The man said, “Even trying that is dangerous. Even the rehearsal may finish me. Is there not some other way to learn archery?”
The old man said, “Then the other way is….” And the old man raised his head. Seven cranes were flying overhead and he looked at each crane and the crane fell immediately to the earth – seven cranes without any arrows. He said, “Unless your eyes become arrows you are not a master. So go home, learn to be a master. If I am alive, I will come myself when I think you may be ready. Or if I am not alive…look, my son is coming. I will give him all the instructions and send him. If he approves you, the emperor can declare you, without any contest, the greatest archer of the empire.”
The man went home trembling. Even when he reached home the trembling was there. He had never thought that a man, just by looking at a bird, could shoot the bird. He had never thought that just eyes can function like arrows. Just the idea is enough…it needs the support of an absolutely untrembling, fearless heart…then just the idea “Come down!” is enough and the bird will come down.
He started trying. Twenty years passed, and one day a young man came. He had completely forgotten. The young man asked him, “I don’t see your bow and arrows that I saw last time when you came to see my father. He is dead, but he has left instructions for me. The first question is: Where is your bow and where are your arrows?”
The man remained silent for a moment and then he said, “I have heard these words. I remember there was a time when perhaps I used to have a bow and arrows. But since I saw your father, for the first time I understood the old Chinese proverb that when an archer becomes perfect, he throws away his bow and arrows. And when a musician becomes perfect, he forgets all about his instruments. He himself is music; his very being is music. I don’t know any more…. But your father gave me, in a very strange way, the whole teaching.”
He took the young man out, looked at a bird and the bird fell down. The young man said, “Now you can go with this letter that my father has left for you to the emperor.”
He said, “Now who cares to be declared the master of archery by the emperor? I am! Forget all about it. Who can declare it? Who has the authority to examine me? If your father were alive…perhaps he had the authority to declare me, but nobody else. It has nothing to do with the emperor, it has nothing to do with the empire.