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Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Trip reports, findings, events, and general experiences with tenkara fishing. Tell other tenkara enthusiasts about your tenkara experience

Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby jbenenson » Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:44 am

There is a real difference between practicing Zen and being a Zen Buddhist. The latter is a religion, the former is definitely not.

I did kyudo for quite a few years; it's a Zen martial art entirely separate from the Buddhist religion. I still have my yumi (8' bamboo bow), yugake (glove), and ya (arrows) in case I want to resume my practice some day. Now I have my Tenkara rod, wallet, line, tippets, and flies as the tools of my practice.

Now get this: one of the reasons for my being attracted immediately to Tenkara fishing was because I had done kyudo. The kyudo form depends on very precise movements -- just like fly casting. The focus is on the target -- just like fly fishing. One doesn't aim but instead uses physical, mental, and spiritual awareness to connect to the target and achieve the result -- just like fly fishing. In both cases, technique and awareness are more important than the equipment. To me, they are very similar "martial arts" if you want to open your mind.

As far as killing fish and/or animals that's a decision that one must make for her/his self. I practice catch and release every time I fish, but I eat fish, fowl, and meat. If you don't want to do that, fine, I respect your views without judgment.
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby Stephen McGowen » Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:24 pm

Not sure what you mean here . "Zen" doesn't exist separate from Zen Buddhism.
"Martial" arts concern war and the making of war. How does that connect with fishing ? Martial arts are quite the opposite of the path of Zen.
Can you say what you mean in other words? Thanks.
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Thu Feb 18, 2010 4:31 pm

This starts getting into a very complex/difficult subject to discuss, and it could become stormy too. I studied buddhism while living in China, and although I'm not a scholar this is what I gather (but don't beat me up if you disagree):

Essentially Zen Buddhism was a school of Buddhist thought that focused more on "practicing" something to help achieve the goal of enlightenment as opposed to simply reading scriptures, or the written word. It would primarily have been meditation and mindfullness, then different teachers started using other methods such as martial arts (the famous Shaolin martial arts for example), and archery, the long practice of which created a meditative and mindful state and was supposed to possibly lead to enlightenment. These were initially and primarily exercises, not a method to beat someone up. In fact, some people believe Zen Buddhism may have roots in Yoga. With time, the zen (spiritual exercise) became a little removed from the religious exercise, thus we can have the contradictory "zen archery" and "zen martial arts". And, if really taken with tremendous discipline, why not "zen tenkara".

Here's a good quote found in wikipedia:
Once upon a time in ancient Japan, a young man was studying martial arts under a famous teacher. Every day the young man would practice in a courtyard along with the other students. One day, as the master watched, he could see that the other students were consistently interfering with the young man’s technique. Sensing the student’s frustration, the master approached the student and tapped him on the shoulder. “What is wrong?” inquired the teacher. “I cannot execute my technique and I do not understand why,” replied the student. “This is because you do not understand harmony. Please follow me,” said the master. Leaving the practice hall, the master and student walked a short distance into the woods until they came upon a stream. After standing silently beside the streambed for a few minutes, the master spoke. “Look at the water,” he instructed. “It does not slam into the rocks and stop out of frustration, but instead flows around them and continues down the stream. Become like the water and you will understand harmony.” Soon, the student learned to move and flow like the stream, and none of the other students could keep him from executing his techniques.
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby statikpunk » Thu Feb 18, 2010 5:21 pm

stephen I think everyone is talking about zen philosophy, not zen as the religion..because of course your not gonna catch a Buddhist out fly fishing :D I dont think :D

but the idea that when you dont focus on catching fish, but instead focus on perfecting technique and oneness with your surroundings, thus making the fish come to you, is a very zen like "ideal"
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby jbenenson » Thu Feb 18, 2010 6:30 pm

Hey guys, Zen does exist apart from Zen Buddhism. I have practiced Zen for years and I am not a Buddhist, so either that's the case or I don't exist. :o I consider Tenkara very much a Zen activity, certainly when compared to conventional fly fishing. It's as close to a Zen fishing practice as one can get, period.

Stephen, notice that "martial art" is in quotes, although IMHO it doesn't need to be. As I said above, I practiced kyudo for years -- the martial art of archery practiced by Samurai for centuries -- yet I have never shot anybody, even though that's why it was developed. I don't mean to upset you by what I say but I think that facts are important.

I will have to look for it, but there was an article in "Trout", Trout Unlimited's magazine, about how fly fishing is a Zen practice. When I find it I will be happy to send a copy to anyone on the forum who asks for it.

Meanwhile I am very much enjoying the Tenkara experience. People can refer to it in whatever terms they want, but I have practiced Zen long enough for me to call it my Zen fishing practice.

P.S. What did the Zen monk say to the hot dog vendor? "Make me one with everything". :lol:
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby Tamerlin » Mon Mar 01, 2010 12:56 pm

Daniel @ TenkaraUSA wrote:For some reason when I started reading the post I thought of my rock climbing experiences and a discussion I had with a friend about climbing/fishing. In rock climbing I have often experienced a very deep "tunnel vision/zone" where I seem to see and hear nothing around me except for the piece of rock right ahead and my movement.


In Miyamoto Musashi's "The Book of Five Rings" the "rings" that comprise us are the 4 elements (earth, air, fire, water) plus the Void, which is both all of them and none. The way that he describes the fifth ring is a lot like being "in the zone" that you described.

My sensei had an interesting way of describing it also. He said that you practice karate until karate practices you.

Instead of getting in the "zone" your instinct makes you become hyper aware of your surroundings. That's the predator inside of us: spotting a tiny ripple in the water, seeing a tiny bug flying up in the sky, and even "hearing" a leaf falling on the water.


That, IMO, is being in the zone -- you're just using a different skill when you're in the zone in this case.
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Re: Tenkara, trout, the environment, and Zen

Postby ConorUK » Sun Mar 07, 2010 3:30 pm

well, for me, Tenkara just simplifies things, and i focus on fishing my immediate surroundings. I cant speak for the USA but in UK certainly people get very obsessed with casting distance and all sorts of paraphanalia. Using a tenkara rod has made me focus on fishable areas in my immediate surroundings, and i have been catching fish in water i would never have fished otherwise. I write for several shooting and one fishing magazine, and I think its human nature to want to try the 'latest' new fangled thing. People get more excited by catching fish by new 'products' than modifying field craft to catch more fish, maybe because magazines, by their nature, are geared towards testing gear!!! For me Tenkara allows me to focus on the art of stalking one's quarry, but i have yet to forgo certain trusted fly patterns, relative to the Tenkara ones. And to touch on some of the debate on this thread, I personally like the word Zen to describe the spirit of the pursuit of Tenkara.
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