The Art of Reflection eBook

Ratnaguna

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In The Art of Reflection, Ratnaguna draws from Buddhist teachings, Western philosophy, psychology and literature to provide a practical guide to reflection as spiritual practice.

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The Art of Reflection
Ratnaguna

It is all too easy either to think obsessively, or to not think enough. But how do we think usefully? How do we reflect? Like any art, reflection can be learnt and developed, leading to a deeper understanding of life and to the fullness of wisdom.

Drawing on his own experience and on Buddhist teachings, Western philosophy, psychology and literature, Ratnaguna provides a practical guide to reflection in its many forms. This is a book about reflection as spiritual practice, about its importance, about “what we think and how we think about it”. It is a book about contemplation and insight, and reflection as a way to discover the truth.

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3 reviews for The Art of Reflection eBook

  1. Advayacitta

    This book provides an overview and much useful advice on the crucial Buddhist practice of reflection, the skilful use of thinking. It is likely to be very helpful for many people in establishing and maintaining an effective reflection practice. It is also a delight to read. It is written with clarity and love, and is grounded in Ratnaguna’s own practice and experience. He also includes many interesting quotations from a variety of sources, both Buddhist and western, quotations which help elucidate the different aspects of thinking effectively and well.
    The book is a very helpful guide, perhaps unique, on how to develop the art of reflection and then from this develop contemplation. Ratnaguna has the knack of approaching complex or difficult issues and making apparently simple but not so obvious points that elucidate matters. In doing so he discusses spiritually vital practices that might just not occur to people. Thus he emphasises the important art of doing nothing as a basis for reflection. He discusses’talking to oneself’ in a manner that is actually a rigorous and honest debate that deliberately challenges one’s own assumptions. He looks at owning up to one’s own foolishness, and other difficult aspects of self-reflection. Such practices can be crucial in the cultivation of ethics, psychological integration and wisdom. The fact that Ratnaguna explicitly discusses them, and recommends them, is likely to be of much benefit to people.
    Overall, this book is a very useful and delightful guide to the art of reflection, which I thoroughly recommend to all Dharma practitioners.

  2. Andreas Hubig

    Can skilful thinking and reflecting be learned as an art? Definitely. This book offers a great overview on right reflecting, a practice which is part of daily Buddhist life. However, it has never been outlined in such detail and length up until now. Ratnaguna (Gary Hennessey), who leads Buddhist classes at the Manchester Buddhist Centre in the UK, offers in his book many beneficial pieces of advice and suggestions for the skilful application of thinking and the art of reflection. Someone who would like to build up and develop an effective practice of reflection will find a useful support in this book. The distinctiveness, love and empathy with which this book has been written testify to the extensive practical experience of the author.
    Using many quotations from Buddhist and Western literature, and enriched with descriptions based on his own experience, Ratnaguna explains in a comprehensible and accessible way the different aspects of thinking and reflecting. He especially emphasizes the practices of learning slow reading, the art of doing nothing as a basis for reflection, and thinking while walking.
    He makes an interesting suggestion to write down your thoughts to help the process of reflection. By writing down thoughts they are somewha ‘objectified’, and we notice how our relation to our initial thoughts suddenly changes.
    In my opinion, the author’s perspective on the art of reflecting is unprecedented and fresh, and it is an art which promises to his readers wisdom through thinking.

  3. Joyce Miller

    From Abhidharma to Zen, from Kafka to Keats, from Frank Sinatra to Socrates – one brief glance at the index of this book will give an indication of its breadth, eclecticism and accessibility. The author, an ordained member of the Triratna Buddhist community (formerly the Western Buddhist Order), has had long experience of teaching meditation and mindfulness. In this book he attempts to address broader questions for a wider audience about how we think and how we can think more usefully.
    Reflection, he argues, is an art: it requires practice and skill and it has been neglected in Buddhism where meditation “the emptying of the mind“ takes precedence over reflection. I am not entirely convinced by the dichotomy he tries to establish between reflection and meditation, because insight meditation is about paying bare attention to one’s mind and body. None the less, this does not detract from the value of this helpful, interesting and sometimes amusing book.
    Ratnaguna sets out to provide a practical manual on how to reflect, how to still your mind to enable coherent thought and prolonged concentration, how to talk to yourself (yes!), how to read and write reflectively, and how to reflect alone and with others. This is a book that is born of years of Buddhist practice alongside a careful selection of useful material from literature, philosophy and psychology. Don’t be put off by the rather dull and unoriginal front cover – no prizes for guessing that it’s mountains and clouds reflected in a lake. Read it at your leisure and enjoy reflecting!
    Reviewer: Joyce Miller in RE today Reviews, Autumn 2011

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Talks and Links

“this is a gem of a book that can be savoured and will enlighten.”
Prof Paul Gilbert, author of The Compassionate Mind

Read an interview with Ratnaguna on The Art of Reflection