The World's Religions

The World's Religions


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9784871872225
Publisher: Ishi Press
Publication date: 03/29/2017
Pages: 418
Sales rank: 830,899
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.85(d)

About the Author

Huston Smith is internationally known and revered as the premier teacher of world religions. He is the focus of a five-part PBS television series with Bill Moyers and has taught at Washington University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, and the University of California at Berkeley. The recipient of twelve honorary degrees, Smith's fifteen books include his bestselling The World's Religions, Why Religion Matters, and his autobiography, Tales of Wonder.

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The World's Religions
Completely Revised and Updated Edition o

Chapter One

Point of Departure

Although the individuals that I name are now only memories for me, I begin this second edition of this book with the four paragraphs that launched its first edition.

I write these opening lines on a day widely celebrated throughout Christendom as World-Wide Communion Sunday. The sermon in the service I attended this morning dwelt on Christianity as a world phenomenon. From mud huts in Africa to the Canadian tundra, Christians are kneeling today to receive the elements of the Holy Eucharist. It is an impressive picture.

Still, as I listened with half my mind, the other half wandered to the wider company of God-seekers. I thought of the Yemenite Jews I watched six months ago in their synagogue in Jerusalem: darkskinned men sitting shoeless and cross-legged on the floor, wrapped in the prayer shawls their ancestors wore in the desert. They are there today, at least a quorum of ten, morning and evening, swaying backwards and forwards like camel riders as they recite their Torah, following a form they inherit unconsciously from the centuries when their fathers were forbidden to ride the desert horse and developed this pretense in compensation. Yalcin, the Muslim architect who guided me through the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, has completed his month's Ramadan fast, which was beginning while we were together; but he too is praying today, five times as he prostrates himself toward Mecca. Swami Ramakrishna, in his tiny house by the Ganges at the foot of the Himalayas, will not speak today. He will continue the devotional silence that, with the exception ofthree days each year, he has kept for five years. By this hour U Nu is probably facing the delegations, crises, and cabinet meetings that are the lot of a prime minister, but from four to six this morning, before the world broke over him, he too was alone with the eternal in the privacy of the Buddhist shrine that adjoins his home in Rangoon. Dai Jo and Lai San, Zen monks in Kyoto, were ahead of him by an hour. They have been up since three this morning, and until eleven tonight will spend most of the day sitting immovable in the lotus position as they seek with intense absorption to plumb the Buddha-nature that lies at the center of their being.

What a strange fellowship this is, the God-seekers in every land, lifting their voices in the most disparate ways imaginable to the God of all life. How does it sound from above? Like bedlam, or do the strains blend in strange, ethereal harmony? Does one faith carry the lead, or do the parts share in counterpoint and antiphony where not in full-throated chorus?

We cannot know. All we can do is try to listen carefully and with full attention to each voice in turn as it addresses the divine.

Such listening defines the purpose of this book. It may be wondered if the purpose is not too broad. The religions we propose to consider belt the world. Their histories stretch back thousands of years, and they are motivating more people today than ever before. Is it possible to listen seriously to them within the compass of a single book?

The answer is that it is, because we shall be listening for welldefined themes. These must be listed at the outset or the pictures that emerge from these pages will be distorted.

1. This is not a textbook in the history of religions. This explains the scarcity of names, dates, and social influences in what follows. There are useful books that focus on such material.' This one too could have been swollen with their facts and figures, but it is not its intent to do their job in addition to its own. Historical facts are limited here to the minimum that is needed to locate in space and time the ideas the book focuses on. Every attempt has been made to keep scholarship out of sight -in foundations that must be sturdy, but not as scaffolding that would obscure the structures being examined.

2. Even in the realm of meanings the book does not attempt to give a rounded view of the religions considered, for each hosts differences that are too numerous to be delineated in a single chapter. One need only think of Christendom. Eastern Orthodox Christians worship in ornate cathedrals, while Quakers consider even steeples desecrations. There are Christian mystics and Christians who reject mysticism. There are Christian Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Unitarians. How is it possible to say in a manageable chapter what Christianity means to all Christians?

The answer, of course, is that it is not possible -- selection is unavoidable. The question facing an author is not whether to select among points of view; the questions are how many to present, and which ones. In this book the first question is answered economically; I try to do reasonable justice to several perspectives instead of attempting to catalogue them all. In the case of Islam, this has meant ignoring Sunni/Shi'ite and traditional/modernist divisions, while noting different attitudes toward Sufism. In Buddhism I distinguish its Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions, but the major schools within Mahayana are bypassed. The subdivisions never exceed three lest trees obscure the woods. Put the matter this way: If you were trying to describe Christianity to an intelligent and interested but busy Thailander, how many denominations would you include? It would be difficult to ignore the differences between Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Protestant, but you would probably not get into what separates Baptists from Presbyterians.

When we turn to which views to present, the guideline has been relevance to the interests of the intended reader. Three considerations have figured in determining this relevance. First, there is the simple matter of numbers. There are some faiths that every citizen should be acquainted with, simply because hundreds of millions of people live by them. The second consideration has been relevance to the modem mind. Because the ultimate benefit that may accrue from a book such as this is help in the ordering of the reader's own life, I have given priority to what (with caution yet a certain confidence) we may regard as these religions' contemporary expressions. The third consideration is universality Every religion mixes universal principles with local peculiarities. The former, when lifted out and made clear, speak to what is generically human in us all. The latter, rich compounds of rites and legends, are not easy for outsiders to comprehend. It is one of the illusions of rationalism that the universal principles of religion are more important than the rites and rituals that feed them; to make that claim is like contending that the branches and leaves of a tree are more important than the roots from which they grow. But for this book, principles are more important...

The World's Religions
Completely Revised and Updated Edition o
. Copyright © by Huston Smith. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

Welcome! 3(1)
Acknowledgments 4(1)
Hinduism and Human Wants
Four Paths to the Infinite
Life's Stages and Hierarchies
The Worlds and Paths of Hinduism
The Buddha, His Experience and His Backgrounds
The Core of Buddha's Teachings
Basic Concepts and Principal Traditions
The Central Core of Buddhist Experience
Confucius and His Times
Confucius' Message and Its Meaning
Lao Tzu and the Tao
Living in the Way of the Tao
The Passion for Meaning
More "Passion for Meaning"
Encountering the Sacred in Human Experience
The Chosen People
The Man of Galilee
Early Christian Experience and Faith
Varieties of Christianity
The Prophet of God
The Qur'an and Its Teachings
The Basic Observances of Islam
The Brotherhood of Islam
Primal Religion

What People are Saying About This

Bill Moyers

"This is one book on world religions I can't do without. I return to it often--and always with reward."

Thomas Moore

"Huston Smith's classic on the world's religions has justifiably become as venerable as the old texts he studies. I'm thrilled to see it enjoying yet another incarnation. It is more important today than it was in its first printing, and I urge everyone to make it the core of their home library."

Stephen Mitchell

"This is not only the best book of its kind, there is nothing else in its league."

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The World's Religions (50th Anniversary Edition) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whether you are faith-hopping or just would like to know more about other people's belief systems, this book is for you. I read it cover to cover, but it would make a great reference book as well. Easy to read and very well researched. I was amazed at how little I actually knew about other religions. After reading this, I feel I am better able to understand other people around me. Does a great job of explaining different types of Christianity (Cathollic, Protestant, etc) and the other seven major religions too. Highly recommend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A excellent read for anyone seeking tranquility in this complex world!
bibliosk8er on LibraryThing 6 days ago
Great introduction to the world's major religious traditions, putting each in it's historical context which really aids in gaining some understanding and appreciation of them.
Maggie_Rum on LibraryThing 7 days ago
This book is a wonderful book for comparative religions. It doesn't feel like one is more favored over another, and it treats the history of all the religions equally. I respect Smith for being able to talk about the good and bad sides of religion without favoring the easy ones.
charlileftclues on LibraryThing 7 days ago
Really amazing book! It's my textbook for my World Religions class and I absolutely love it! First textbook that I actually am not going to get rid of after I finish the class. A great book for anyone interested in different religions.
sicheiiyazhi on LibraryThing 3 months ago
The best general introduction to world religions ever written. Smith conveys both the practical external elements and spiritual inner realities of the major religions.
kaelirenee on LibraryThing 3 months ago
A good review of the major religions. Sometimes it drags. Most of the time, it's a good mix of history and context with theory and theology.
kdwade on LibraryThing 3 months ago
This book for me formed a kind of starting point for an exploration of world religions that's continued for quite a while now. The sections on Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism are invaluable for the westerner looking for an inroad into these subjects. I'd recommend this book to anybody.
drgrace on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Used this book in my comparative religion course this summer. overall very good, informative, factual and an easy read.The Judaism chapter reads like a mathematical proof in places, and there are too many modern scientific parrallels in the Christianity chapter. Aside from that a Very good book.
jcvogan1 on LibraryThing 4 months ago
On the very short list of books that every human being should read.
werus on LibraryThing 4 months ago
I am constantly rereading this. Very accessible. A look into the soul of the world.
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