Quotes from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions

Huston Smith ·  399 pages

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“Among the languages of American Indians there is no word for ‘art,’ because for Indians everything is art.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“If it is possible to be homesick for the world, even places one has never been and knows one will never see, this book is the child of such homesickness.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“Without attention, the human sense of wonder and the holy will stir occasionally, but to become a steady flame it must be tended.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“If I were asked under what sky the human mind…has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions to some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant—I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw the corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human a life…again I should point to India. Max Müller”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“Science makes major contributions to minor needs, Justice Holmes was fond of saying, adding that religion, however small its successes, is at least at work on the things that matter most.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions



“If I were asked under what sky the human mind…has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions to some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant—I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw the corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human a life…again I should point to India. Max Müller On”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“To try to extinguish the drive for riches with money is like trying to quench a fire by pouring butter over it.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“To find meaning in the mystery of existence is life’s final and fascinating challenge.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“The game can be won or lost, but not the player himself. If he has worked hard, he has improved his game and indeed his faculties; this happens in defeat fully as much as in victory. As the contestant is related to his total person, so is the finite self of any particular lifetime related to its underlying Atman.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“Lincoln Steffens has a fable of a man who climbed to the top of a mountain and, standing on tiptoe, seized hold of the Truth. Satan, suspecting mischief from this upstart, had directed one of his underlings to tail him; but when the demon reported with alarm the man’s success—that he had seized hold of the Truth—Satan was unperturbed. “Don’t worry,” he yawned. “I’ll tempt him to institutionalize it.” That”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions



“A great anatomist used to close his opening lecture to beginning medical students with words that apply equally to our own undertaking. “In this course,” he would say, “we shall be dealing with flesh and bones and cells and sinews, and there are going to be times when it’s all going to seem terribly cold-blooded. But never forget. It’s alive!” II.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“No individual is solely reflective, emotional, active, or experimental, and different life situations call for different resources to be brought into play. Most people will, on the whole, find travel on one road more satisfactory than on others and will consequently tend to keep close to it; but Hinduism encourages people to test all four and combine them as best suits their needs.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“Detachment from the finite self or attachment to the whole of things—we can state the phenomenon either positively or negatively. When it occurs, life is lifted above the possibility of frustration and above ennui—the third threat to joy—as well, for the cosmic drama is too spectacular to permit boredom in the face of such vivid identification.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“Hinduism advises such people not to try to think of God as the supreme instance of abstractions like being or consciousness, and instead to think of God as the archetype of the noblest reality they encounter in the natural world.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“Everything I do for my private wellbeing adds another layer to my ego, and in thickening it insulates me more from God. Conversely, every act done without thought for myself diminishes my self-centeredness until finally no barrier remains to separate me from the Divine. The”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions



“Historical figures lose their center when they become anxious over the outcome of their actions.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“Weapons are the tools of violence; all decent men detest them. Weapons are the tools of fear; a decent man will avoid them except in the direst necessity and, if compelled, will use them only with the utmost restraint. Peace is the highest value.… He enters a battle gravely, with sorrow and with great compassion, as if he were attending a funeral. (ch. 31) That”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“Heaven and earth are my inner and outer coffins. The sun, moon, and stars are my drapery, and the whole creation my funeral procession. What more do I want?”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“sharpened edge of a razor, hard to traverse, A difficult path is this—the poets declare!2 Science”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“A sharpened edge of a razor, hard to traverse, A difficult path is this—the poets declare!2 Science”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions



“Such power as I possess for working in the political field has derived from my experiments in the spiritual field.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“III. Buddhism The Man Who Woke Up Buddhism begins with a man. In his later years, when India was afire with his message and kings themselves were bowing before him, people came to him even as they were to come to Jesus asking what he was.1 How many people have provoked this question—not “Who are you?” with respect to name, origin, or ancestry, but “What are you? What order of being do you belong to? What species do you represent?” Not Caesar, certainly. Not Napoleon, or even Socrates. Only two: Jesus and Buddha. When the people carried their puzzlement to the Buddha himself, the answer he gave provided an identity for his entire message. “Are you a god?” they asked. “No.” “An angel?” “No.” “A saint?” “No.” “Then what are you?” Buddha answered, “I am awake.” His answer became his title, for this is what Buddha means. The Sanskrit root budh denotes both to wake up and to know. Buddha, then, means the “Enlightened One,” or the “Awakened One.” While the rest of the world was wrapped in the womb of sleep, dreaming a dream known as the waking state of human life, one of their number roused himself. Buddhism begins with a man who shook off the daze, the doze, the dream-like vagaries of ordinary awareness. It begins with a man who woke up. His”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“He is admitting that he is trapped, which realization leads to his desperate cry that we have already quoted, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 14:24). In whatever words it is the cry that every alcoholic has repeated. If there is to be a liberation, it will have to come from without, or better, from above: a higher power.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“And is it true? And is it true, This most tremendous tale of all… That God was Man in Palestine And lives today in Bread and Wine.   (John Betjeman, Christman)”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


“The point of the story is that the universe is one gigantic Wishing Tree, with branches that reach into every heart. The cosmic process decrees that sometime or other, in this life or another, each of these wishes will be granted—together, of course, with consequences.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions



“The only thing that is unqualifiedly good is extended vision, the enlargement of one’s understanding of the ultimate nature of things.”
― Huston Smith, quote from The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions


About the author

Huston Smith
Born place: in Suzhou, China
Born date May 31, 1919
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