Huston Smith Memorial at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
April 1, 2017

Huston Cummings Smith  31 May 1919 - 30 December 2016

Huston Smith died peacefully on the morning of December 30, 2016 at his home.  

Huston Smith, World's Religion scholar and seeker of the Divine, died at home on December 30, 2016 in Berkeley, California after a long illness. He was largely responsible for introducing Eastern religion to Americans with his 1950s TV series, The Religions of Man, which led to his classic textbook, The World's Religions.

He was born in 1919 in China to missionary parents and planned to continue in their footsteps as a missionary - but while in college in the U.S., he was exposed to mysticism and was introduced to Gerald Heard, Aldous Huxley, and Vedanta, which changed the direction of his life. 

He studied Vedanta for over 10 years (1947 - 1959) under Swami Satprakashananda at the St. Louis Vedanta Center, which set a pattern of studying religion from within the religion at the feet of a master in that tradition. He also dove into Zen Buddhism, Sufism, and other faiths.

In the mid-1950s he brought Martin Luther King to lecture at a segregated Washington University in St. Louis - helping to break the color barrier. 

Huston was the "adult" in the group at Harvard with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (later Ramdass) during the Harvard Psychedelic experiments, warning that the drug experience might point the way, but was not the goal.

Huston helped get the Dalai Lama to the U.S. and also helped the Native American Church get legal status for their sacred peyote rites. In 1996 Bill Moyers produced a 5-part PBS series featuring Huston on the world’s religions.

Huston's family includes his wife, Kendra; daughters Karen,  Gael, and Kimberly Smith; grandchildren: Serena, Sierra, Isaiah, Antonio; great-grandchildren Aubrey, Sasha, Gil, and Eva. Additionally, a multi-generational Tibetan family were a great support for him. Ngodup, Dolma, Tenzin Kunsang are a part of the household, and Tenzin Choden also helped with Huston's care.

Huston lectured all over the world and had written dozens of books, selling millions of copies. Additionally, he is the first Westerner to discover Tibetan multi-phonic chanting and brought it to the West.

His influence has been profound, but perhaps largely hidden from the general public. While many admire his intellect, he was also well-loved for his warmth and fun-loving gentle humor. He is missed.