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The Method of Zen
Eugen Herrigel

Translated from Der Zen-weg
Published by Vintage Books in 1974

Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002


In this small companion to "Zen in the Art of Archery," Herrigel explains Zen Buddhism, whereas in "Archery," he described his indoctrination into Zen through learning the art of archery. The relationship of the disciple to the master he explains in detail. He touches on how the master uses koans and how the master knows when the novice has attained satori.

Since the method Herrigel uses is verbal description and he decries the usefulness of verbal descriptions, the book is not useful as a method of learning the process of Zen, only for helping to recognize the various types of Zen experiences when they do occur.

In Sufi metaphysics the process of evolution runs from stone (the mineral kingdom) up through man ( highest consciousness). As the Sufi says it, "I slept in the stone, dreamed in the plant kingdom, awoke in the animal kingdom, and became aware of myself as man." In the atavistic processes of Zen, one returns back through these levels till one reaches the immovable stone consciousness once more. Seated in the full lotus position of zaZen, one becomes as imperturbable as a stone once more. Herrigel demonstrates this in the opening of his book when his Japanese host remained seated and calm when a major earthquake occurred during a meeting.

If you have no experiences with Zen processes, this book will be of little help to you in understanding Zen. If you do have experiences, this book will be like a pleasant thought that passes through your mind during zazen like a bird flying through the branches of a peach tree.

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