Mystics, great academics, Tibetans, people young and old from many traditions — Huston is honored! April 1st many gathered to celebrate the life of Huston Smith at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. He had lived for 97 years, is remembered with a wide smile, stamping on small-minded thinking.
In 1976 Shabda and I had a chance to travel to Varanasi India. It was a day of finding thanka brocade and the cremation ghats by the Ganges. It was our chance meeting with Huston Smith, then age 57. The world professor with a group of Berkeley students invited us to an Indian music concert that day. We followed him there. His energy was invigorating.
In the nineties I joined a young group called The Rhythm Society (We are One in the Dance!) that Bob Jesse and my son Ammon founded with visionary electronic tec-lovers. There was an added spiritual perspective. Music, all night dance celebrations and experiences of the sacred took place in the church of St John the Evangelist, the Episcopal church on Julian in the Mission.
Each ANDC (all-night-dance-celebration) several hundred celebrants would join hands and make a positive intention, then the DJs began to play. Most, if not all members were wary of gurus or teachers. But the man they turned out for on special occasions, hosted, read books by, talked about was Huston Smith. When Huston came they sat quietly and listened. When it was question time, Huston would slowly respond, That is a fantastic question! That is wonderful thinking. And he’d beam at the questioner. They read his books and talked about him.
Twenty-nine years after India, we came to his house for tea, arranged by Bob Jesse. The conversation went like this. He spoke slowly with enthusiasm: Tell me everything about you. Start at the beginning and don’t leave anything out. Shabda mentioned we had been married for almost 30 years. He said: Well, I don’t know about marriage, but my partner (Kendra) and I have been honing each other’s edges for 60 years and we STILL have rough edges!
When the subject of Sam Lewis came up he said: I think he was the happiest man I ever met. I used to play the Sufi Choir Album in my Berkeley classes. I loved the Sufi Choir. Then he started to sing an old Sufi Choir song: “Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram…”
It was that love of Sufi music that brought Bob Jesse to invite Shabda to share music for the memorial at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Saturday April 1. The weather made us giddy with its shine and light breeze. Like a Huston Smith smile—warm sun lit up the day. <> Here is a sample of a couple of his books, quotes and shared stories:
Huston’s book, The Religions of Man (1958) was a standard in college level religion classes for half a century. 1n 1991 it was given the title The World’s Religions. The two versions sold more than 3 million copies!
Huston invited Aldous Huxley to give seven lectures at MIT in 1960 and was at the birth of the psychedelic movement. Huston wrote Cleansing the Doors of Perception: The Religious Significance of Enthogenic Plants and Chemicals. (entheogen: substance that induces a spiritual experience and is aimed at spiritual development, what Huston calls “God-enabling.”)
“The book’s most interesting essay, “Psychedelic Theophanies and the Religious Life” was written in the late sixties and contains an insightful critique of the psychedelic movement which, well over thirty years later, is still entirely relevant. Huston asserts that psychedelic religious experiences often don’t have any lasting effects because people are more interested in having a religious experience (i.e. getting high) than living a religious life.” <http://www.spikemagazine.com/0900perception.php>
Huston helped introduce the Dalai Lama to the U.S., and he supported the Tibetan cause. As his wife, Kendra, said in her words at Grace Catherdal, (Tibetans looked after Huston in his last year,) “they arrived in the house after he died, chanting—with hugs and food and incense. More than 14 hours later, they were still there.”
He had the gift of making everyone around him feel special. * Patricia E. de Jong
He said his favorite way to pray was with a pencil in his hand. * Dr. Philip Novak
And this from his daughter, Kimberly Smith: <> He was a sustaining current of fatherly love. <> When we kids became teenagers, he sang Beatles songs in harmony with us. <> I never once saw him veg on the couch. <> January second, three days after he died, a rosebush outside my window burst into bloom…
The memorial ended with singing (led by Rashida Chase) the song: O Happy Day, from decades ago by Edwin Hawkins.