Letting go and moving on with life

Eugene Herrigel, the German Philosopher who introduced Zen to Europe found that out the hard way.

Herrigel was learning Kyudo, a form of Japanese archery from a highly skilled but slightly eccentric master by name Awa Kenzo.  At first he was baffled by what he was taught – that art must become artless, that the archer must aim at himself – yet gradually he began to glimpse the depth of wisdom concealed in such paradoxes.

One day Kenzo was explaining when to let go the drawstring of his bow, to gain maximum effect for the shot.  After weeks of trying when Herrigel couldn’t get it right, the teacher sat down to explain it.

“Consider a toddler sitting in the middle of several colorful toys.  Her attention is drawn to one of them, plays with her hands, licks and bites it – her focus is totally on that toy and nothing else.  At that moment, all else is irrelevant and unimportant to her.  After a while her attention is drawn by another toy and that’s when the one she was obsessed with so far becomes history.  That’s how you let go off something – with total finality.  You may come back to it later, but for NOW, it’s all gone.

Herrigel was so much impressed by that lesson that he chronicled it elaborately in his book “Zen in the Art of Archery”.  Whether it’s an arrow heading towards the target, taking a life altering decision, quitting a bad habit, chucking a job or doing something for a greater good, do it with the flavor of finality.  Right NOW, it’s just that on top of your mind and let go off all else. ( Hat Tip : Mukul Sharma )

Arjuna was an outstanding and diligent student, learning everything that his Guru Dronacharya could teach him, and early attaining the status of “Maharathi” or outstanding warrior. Guru Dronacharya once decided to test his students. He hung a wooden bird from the branch of a tree and then summoned his students. One by one, he asked his students to aim for the eye of the wooden bird and be ready to shoot; then, when they were ready, he would ask the student to describe all that he was able to see. The students generally described the garden, the tree, flowers, the branch from which the bird was suspended and the bird itself. Guru Dronacharya then asked them to step aside. When asked what he could see, Arjuna told his Guru that he could only see the bird’s eye. Another fable is that Arjuna, while eating in the dark, realized that if he could practice archery in the dark he would become vastly more proficient.

The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull’s-eye which confronts him. This state of unconscious is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill, though there is in it something of a quite different order which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art.  That’s how you achieve what you’d set out in life for.

At what level of confidence do you let go off something ?

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