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On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  231 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Headlessness, the experience of "no-self" that mystics of all times have aspired to, is an instantaneous way of "waking up" and becoming fully aware of one's real and abiding nature. Douglas Harding, the highly respected mystic-philosopher, describes his first experience of headlessness in "On Having No Head," the classic work first published in 1961. In this book, he conv ...more
Paperback, 123 pages
Published April 1st 2002 by Inner Directions (first published 1961)
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The way of headlessness is the way I believe we all see the world when we are children. This is the key to the wisdom we all once possessed, as children, and this is the wisdom we lose when we "grow up", become "mature" and join the "real" world of jobs and money and the pursuit of "things" out there. I read this book at about age 40, and it was as if I had discovered a long lost friend. It made me recall a time when I too frolicked about without the burden of this thing called a head.

I had the
Jan 20, 2008 Gary rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: zen
Made me high reading it.
This book interests me because of a song written by Mike Heron

Douglas Traherne Harding
by Mike Heron

When I was born I had no head
My eye was single and my body was filled with light
And the light that I was, was the light that I saw by
And the light that I saw by, was the light that I was

And many's the time that I've passed by the river
And saw no tollman and needed no ferryman to cross
And I enjoyed the world aright
For the sea itself floweth
And warm I was and crowned

But one day walking by the river
Darren Berg
Douglas Harding states in a couple places in the book, that sometimes things come into your life, just when you need them to. This book is no exception. An amazing read. The first half of the book drew me in with it's playfulness. Its nearly Seuss-ian banter on the idea, the amazing thought, that this man has no head.

It's beautiful, thoughtful and written with such a love for the material that it's simple to understand, to feel what the author is trying to convey.

In an area that can get very d
A very interesting approach to the idea of the absence of ego: the author is trying to share his own mystical experience he had as a young man in Himalayas when he realized that, unlike he had always thought, he (his ego) was exactly what he perceived with his senses - no more and no less. And this feeling manifested itself through a phenomenon of "headlessness". Though definitely interesting reading, I would not call it the most successful attempt to share personal religious experience. The lan ...more
The premise of this little book is set of simple techniques that anyone can use to achieve instant enlightenment about who you really are. I got more results in 10 minutes from using Harding's methods that I have from countless hours of meditation. Some of the book is repetitious, because once you try the technique and "get it", that is really all you need to know.
Mar 21, 2010 Nathan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: gods
This book will blow your head. A succinct and obvious perception of self. Enlightening, terrifying and unavoidable.

I have just finished re-reading this, and it strikes me as even more profound than before. If you have a desire to know what all of "this" is, and you are only going to read one more book in your lifetime, this should be the one.
Richard Peters
Douglas Harding created a simple way of "seeing". His mission was to help people experience what is really "here", right where they thought their head was!

On the face of it this is a strange concept, but in fact it is incredibly simple!

Most people think that they have a head sitting on their shoulders, just like all the other people that they see, have one on their shoulders.

What Harding does is suggest a series of personal experiments that anyone can do, to help them realise that what they expe
Aygul A.
Probably there is only one way of converting the skeptic who still says I have a head here, and that is to invite him to come here and take a look for himself; only he must be an honest reporter, describing what he observes and nothing else.
Nathan Schwartz
A strange little book. Starts with a simple idea – you can’t directly see your own head, progresses to a still pretty simple idea, that you have a unique first-person view of your world, and then leaps to some sort of strange zen you-are-one-with-the-universe sort of thing. If you follow that leap then I guess this book may be pretty amazing (at least some people have told me it was), but for me it did nothing.
A classic on the subject of the human experience. If you have any interest in the subject matter, you have to read this book. It will turn your thinking upside down by forcing you to look at life and living from a completely different perspective. It takes the things that "go without saying" and points out what is false about them.
This book was given to me when my mind was broken with anxiety. It helped pull me out of the pit of murky numb that was my mind at that time in my life. Its the kind of book you give to a schizophrenic that is paranoid of cameras watching your every move. No slap in the face nor smelling salts necessary.
The first chapter is the best, where he describes the evidence for having a head (slim) and the subsequent experience of the world as a no-headed person. The place that used to be "your head" becomes the entire world around you. Try walking around with this perspective on the world.
I read this book about fifteen years ago and the insight contained in the first few pages has stuck with me ever since. I've read a lot of his other books but they're not really necesssary--I don't know that he needed to write anything more.
Elyza La
A great book recommended by Sam Harris in his L.A lecture on Waking Up.
Wonderful ideas, but not the most clear writing. "the light that I am" by jc amberchele may be a better presentation of the same concepts.
I would give the message at the heart of this book 5 stars. However, the last chapter seemed excessively formulaic to me.
Robert Francisco
How to easily return to living from the first person perspective. (Which is the only one you actually and truly ever have...)
One of the best books on Zen you can find. Short, succinct, spot-on.
Balachandar Lakshmikanthan
Eager to know what there in "On Having No Head"....
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“What actually happened was something absurdly simple and unspectacular: I stopped thinking. [...] Reason and imagination and all mental chatter died down. For once, words really failed me. Past and future dropped away. I forgot who and what I was, my name, manhood, animalhood, all that could be called mine. It was as if I had been born that instant, brand new, mindless, innocent of all memories. There existed only the Now, that present moment and what was clearly given in it. To look was enough. And what I found was khaki trouserlegs terminating downwards in a pair of brown shoes, khaki sleeves terminating sideways in a pair of pink hands, and a khaki shirtfront terminating upwards in—absolutely nothing whatever! Certainly not in a head.

It took me no time at all to notice that this nothing, this hole where a head should have been was no ordinary vacancy, no mere nothing. On the contrary, it was very much occupied. It was a vast emptiness vastly filled, a nothing that found room for everything—room for grass, trees, shadowy distant hills, and far above them snowpeaks like a row of angular clouds riding the blue sky. I had lost a head and gained a world.”
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