Spiritual Masters & Teachers
In a time when everyone can call himself an “awakened teacher” on the Internet and the offer of esoteric events and new spiritual methods increases almost inflationary, we would like to contribute to the distinction. For this purpose we briefly introduce masters and teachers of different traditions and offer a link to their websites. We gladly accept suggestions if the circle would like to expand.
Sri Ramana Maharshi
The most famous Indian wisdom teacher of the 20th century was seized by fear of death when he was 16 years old and seriously decided to investigate the question: “Who dies?” This led him to the essential question, “Who am I?” He realized the answer, that while the body may die, consciousness does not. Six weeks after this transformation, he set out for Mount Arunachala, being revered as sacred by Hindus, where he spent the rest of his life.
After a long retreat, he began to work immediately through his presence and an ashram sprang up around him. He is considered the embodiment of modern Advaita-Vedanta and stayed in his body from 1879 – 1950.
His humor was simply divine. When he laughed, everything complicated and insurmountable dissolved into thin air. His warmth of heart brought you in direct contact with the innermost. You understand without understanding. He was able to radically lead people back into the Self. Even in his old age he seemed like a joyful and lively boy, connected to the source of eternal Being.
He was a disciple of Ramana Maharshi and contributed a lot to making the Advaita teachings accessible to western people.
H. W. L. Poonja, called Papaji, was born on October 13, 1913 in a small village, Gujranwala, in western Punjab, now Pakistan. He spent his last years in Lucknow, where he left his body on September 6, 1997.
„First of all and finally, I am inviting you to this space of stillness that is your heart.”
Gangaji is a teacher who touches you directly in the heart.
She teaches in the lineage of Ramana Maharshi and his disciple Papaji, from whom she received her name and the assignment to travel the world to teach. For over 30 years she has been speaking to people to open the path to SELF. Her words are brilliantly clear and deeply moving. Her presence is infinitely kind and fiery at the same time.
Gangaji became OM’s teacher and was able to guide his awakening process into the irreversible depths after the accident. Gangaji was born Merle Antoinette Roberson in Texas in 1942. She now lives in Ashland, Oregon with her husband Eli Jaxon-Bear.
You can’t see GOD, because you are GOD!
How can you look for THAT, what you are?
Sri Aurobindo is considered one of the greatest Wisdom Teachers of the last century. He was born in Calcutta in 1872, studied in England and held a chair at Baroda College (north of Mumbai) for several years. Initially a political activist, he soon turned intensively to yoga. In 1910 he went to Pondicherry (southeast India) to devote himself entirely to his inner spiritual life and work. During his forty years in Pondicherry, he developed ‘Integral Yoga’. Here the traditional six yoga paths are equally emphasized and the three great spiritual paths of man – the Path of Selfless Action, Love and True Knowledge ( Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga) are united. In addition to the ascent of the soul, the descent, that is, living in the world as an integral part of the Path, is also taught. In 1926 he founded the Sri Aurobindo Ashram together with his spiritual associate, the Mother. Until his death in 1950, he lived a very secluded life there, devoting himself exclusively to the realization of Integral Yoga.
Mira Alfassa – „The Mother“
Mira Alfassa was born in France in 1878. An exceptionally gifted child she became an accomplished painter and musician, while she had many inner experiences from early childhood on.
In 1914, she met Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry for the first time. She immediately recognized him as her mentor she had met in earlier visions, and knew that her future work was by his side. She lived permanently in Pondicherry from 1920 onwards. Sri Aurobindo saw her as an embodiment of the evolutionary, creative force, which led to her name “The Mother.”
From November 1926 on she organized the growing group of devotees around Sri Aurobindo in the ‘Sri Aurobindo Ashram’. In 1952 – two years after his death – she founded the ‘Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education’ to fulfill his wish to create a new kind of education for Indian youth. In 1968, she founded the international township project ‘Auroville’ as an even broader field for practical attempts to implement Sri Aurobindo’s vision of new forms of individual and collective life and to pave the way for a better future for the whole earth.
She pursued this vision with great commitment until her death in 1973.
George I. Gurdjieff
George I. Gurdjieff was one of the most dazzling and enigmatic figures of the spiritual scene in the beginning of the 20th century. He was born around 1866 in Alexandropol (Armenia). As a young man, he was already searching for spiritual traditions and rites and made extensive travels through the Near East and Central Asia. Around 1912, he founded his first ‘Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man’ in Russia, which later fell victim to the civil war. Further stations of his life led him to Istanbul, Berlin and to France where he built up his institute again.
He developed ‘the Work’, which served to awaken man from his everyday trance as well as to bring his full potential to fruition and founded the ‘Fourth Way’, a synthesis of the three traditional ways; the way of the fakir, the monk and the yogi, designed to enable the student to work on all three centers or ‘brains’ (physical movement, feeling and thinking) simultaneously. The Movements or Sacred Dances according to Gurdjieff are integral to his teaching. He died in 1949 in Neuilly (France).
Nisargadatta Maharaj was born in Mumbai in 1897 and grew up on a farm. After the death of his father, he moved to Mumbai in 1918, started a family and soon owned several tobacco stores. Later on, he was affectionately called “Beedhi Baba” because he was a chain smoker. In 1933, he met the great Saint Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj and was initiated by him. After the death of his Guru in 1936, he left his family to become an itinerant monk, but soon returned to his family, awakened. He still kept a small store and gave Satsang as well as Initiations in his house. His fame in the West is based on the book “I Am That”, a record of numerous dialogues in his house.
His teaching points centrally to the ‘I Am’ as the only Reality and, in addition to this, also to the many illusory facets that the human mind creates and mistakenly believes to be real. Thus, the central question of his practice is, “Who am I?” With this question, he guides students to sink deeper so that all illusions (such as thought-forms, emotions, bodily sensations) can be penetrated as such until ‘I Am’ – pure, silent consciousness – can be realized as the Ultimate Truth.
Nisargadatta died of throat cancer in 1981.
Ramesh S. Balsekar
Recognized as one of the leading Sages of the last century and regarded worldwide as a Master of pure Advaita, Ramesh S. Balsekar, who was married and the father of three children, was considered a “housekeeping” Guru. Following his studies in London, Ramesh pursued a successful career in a leading Indian bank, retiring as its president in 1977. He soon met his Guru, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. He awakened two years later, began teaching at his home in Mumbai in 1982, and wrote more than 25 books during his lifetime. In his teachings, he categorically negates the reality of a human free will and also does not locate the authorship of thought in man himself. Thus he teaches: ‘You act – God decides’. Life takes place without a personal agent; everything stems from the One Source of pure consciousness, God – the only, ultimate reality.
Ramesh S. Balsekar was born in Mumbai in 1917 and died there in 2009.
Sri Anandamayi Ma
Sri Anandamayi Ma, born in 1896 in present-day Bangladesh, is considered one of the greatest Saints of the 20th century. Even without any external Guru, she had deep spiritual experiences at an early age and spent several years in silence. She considered individual identity as a kind of spiritual illness.
She explained her own spiritual development in four stages: In the first, the mind was “dried” of desire and passion so that the spiritual fire could burn more effectively. Next, the body became still and the mind was drawn inward, while religious feelings flowed like a current in the heart. Third, her personal identity was absorbed by an individual deity, yet leaving some distinction between form and formlessness. Finally, there was the melting of all duality. Here the mind was completely free from the movement of thought.
In her teaching, she emphasized the importance of religious devotion as well as detachment from the world. Although Ma was formally illiterate, she embodied directly enlightened wisdom to such an extent that she was able to impart subtle teachings to tens of thousands of followers.
She died in 1982.
Jiddu Krishnamurti is regarded worldwide as one of the greatest teachers, speakers and authors on religious-philosophical, psychospiritual and also social-cultural topics. After the Theosophical Society propagated him as a “new world teacher” at the beginning of the 20th century, he increasingly distanced himself from it and dissolved an organization founded especially for him in 1929.
From then on, he gave lectures all over the world and wrote numerous books. In doing so, he radically negated the “guru principle” and distrusted all forms of organized religion. He passionately encouraged his audience to examine his statements on their own responsibility. He resolutely advocated the attainment of complete spiritual freedom through self-observation and self-exploration, clearly showing the limits of the mind. In doing so, he repeatedly emphasized the importance of one’s own practice and experience.
J. Krishnamurti was born in 1895 in Madanapalle, a small village in southern India, and died in 1986 in Ojai, California.
A. H. Almaas is the pen name of A. Hameed Ali under which he published numerous books. He was born in Kuwait in 1944, studied physics, mathematics as well as psychology, and has been living in the USA for many years, where he founded the “Ridhwan School” in 1975 to teach the “Diamond Approach®”. This is a very pragmatically oriented and experience-based spiritual path. Here Almaas combines traditional spiritual practices with insights and methods of modern psychology. He emphasizes the students’ own practical exploration and experience (e.g. through training in body awareness or through ‘Diamond InquiryTM’) in order to uncover the manifold dimensions of human potential so that these can unfold individually, unhindered by our obscurations and delusions.
American spiritual Baul teacher Lee Lozowick (1943-2010) was known to many people around the world as the heart son of South Indian saint yogi Ramsuratkumar. In the thirty-five years of Lee’s teaching career in North America, Europe, and in India he founded three ashrams, cultivated warm friendships with teachers and practitioners of other traditions and lineages, and became a spiritual friend to many.
Known for his provocative, iconoclastic teaching style, he was a captivating storyteller, a prolific poet and lyricist, a rock and blues singer, a lover of beauty and all forms of art.
Enlightened Duality is a teaching that provides us with the
practical means and wisdom to navigate through daily life
with respect and innate regard for the sacred nature of the world.
Lozowick and Young, from Enlightened Duality
Arnaud Desjardins, former director of French television, great traveler, author of documentaries on the living spirituality of the Orient, met many great masters in Asia, including Anandamayi Ma, Papa Ramdas, Kalu Rinpoche and the 16th Karmapa. In 1965, he met Swami Prajnanpad to whom he owed his own inner transformation after nine years of regular visits to India.
Thereupon he worked as a Wisdom Teacher himself, especially in his ashram in France, which he founded together with his wife in 1974. Desjardin’s teachings aim to remain anchored in perpetual peace, serenity and love through very practical exercises, leaving behind the world of opposites. He shows how, through daily practice, we can move from the enslavement of the ego to the freedom of the Self. His teaching talks have resulted in numerous books, but he has also written several books himself.
Arnaud Desjardins was born in Paris in 1925 and died in Grenoble in 2011.
Igor Kufayev was born in Tashkent in 1966. Until the age of 25, he successfully pursued an international career as an artist. Significantly triggered by the accidental death of his young daughter he then devoted himself intensively to the study of yoga and various spiritual traditions. In 2001 he experienced a profound expansion of consciousness and transformation during an advanced yoga course of the TM-Sidhi program.
For the past 10 years, Igor Kufayev has been serving as a channel for the transmission of spiritual energy in retreats and online events in the service of awakening. The organization he founded, Flowing Wakefulness, is also in this service. In his work he emphasizes the cellular, subtle level of self-realization and sees this process as a progressive purification of prana. He himself often refers to his teaching as “the way of the heart,” which allows for the non-intellectual and direct realization of the essence of one’s reality and which transcends any tradition.
Swami Dharma Sumiran
Meeting advaita master Swami Dharma Sumiran brings to mind the bone-chilling clarity of the Russian tundra. His brilliant intelligence conquers the last doubter. His silent presence reminds you of pure consciousness. His simplicity is based on the pervasive complexity of manifest Being. He is an atomic physicist and psychologist and gives the ultimate insight as a yogi of knowledge.
Swami Sumiran was born in 1969 in Russia, where he currently lives and teaches.
Born in Poland (*1963) and now living in New Mexico, she is a direct disciple of H.W.L. Poonja (“Papaji”). In the early 1990s she sat in Satsang with him in Lucknow, India, where she also awakened.
Neelam has a degree in theater arts and studied Tai Chi intensively. She has taught and led Satsangs, Weekend Retreats, Intensives and long-term Programs in North America, Europe and India for those who wish to burn in the Fire of Truth. Recently, for health reasons, she has curtailed her travel and works primarily from her home in New Mexico.
In an unequivocal commitment to Truth, she invites her students to repeatedly turn inward to release underlying conditioning patterns that block recognition of their True Nature. The clarity and discriminating wisdom inherent in this awakened state are realized and imparted by Neelam. In doing so, she emphasizes the unconditional desire for Truth, the Fire of which is the only thing that can drop us inward and lead us into the realization of Ultimate Truth, which is not fulfilled in any place outside of ourselves.
Unmani is originally from the UK, but traveled the world for many years at the age of 18. Even as a child, she had difficulty identifying with a role, opinions or preferences. As a result, she experienced a persistent, pronounced sense of loss, and she felt a strong urge to search for the ultimate truth very early on.
Mainly inspired by Osho and Dolano (German Zen Master), she awakened in 2000 and has been offering meetings and retreats around the world and writing several books since 2003.
Her way of teaching is very personal and intimate, out of a deep longing to meet in Truth – without neglecting the Impersonal and Absolute.
The art of realizing this paradox was condensed for her in 2018 by the death of her husband, with whom she has a daughter. Since then she has been experiencing and teaching how pain, grief and loss can lead into an endless heart opening. She is a living and encouraging example of radically experiencing human life in its many facets and shades, and yet, in the face of the Absolute, no longer losing oneself in it.