Chapter 29: When the Archer Is Perfect
The young man said, “I knew it before that this would be an unnecessary journey! A man who has not touched the bow for twenty years, and who has even forgotten where his bow and his arrows are..”
Still, because of the emperor’s requirement, he said to the old man, “I want to be declared the champion of the art in the whole country, and the emperor has sent me to get your certificate.”
The old man said, “That is not difficult. But seeing a bow with you, and the arrows, makes me suspicious that you are an amateur because the old saying is: ‘When the musician becomes perfect, he throws away his musical instruments; when the archer becomes really an archer, perfect in his art, he breaks down his bow, and throws the arrows.’ They are good to begin with, but one has to transcend technique at a certain moment. You will have to pass two tests: one is, do you see that protruding rock over the valley?”
There was a long rock, very low, protruding over a very deep valley, thousands of feet deep. The old man said, “Go to that rock, to the very end. The test is to stand at the very end, with half your feet hanging over the rock, with just the front part, your toes, on the rock. If you can stand there without any trembling, you have passed the first test.”
The man said, “My God! But what kind of archery is this? This is sure death!”
But the old man said, “I will go first to show you the way it has to be done.”
He could not believe his eyes. The old man went to the very end of the protruding rock; and he stood there with half the feet on the rock, over the valley thousands of feet deep. And there was not even a small wavering or trembling. He called the young man, “Now, come on, and stand by my side.”
The young man tried just one step on the rock. As he looked downward, such fear overwhelmed him.he fell on the ground, trembling, perspiring. He could not reach the end - he was only at the beginning of the rock.
The old man said, “What is the matter? Come on, have courage. If you are so fearful and trembling inside, your archery cannot be of great value, because it is your hands which will take the bow and it is your hands which will take the arrows; it is your heart which has to be used in it. This fear.try, make an effort.”
He started crawling on all fours. Standing and moving on that rock, he found impossible. Those thousands of feet were so dangerous; just a single wrong step and you will never be found. You will be broken into bits and pieces and thrown over the whole valley.
But he could reach by crawling only to the middle. He said, “More than that, I cannot do.”
The old man laughed. He came back, supported the man to stand up, and took him back to the tree. He said, “I had said you are just an amateur; otherwise there is no need of this bow and these arrows. Now, look at me: when the archer becomes perfect his eyes become arrows, his very being becomes the bow.”