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On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious Paperback – April 1, 2002
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Top Customer Reviews
Puzzle over that little question while you read this underground spiritual classic. Douglas Harding is dead serious (though far from solemn): he wants to show you that you have no head.
You see, he noticed one day while wandering in the Himalayas -- where this sort of thing is apt to happen -- that _he_ didn't have a head. And, in reflecting on the experience afterwards, he worked out a way to bring other people to the same awareness with no need for either abstruse scholarly apparatus or esoteric meditation techniques.
All you have to do is turn around the arrow of attention, and try to look back to see who -- or Who -- is looking _out_ from wherever it is you're looking out from. Go ahead. Try it right now.
Well, if you did, you don't technically need the book any more. But Harding is still a lot of fun to read: he has a light touch, a subtle sense of humor, and the ability to compress the keenest of insights into the simplest of prose, so you'll enjoy him even if you've already gotten his point.
And if you _haven't_ gotten it yet, he'll help you to do so. It's really the same point Alan Watts wanted to put across in _The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are_ (which, for my money, is his best work on the subject). Watts wants you to see that the world is your body; Harding wants you to see that the world is your mind; and they're both right.
This is just a charming book all around, and it will grow on you over the years without ever getting old. Buy a copy and keep it; when it wears out, buy another. Pass it out to your friends. Force it on your enemies (and thereby turn them into your friends).Read more ›
I think that Harding is talking about one of the most intriguing philosophical problems of today, which is consciousness. He wants us to become aware of our awareness, and to show how this experience fundamentally changes the way we see everything else.
To my mind, his connection to Zen Buddhism is strenuous. He mentions many passages from Zen Buddhism (and also from some Christian mystics) to make his point. Zen Buddhism is about rational thought being an obstruction of truth, but thinking about awareness is a very rational enterprise. I am not convinced that when the Zen masters talked about the disappearance of the self they meant the same as headlessness. Anyway the connection with Zen adds little to the main idea of the book, which I think can very well stand on its own.
All in all, I think this book touches on something that is really very important, even fundamental. My only criticism is that the book contains much that I thought peripheral and even unnecessarily opaque.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had to purchase this for a class. I cannot believe that the 2002 edition is worth $58. I purchased the 1988 edition and this thin little book of no substance arrived.Published 15 months ago by ces
The idea of the book is amazing, but the book itself falls far short of my expectations.Published 19 months ago by gofigure
Warning: This little book is not a trick, but a point to an obvious way of seeing our world, that we've been overlooking. Read morePublished 23 months ago by S. Webb
A fan of my Amazon reviews asked me to review this book, and after zipping through its 77 pages in about forty-five minutes, I'm ready to--ream it. Read morePublished 24 months ago by L. Ron Gardner
Unfortunately, this book didn't fire my imagination or capture my attention. "On Having No Point" might be a more apt title.Published on March 26, 2014 by Rob Fitzgibbon
I love this book! We know so little, really. I want awe at the Mystery, not trying to understand the incomprehensible. Awe and deep- breathing go a long way.Published on March 19, 2014 by Mary E. Feagan
Harding once had an enlightenment experience which felt like he had no head. He tries to explain this experience through the intellect. Read morePublished on August 23, 2013 by Casca