Buddhist scholar John Paraskevopoulos has just published a wonderful book of compiled-and-edited Buddhist sources, titled The Fragrance of Light.
The book is a tour de force and a witness to Buddhism’s real salvific power as well as its mystical beauty. Through only a few chapters, Paraskevopoulos leads the reader from general spiritual and Buddhist ideas into Amidist/Pure Land concepts, and finally into Jodo Shinshu (Shin) Buddhology. Each chapter, regardless of one’s status or non-status in Buddhism and spirituality generally, is profoundly informative and pragmatic – while at the same time constantly appealing to the transcendent factor at the base of all religion.
One beauty of the book is that Paraskevopoulos doesn’t ask us to trust him (although he well could, based on his other excellent professional writings). Instead, he invites us to journey through chapters composed mostly of various Buddhist, religious and philosophical citations from many places and eras. These are the testimonies of those who have been touched by the spiritual transcendent, especially in the form of Amida Buddha, and they speak for themselves with very little commentary by the author. Even the helpful footnotes are mostly taken from bona fide external sources, with the author’s own notations (also bona fide!) being very few and far between.
If the book has a main theme, I would say that it is an invitation for us to trustingly return to the indwelling Transcendent, an invitation supported by solid testimonies which never become repetitious. The Appendix, Voices of Light, contains valuable, poetic testimony from assorted practicers, and ends the book on an appropriately feeling-toned, mystical note.
The Fragrance of Light has my highest recommendation. It is made to read over and over again; to recall and return to the Source as It is mirrored in the hearts and minds of Its keepers.