"What distinguishes Huston's career has been his refusal to teach and write conventionally. Instead of clinging to the academic approach to religion, which aims for objective knowledge — such as historical facts, dates, and names — he has reached for what has touched him most deeply: the values and meaning that religions convey. His attitude toward pedagogy is also moral. He avidly believes that a teacher of religion has a responsibility to convey the lived reality of religious traditions. 'My central object,' he has said, 'has been to offer my students another world to live in,' and to do this he himself has tried to live up to the Platonic model of the well-examined and well-lived life. In the spirit of the Buddha, who told his followers, 'Don't believe something merely because I tell you it's true — find out for yourself if it's true,' Smith has striven to experience as much as possible of the traditions he has taught and written about.

"To accomplish this task, he has ventured far beyond the libraries and books he reveres to specialize in what anthropologists call 'participant observation.' His ambition has led him to practice yoga with Hindu gurus in India, meditate with Zen masters in Japan, pray with Buddhist monks in Burma, dance with Sufi dervishes in Iran, practice tai chi with Taoist masters in China, observe Sabbath with his daughter and her Jewish husband, participate in sweats and peyote meetings with Huichol Indians in Mexico, take psychedelics with Timothy Leary and Ram Dass at Harvard, and discover polyphonic chanting among Tibetan monks in India, all the while worshipping regularly in his local Methodist church when he is home. In this way his religious life was more than born; it was awakened.

"Huston has incorporated what he learned from many of these adventures into his own daily spiritual ritual, which to this day consists of morning readings of sacred literature, meditation, prayers in Arabic, hatha yoga, and composting. When asked how composting can be a spiritual discipline, he answers that philosophers tend to walk around with their heads in the clouds and that composting helps to 'ground' him. His Native American friends tell him that he has learned to 'walk his talk.' "