeblink to restore the unfilled, uncrossed 0 of the passage. It might take hours, days, months or years but when something eventually went through the gap, the logic gate what was his brain would snap and the something would fall over with a length of stout wood protruding from their forehead.

Surely, misremembered I, this is one of the excesses of Zen archery. I'll just do a bit of research on the topic before posting about it on e2. Well... I don't know what it was I was remembering, but it (aside from the common element of loosening arrows from bows) doesn't seem to have anything to do with Zen archery. So here's some information on Zen archery - contemporarily known as Kyudo - instead.

Kyudo is a synthesis of the Heki school of Kyujutsu (the art of killing with the bow) with the Ogasawara school of ceremonial archery, as mixed and tweaked by an archery instructor (Honda Toshizane) from the Tokyo Imperial University - a brew which saved the popularity of Japanese archery styles from a decline following the widespread adoption of firearms - an extinction which would have been a sorry loss, given that archery is generally considered the oldest and truest of Japan's martial arts - informed by early Confucian beliefs that you could gauge the qualities and personality of a person through their archery style. (What, did he run out of dashes?)

When the practice of other martial arts styles was banned in Japan following WWII, the study of Kyudo flourished - since unlike sport shooting or hunting for game, Kyudo is not about hitting targets (at least not about trying to hit the targets) but rather about finding shin, zen and bi (truth, goodness and beauty) inside the archer in meditation, shots not being fired but rather "falling from the archer like a ripe fruit." Master Kanjuro Shibata puts it like this: "It's a matter of precision and discipline: the relationship you have with the bow, the arrow, your body, and your mind. Kyudo is like zazen, but it is standing meditation. When you shoot, you can see the reflection of your mind, as in a mirror. The target is the mirror. When you release, you cut ego. You can see your own mind." - certainly a more compelling pursuit than merely trying to remotely push a piece of wood into a painted circle.

It's worth mentioning that philosophy professor Eugen Herrigel's 1953 text Zen in the Art of Archery is both required reading on this subject and the inspiration for every "Zen and the art of..." book to follow for our assorted Western audience of eager-for-diluted-Eastern-exoticism bohemians, hippies, mystics and Nippophiles.

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