Life as I know it… plus commentary

Zen and the Art of Archery

with 2 comments

target.jpgA friend of mine likes the Eastern religions.  When hard pressed he’ll say he’s a Buddhist, but he also likes Taoist philosophy and Jewish seders, so go figure.  My friend was telling me today about this group of monks he had read about.  They practiced a sort of archery, but their goal was not to hit the target.  Instead, their goal was to practice the intricacies and disciplines of how the bow is held, how the arrow is nocked, how the bowstring is fingered and pulled back, and stance and mindset and all the rest.  Hitting the target is the last thing they think about.  For them, what we would call the mundane portions of the sport are the beauty and meditations for them. 

And in doing so, they become pretty phenomenal archers.

I got to thinking about this and my mind wandered as it is often want to do.  We, in the west, approach prayer this way.  The goal, in prayer, is to get our prayer answered.  We have these list of things we want and need and we even go as far as to say they’re noble wants and needs and they’re all wants and needs for others.  When you get down to it, we draft a To Do List for God and we consider it successful prayer if what we want gets done.

I wonder what a Zen and the Art of Prayer would have in it.  My guess is the book would tell us no to focus on the end result but rather to focus on the mundane, the ritual of it, and to let ourselves enjoy the process and the communion with the spiritual realm.  Can the setting apart of time be part of the mediation?  What about the way in which we light a candle, or set up a mat and pillow to sit on?  Perhaps even the discipline of prayer itself should be a goal.  More exactly, that the Zen-ness of prayer would not come from the list we come up with, but rather the recognition that we are told to pray and there is is value and goodness and worth in the motion and exercise of simply praying.

And just maybe, if we made the motivations and meditations and discipline and devotion the focus instead, we might just hit the target.


Written by arnold

May 1, 2007 at 12:20 am

Posted in Religion

2 Responses

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  1. That is very insightful. Thanks for the idea!


    May 1, 2007 at 4:04 am

  2. I had a counselor recommend Contemplative Prayer–there’s a movement toward meditative prayer within Christianity, and it really changed how I viewed prayer. I am much less of a “laundry list” person now.

    I like the comparison that you drew. Your mind is wont to wander into interesting territory!

    Peggy C

    May 2, 2007 at 6:31 pm

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