Natural Dignity and The Mind’s Arrow
From a talk by Kobun Chino Roshi on July 8, 1987, during
the Kyudo Intensive Seminar at Rocky Mountain Dharma Center
Question: What is natural dignity in Kyudo?
Chino Roshi: The nature
of “shahin” is the subject. What are the characteristics of shahin?
How does practice achieve this shahin, whatever it is? (Laughter.) “Sha”
means “shoot”; hin means something like “dignity”. It
relates to the target. The target becomes a mirror, and my understanding is
that this mirror target is the precise reflection of one’s self, one’s
own form, which is called “shakei”. Kei means ‘form”.
Your body, limbs, the bow, string and arrow should all be in balanced harmony
like a healthy family. The father is the bow strength pushed by the left side;
the mother is the string tension pulled by your right side; the arrow is the
child released to grow. You shoot first to give up the arrow to act in space
and time; and second, to master the way of archery. In other words, you shoot
so that archer's mind has a visible manifestation in addition to cultivating
invisible quality in you life.
“Shashin”. "Shin" is mind center and soul
life, and those expanding meanings of this.
As Shibata Sensei has stated, you do no achieve shahin. What is polished out
from within naturally unfolds as characteristics of your own life, as an archer’s
own life itself. These characteristics are seen not only during shooting but
also as living proof in a person’s appearance and how one’s life
is manifested from day to day. We can appreciate not only having such a developed
practitioner among us, but also that there are practitioners who do not practice
the way of archery and yet still can see and feel shahin. For that old man
who shot his ya in the rock, maybe it was his last ya and his last shot of
the day as Sensei explained.
In the story, the young archer on horseback was of a higher rank than the
old man, who walked on foot according to the warriorship hierarchy. The two
men’s attitudes about the archer way were quite different. Sensei was
talking about shashin, shahin and shakei all together as the spirit of the
archery way. When the old man pierced the rock with his last shot that must
have been his shashin, shahin and shakei and also proof of his lifelong practice.
He was beyond just shakei and shashin. To pierce a rock is so amazingly impossible.
Yet the spirit arrow pierces anything.
Some texts talk about a famous Chinese archer called Gei (ga). He never missed
a target under any conditions even at 100 yards. The mechanism of shakei and
training brings a person to such a stage. Beyond this thought, to relate to
your question of what do you actually learn and master from the archer way,
is not just shakei and polishing out your own shashin or the flowering of
your nature in the fruits of dignity. Dignity naturally accomplishes high
and noble accomplishments, yet there are even charismatic characteristics
of merit in archer which show to others. But the merit of the practice of
archery which shows to others is the least proof of the archery way. Beyond
this, what is Kyudo actually aiming at?
This Gei and his teacher were so advanced in archery. Gei's teacher was about
to die and there was no written proof of transmission to Gei. Without this
teacher’s written proof of Gei’s completion of mastery, Gei’s
confirmation and ability to become independent of this teacher were not there.
With Gei having this transmission and independence, suffering in archery way
was very much upon him and his teacher. If you have some profession you experience
this. A real teacher is actually fierce and liable to you in the end. You
struggle when learning the process of technique, its strengths and quality.
For the student, as long as the teacher is alive there is no ending of learning
from the teacher. There is also no ending of teaching for the master. So it
is very hard for the master to see his accomplished student, to who there
is nothing more to teach, still hanging around, as was the case with Gei.
Day and night he and his master were like two wild dogs or something. Gei
saw weak points, loose moments or gaps in his teacher. In Japanese this is
called suki, meaning "gap” or “target”.
The student was ready to shoot his teacher. A swordsman against an opponent
seems like that. Two people who train so hard reach a point where there are
always two swords in the dojo. This dynamic between them continued until one
day each of them felt suki in the other. They shot at each other in the dark.
In such an instance you really discover the meaning of our own purpose in
life. What happened was their arrows lodged into each other. As a result both
of them gave up and said, "All right, you can go…you can go…you
can die any time, and good-bye. (The student says to the master, “I’ve
gotten everything possible from you, so I don’t need you anymore.”
The master is glad and relieved because he can die with his heritage passed
The teacher-student relationship is such-very intense. It’s not necessarily
criticism after criticism, but a learning—satisfactory learning-from
each other. The student learns from the teacher and the teacher learns from
the student, maybe even more than what the student learns. It’s that
kind of emerging energy. (Break)
Sitting here today, I was looking back at my life and really
feeling how poor a student I’ve been. I didn’t go to see and visit
my teacher after so much generosity and hospitality. I never wrote a thank
you note even. But it seems this shahin is felt by each other. Probably it’s
not necessary to talk about it. Each person realizes what the real teaching
Student: A few years ago, I asked Sensei his advice about my
practice. He said I should no longer shoot for myself, but I should begin
to shoot for others…
Chino Roshi: I knew you wanted to
talk about that.
Student: he didn’t answer the same questions today. I
brought it up a couple of times even. I have my own interpretation of what
that means, because obviously Kyudo is such an individual practice, all by
yourself. It’s stressed that way. I wonder if you would help me out.
Chino Roshi: I know what you meant
by shooting the archery way for yourself and for others. I know especially
shooting for others. I have a slight question about what it means and what
you meant. It was a very strange thing to hear.
--unless maybe you are talking about hunting and bringing food
to the family or something. You think, “It’s not for me—my
part is very small.” What is meant by shooting for others?
Student: I thought you could give me a clue…or because
the form is form…a robot could do that…
Chino Roshi: Oh yes! (Laughter) I
know your kind of honest question. A serious question it is. What am I doing
this? An advanced student always has this problem. (Laughter) Like the notion
of Mahayana and Bodhisattvayana…you are talking about the quality of
the archery way.
Student: I suppose I was getting to that.
Chino Roshi: in the Hinayana way and
the Mahayana way there are shakei, shashin and shahin. All go together.
Why I say this is that while I was sitting here today and not
only feeling myself a very poor archery practitioner…probably the laziest
archer in the room (Laughter)...I was questioning what I was doing all those
years...playing around or something. It wasn’t that I had some resistance.
My fondness for the archery bow and arrow has existed since I was three years
old. I was always shooting. So, in looking back and asking how did the archer
bow and arrow fall into my hands—how did I pick it up? In what stage
of life was I picked up by he archer way?
In noticing each long gap of actual practice, I see the archery
way disappeared from my life for about ten years. In spirit, the archery way
was always there, even when I didn’t hold the bow and arrow and shoot.
Relating to Rick’s question the very first day, or was
it the second day? It is not necessary at this point to see the bow as a weapon.
By now we have gone beyond such a state so I can talk of how the mind’s
arrow goes in daily life. The mind’s arrow functions the same in speed
and exactness everyday. Thoughts are like arrows. You don’t miss. You
don’t miss the target. Do you notice that? (Roshi looks around questioningly)
All those years, even when I wasn’t holding the bow and
arrow, my mind was always in the archery way.
Those years there was a real dilemma in me. The dilemma was
whether the archery way was different from zazen (sitting meditation) practice.
There is no difference. Although I’ve devoted most of my life to this
strange thing (zazen), my own root master has never taught me zazen. I began
doing zazen while studying Buddhism and committed to it. I decided I would
do nothing else but zazen in this life. Actually, the dilemma between archery
and zazen ends when choose one. The bow and arrow disappear when I do zazen
and when I am actually doing archery alone I do not have any sense of sitting
at that time. I forget zazen, so to speak. Hmmm…you see how there could
be a dilemma. But what I was learning from the zazen master was not zazen.
He doesn’t even do zazen anymore, but I do zazen and he always says,
“Oh! Are you still sitting?” (Laughter) and I say, “Yes,
I’m still sitting.”
This Zen master lives in Japan and he is a real teacher of mind.
In terms of teaching and being a teacher constantly he is the one. When I
see you individually like this, he always stands behind you. It‘s a
big problem. (Roshi laughs). It is a very odd and awful situation. Believe
it or not, he is very ordinary. He never wanted to be in public. Maybe you
might feel he is sort of a yogin. He lives so simply and quietly. Nobody notices
he is a Zen master. When I think of him in terms of shahin of what I learned
and observed from him, it is only this: hin
Kuden? Mysterious. I have always been interested in this thing,
kuden. Do you know kuden? It’s all oral transmission, not written, and
usually it is only given once, and only to one person, not like this in public.
There is the question of the content of kuden. Again, if you
look back into your life and see your deepest interest and what you felt and
put most of your energy into up to today, there is something you have learned
from what you have been doing. Also, someone may have spoken something to
you about what you were doing. For example, maybe you are a cook and had many
teaches previously. There was one who taught you physically and one who let
you see the cooking and one who gave you a lot of find recipes. Teaches appear
like that. But the root teacher, when he has absolute confidence in you, is
the only one who can transmit and confirm you.
This Kyudo family...Heki Ryu Chiku Rin Ha (“Sun Setting
Stream, Bamboo Grove Waves”)…that we are part of, I don’t
know how many generations ago it began, and when was the Shikan-no-sho (Four
volumes of Book” written)? This is a textbook that was written by one
of your ancestors. It goes from basic to really advanced. Many times it says
to rely upon kuden, oral transmission. When you come to difficulties in the
way of practice—the precise, individualized how and how—you struggle,
asking yourself, “Where am I”. I thought I had mastered that.
What’s supposed to happen? What am I supposed to discover from this
action? And so on.
At such times Sensei opens up to you, and there’s no stinginess
of his teaching to you. He does kuden. All the time I realize that, so I congratulate
you many times about this: face to face transmission, bodily presence and
participation. His whole body and mind, his presence, is like an arrow arriving
from ancient times. This is a most wonderful thing you can rely upon and deeply
Let’s close, please. Thank you.
(Preliminary revision May 23, 1992 by Shibata Sensei in
partial collaboration with Kobun Chin Otogawa Roshi. Prepared from transcription
provided by Don Symanski. Intended for May 1992 Karme Choling Kyudo seminar
participants and friends only, until further notice.