Cummings Smith 31 May 1919 - 30 December 2016
died peacefully on the morning of December 30, 2016 at his
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
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
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
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.