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On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious Paperback – April 1, 2002

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About the Author

<DIV>Douglas Harding is a highly respected mystic/philosopher who was known for his experience of Headlessness--the experience of "seeing" our original nature. Harding spent his live expressing this abiding experience, and also developed a series of awareness exercises that enabled other to see for themselves, "who we really are" in essence.</div>
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 123 pages
  • Publisher: Inner Directions; Revised edition (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1878019198
  • ISBN-13: 978-1878019196
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #861,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 94 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on December 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Is the world you experience "inside" your mind or "outside" it?

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.

See?

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).
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Bruce McElhaney on March 2, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased the book in part due to its good reviews here and elsewhere, and because of the author's interesting website. I can appreciate the obvious but original slant of the author's views. (There is no self, only Self) While I can comprehend the essential message of the book, I feel its presentation somewhat lacking. If you don't "get it" within the first few pages, then you probably won't get it at all, as the explanation of the message appears (to this reader) to be more murky than the message itself. Some might believe that it's only problematic of a murky reading. I can pretty much agree with the previous reader who wrote: "This book lacks clarity. If you are familiar with Zen I don't think he has much to add." That's the bad news. The good news is, you don't need to buy the book! Fortunately, the essence of the message presented here has been clarified in the author's later works as well as on his excellent website. In addition, the experiments offered on the website are enlightening in themselves.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By yoga7@aol.com on April 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
Douglas Harding, in this "underground" classic, reveals a way of looking at the obvious in everyday perception that is so powerful and so potent that it should not be missed. Make certain that you're in a "good" space when you open it; the first chapter is one of the best in print in this genre and the first reading is potentially one of the most important ones you will make. Highly recommended.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By mbuhrdorf@hotmail.com on May 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
The clarity of thought expressed in this book allows the reader to achieve profound meditative states even before the book is finished. This is the only book I have ever read and been able to put into practice immediately concerning meditation. Anyone who can read will be able to come away from this book with a completely different view of reality. What is also important is that no drastic lifestyle changes are necessary, however you might find yourself changing as a result of reading this book. Whether you are a beginner at meditation, or an old hand, this is an excellent resource.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By lou monte on January 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
on having no head by d.e.harding is a book that shows you the way to the other shore while not neglecting the shore you came from. it is the only book that i have ever read that put me in touch with who i really, really am and not just intellectually but experientially.it is a wonderful gift from a wonderful writer.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dianelos Georgoudis on April 12, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Harding wants to convince us, literally, that we do not have a head. It sounds preposterous but he is rather insistent and, incredibly, it starts to dawn on us that somehow he has a point. The phrase "I have no head" says something new not about the word "head" but about the word "I". Actually what Harding should have written is that "I am not a head": our experience of the world is something much more basic and elemental, and only later do we learn about our head. This becomes clearer when one finds that Harding also claims that we don't have a body. In fact, even after reading the book I shall continue to talk about my head as something I have - it sounds more natural.
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.
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