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Thread: The Myth of Zen in the Art of Archery

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    Default One Arrow - One Life

    Just recently I was asked to assist my teacher Suzuki Sensei move his many books to our dojo. Suzuki Sensei is 89 years old and has amassed quite a few books on many subjects.

    While sorting through I came across many little pamphlets from Daihonzan Chozen-ji/International Zen Dojo in Honolulu, Hawaii, which was founded in 1979 by Omori Sogen Rotaishi. Most of these pamphlets were on Kyudo and Zen. Doing some research I found this book One Arrow, One Life written in 1988. I have yet to read the book but thought it was relevant to this link. The author studied in Japan with Kyudo Teacher Suhara Osho of Kamakura.


    I cut and pasted the following from Amazon.com

    One Arrow, One Life: Zen, Archery, Enlightenment
    by
    Kenneth Kushner

    Book Description:

    One Arrow, One Life is the ultimate study of kyudo (the art of traditional Japanese archery) and its relation to the ideals and practice of Zen Buddhism. But it's much more: It also serves perfectly as an informal manual of practice for anyone who wants to bring a living, moving Zen into the activities of everyday life. Beginning with a solid introduction to the foundation techniques of both kyudo and zazen-breathing, posture, and concentration-and quickly moving on to the subtleties of advanced practice, Ken Kushner then ties it all together into a personal testimony of the pervasiveness of Zen in everyday life. For those interested in Zen and moving meditation, kyudo practitioners of all levels, as well as students of the Way of martial arts, this volume, beautifully illustrated with line drawings by Jackson Morisawa, is an indispensable guidebook.

    About the Author
    Kenneth Kushner began Zen training under Tanouye Tenshin Roshi in 1978. He began serious kyudo training in 1981 and has traveled to Hawaii and Japan for advanced study. He is currently a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a member of the faculty of the Institute of Zen Studies in Honolulu.

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    Suhara Koun is a Rinzai (I think) Zen priest at Enryakiji in Kamakura. He shoots in the style of Awa Kenzo, Herrigel's teacher. Consequently, this is the "Zen kyudo" that he has passed on to Chozenji.

    I suppose that if someone wants to make kyudo into a "Zen" practice, he is free to do so. And once he has done it, then I suppose his kyudo is "Zen" kyudo. Once could do the same for Pilates or knitting too, I suppose. The point I have been trying to make, and which Tracy thinks can be disproven by dredging up another book written by a foreigner, is that whatever modern people may try to do to kyudo, it is a verifiable historical fact that specifically trying to make kyudo into a Zen practice is an extremely recent historical occurrence. Traditional kyudo was not, and has never has been, a practice undertaken for the specific purpose of trying to attain "enlightenment". Herrigel tried to make it into that, but he was WRONG. Throughout this entire discussion, nobody has really been able to disprove Prof. Yamada's thesis.

    Awa tried to make kyudo into a religion he called "Daishadokyo", which can be translated variously as "Doctrine/Teaching/Church of the Great Way of Shooting". It was definitely Buddhistic, but Awa himslelf is on record as not wholeheartedly approving of Zen. So while he used many cryptic and abstruse Buddhist terms to describe his Shado, he himself did not think that it was Zen.

    Herrigel thought it was, but he was entirely mistaken. While I suppose this was his right, and if people want that they are free to follow him or other teachers like him, it is a plain fact that his approach was idiosyncratic and untraditional. The kyudo at Chozenji was specifically and consciously modelled on Herrigel's book, for the express purpose of turning it into "Zen archery" and the organization there states very specifically that their kyudo is a unique institution with no ties to any traditional kyudo organization in Japan. It is entirely self-made, and no one tries to hide that fact. Indeed, it boasts of the fact that it has no lineage and no ties to traditional kyudo in Japan.

    One can practice such kyudo if one wants, of course. One should just understand that it is not traditional kyudo. It is an entirely modern creation that has spread simply because of the fact that intellectuals in both Japan and the US who had little or no knowledge of real Zen and even less of real kyudo, mistakenly raised Herrigel to the status of a sage.

    And the fact that a Zen priest does kyudo doesn't make it Zen either. If he went to a movie or smoked a cigarette, would it be a "Zen" movie or a "Zen" cigarette?

    But, hey, if that's what you want it to be, knock yourself out.
    Earl Hartman

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    Quote Originally Posted by Earl Hartman
    ...And the fact that a Zen priest does kyudo doesn't make it Zen either. If he went to a movie or smoked a cigarette, would it be a "Zen" movie or a "Zen" cigarette?
    Maybe, maybe not.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Earl Hartman
    ...And the fact that a Zen priest does kyudo doesn't make it Zen either. If he went to a movie or smoked a cigarette, would it be a "Zen" movie or a "Zen" cigarette?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Owens
    Maybe, maybe not.

    As a matter of fact yes The question is "who" is doing the smoking the cigarette or the person.
    Tracy Reasoner
    shunshinkan
    www.hawaiikiaikido.org

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    Quote Originally Posted by TLR
    ...As a matter of fact yes The question is "who" is doing the smoking the cigarette or the person.
    Another question would be, is there a seperation -- a duality -- between the person and the cigarette, or are both actually one.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Owens
    Another question would be, is there a seperation -- a duality -- between the person and the cigarette, or are both actually one.
    yes that is what the "who" is supposed to mean. is it a manifestation of oneness or is their separation.

    Hence zen can be in anything you do.

    Suzuki Roshi once said to a few discples as they were leaving to go to the store. "the most important thing is finding out what the most important thing is" or the path. Any DO art is not stagnate but a living growing art. yes the basics never change but it is the student who stands on the shoulders of the teacher. So to say this is traditional and this is not traditional is likely a matter of opinion. It would be interesting for Mr. Kushner to comment on if he believes the art he teaches is traditional or not.

    What does traditional mean? Can you be taught a traditional art by a gaijin? Of course. If your equipment is more modern does it make it non traditional? I would say it depends.

    I think the bottom line in all DO arts is oneness does that make it zen? It all depends again on the "Who"
    Tracy Reasoner
    shunshinkan
    www.hawaiikiaikido.org

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    Oh, so we're back to the "everything is Zen whether you know it or not, so kyudo is Zen too, but you're too unenlightened to see it" thing? And you complain that I keep harping on the same subject?

    I don't believe I have ever met anyone, either in person or via the Internet, who is so obstinate about deliberately and completely missing the point and yet who seems to be so pleased about his own obtuseness. Especially someone who doesn't know anything at all about the art he is discussing. For me, this is one of the most fascinating things about people who think they know Zen. They just love to discuss things they don't know anything about. Do you hear me lecturing you about aikido and telling you how you've got it all wrong? No, because I don't know anything about aikido. I guess Zen is just another name for chutzpah.

    If Zen can be found anywhere you look for it, and can, apparently, be anything you want it to be, of what value is it? And since I am doing it anyway, why do I need to pay it any attention whatso-freaking-ever? If it is something that I do naturally without being aware of it, then I'm already enlightened and this whole discussion has no meaning at all. Do you Zen people actually spend your time sitting around talking about stuff like this? The mind boggles.

    My point is that traditional kyudo has never been practiced specifically as a way to attain "Zen enlightenment". Prof. Yamada introduced a great deal of proof that this is so and that Herrigel simply got it wrong. And your answer is, basically, that kyudo can be Zen if you want it to be Zen? You'll have to do better than that. But, I suppose this is what you Zen wannabes call a really deep "koan".

    This trend to treat kyudo as a "Zen" art is a post-Taisho Period development that was confined to an extremely small faction of people in Japan; and in the West it is entirely due to people like D.T. Suzuki, (who, as far as I know never picked up a bow in his life), and Eugen Herrigel, who misunderstood an unorthodox approach to the art and presented kyudo as Zen even though his OWN TEACHER did not see it as Zen. Doesn't the fact that the "Zen archery" myth has been propogated by two such people, and is not accepted by the vast majority of people who actually practice kyudo in its country of origin, bother you in the slightest? Looking at this situation, you don't think "Hmmmm.....maybe Herrigel got it wrong"?
    .
    Oh, right, I forgot. Since everybody except Awa and Herrigel didn't understand Zen and therefore weren't "enlightened" they really didn't understand kyudo at all. My bad.

    I mean, seriously, dude. You do aikido, right? If somebody who had had less experience in aikido than you, and who had trained with a teacher known for his crazy ideas, told you that aikido wasn't what you thought it was, would you believe him? Herrigel practiced kyudo for three years with a man who was considered a lunatic by his contemporaries, and couldn't understand a word his teacher said. I've been doing kyudo for almost 35 years, more than 10 of those years in Japan, and I can speak direcly to my teachers without an interpreter. Why should I trust Herrigel over my own direct experience?

    Yes, of course, every Do art is not stagnant, the students stand on the shoulders of the teacher, everything is "oneness", blah blah blah, yada yada yada. I mean, could you possibly be more banal? And, of course, a gaijin can teach a traditional art, so long as he knows one. I have never met Professor Kushner, nor have I read his book. He may very well be a very nice man, and it is quite possible that he is a very good archer. Perhaps one day I will be able to meet him and see for myself. However, whether he thinks he is doing a traditional art or not is pretty irrelevant. The founders of Chozenji kyudo state blatantly that their brand of kyudo is a new thing that is not related to any kyudo group in Japan. Therefore, by definition, it cannnot be traditional, even if all of the exterior trappings are perfectly in order.

    There is "enlightenment", if you want to call it that, in the Way of the Bow, but it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with Zen. It comes when you finally understand what kyudo really is. So, the issue is not "who" is doing the shooting. It is "what" kyudo is. In kyudo, we say that "the bow does not lie". The proof of the pudding is in the shooting and the conduct of the archer. Someone who knows how to shoot understands kyudo regardless of his opinions about Zen.

    You say that the basics never change. Fine. There are certain things that are fundamental to kyudo and if these things are changed, the art loses its soul and becomes something else. The soul of kyudo lies in the union of technique and spirit. These two things are part of one whole thing and they simply cannot be separated. The archer learns the spirit of kyudo through the technique and vice versa. Yet Herrigel preached that technique was of no importance whatsoever and that where the arrow flew was entirely inconsequential.

    He was wrong. Period, full stop. There is absolutely no record of any traditional school of kyudo teaching such utter nonsense. Therefore, while I am willing to admit that his "Zen kyudo" might have value for people who want such things, it is not traditional kyudo. I have quoted various traditional teachers to you to support what I say.

    But, no, none of this matters. Kyudo must be Zen, and Herrigel must be right. I guess you believe that the world is flat, too. Why do you have so much invested in this idea that budo must be Zen? I would really like to know.
    Earl Hartman

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    Default Take a deep breath

    Earl:

    I've been following this thread as it has evolved over the years, and I am left somewhat baffled. I'm willing to agree with every statement of fact you have made regarding Herrigel and the history of kyudo and Zen.

    But yet... why are you so angry? Why do you take this so personally?

    Herrigal wrote a lovely little book about himself that is indeed meaningless for kyudo. I'm sure that it has given the wrong idea to many many people over the years and that you have been frustrated by guru-seekers coming to your class. It's good that you want to share that article you translated and illuminate Herrigel's misconceptions.

    But why is it necessary to repeatedly tell people who want Zen in their kyudo that they are wrong? Your kyudo is not Zen, and that is what is best for you. Historic kyudo was not Zen, but most contemporary kyudo is a long way from mid-Edo kyudo and a far longer way from martial archery anyway.

    I find this odd indeed, since there are two kyudo dojos in your backyard of styles that are mixed up with Buddhism. I believe that Muyoshingetsu kyudo's lineage comes from a Zen temple; their kyudo is "deeply spiritual." Shibata Sensei's style has a long-standing affiliation with Shambhala and various Zen centers; this might be a modern adaptation that is not in the kyudo mainstream, but it is his kyudo and his business. Do you feel that they are wrong in what their kyudo is (or do you feel I am wrong in my statements about their kyudo)?

    For the record, I practice Shibata's style of kyudo, have never practiced Zen or any other form of Buddhism, and enlightenment is not one of my goals in kyudo.
    Spencer Burns
    <a href="http://www.yachigusaryu.com/">Yachigusa-Ryu Aiki-Bugei</a>
    San Francisco, CA

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    Earl doesn't seem angry or mad to me...frustrated perhaps, but not angry. And certainly not crazy. I think I understand his frustrations...having tried to debunk some myths surrounding aikido in the past. People cling (almost desperately, it seems) to these things.

    I don't see Earl taking shots so much as shaking his head in disbelief.

    Best,
    Ron

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    Spencer:

    I dislike being lectured about kyudo by someone who does not know anything about it, that's all. I have met a lot of people who think they know Zen who display this kind of shameless arrogance, and it really, really bothers me. I can only assume that there is something in Zen that makes people this way, so I am suspicious of it. However, the people who act like this are almost all foreigners who have little or no actual traditional Zen training, so perhaps it is the people, not the thing itself.

    If you have followed this thread, you should be able to see that nowhere have I said that kyudo is not "deeply spiritual". It is, very much so. What annoys me is people who see "spiritual" and think "Aha! Zen!"

    My entire point all along has been that the real spirit of kyudo is understood only when the practitioner devotes himself entirely to doing his absolute best to become the best archer he can possibly be. Understanding kyudo happens when the archer molds himself to the demands of kyudo rather than trying to use kyudo for some purpose he has brought with him. So long as he does this, he will understand the spirit of kyudo, regardless of the level of skill he may eventually attain.

    I am aware of Muyoshingetsu Ryu kyudo in the Bay Area. I assume that you are referring to Bob Fisher. I have never met him. However, as you point out, Muyoshingetsu Ryu kyudo is a fairly recent development, historically speaking. Of course, a devout Buddhist will probably see kyudo in a Buddhistic way, since his religion informs his life. This is his prerogative, I suppose. But it is not necessary or intrinsic to kyudo. It is something that the practitioner adds to it. Viewing kyudo as a metaphor for a Buddhist or "Zen" world view and then going back and restructuring kyudo so that it conforms to, and becomes an becomes an expression of and a way to understand, that view is a very new thing. I suppose that this might have value for some people. It just does not interest me, that's all.

    And, yes, I cannot count the number of people who, having read Herrigel's book, come to me for "guru seeking". It is a vexing state of affairs, and, as can be seen by Tracy's insistence on the validity of Herrigel's view, in spite of the fact that he has no real interest in kyudo at all, the twisted roots of this problem run very deep indeed. Overall, Herrigel's book is a bane, not a boon.

    Kyudo/kyujutsu used to just be archery. The soul of archery lies in the shot itself, not in any meaning that the archer tries to give it. Archery by itself is more than enough for me. I do not need all of these other extraneous trappings that distract me from trying to understand the soul of archery. I believe that as an archer it is my duty to try to understand archery itself. Consequently, Zen and enlightenment, in and of themselves, do not interest me in the slightest, nor were they uppermost in the minds of traditional archers. That's all I have been trying to say. Yes, the kyudo of today is not what it once was. But divorcing kyudo from its original purpose takes us away from the spirit of real kyudo rather than bringing us closer to it. Even today, when our lives do not hang in the balance on the battlefield, we should not lose sight of kyudo's original nature.

    I am aware that Shibata Sensei is affiliated with the Shambala Center. I do not understand what relationship kyudo should have with Tibetan Buddhism, but, as you say, Shibata Sensei can do whatever he wants with his own kyudo. I met him once, and he let me know in no uncertain terms that he holds the All Japan Kyudo Federation in low esteem, and takes pride in the fact that he does not associate himself or his organization with it. This is his privilege, of course.

    It is my understanding that he frowns upon his students associating with us. This is unfortunate. I assume that you know and train with Lucy Halverston; she used to visit us every now and again, and she and her husband are nice people. Please give them my regards when you see them next.
    Earl Hartman

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    Quote Originally Posted by spencer burns
    But yet... why are you so angry? Why do you take this so personally?
    He's not angry. This is just another form of archery practice for him - aiming at inaccuracies and shooting them down.

    Which means that kyudo has permeated his whole life and personality. Which is just so very Zen!

    [ducks and covers]
    Last edited by Joshua Lerner; 15th August 2006 at 22:19.
    Josh Lerner

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    Josh:

    You.....you mean....I've hit myself with my own arrow?!?!?

    Or is it that I and the Target have become One?

    No, no, wait a minute...it's that there is no separation between the Bow, the Archer, the Arrow and the Target, right?

    No, that's not it, either. Damn. Hold on a minute, it'll come to me.......

    Oh, right, how stupid of me.

    I have transcended all Duality and beome One with the Universe and the Artless Art!

    Yeah, that's it. That's the ticket.
    Earl Hartman

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    Thinking about it, I'm not really sure what my point was this morning. It was some odd concept of agreeing with information but not tone. I think that on some level I was expressing a frustration that in as small a realm as Western kyudo there seem to be sectarian divisions of what is "correct" or "incorrect." As you said, any discouragement of styles associating is unfortunate, and ultimately would seem to be counterproductive.

    I am not fit comment on what the official line in Shibata's organization is on whether Buddhism is intended to build better kyudo, or kyudo to build better Buddhism, or if they should stay independent. Certainly it is noteworthy that most of the major seminars occur within retreats to Zen or Shambhala centers. But every individual I've met practices for the sake of practice.

    Anyway, I apologize if I came off as rude (an easy pitfall in this medium to be sure). I will indeed give your regards to Lucy.
    Spencer Burns
    <a href="http://www.yachigusaryu.com/">Yachigusa-Ryu Aiki-Bugei</a>
    San Francisco, CA

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    The "expert" Mr. Hartman hitting himself with his own arrow would be a site to see. But then again kids it is all good and fun until someone loses an eye.

    I was neither lecturing the "expert" nor trying to convince him. There is no debate with experts they are always right you you are always wrong if you oppose their thinking. In spiral dynamics his like are considered a blue meme. But that is a whole different can of worms.

    Since this is Meditation forum and not a Kyudo Forum I will stick to the zen theme with a quote from Suzuki Roshi "in the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few."

    Last edited by TLR; 16th August 2006 at 03:35.
    Tracy Reasoner
    shunshinkan
    www.hawaiikiaikido.org

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    Ah, yes, the "s**t eating grin" emoticon. Now I know we've come to the end of the line on this discussion, and that Tracy really has nothing left to say except a "Zen" parting shot, which, of course, by its very nature cannot be answered, since it is, after all, Zen, and we all know that Zen cannot be answered with something as mundane and one-dimensional as mere words.

    While I have some experience in kyudo, I do not consider myself an expert. When I am able to achieve "Chu Kan Kyu" (Hit, Pierce, Forever) I will perhaps be forgiven if I consider myself one.

    However, I certainly know more about kyudo than anyone else who has participated in this discussion, most especially Mr. Reasoner, who, like D.T. Suzuki, apparently likes to bloviate about things in which he has no first-hand experience.

    Throughout this discussion, my main point has been not that it is necessarily forbidden to make kyudo into a "Zen" practice if someone wants to do that; it has only been to explain that this is very recent and extremely limited phenomenon in Japan, that it has no basis in traditional kyudo doctrine, and that it was spread in the West by a person who demonstrably misunderstood what he was being taught. As I have said, no one, least of all Mr. Reasoner, has been able to refute these facts, which Prof. Yamada documemented quite thoroughly. All he has been able to say "kyudo is as Zen as you want it to be". This is quite meaningless. For some reason, Mr. Reasoner seems to strongly feel that kyudo simply must be Zen. I do not understand this, since he has no interest in actually practicing kyudo himself, but I suppose there is no explaining monomania.

    However, how does Mr. Reasoner know that my mind is closed when it comes to kyudo? Since he knows nothing about kyudo, he has no way of knowing this. If he considers my mind closed just because my experience has proven that Herrigel was wrong about kyudo being a form of Zen meditation, I suppose I am guilty as charged. However, insisting that kyudo is what it is and is not what it is not does not strike me as being closed minded. It strikes me as being realistic.

    Of course, to a person who is completely ignorant of something, that thing can be anything at all. However, I don't think this is Suzuki Roshi's "Beginner's Mind"; it is just plain, old-fashioned benighted ignorance. "Beginner's Mind" is not the same as "Anything Goes". "Beginner's Mind" means to see a thing in its "as it isness" and to not make it into something it is not. Yet it is Mr. Reasoner who continues to insist that kyudo is Zen. And I'm the one who doesn't have "Beginner's Mind"? Please. Once a person realizes that the world is a sphere rather than being a flat plate like he originally thought, would one say that he had "Beginner's Mind" if he said "well, the world still might be flat, you know"? No, one would think that he was an utter idiot who should be committed.

    But, I've got news for Mr. Reasoner: every shot is a new shot, and the possibilities for each shot are endless. If he meditates on this long enough perhaps the Bodhi tree will fall on his head and give him a "Katz! ".

    Spencer:

    You did not come off as rude, and so there is no need to apologize to me. As far as I could tell from my meeting with him and some of the literature of his that I have read, Shibata Sensei looks down on standard ANKF kyudo as a debased sport, and so he does not want his students to be polluted by it. In addition to that, the style of kyudo that Shibata Sensei practices is something all his own, so far as I can tell, and so it would only make sense for him to want to keep his teaching separate. When styles differ, it is impossible for them to be taught together. This is entirely in keeping with traditional Japanese practice, so Shibata Sensei's attitude is quite traditional in that sense. According to what I have read, it is a branch of the Bishu Chikurin style, although he does it somewhat differently than other archers of that style that I have seen. In any case, Shibata Sensei has chosen not to affiliate with the ANKF, the organization to which I belong, so trying to meld the two different styles would be counter productive for both groups, impossible, really. But there's no reason we shouldn't be able to go out for a beer, I suppose.

    As I understand it, he was invited to this country by the Tibetan Buddhist organization in Boulder, Colorado, to teach proper manners to the monks, since the head teacher (Rinpoche?) felt that they had become lazy or something. Needless to say, of course, there is no organic relationship between Japanese kyudo and Tibetan Buddhism. The Tibetan Buddhist organization seems to act as his patron. Or, at least that's what it looks like to an outsider. Also, the Chikurin style was founded by a Shingon Buddhist priest named Chikurinbo Josei, so this school may very well have more Buddhist influence than other schools. Before Tracy goes "Aha!", however, it must be borne in mind that Chikurinbo was a Shingon priest, not a Zen priest. Not the same thing at all. I have only met one Shingon (or was he Tendai? can't remember) priest in my life, and he really seemed to dislike Zen quite intensely.
    Last edited by Earl Hartman; 16th August 2006 at 04:59.
    Earl Hartman

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