Georgios Halkias, Luminous Bliss: A Religious History of Pure Land Literature in Tibet, University of Hawai’i Press, 2013

From the Series Editor’s Preface: Pure Land Buddhism—considered broadly as the cults of Amitābha, Amitāyus, Aparimitāyus, and the cosmology of a pure Buddha land, whether associated with any of those figures or any other Buddha—has been an integral part of the Mahāyāna tradition effectively from its inception. This series seeks to make available scholarly works that examine all aspects of that tradition, across the entire range of Buddhist cultures. The series also seeks to provide an opportunity for the examination of that tradition from any methodological perspective as well.

Georgios Halkias’Luminous Bliss is a religious history of Pure Land Buddhism in Tibet that highlights the textual and ritual traditions. In doing so Halkias locates the development of the concept of a Pure Land within broader Indian and Central Asian Mahāyāna themes, many of which have been central to the intellectual development of the tradition right into the present. He provides a historical orientation to the development of the Pure Land tradition in Tibet from the ninth century onwards, and a critical textual study of one of the texts central to the tradition.

An additional important contribution of Halkias’ work is that he examines the way in which Pure Land sutra-based aspirations and tantric practices have mutually supported each other in Tibet. This provides additional nuance to our understanding of the tradition, calling into question the all-too-easy equation of Pure Land Buddhism with devotionalism, whether Indian (bhakti) or European (piety). The breadth of Halkias’ work, however, is based on a detailed philological study of representative texts and a systematic description of meditative techniques upheld over the last one thousand years by all the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism that establishes a standard for future studies of Pure Land literatures in all of the Buddhist languages.