One day i was looking through some books that a friend had given me and a peculiar title caught my eye. It was called “The Way of the Bow” by Paulo Cohelo. At first i thought that it was a book about archery or maybe a short tale of adventure. To my great surprise it turned out to be one of the most inspiring short stories that i have ever read. I’ll get straight to the point and tell you what this great book was about and why it was so inspiring.
In feudal japan, lived a master archer. He had given up archery and retired. His days were now spent with woodwork and pottery. One day, a young inspiring archer came to the old masters village and challenged him to an archery contest. The young archer said that “if i beat you, then i shall become the greatest in all of Shinto (Japan)”. The old master was reluctant at first, but his young helper (a boy of 12 years old) begged him to take up the challenge. So the old master agreed on the condition that the young archer would go first. The young archer took aim at a cherry tree that was at least 35 yards away. With a precise shot he cut down two cherries from the tree and smiled. He turned to the old master and said “can you beat that”?
The old master told the young archer and his assistant to follow him. He guided them to an old battered, wooden bridge that connected two mountain tops. The master went to the middle of the bridge. He proceeded to equip his bow, pulled the arrow back and with a precise shot cut down a peach from a peach tree at a distance of about 28 yards out. He then returned to the young archer and said ” I have cut down a peach, which is bigger than a cherry and at a shorter distance than you. If you can do the same as me, then i shall accept that you are better then me and superior in the way of the bow”. The young man smirked and proceeded toward the middle of the battered bridge. When he got there the wind was strong and cold. It hit his face like ice shards. He aimed his arrow at the tree and let go.
The arrow missed by a great deal. Head bowed he returned to the old master and the boy. The old master asked “Do you know why you missed”? “Yes sir” the young archer replied and with that he left the old master and never glanced back. The boy intrigued asked the old master “Sir how come he missed the peach and not the cherry and at a smaller distance none the less”? The old master replied thus “It is simple to stand on firm ground and cut down a cherry. But to stand on a battered bridge at a very high altitude with the wind like ice on your face, is another thing altogether”.
” You see boy, a master in the way of the bow knows that it is not enough to master the bow as a tool or a weapon. No, a true master must master himself before he exceeds in his profession”. The old master explained that the way of the bow could be applied to every aspect of ones life.
” The arrow is the intention. It is what unites the strength of the bow with the center of the target. The intention must be crystal – clear, straight and balanced. once the arrow has gone, it will not come back, so it is better to interrupt a shot because the movement is incorrect, then shoot and miss the target. The target is there, it will not move. Do not fire just because you have pulled the arrow. But never hold back from firing the arrow if what holds you back is fear from making a mistake. Even if the arrow fails to hit the target, you will improve your aim with the next one. Each arrow leaves a memory in your heart and its the sum of those memories that will make you a better marksman”.
“The target is the objective to be reached. It was chosen by you. Even though its a long way away, we can not blame it if we fail to hit it. You can never excuse yourself by saying that it was too far or that your opponent was stronger than you. You chose the target, you are responsible to hit it. Also if you view your target as an enemy, you might hit the target, but you will not have changed anything in yourself. Regard it with respect and dignity; you need to know what it means and how much training and intuition was required on your part.”
“The young archer’s hand wan not steady” said the old master. “He had no serenity in his heart. no peace. He tried to hold all the rules of the bow in his head, but that is impossible without a tranquil mind. Before you fire the arrow, you must pas through your mind all the mistakes that have brought you to this moment. all that you have learned from your mistakes shall guide your arrow.”
“One day when you are out of love will life, your aim will be confused, difficult. you will find it difficult to bend your bow. The target will seem far and impossible. You will hesitate to fire. What you must do is put the bow down and ponder on what is holding you back. It could be anything to the biggest problem or the most insignificant. Nevertheless use your bad moments to discover what makes you tremble. Use your good moments to find your road to inner peace. But do not stop either out of fear or joy: The way of the bow has no end”.
And by these words the young boy lived his life. Always remembering his masters teachings in The way of the bow.