BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA, January 1, 2017 (New York Times): Huston Smith, a renowned scholar of religion who pursued his own enlightenment in Methodist churches, Zen monasteries and even Timothy Leary's living room, died on Friday at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 97. Professor Smith was best known for "The Religions of Man" (1958), which has been a standard textbook in college-level comparative religion classes for half a century. In 1991, it was abridged and given the gender-neutral title "The World's Religions." The two versions together have sold more than three million copies.
The book examines the world's major faiths as well as those of indigenous peoples, observing that all express the Absolute, which is indescribable, and concluding with a kind of golden rule for mutual understanding and coexistence: "If, then, we are to be true to our own faith, we must attend to others when they speak, as deeply and as alertly as we hope they will attend to us."
Professor Smith, whose last teaching post was at the University of California, Berkeley, had an interest in religion that transcended the academic. In his joyful pursuit of enlightenment -- to "turn our flashes of insight into abiding light," as he put it -- he meditated with Tibetan Buddhist monks, practiced yoga with Hindu holy men, whirled with ecstatic Sufi Islamic dervishes, chewed peyote with Mexican Indians and celebrated the Jewish Sabbath with a daughter who had converted to Judaism.