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Chapter 7: Silence Is a Song without Words

The old servant said, “This man knows nothing of archery yet. He can kill animals, he can kill birds, flying birds; he never misses any target. That’s all okay, but that is not perfection and mastery. I know a man who is a perfect archer. He lives in the mountains, and because he became a perfect archer thirty years ago, he has completely forgotten about archery. After perfection, what is the point of remembering?”

The archer was puzzled: “What kind of archery is this, that the man has even forgotten archery? He has not practiced for thirty years - if I don’t practice a single day, the next day I can see mistakes happening. Within two days, critics will see that mistakes are happening, and within three days anybody will be able to see that there are mistakes. Thirty years!”

And the old man said, “Unless you go to the mountains and meet the great archer. If he approves there is no question of any competition - I will ask the emperor to declare you the champion master of the whole kingdom.”

The archer had to go and search in the mountains. On a very high peak, in a small cave, he found the old man. The archer was carrying his bow, his arrows. The old man looked at the bow, looked at the arrows, and he said, “These things I have seen once, I remember. What do you call these things?”

The man said, “You are a great archer? You don’t even know the name of the bow and the arrows!”

The old man said, “This is a bow and arrows, and what is the function of it? What do you do with it?”

The archer said, “Come out and I will show you.” And he killed a faraway flying bird with one arrow - just one arrow and the bird was on the earth.

The old man said, “You call this archery? I remember, when I was young I used to call this archery too. Now, come with me.”

The old man must have been nearabout one hundred and twenty years old, not less than that - very frail. He took the young archer to a cliff which was hanging over a valley thousands of feet deep. The archer stopped. He said, “I cannot go on that cliff! Just a small mistake and you are finished forever.”

But the old man went to the very edge - his feet were half hanging off the edge of the cliff. He was standing with just half his feet on the edge and he said, “Come on - you are a great archer; you should know balance, because the secret of archery is balance. And if you are trembling so much inside, your arrow cannot be perfect, because your arrow will be going through your hands. And you are trembling. Come on! You are young, and as you see I am old, one hundred and twenty years old.”

The man tried, one or two feet.and fell down on the rock. He said, “I have never been afraid of death. But I cannot do that.”

That old man came back and he said, “If you cannot do this, forget all about archery. The day you can do this you will throw away the bow, you will throw away the arrows. Now look.” There were seven birds flying far away. The old man simply looked at those seven birds one by one, and they all fell down on the earth.

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