“The Fragrance of Light” – a great new book

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.


10 thoughts on ““The Fragrance of Light” – a great new book

  1. Robert

    Is it really much different than Call of the Infinite? I have that book and have read it a dozen times. I love Shin Buddhism, but to be honest I have never gotten anything more out of it than longing.

  2. rennyo01 Post author

    It’s quite different from Call of the Infinite because unlike Call, it’s a compendium of mass testimonies. Sorry I can’t help you with your sense of longing – maybe some form of self-power spirituality would appeal to you more than Jodo Shinshu…

  3. robert

    No, I came to Shin because of my disappointment with self-power practices. Doesn’t Shin teach that self-power practices are futile anyway?

  4. rennyo01 Post author

    Okay, I think I understand better now… The reason I first suggested self-power practice was because you said that all you got out of “Call” was a sense of longing, which I honestly don’t understand. If you have Shinjin and you take refuge in Amida, I don’t understand why you are experiencing (spiritual) longing. So I suggested that – if Shin is “not working” for you – then perhaps your karma has ripened to the point of being more comfortable in some other form of Buddhism, or some other spiritual practice entirely.. But since self power practice disappointed you, yet still feel unfulfilled even within Shin’s Other Power practice, I’m sorry but I can’t suggest anything else for you. As you know, there are all kinds of belief and non-belief in the world, more or less easily accessed via the Internet. All I can suggest is that if you’re unsatisfied with Shin, you have no reason tokeep on with it, and you can consult the myriad of other alternatives, and hopefully find one that works for you.

  5. robert

    I feel drawn to Shin because of the teaching of grace. I’ve had a couple of powerful experiences with grace before, but in a Christian context. Yet for me, Christianity has a lot of baggage, whereas Shin doesn’t. I ordered the book too, btw.

  6. rennyo01 Post author

    Good for you on ordering the book. 🙂 I think you’ll enjoy the many testimonies from all kinds of different people and traditions, not all of them from Shin. … I agree that Shin has little baggage in contrast to Christianity – no divine man, no violent salvific death, no compendium of doctrines, no reliance on one’s own works, etc. I’m heartened to know that you have had earlier experiences with grace – once given grace, a person can hang on to that experience and memory and let them sort of buoy us through samsara.

  7. Pingback: “The Unhindered Path” – a “must-read” | Rennyo01’s Blog

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