Chapter 22: Closer to Life
“So I would like to suggest to this young archer to go to the mountains. I will give him an introductory letter. He should be with the old man for a few days and he will forget all about being the greatest archer.”
The archer could not believe it: “Who can be greater than me? What can be better than my art?”
But the emperor said, “I cannot do what you are asking me to do. You will have to do what the old man has said. Go to the mountains with this letter and be with this old archer and watch and see the difference between the technician and the real master.”
The archer also became interested, although he could not figure it out intellectually: “What can be better? He cannot be more than what I am.” But he had no idea..
It took many days for him to reach the old man, who lived on a high mountain. He was so aged, his back was bent down and he could not stand straight. The archer could not see anything in the old man’s small cave which gave any indication of archery - not even a bow, no arrows. He said, “You are sure you are the man for whom I have come?”
The old man said, “I am absolutely sure, because except me nobody lives on this mountain. Looking at your letter.you think that you are a great archer. If you are a great archer then why are you carrying this bow with you and these arrows? These are good for the beginners, the learners, but not for the masters.”
The archer said, “But without arrows, without a bow, what kind of archer will I be?”
The old man came out. He took him to a cliff that went far away above the valley - a very thin cliff and underneath was a valley thousands of feet deep. Although his back was bent and he could not stand straight he went without any trembling, without any wobbling. He simply went to the very edge of the cliff. Half of his feet were off the cliff; and he was standing on only half of his feet, and he called the archer, “Come on!”
The archer said, “My God! Just a little strong wind and you are gone; just a small mistake and you are gone - gone forever! Not even bits and pieces of your body will be found; the valley is so deep and so dangerous.” The old man was standing there as if he were standing in his own home.
The archer tried, but he could go only one or two feet, and then out of fear he was trembling so much that he sat down. But that was not enough; then he lay down on the stone, clinging to the cliff and he said, “Help me!” and the old man was at least five or six feet further away.
The old man said, “What kind of archer are you? If the archer cannot stand on this small cliff without trembling, how can he be called an archer? If your hands are trembling, people may not be able to know it - but you cannot deceive a master. Practice for a few days on this cliff: just coming to the very edge and standing there without any fear, without any nervousness.”