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Summary

'Reason and imagination and all mental chatter died down... I forgot my name, my humanness, my thingness, all that could be called me or mine. Past and future dropped away... Lighter than air, clearer than glass, altogether released from myself, I was nowhere around.' Thus Douglas Harding describes his first experience of headlessness, or no self. First published in 1961, this is a classic work which conveys the experience that mystics of all times have tried to put words to.

©1961, 2014 The Shollond Trust (P)2017 The Shollond Trust

What listeners say about On Having No Head

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Measured, interesting, but fails to convince

It’s a nicely written tale, told in a measured, jovial tone, but I was left ultimately frustrated with it.

From the outset the author makes assertions that jar with experience but my resolve to give him the bandwidth to address it progressively waned as the measured tone started to feel overly matter-of-fact despite not having satisfactorily established what he was saying as anything approaching a fact.

Eventually my patience frayed and I was left staring into deliberately obtuse justifications for what seems to amount to nonsense.

I do feel like I’m at fault though - it’s me who’s not seeing the punchline or spotting the metaphor - but I’m annoyed the author didn’t do enough to address that since it appears to be the whole point in the exercise.

6 people found this helpful

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This book is invaluable to meditation practitioner

I have enjoyed both reading and listening to this book. I find the experience psychedelic at times while trying to grasp the concepts put forward by Harding. To really understand this book requires an open mind and a playful attitude.

2 people found this helpful

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Deep

Quite esoteric, but for those interested in nonduality this book is incredibly valuable. highly recommended

2 people found this helpful

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Interesting concept, but repetitive

Found it a little bit confusing and repetitive. During half of the book I had to speed-up the narration... it felt like it was repeating the same idea over-and-over again

2 people found this helpful

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Preachy and Pretentious

Okay, now I understand why people might have a problem with the new age trend of Buddhism and eastern philosophy filtered through western thinking. This is not a great book. This seems like a very watered down and deeply unconvincing book on zen and Buddhist philosophy. It is also worryingly cultish, The author lacks self-criticism with his own ideas, immediately thinking it and the way he sees things to be the truth and absolute good. And all his criticisms he aims at the west or at society and how we are and perceive the world to automatically be wrong and a 'lie' which is, obviously, preposterous.

Yes, it is a lie to some degree, in that what we see is not the pure reality, but neither is this view he professes, which is essentially a view of nothingness being the reality of all realities and to say your way of seeing the world to be the truth above all else and in the way constructed in this book just makes me distrust the man. Or maybe I have just been spoiled by similar ideas already communicated in better means, via Buddhist retreats I have attended and Eckhart Tolle books or the free course online on Buddhism and modern psychology, by Princeton University, via professor Robert Wright who uses actual real science and evidence to back up the Buddhas teachings as true and useful, Or just any lecture by the legendary Alan Watts or Sam Harris.

I would suggest people seek out these things before reading something like this, which needs a lot of work before taking seriously. But I appreciate and respect the effort nevertheless. The problem too I have with readings like this and its thinking and interpretations of Buddhism and eastern philosophy is that they profess that the 'true' way of seeing is that anything can happen and that anything is possible and we can be eternally happy if we just allow the moment and any desire and thing to come to pass. It is overly and chaotically passive and too overly culturally and civilly critical to the point of being dangerous. It comes across as cultural subversion in a nefarious way. Or maybe chaotically good way.

This book is far too one-sided and lacks balance, to the point of being preachy, pretentious or cultish. This does no good to the image of Buddhism in the west already, and I dont think i got much out of it, but I still respect the inherrent attempt and philosophy, at, at times seeming to be about doing good for humankind, although even that I have my doubts about.

Seek out better works and introductions to Buddhism, mindfulness zen and eastern philosophy before this one.

1 person found this helpful

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Not wrong but oh so dull

What happens when a not so bright person gains some insight and feels the need to preach it? This book.

Nothing wrong with the content but the form is tiresome and plainly boring. Plagued with pointless repetitions, cringe worthy comparisons, read by a subtly annoying narrator.

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Where' s my head at?

I enjoyed this short book immensely and it gave me a real sense of voidness.

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Disappointing

I think this book is about the illusion that is ego, a subject to which I am quite receptive. But after 90 minutes of bewilderment, I gave up on this one.

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Charmed me

a well read audio book, it really needs your full attention, every word was valuable

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Subtly Profound

What’s being touched upon and discussed here is subtle. However within the subtle is the absolute insight / knowing / looking. You are total and complete openness. Douglas goes about this is in a unique and creative way. Thank you Douglas and thank you Richard for keeping the teaching going strong.

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  • Litbovely
  • 19-01-19

Wonderful, secular explanation of Zen ideas

The author describes his Zen experience of emptiness in an astoundingly clear way, given how intrinsically subjective the topic is. He compares it to many similar acccounts in various religions, and manages to clear a lot of the clutter orbiting it.

Writing style is fluid and maintains a comfortably secular viewpoint despite the estoricity and historical mystical baggage of the topic. Even when words like "god" were used, I had no trouble interpreting them in a metaphoric sense - much like Einstein's discussions on hypotethical ultimates of existence.

This helped me understand many Zen and Tao teachings and stories for the first time -- at times to the points of making them seem ridiculously convoluted way of pointing to the same direction! Just listening to the book even took me closest ever to actually experiencing the "void" subjectively. Highly recommended.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Elias Rademacher
  • 19-01-20

Life Changing

I think I will never see the world or myself the same way after having listened to this book.

My meditation up to this point has been about "stilling the pool" as they say, but this book has made me go deeper. Now I'm asking, "wait a second, what's the pool made out of? Is this even a pool?"

Consise, compelling, and charming. I would recommend to anyone interested in Buddhism or any open-minded and philosophical person.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Tanner
  • 08-05-19

Experience Void, Experience Causeless Joy

Most clear cut, experiential approach to seeing what One truly is. Language is crystal clear and he even makes sense of a dozen or so mystics and masters who’s advice finally makes sense in the first person present tense.

I practice this method every day, very obvious stuff once it sinks in. Everyone’s birthright is the joy of Being.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Matthew
  • 12-03-18

Awesome

Great description of the event and process of enlightenment in everyday language and excellent references!

5 people found this helpful

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  • Erik Eierud
  • 19-04-18

Deeply well written journey into the hearts

Harding not only explain his journey to talk to friends about mysterios gems and how lowly rejected they may get even from the brightest. He also shows what may happen if you trust yourself and take your own steps into the deepest place of the heart. He tells it from the view of the ones that are often happy around us, the view from children and animals.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Peter Pajakowski
  • 24-05-20

Should be required reading

... especially in a culture in which so many people are interested in mindfulness, but end up only reinforcing the very dualistic conception of consciousness that they are ostensibly trying to overcome. So much modern woo is self-aggrandizing. This explains first principles of nondualism in elegant simplicity.

1 person found this helpful

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  • James Olmos
  • 16-05-20

Was ok

This book helped me fall asleep at night. I couldn't connect with the author at all.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Emerson Lim
  • 04-02-20

Head Blown. Wow.

Intellectual yet humble account of headless ness and Ones journey towards liberation. Complex and simple.

1 person found this helpful

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  • MetaDreaming
  • 24-01-20

Wonderful!

Narration could be so much better. But a second listening should clear up some of what was obscured by an untrained reader. Nonetheless, powerful content made accessible for the most part. I only wish there were more practical suggestions and instruction.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Nathan
  • 02-08-19

Headline-less

Changed my life, and I've only finished it days ago. Suggested reading only after one has completed Sam Harris' 50 day intro course via the Waking Up app. (May need to do twice, as I did).

3 people found this helpful