339. Dana Sawyer on Huston Smith

Why are we here? Is there a God? Can there be authentic mystical experience? Are Hindus and Buddhists correct that we can attain a state of enlightenment? Can psychedelic drugs give us a glimpse of it? Does religion have a viable place in the modern world? Is there a common core of values and insights among the world’s religions?

Huston Smith spent his career in a search for answers to these and other questions. Born in China in 1919, the son of Methodist missionaries, Smith followed a life-long spiritual quest that led him around the world many times. He studied the world’s religions and mystical traditions directly with Aldous Huxley, D.T. Suzuki, J. Krishnamurti, Alan Watts, Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, the Dalai Lama, Joseph Campbell, Ram Dass, and a host of others. Huston, as a renowned philosopher of religion, helped shape the contemporary face of comparative religion, interfaith dialogue, and religious tolerance. As a seeker, he became a citizen of the world, plunging into its various spiritual traditions.

Website: hustonsmith.net

Some of Huston Smith’s books:

Dana Sawyer is the author of Huston Smith: Wisdomkeeper: Living The World’s Religions: The Authorized Biography of a 21st Century Spiritual Giant. He is also the author of an acclaimed biography of Aldous Huxley. He was a professor of religion and philosophy at the Maine College of Art and a popular lecturer at venues such as Esalen Institute and Kripalu. An expert in Asian religions and theories related to the perennial philosophy, he has written for Tricycle, Parabola and other magazines.

Summary and Transcript of this interview

Interview conducted 3/19/2016

YouTube Video Chapters:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction to Buddha at the Gas Pump
  • 00:04:25 – Academic Defense of Non-Dual Experience
  • 00:09:50 – The Holistic Development of Intellect, Heart, and Body
  • 00:14:58 – Houston Smith’s Reconciliation of Religions
  • 00:20:44 – Community and Identity in Religion
  • 00:25:32 – Restoring the Transcendent Aspect of Religions
  • 00:30:27 – The Curative Value of Religion
  • 00:35:49 – The Paths to Spiritual Enlightenment
  • 00:40:48 – The Four Points of the Minimum Working Hypothesis
  • 00:47:10 – The Ocean in a Drop
  • 00:52:31 – Profound Interconnectedness and Spiritual Experiences
  • 00:57:35 – Meeting a Sadhu in the Newark Airport
  • 01:02:21 – The Importance of Houston Smith
  • 01:07:23 – Houston Smith’s Humility and Approach to Religions
  • 01:12:34 – Houston’s Interaction with Timothy Leary
  • 01:17:51 – Extraordinary Experiences and Timothy Leary
  • 01:23:05 – The Anger and Disapproval of Houston
  • 01:28:44 – Integrating Spiritual Experiences into Life
  • 01:33:51 – Compassion and Engaging in Social Action
  • 01:38:35 – Embracing the Transcendent Aspect of What We Are
  • 01:44:13 – Existential dilemmas and the importance of spiritual growth
  • 01:48:40 – The Importance of Houston Smith’s Third Choice
  • 01:53:19 – Houston Smith and the Condemnation to Meaning
  • 01:58:28 – Cultural Relativity and Conflict
  • 02:03:44 – Qualia Problems and the Interpretation of Experience
  • 02:08:54 – Embracing Individual Perspectives
  • 02:14:07 – The Appearance of Spiritual Teachers
  • 02:19:14 – Neurophysiological correlates of consciousness
  • 02:24:13 – The Power of Personal Experience in Belief
  • 02:28:48 – Reflecting Wisdom and Compassion
  • 02:32:51 – Getting in Touch with Dana through her Website