Thursday, January 5, 2017

RIP, Huston Smith

I was sad to be informed today of the passing of another notable individual. Yup, 2016 got another one on the way out.

This time, it was Huston Smith, author of "The World's Religions." He was  a scholar who wrote extensively on major religions of the world, and even had a five-part television series with Bill Moyers that I admired, called "The Wisdom of Faith."

He believed that people could benefit by extracting a bit from all of the world's religions, rather than picking and choosing sides, and compartmentalizing and sticking doggedly to one's religion. He was a believer in benefiting from the wisdom that all of the religious faiths had to offer, which reminds me of one of my favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson, who suggested much the same when he said:

"Were I to be the founder of a new sect, I would call them Apiarians, and, after the example of the bee, advise them to extract the honey of every sect. my fundamental. principle would be ... that we are to be saved by our good works which are within our power, and not by our faith which is not within our power."

Smith had been born in China to Methodist missionaries, although he came to the United States for his education. He studied the world's religions, and spent well over a decade specifically studying Vedanta, Zen Buddhism, and Sufi Islam. He advocated learning and accepting the best of the teachings of the various religions, and felt that they were not opposing values, or somehow mutually exclusive.

Yes, it was sad to learn about Smith's passing, although he lived a full life. Smith died this past Friday, on December 30th. He was 97 years old.

Here is a great quote from Smith which I heard earlier on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and which seemed like a fitting way to end this small tribute to honor him:

"If we take the world's enduring religions at their best, we discover the distilled wisdom of the human race."

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