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tv   Mosaic  CBS  January 13, 2013 5:00am-5:30am PST

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y happy to be here. >> we appreciate your coming on mosaic. >> we had a chance to drive over this morning from the east bay together and truly truly a joy to have you. >> thank you. >> let's begin by talking about the book you wrote. it was nearly three and a half, four decades ago tell us about it. >> well, let me start just a little before that, namely with my birth which was in china of missionary parents, so in a way you can almost say that this book was in my jeans because here i was in your toured in a christian home but we were the only westerners in the town and all of my contacts with china east and of course their religions were around me and a lot of folk religion, so one can
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say that this might be seen as the blossoming of the way that i came in to the world. >> what part of china? >> inland, rural, 70 miles from shanghai. >> what time period are we talking about? >> you know, being chinese in my formation, we look on age as honor, so i'm proud to say that i was born 76 years ago i'm 76 years convenientable. >> and who i long did you grow up in china. >> i was 17 when i came to this country. >> so that's formative. let's talk a little bit about the impact of the modern world on the traditional chinese religious systems when you were
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growing up. did you see the challenges to those religious systems at that time or was it too early? >> no, we were -- well, it was too early but also we were too rural and therefore modern things had made very few in roads. when i came to this country with this traditional background then i slammed in to it and actually slammed into it hard, because my longest teaching appointment was at mit which is almost like the modern and the future in a microcosm. >> won way to understand this book and other certainly myself
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is the rubbing together of these two major alternatives, a traditional outlook and out of them were religious and a modern outlook in which secular and human and so on. >> where did you land in america at 17? >> islanded in missouri from which my father had gone to china, central methodist college, a small college and small town, but compared with china was the big apple bright lights big time and it turned me around. i had had only one male american role model my father, so i grew up thinking the missionaries were what american boys grew up
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to be, so i thought i was coming over here only to get my credentials and go back, but i hadn't remembering dealt with the missouri and i wasn't going to go back to the back waters of rural china so i made it that the west would be my home. >> and turned into a missionary of another type, perhaps. >> very true, in darkest africa. >> we'll talk about that when we come back, dr. houston smith.
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>> we're talking about dr. houston smith. you have taken us from your birth in rural china and we've got you up to about age 17 or 18 in rural missouri. i went to high school at the couldn't influence of the illinois and mississippi river. >> very humid. >> it maybe bright lights but it's not the brightest in the country. talk to us then about your personal journey from returning. >> well, i was saying that i come thinking i would be going
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back as a missionary but when the west swept me up, i knew i wouldn't go back, so i just moved next door rather than being a missionary, i would be a minister and that held in place for the first two years of college, but in my jr. year, something totally unexpected happened, namely ideas jumped to live in my mind and it was so exciting and i knew that that's where i wanted to pour my life and my energy into ideas actually ideas connecting with my background and religion, but then i realized that the ministry was all great honor to ministers, nevertheless the demands of an organization and promotional thing would leave too little room for where i
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really wanted to put my energy, so again i just moved over one door from being a missionary, to being a minister, now to being a teacher of the world's great philosophies and religions. >> your choice was a suitly observed as that young age. what ideas leaped out i see something opening there. >> oh, absolutely. really, another world. i don't know whether to claim that that one night and when i was converted to the life of the mind, it was like a mystical experience like those ideas had a life of their own and they were drawing me to understand them and enter more deeply into their mystery because this
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other world other than the tangible material has three characteristics about it. first of all it was the more powerful that something like the big bank that this material world emanates from that. the second was it is far better than this one. all the great religions are like fingers pointing at the moon of that other reality from which we have come and to which we will return. we're in a kind of exile here and it has its ups and downs mix of joys and some are owes, but our origin and destinee is anchored in a different world which is the true world. >> so the creation and then moving to a new world you said there were three was there a
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third? >> you're very astute, but i know the time goes fast on television. the third is mystery because it is so real beyond our quasi real and quasi phoney world that our minds in this state are incapable of comprehending it in its thorough necessary. it would be like dogs trying to understand what i'm trying to say by using their noses. our distance from the divine mind is greater than the distance of a dog's mind to einstein. i'm hoping i can give a sense of the excitement of giving one's life not to going through the motions on this world of shadows and so on, but trying to penetrate insofar as the human
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mind can into the mysteries and gloria is, because that's the better part of that other world. >> i want to come back to that but we do want to give the viewers an opportunity to get a brush through or overview of how you went into this work by looking at different religions and then i want to come back and ask you how you distill those three. let's start with hinduism, talk to us about this. >> that's the dancing she be a which now virtually belongs to the world. it is the symbol of nature, graceful dancing she dances in the twirling stars in the circling seasons the rhythms of the human heart and how beautiful. now contrast it with the
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modern we have a bigger universe 20 billion light years across but in a way the stars are beautiful, but on the other hand that's dead matter for us, where as this is eminently alive and the secret is that bottom leg which is planted on a gave which symbolize he is the eagle are noisy as long as we have our sell centered necessary. then we can see reality in this beauty and gratefulness. >> give us the ballpark of the foundation of behind hinduism. >> well, it really grew, it was the tradition half of it of the indian people, but then when the
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arians came in to the second millennium, the fusion of the money tradition with the local tradition was the creation of hinduism, so we should say about 2000 bc. >> policy three speedometer many gods. >> well that's only part of the truth. there are the standard number is 33 million gods, but that's because at that time that was the population of india but now it's up to 700 million but that's misleading, because if we stop there it looks like it, but behind all of these these are only the multiple faces of one, the absolutely single one.
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>> houston smith we'll be back
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talking with dr. houston smith, author of the standard textbook the world's great religions. you have led us through growing up in rural china and you've landed back in missouri, you made a mystical decision in some way and then you spent your live in academia. from central missouri, where did you go? >> i went to the university of chicago for my graduate work and began and did my graduate work in contemporary philosophy, but then it was only after i got sprung from there had my degree in hand that i realized that in my teaching, i loved teaching
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about these world's great religions and in comparison, madden philosophy seemed pretty time and almost like a calming because it had been infected by the scientific out look and when i say infected, i don't mean to say anything disrespectful towards science, i had prostate cancer five years ago and without radiation, we wouldn't be here talking so i'm not going to bad mouth science as such but science can deal to put it simply only with fact, it cannot deal with values and human life is a mix of facts and values and so what i believe and what has been the compile ration of my life is trying to help my
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student see that we need vision to look at life in the world with the factual information that science gives us, but not do it through one eye only but then bring in the world of values and there the world's great religious traditions are what i have come to call the wisdom tradition of the human race but when we come to values, they are like the data banks and that's why i love my career, spending my career more in myself in the great even during perspectives of these religions rather than adding kohl's to new contacts will and dwelling on modern science. >> ago democrat yeah is
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certainly not the best for someone who has a religious interest. >> that is a fair statement. let's take you from the university of chicago where to next. >> a couple of years in colorado for teaching, you this ben the first long stint was at the washington university in st. louis, is 1 years and that's where i phased into pbs because when it went on the air why i was asked to teach a course on world religious and this was in the first year of pbs who was then called by a different name but the same animal and now as we career comes full circle, bill comes forward and said why don't you do a series, pbs special five programs on world religions. >> we're taking some photographs from your illustrated version
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with this show and let's put one up on buddhism that is taken from the illustrated world religious, what are we seeing. >> this is my brewed a a wooden image in a little nunly in key oath oh and it is the image of the coming brewed a which would be the counterpart to the second coming of christ at the end of history, he will return and this is an artist's depiction of what the. >> let's go to the next one talk speedometer because it is routed where you grew up. >> this is like the dancing she have a, the image in the center there now virtually belongs to the world and chinese say that one can learn more from gazing
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at that image than from reading a thousand books. what it does is to take the opposite of life, good and evil, light and dark, sickness, health and show that there is no razor sharp division, but note the way in which each sort of me anders in to the other's domain and takes up its citadel in the very heart of its opposite. >> very quickly let me tell you a story that goes to the heart of this. it's of a farmer and his horse ran away, the neighbor comes over to commiserate. he says who knows what's good or bad and true, the next day the horse came back with a drove of wild horses, so the neighbor comes over to congratulate and the man says again who knows
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what's good or bad and true, because his young teenage son got horsing around on those horsing, fell off and broke his leg. the neighbor comes over to commiserate and the man says who knows what's good and bad and sure enough, the next day the soldiers came through come dehring for the army and his son didn't have to go because of the broken leg and as i say they say this is the symbol of life. we take it as though these are opposite but the problem is to mold them together into a single coherent whole. >> our problem is we have a break, we'll be right back.
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on your screen now and this is a companion to the show you did with bill moyer. >> yes. >> and so we've been looking at stills taken how many photographs about or images in this book do you think. >> truth to tell i haven't counted, but on every page there would be an average of one so what, 270 pages. >> so it's talking about the world's great religions and then illustrations. >> the world's great religious art folded in to the pages. >> let's go back, we were talking about taoism and i i was interested, maybe we can get the image back up on the screen, since you grew up in china do you think chinese is your logic -- do you still speak chinese? >> i speak my hill billy dialect
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with the influence native speakers accent of a 12 year old, because when i was 13 i went to shanghai to an american boarding school and my vocabulary did not -- actually i've studied a little bit, so i can get around in chinese all right, but most chinese go into hysterics because it's like i'm speaking with a deep hill billy chinese accent. >> that intersection of east and west talk about that black and white line, how does that -- >> well let me give you another image. my father came from a farm and thought we should have some bees but when he went to rob those bees it would be like a side show. he would have one of these straw hats and netting all over him.
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he always got stunk and finally the cook says well there's a be professional in the town why don't you have him come in and so he did he came in in long robes, a scholar's hat and when he went to the bees he rolled back his long sleeves and just moved in with his hand and it was like a dance the way he worked with those bees. they were all over him and he came out and never got a sting and he got his honor i and i have that image has remained with me as the taoism, because here are antagonists you've got a thief coming at that, but look at the way they work together and look how it comes out with
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no sting. it's a metaphor for life. >> i advice you in your next confrontation to go at it that way. >> mr. smith we'll be tack and we'll have another conversation, this is mosaic and i'm hue boroughs.
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com. >> welcome to bay sunday. today we honor dr. martin luther king jr.. an author of a book that might help you. and al roker has a new book out on his life. if you would like to connect with us, we would like to connect to you. a salute to dr. martin luther king jr.. there are big planning here in the bay area. a festival, a concert.


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