Shooting Arrows in Dragon Pool

Shooting Arrows

A monster bird, though it did not do much actual harm, terrorized the whole district by its frightening appearance. So a great warrior was asked if he could make it go away or kill it. I have seen a picture of the bird—it is sort of human with a bird’s head and wings, and it has a terrifying aspect. The warrior went and started shooting arrows at it, but his arrows did not pierce its body, they stuck to it. So the warrior took his lance and ran at it, but the lance, too, was deflected and just stuck on the bird’s body. Then he heaved at it with his sword, but the sword somehow did not make contact but also just stuck. Being a warrior, he also knew of the Jujitsu means as they were then and he tried them, but his hands now also stuck to the bird’s body and he was rendered helpless. And the bird-head said, “Now do you surrender?” When he said “No!”, the bird was transformed—we need not go into it but it was the God of the Martial Arts and he said, “You have tried with everything you knew, with arrow, lance, sword, and your techniques; all these failed until there was nothing left. You were naked. Nothing, but still …”
Now this story was taken up by a Zen teacher. When we approach something like Zen (though it is not restricted to Zen) we first of all try shooting the arrows of our opinion, or of information which we have, or of guesses or inference—we try from a safe distance; shooting arrows as we try to pierce it and to find out what it is. But the arrow flies with alien feathers—the feathers in an arrow are not its own, they have come from somewhere else. And further, an arrow may pierce its target but then it is taken out and perhaps used again; the arrow never gets anything. But the bird which flies with its own feathers, when it has made its flight, finds a nest and a mate and has young ones. Moreover, the arrows of opinion will not pierce the target, they will just stick, so will the lance, the sword, and finally the technique until you have nothing left. You have to approach this finality. It is not wrong to try these means, but in the end there has to be nothing left but you. And if you are still determined and not daunted by the failures, then there will be a transformation

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