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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 1999
In this small volume Douglas Harding has been able to condense the entire spiritual quest of mankind into a few short sentences. His vision of the reality of total spiritual awareness is so simple that it is easy to dismiss this book as presenting yet another "New Age" gimmick. All I can say is that once you have experienced and seen as Douglas sees, through the "one eye" that you share with him, once you have done that you will never be the person you once assumed you were!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2004
This is quite a remarkable book by any standards. I think it's appropriate to point out that for some people it works and for others it simply doesn't. That said the only way to find out is to actually read it!
This isn't anything to do with the slew of new age books that have appeared over the last decade, it was originally published in 1961 by The Buddhist Society. Douglas Harding recounts an extraordinary experience and how he developed an understanding of it through the mystical traditions of the world, mostly centred on Zen Buddhism. Most importantly, dear reader, you can have the same experience by following the simple instructions. Of course this sounds too good to be true - but it is! Douglas Harding is now in his nineties and still spreading the word of his amazing discovery.
You have every right to be sceptical but this book does change lives for the better and puts a smile on your face.
I first read this book thirty years ago, it was a slow burn for me, took weeks before the penny dropped but a friend of mine was on a natural high for three months.
Outrageous claims I know but this book is something very special.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 15 February 2011
It's interesting to read the unfavourable reviews as well as the favourable ones, as this is the sort of book you can go through phases over (assuming you recover from any initial "This is tosh!" reactions and do actually return to it). My first encounter with the basic proposition was in a book of modern mystics and sages. I pencilled 'Douglas Harding's Head' under the crisp black and white head-and-shoulders photo, presumably thinking I had settled the matter, or just out of friendly mischief. By the early '90s I was reading On Having No Head itself and, judging from the marginal scribbles, I was broadly favourable but could only cope with the headlessness idea as a metaphor for a different way of looking at the world.

What do I think today? Well, let's take the simple sentence: 'I have no head'. It splits into subject ('I') and predicate ('have no head'). An obvious approach to this is to take 'I' as read and skip straight on to considering the predicate: 'have no head'. My approach nowadays though is to take 'have no head' as read, as a "done deal" if you will, and then ask myself what 'I' is, that it should have no head. Douglas Harding's hierarchical "layers of the onion" approach is helpful for this, but no amount of cogitation can substitute for doing the experiments and looking for yourself.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2002
The simplicity of what Douglas teaches is fantastic. No longer do you have to spend years on the path... All you have to do is trust your senses and forget your conditioning for a short moment. Once viewed from the perspective that Douglas presents the boundaries we have imposed between us an the world appear absurd. The ideas we have developed about ourselves are shown to be false. Prepare to be amazed...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 1 November 2013
let's keep this simple. the negative reviews are by people who perhaps need a framework with all the elaborate explanations of enlightenment that theravadin or tibetan buddhism offer. if you get the point of this book you see your nature, if you fail to get the point its because you do not see your essence. This book introduces you to your essence without any dogma or adherence to any particular religion or "mystic" Some people prefer to follow people who talk a great deal about enlightenment but have never actually seen their nature. If you want to see your nature this book will point you in the right direction. After seeing, you will thank the author for his kindness.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 2011
I would say this book is a must read for the seeker of spiritual truth. I have read widely in the fields of Zen, Advaita and mystisicm, and never have I seen the core consept broken down to such straightforward simplicity as Douglas Harding manages to do.

Buy this book instead of eeking your way through the blue cliff records, it will save you imense amounts of time in your spiritual quest.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2013
Inside this book is a great book fighting to get out. But for every illuminating passage there are three passages that ramble barely coherently. At times Harding's writing is extremely clunky and his attempts at humour backfire woefully. For a brilliantly succinct study of non-duality try Joan Tollifson, David Carse or Darryl Bailey. They are the true masters.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 24 August 2013
Harding once had an enlightenment experience which felt like he had no head. He tries to explain this experience through the intellect. Zen would say this is like adding legs to the snake. Can't be done. Enlightenment is beyond intellect.
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4 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2011
With all the respect to Mr. Harding I have to say, this is the worst book I've ever read in my life.

The subject is fantastic but the writing is just a chaos, an unreadable mess.
It has paragraph long sentences. One sentence was 17(!) lines.
It's like he starts to write down a thought but in the middle of the sentence he starts another. And this just goes on and on.
It is like a word search: you must find the key words from a pile of useless letters and add them up to get the message of the author.

Very, very difficult to follow. I like the subject and I know what he was writing about. But why it has to be in this form? Why is this terrible way?
I hope those whom are new to this spiritual way will not read this book first. If they do, they will loose all their initial enthusiasm. Guarantied!

I think the worst thing one could do to a book to burn it. I did throw this in the fireplace. I don't want anybody to go through the struggle what I had to and waste their time.
It is a waste: paper, ink, time.

I'm also wondering this book might be a test. They wanted to see, how many people buy a worthless book because of its impressive title.

Sad, it is very sad.
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4 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2009
I really thought this book was very poor. The central theme, as I understand it, revolves around the Buddhist concept of the non-existence of the 'self', and that we should move to direct experience of the world. This idea is put forward, and pretty well described (as far as something that seems to be so experience based can be) in the first two pages, so in that respect I guess it is worth a star. After that, even though it is a short book, it is very repetitive, eliptical and frankly quite boring. There are any number of better contemporary books on buddhism (e.g. "Buddhism without beliefs") and I would look elsewhere if you want to read about the experience or value of enlightenment.
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