We have been ingrained with the image of robed, bearded men as wise, spiritual gurus but this isn’t true! Spiritual teachers are powerful beings – their gender, the color of skin, or attire doesn’t matter.
Spiritual Teachers – Who Are They?
A spiritual teacher is the one who inspires and assists to bring the best out of us. They are phenomenally amazing people whose presence, words, and actions radically change people. Spiritual teachers uplift the society and world in large.
They are awakened souls with the capacity to recover and heal us from within.
The Role Spiritual Teachers play
A true spiritual guide is a life savior. He/she creates a lasting impact on the world. Their teachings and lectures help people realize the meaning of life and to become better humans.
The main roles of spiritual teachers are:
• Getting involved with a greater cause in the world
• To show the direction to lost souls
• Teaching valuable life lessons
• Provide motivation
• Encourage people to lead a holistic lifestyle
Types of Spiritual Teachers
Not all spiritual teachers are at the same stage in their spiritual journey. A spiritual teacher can nowadays be a motivational speaker or even the best selling author.
Majorly spiritual teachers could be classified into 4 groups.
1. The Traditional monks or saints
They conduct themselves as belonging to a particular concept (religion, philosophical, or otherwise). These gurus usually have chosen attires and they lead their followers towards the tradition they adhere to.
2. The Wanderers
These are a group of wise men and women who are sages or spiritual masters who roam to distant places. People reach out to them for advice when they reach a particular town but they do not stay anywhere permanently. These folks are found predominantly in Asia.
3. The Mentor/ Counselor
In recent times there is a surge of this particular group. They are spiritually knowledgeable but they do not dress up like sages. These are a group of modern men and women who would teach you spirituality using technology and sophisticated means. They have life experiences and have enough spiritual maturity to give lectures or write New York Times bestseller books!
4. The Pretender
These lots obviously aren’t really spiritual masters, but they pretend as such and steal people’s money and trust! You must be careful to not fall prey to the pretender. They are frauds and often abusers.
How To Find A Spiritual Teacher?
Finding a spiritual teacher can be an overwhelming task. So, we have solved this problem of yours! Consult the next section to find a teacher from the top 10 spiritual teachers of modern times.
Listen to their lectures, read their books, and then see who resonates with you the most! It differs from person to person and you might like a spiritual teacher more than another.
You can follow multiple teachers or one. It’s totally on you.
Top 10 Most Influential Spiritual Teachers of our Time
1. Dalai Lama
“Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions.”– Dalai Lama
Presently the 14th Dalai Lama is considered to be the top-most spiritual leader in the world. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader from Tibet. He had begun his monastic education at an early age of six. From Sanskrit to ancient medicine, fine arts, logic, metaphysics, and Buddhist philosophy the Dalai Lama has immense knowledge on varied subjects.
He believes in the Buddhist philosophy of kindness, compassion, and benefitting humanity.
• He has achieved the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his nonviolent attempts for the liberation of Tibet and his efforts for global environmental issues.
• The Dalai Lama has received the Congressional Gold medal, Templeton Prize, German Media Prize Berlin, Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, and many more for his spiritual leadership and community services.
• He has written hundreds of books – The Art of Happiness, The Book of Joy, Beyond Religion, and Freedom in Exile are just to name a few.
2. Pope Francis
“God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking His mercy.”-- Pope Francis
His Holiness is the head of the Catholic Church in Vatican City. Pope Francis is praised for his humility and his emphasis on God’s mercy. He is concerned about the welfare of the poor and environmental issues while strictly opposes consumerism.
He believes in Christian Catholic philosophy and Theological doctrines.
• He has been awarded the Bambi Millennium award and many others.
• Pope Francis has authored several books – Praise be to You, The Joy of the Gospel, The Name of God is Mercy are only to name a few.
• He has brought some reforms in the old traditions. The Pope has introduced discussion and debate in the church which earlier was not allowed.
• Most importantly, he has given importance and raised his concern on climate and environmental issues. Besides that, he had included the global warming issue in the Catholic Church.
3. Eckhart Tolle
“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.”–Eckhart Tolle
He is one of the most promising spiritual teachers of modern times. A motivational speaker and best-selling author, Eckhart Tolle is often regarded as the most sought-after spiritual leaders in the United States.
Tolle has said that he had gone through severe depression and the dark night of the soul before entering a deep state of bliss and inner peace.
• Tolle’s New York Times best-selling books that have sold over million copies are, The Power of Now and A New Earth.
• He has created a revolution in the world of spirituality. Through his lectures, books, and seminars he had made the complex concept of spirituality easy and understandable for common people.
• His teachings are said to inspire and change the lives of millions in the world.
4. Oprah Winfrey
“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”– Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is a woman with many feathers in her hat! She is an entrepreneur, talk show host, television producer, actor, philanthropist, and spiritual leader. She is considered one of the most influential women in the world.
Born and raised in poverty, she was sexually abused in childhood, and became a teenage single mother. Pain, poverty, and hardships led her to spiritual awakening.
Her kindness, humility, education, self growth and an inclination towards spirituality helped her to transform her life. Today she is an inspiration to millions of people in the world.
• She had received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the former President of the US, Barack Obama.
• Winfrey has also been awarded the honorary doctorates from Duke and Harvard.
• Oprah has created a network, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) to inspire people all over the globe.
• She has been both the youngest as well as the black female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV.
• Oprah Winfrey became the first black woman to be at the top of Entertainment Weekly’s list of 101 most powerful people.
• She is an amazing author. Some of her inspirational books include, What I know for Sure, The Path Made Clear and The Uncommon Wisdom of Oprah Winfrey: A Portrait in Her Own Words.
5. Thich Nhat Hanh
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering.
Out of a fear of the unknown,
They prefer suffering that is familiar.“– Thich Nhat Hanh
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese spiritual leader, peace activist, and poet whose teachings primarily focus on peace, mindfulness, and global ethics.
Thich Nhat Hanh became a monk at the age of 16. He has spread Buddhism in a manner that can help modern-day people.
He has formed mindful communities around the globe for the benefit of people.
• After the Dalai Lama, he is the most influential Buddhist teacher.
• His efforts on global peace and mindfulness are praiseworthy.
• He has penned over hundreds of books among which The Miracle of Mindfulness and Peace Is Every Step are immensely popular.
• Thich Nhat Hanh has allowed Buddhism to be accessible to the mass by making complex concepts simpler.
6. Desmond Tutu
“If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”– Desmond Tutu
He is a South African Anglican cleric and theological practitioner.
• He has worked on human rights while being a Bishop.
• Desmond Tutu has campaigned on gay rights.
• His works against racial discrimination and apartheid are praiseworthy.
• He had openly expressed his views against the Iraq War and several such socio-political matters.
• Tutu had supported and introduced women priests in the Church.
• In 1986, he was made the President of All Africa Conference of Churches.
• God is not a Christian, Made for Goodness, God has a Dream, and The Book of Forgiving are just to name a few of his life-changing books.
7. Don Miguel Ruiz
“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally. Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”– Don Miguel Ruiz
Don Miguel Ruiz is a spiritual leader of the New Thought movement. He is a Mexican author who advocates the Toltec spiritualism. According to the ancient Toltec wisdom, the path to spiritual growth is unique to each person.
A near-fatal accident brought a major transformation in him. He became spiritually inclined, observing, and understanding his life. Over time he became a spiritual teacher.
• In 2018, he had been listed in the Watkins 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People.
• Ruiz’s work is best received among other authors of the New Thought movement.
• He is an internationally famous author. All of Ruiz’s books are international bestsellers. His global bestselling books, The Four Agreements, The Mastery of Love, and Toltec Wisdom Series are particularly noteworthy among his other works.
• Ruiz is fluent in both English and Spanish and lectures around the United States.
8. Deepak Chopra
“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”– Deepak Chopra
He is an Indian-born American citizen who is one of the most popular faces as a spiritual leader. Chopra is a licensed physician who went to the US for practice but entered the spiritual path after meeting Mahesh Yogi.
Deepak Chopra has spread the concept of overall wellness to the world. He says that we can cure any disease and attain perfect health through mindfulness and spiritual practices.
• He is one of the most famous spiritual teachers of the New Age movement.
• Chopra is a prominent figure in the world who promotes alternative medicines for health and healing.
• He has created The Chopra Center to help people heal and improve while implementing spirituality in their lives.
• Deepak Chopra is a renowned writer on spiritual teachings. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Perfect Health, The Book of Secrets, Creating Affluence and Ageless Body, and Timeless Mind are some of his widely popular books.
9. Jaggi Vasudev (Sadhguru)
“No work is stressful. It is your inability to manage your body, mind, and emotions that make it stressful.”– Sadhguru
Jaggi Vasudev, famously known as Sadhguru is a spiritual leader, yoga and meditation expert, thinker and author.
He had initially started as a yoga teacher and gradually he stepped into the spiritual path. Now he has millions of followers worldwide.
• He had been awarded the Padma Vibhushan award by the Government of India for social services.
• Sadhguru has formed the Isha Foundation to impart education, spiritual knowledge, and social services.
• He has authored several books. Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy, Death – An Inside Story: A book for all those who shall die, Emotion and Relationships, Life and Death in One Breath, and Flowers on the Path are some of the most popular ones.
• Sadhguru lectures in eminent universities such as Oxford and Harvard and top-ranked companies in the world.
10. Neale Donald Walsch
“You are afraid to die, and you’re afraid to live. What a way to exist.”– Neale Donald Walsch
He is an American author, screenwriter, and motivational speaker with a huge fan base.
Neale Donald Walsch is a spiritual teacher who redefined spirituality and religion through his books. Walsch had expressed his beliefs and ideas through his revolutionary books.
He was born and brought up in a Catholic family where he was encouraged to learn about spirituality and theology. From facing an accident, unemployment and even marriage break-up, his life experiences ushered spiritual growth in him.
• He had written best-seller books of which Conversations with God, Storm before the Calm, and Home with God are noteworthy.
• Conversations with God have been made into a Hollywood movie depicting the journey of a homeless man who transforms into a spiritual teacher and bestselling author.
• Walsch had been part of remarkable movies and documentaries, such as The Secret, Tapping the Source, 3 Magic Words, etc.
• He formed Humanity’s Team to share his beliefs on spirituality with people.
Some of the Best Spiritual Teachers of All Times
Here is a list of the 10 greatest spiritual leaders of all times who are no more with us but the work they have left continues to inspire generations to come.
Florence Scovel Shinn (1871 – 1940)
“No man is your enemy, no man is your friend, every man is your teacher.”
- She was an American artist who became a spiritual teacher
- She proclaimed fame by popularizing the concept of positive thinking and the laws of the universe
- Most popular book – The Game of Life and How to Play It
Joseph Murphy (1898 – 1981)
“The only path by which another person can upset you is through your own thought.”
- He was an American New Thought minister and author of spirituality and Religious Science based books
- Murphy had spent years to learn Hindu philosophy and later on he formed a new church in the US with the ideologies of Hinduism
- He became a minister of the Los Angeles Divine Science Church and which under his leadership became one of the largest New Thought congregations in the US
- Most popular book – The Power of Your Subconscious Mind
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918 – 2008)
“Whatever we put our attention on will grow stronger in our life.“
- He was an Indian spiritual guru famous for introducing the Transcendental Meditationtechnique in the world
- Mahesh Yogi led a new spiritual movement that impressed people worldwide and specially in the West
- Most popular book – The Science of Being and Art of Living
Neville Goddard (1905 – 1972)
“It is not what you want that you attract, you attract what you believe to be true.”
- Neville stated certain techniques through his books and lectures certain techniques to transform man into God
- He was a prophet, author and teacher
- Neville wanted to establish the psychological truths in Biblical teachings
- Most popular book – Feeling is the Secret
Allan Watts (1915 – 1973)
“You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.”
- Watts was a British motivational speaker and writer who popularized Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism to the people of the West.
- He had written over 25 books based on religion, philosophy, psychotherapy and human consciousness
- Most popular book – The Way of Zen
Louise Hay (1926 – 2017)
“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
- She was an American spiritual leader who pioneered the genre of self-help books
- Louise Hay introduced positive affirmations as a major life transforming tool
- She was one of the great influential leaders in the New Thought movement
- Most popular book – You Can Heal Your Life
Wayne Dyer (1940 – 2015)
“You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.”
- Dyer was an internationally famous in the arena of spirituality and self-growth
- Wayne Dyer was a master in the self-help book category. He had written over 40 books.
- Wayne Dyer was fondly called as the “Father of Motivation”
- Most popular book – Your Erroneous Zones
Barbara Marx Hubbard (1929 – 2019)
“Small islands of coherence in a sea of chaos can shift the whole system to a higher order.”
- She was an American public speaker, author and futurist.
- She introduced the concepts of “The Synergy Engine” and “birthing” of humanity.
- Barbara was the co-founder and president of the Foundation For Conscious Evolution
- She was a thinker and led futuristic conferences to inspire people
- Most popular book – Conscious Evolution
Richard Rose (1917 – 2005)
“The ego is the single biggest obstruction to the achievement of anything.”
- Richard Rose was an American esoteric philosopher, author, poet and mystic.
- He had authored several books and gave lectures to eminent universities in the United States.
- Rose created a system, “retreat from untruth” to examine belief systems and lifestyles.
- He was a significant personality in the New Age movement.
- Most popular book – Psychology of the Observer
Anthony de Mello (1931 – 1987)
“If it is peace you want, seek to change yourself, not other people. It is easier to protect your feet with slippers than to carpet the whole of the earth.”
- He was an Indian Jesuit priest as well as a psychotherapist
- Tony de Mello was a spiritual teacher, public speaker and author.
- His books on spirituality are noteworthy
- Most popular book – Awareness
Spirituality is a concept based on improvement of the soul or the inner essence. Spiritual teachers guide us to become better versions as humans.
Only when you start your spiritual journey you gradually realize the meaning of life and your purpose of coming to this world. Spiritual guides help us transform from the inside.
Ishita is a published author, poet and freelance writer. Being an avid reader from early childhood, she has always loved books more than anything else in the world! At the start of her career, she has worked in the corporate as well as the academic sector being a double master's degree holder - M.Sc and MBA. But now she is a fulltime writer. She believes words have immense power and writers can make a huge impact in the world! She wants to bring positivity into the lives of the readers through her association with TheMindFool.