note (and disclaimer): I cannot emphasise too strongly that what is said here regarding the spiritual status of each guru is either my own personal (and perhaps arrogant) opinion or else the opinion of others. This listing should not be taken as a definitive statement or absolute truth. The judging of whether another teacher is genuine or not is a hazardous undertaking, and one can too easily come to the wrong conclusion, whether through personal bias or inclination or ignorance or simply insufficient information. And what one person judges to be enlightened another will not.
It is often said that you have to be enlightened yourself to be able to recognise this Quality in (and hence truly judge) others. Personally I do not think this is so, in fact this oft-repeated statement is is just a bit too pat for me - a bit too neat! As long as there is a deep and central sincerity, a receptivity to one's Divine Center, then one may have a valid intimation and insight and be able to judge whether another is worth following or not. Conversely, one may be enlightened in some or even many ways and still not be a valid judge of others, or judge them on a totally different level.
Especially wherever there are instances of abuse, manipulation, and coercian, one should be very wary about accepting any claims of authentic enlightenment on the part of a spiritual teacher. Hence the importance of research and carefully examining allegations, rather than dismissing them out of hand or, even worse, attacking and slandering those who make such allegations, often at great personal emotional cost and after much soul searching.
So this is an area where everyone has their own opinions, and their own opportunity for personal inquiry. Ultimately it is upto you yourself to come to your own opinion!
Adi Da (Da Free John) - Laughing Man Institute, Adidam - Eastern - Criticism, Problems with Adi Da, The Cult of Adi-Da?, re: Adi Da - - A controversial guru, former disciple of Muktananda. Has changed his name many times. Some devotees have been traumatised by him, others benefitted. Claims to be first the avatar of this age and for that matter the only 7th Stage Realiser of all time. His material is very well written, profound, inspiring, and highly eloquent. Powerful experiences of enlightenment with paradoxical combination of egodeath and inflation via intermediate zone realisation, perhaps the personality/vehicle is not strong enough to cope with the downflux of higher light. Large following in the West - chiefly in America. Large literary production.
Ammachi - the "Hugging Saint", based in India, travels widely. Appears to be a saintly figure, considered authentically enlightened by her followers, but growing abusiveness in organization, and her failing to address this, indicates Middle or possible\y Late Intermediate Zone rather than Realisation. Official website. Maligning Of Ex-Devotee, Cult Of The Hugging Saint
Sri Aurobindo - Sri Aurobindo Society - Hindu - - A visionary philosopher, a poet, and yogi, attained the Manifest Absolute (Supermind), and worked towards establishing it on Earth. After his death his work was carried on by his spiritual co-worker Mirra Alfassa ("The Mother"). Voluminous writings, some limited influence among certain intellectuals, a small but dedicated following worldwide
Bala Sai Baba - Hindu - The Palghat (Kerala) born Bala Sai Baba (the Child Sai Baba), now 35 years old. He claims to be the real Sai avatar, has set up an ashram in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh and resembles Sathya Sai Baba trait for trait.
H. B. Blavatsky - Theosophy - Occult/Astral - Almost single-handedly initiated the Western occult/esoteric revival. Not an enlightened being, but still enormously significant.
Byron Katie - American, spontaneous awakening led to development of "The Work"; Intermediate zone partial egodeath? Students take up the technique, but some controversies - discussion on Rick Ross forum, perhaps from individual incompatability with her techniques. Was speaking toa guy who follows her, he clearly gets a great deal from her. Not for everyone then. Certainly not Realized, but has some attainment, the wise woman type
Andrew Cohen - No formal organisation - Integral movement - Extensive psychological manipulation and financial exploitation of followers, under the guise of "breaking down the ego". See What Enlightenment? blog for more. Seems to have had Intermediate zone presence at the start (via Poonja), later lost as he becme increasingly manipulative. Small following in America, mostly on Ken Wilber's recommendation. His magazine What Is Enlightenment? is distributed widely
Aleister Crowley - O.T.O. - Occultist, prankster, hedonist, poet, writer, considered an avatar of the new aeon by his followers; heavy astral consciousness, the single most influential figure in 20th century Hermeticism; influenced Wicca and (indirectly) L.R. Hubbard.
Dalai Lama - the 14th Dalia Lama Tenzin Gyatso. A figure of great integrity. Exiled from Tibetan, living in Dharamsala in India. Much loved by the Tibetan community at home and abroad. Uncompromisingly supports nonviolence in the face of Chinese cultural and physical genocide of his people. Travells and lectures worldwide. A saintly figure, does not come across as enlightened (although considered as such by many), not vegetarian which makes me cynical, though I still greatlky respect his high principles towards human beings.
Thaddeus Golas (1924-1997) - American of Polish descent, moved to San Francisco, experimented with LSD, self-published in 1972 The Lazy Man's Guide To Enlightenment, a concise (80 page) nonduality (plus 60s LSD inspired metaphysics) text that was hailed by Richard (Ram Dass) Alpert, and Alan Watts. No evidence of any abusive behaviour, avoided the temptations and deviations that await narcissistic gurus. Little known now, but was in the right place at the right time to have a big influence. The Thaddeus Golas Café (home page), Wikipedia entry
G. I Gurdjieff - "The Work", "Fouth Way" etc -Tremendous physical and psychic consciousness, power and will, not enlightened, a master manipulator, his ideas have been subtly influential throughout much of western esotericism, even reappearing in New Age form. Small but dedicated following world wide
Lord Hamsah Manarah. - Aumist religion ['Aumisme'] - New Age - "Translucent" or Intermediate Zone? subtle - Claimed to be the reincarnation of Christ, Buddha, Napoleon and Pythagoras. Teaches he is to save humanity from self-destruction. Such inflated claims indicate he has been fooled by impressions from the lower Intermediate Zone. -- Following: About 40 monks/nuns and about 100 lay followers, 1,000 worldwide.
L. Ron Hubbard; - Scientology - A former science fiction writer (I once read one of his early stories - quite clever!), he realised the best way to make a million was start his own religion. The greatest con-artist of our age. Following: Thanks to courting movie stars who are given preferential treatment and in return provide oodles of good publicity, The Church of Scientology is as powerful as ever
C. J. Jung - Analytical Psychology - Psychology - A brilliant analyst of human nature, student of mythic symbols, insightful but not enlightened, treated the women in his life badly. Following: Enormous influence outside psychology, one of the great intellectual figures of the 20th century; huge influence on the New Age and New Paradigm movement, although mostly in terms of buzz words ("synchronicity" etc)
Lee Lozowick - self-styled Western Baul (Tantric minstral), former Silva Mind Control teacher, "Crazy Wisdom", established Hohm Community in Arizona, became a devotee of Yogi Ramsuratkumar, Awakened but not Enlightened. Small following. Sincere, non-abusive, but criticism here. Hohm Press an important distributer of books on Yogi Ramsuratkumar.
Prem Rawat; formerly Guru Maharaji - Divine Light Mission, Elan Vital - "The Knowledge" is from Sant Mat - Avidya - Made millions from his devotees from the 60s onwards, even his own Boeing. I have been told by someone who seems to me respectable that his followers still resort to thuggery and so warned against criticising him publically (I cannot confirm this). Criticism on Wikipedia - Started out as the ice-cream eating boy guru hailed as an avatar or "The Lord Of The Universe"; basically an average Joe, his status as a master is luducrious. I heard him talk when he came to Melbourne, just an ordinary human being. Following: Formerly big following in the West
Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi - TM - Hindu - The movement sells fake mantras and spiritual techniques at progressively very high prices. - Avidya - Basically took advantage of his connections with the Beatles to set himself up in the West. Too much money element for my liking, but has not abused his position sexually. Not an enlightened being. Following: T.M. is a big organisation, that is making lots and lots of money. Their so-called "Sidha program" involves contracting certain buttock muscles allowing you to "bounce". The Tibetans did that ages ago (Read Alexandra David Neel's "Magic and Mystery in Tibet"). The practice can be harmful for one's psychological well-being, probably also physically harmful.
Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, author and founder of the system "Yoga In Daily Life". Considered to have attained self-realization at the age of 17 (wikipedia page) but this is refuted by abusive behaviour, e.g. betrayal of trust, organisation having cult like qualities, see False Guru Swami Maheshwarananda for more info. Would seem to have some siddhis, so I have been told, but all this is better explained in terms of the Intermediate Zone. Following: very big following in India, decent following in the West.
Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi Shri Mataji - Sahaja yoga - Hindu - Seems to me she started out as a basically decent even if self-deluded lady, got caught up in the guru power trip. Seriosly inflated ego resulting in her (& her followers) belief that she is the avatar of this age. highly abusive. Devotee effect; when I heard her talk she seemed like an ordinary person. Following: Some following in the West
Mother Meera - early life in Sri Aurobindo ashram, lives in Germany where she gives silent Darshan. Travels occasionally. Considered by her followers to be an avatar, but better considered as niddle or possibly late Intermediate Zone. Some controversy from former disciple Andrew Harvey, otherwise no record of abuse.
Meher Baba - -- - Hindu/Sufi - - An interesting one. Clearly sincere, despite certain ridiculous themes in his teachings. Never abused his position. Magnetic presence, in my current estimation, late Intermediate Zone. Following: Decent following world-wide
Swami Muktananda - Siddha Yoga - Hindu - A sincere and decent teacher, although it seems in later years he fell prey to the guru power trip, started taking sexual advantage of young female followers (all in the name of "Tantric initiation"), along with threats of physical violence against those who spoke out. Nevertheless attained a high spiritual status (read his bio Play of Consciousness); I consider him a Middle Intermediate zone rather than Realised. Following his death the movement schismed; the main faction following the sister, another the brother Following: Siddha Yoga still going in the West , despite it's incredibly amaturish approach to yoga and it's lack of enlightened leadership. A church for middle class people who have gone beyond exoteric religion but are not able to stand by their own light.
Nisargadatta Maharaj. Natha nondualism. Enormously influential in Western new consciousness/new age spirituality, mostly via his book I am That, although i read somewhere that most of his infleunce and the book is via translation, need to confirm this. Humble and modest man, with great affection for his own guru. Never abused his position. I originally thought he was Enlighetned but now consider him Late Intermediate Zone. Certainly a saintly figure, better than 99.999 % of gurus.
Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet - Aeon Centre of Cosmology - Integral Yoga - None towards followers - Inflated claims of avatarhood, and asserts that her son is a reincarnation of Sri Aurobindo. Following: Very small following, a number of weighty books and several websites
Yoshikazu Okada - Mahikari - Japanese - None? (need to research) - - Japanese nationalistic religious movement - through initiation you are able to give healing light from your hands. The founder has been accused of association in Japenese war crimes. Following: Small following in Japan and in the West
Osho Rajneesh - Orange People - Syncretic - Basically a mixture of sincerity and fake. Presented himself as the guru for the rich. There is no denying his affection for his followers, nor his love of all the money, rolls royces, and (from his Western female followers) sexual favours his office gave him ( Some refernce). Tremendously influential in the New Age movement, mainly because of the appeal to the infantile western attitude of being spiritual but keeping your materialistic ego and selfish attitude at the same time. His 'Zorba-Rajneesh' discoteks were all over Europe at one period; Zorba is the symbol of the ultimate worldly male chauvinist. Fled the US with over 100 federal charges, leaving behind 84 Rolls Royces. Not a true enlightened being, a good example of an Intermediate zone guru. Under Ma Sheela things were pretty nasty; the following now is non-harmful. Without doubt the single most influential of all treh Eastern gurus.
Papaji (H. W. L. Poonja). Devotee of Ramana Maharshi, although does not feature in Ramana biograpgues, simpoly one of thousands who visited teh ashram and were uplifted. Very powerful ficture, Middle or Late Intermediate zone, gave experiences to westerners who swarmed around him, telling them they were now enlightened, either to get them off his back or see if they could pass the test, if teh latter, none did. Introiguingh figure, not abusive.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabupad - International Society for Krishna Consciousness ("Hare Krishnas" - Hindu - A sincere and decent teacher, never bused his position in any way. His teachings however are nothing but fundamentalist Vaishvanism. Not an enlightened being. Hare Krishna sect remains a viable "New Religion" (albeit a fundamentalistic one). Respected among hippy/alternative people because of strong Vegetarian stance. After Prabhupad's death there were problems with some of his successors. At least one of his personally appointed successors was chaged with racketeering and conspiracy to murder. Other problems including sexual abuse of children, although apparently these concerns are now being addressed
Swami Rajeshwaranand Giriji Maharaj - Hindu - was arrested in September '95 as a party to the murder of his lover's husband. The 26-year old Manoj Girothra, husband of Savita who was having an affair with the 'godman', was murdered on December 3rd, 1994, some two months after his marriage.
Two professional hitmen had been hired by the 'godman' - - A 'popular godman' in India, but clearly from activities lacking in spiritual consciousness. Large following in India and abroad.
Ramana Maharshi - Saintly fully realised True Guru, one of the greatest souls of our or any age. Many disciples and devotees, both in India and abroad. No successors. Tremendously influential in the West, chiefly through books by Western disciples like Paul Brunton, and more recently a devotee Poonja gave intermediate experiences to many
Ramesh Balsekar - Indian, now in his 90's, supposed successor to Nisagardatta Maharaj. Abusive guru, defended by his student Wayne Liquorman.
Sathya Sai Baba - Sai organisation - Hindu - Sathya Sai Baba is a highly controversial figure. People have had many psychic expereinces, and some of the vibhuti materialisation on photos etc may be authentic (like the weeping virgin mary statues, probably a similar principle), but most of the so-called materialisations (of baubles for devotees) are sleight of hand. I have been to his ashram. He has been called everything from con-artist to paedophile and homosexual (and even anti-christ and devil) to avatar. Faked his birthdate to be considered an avatar. Serious allegations of sexual abuse The main organisation is either covering up the abuses or is in denial; ex-devotees who have tried to bring this to light have been defamed by slanderous devotees - one example; another example, - My experience with all this . Huge following in India (many millions), where his high status has prevented legal inquiry into the allegations against him. Somewheat smaller following in the West.
Swami Shyam - Advaita - Hindu - accused of seducing the wives of his followers (Robert Priddy knows followers, and informs me that some agree it is so. website - - a current advaitin guru, at Kulu in the Himalayas. Popular with Westerners (esp. Scandinavians)
Sri Swami Sivananda - The Divine Life Society - Hindu - None (need to research) - Seems to be basically a decent guy; Small following in India and the West
Eckhart Tolle - New Age guru born in Germany, author of The Power of Now. Aquired fame through promotion by Oprah and appearance on her show. Travels and lectures in USA. Not Enlightened, philosophy is essentially a Westernised application of Advaita Vedanta style nonduality.
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche - Tibetan Buddhist - Sex with female devotees, emotionally distant - The original "crazy wizdom" adept in the West, alcoholic, Well respected and widely read in the alternative movement. Perhaps Intermediate zone realisation.
Ken Wilber - Integral Institute - Extremely charismatic, very influential due to his voluminous and eloquent literary output. One of the main intellectuals in the New Age/ New Paradigm movement today, although many of his books repeat the same themes, giving the impression he has produced more than he has. Large following mostly in America and Germany. Strong organisation and clever American style marketting hype has resulted in his Integral Movement becoming a sort of New Age religion - my critique.
Yogi Ramsuratkumar - saintly eccentric True Guru, Fully Enlightened. In the West he would probably be associated with "Crazy Wisdom", but really he far transcends such limited classifications. Little known in the West, but comparable to other rare but authetic godmen like Ramana and Nityananda. Better known in India, very small following in the West, chiefly via Lee Lozowick and followers.
See Links page for other lists