Sarlo's Guru Rating Service

Welcome to Sarlo's Guru Rating Service, a compilation of mostly non-mainstream religious leaders whose mission/job description is basically to help us lift ourselves out of the multiple ruts of misery we find ourselves in as we live our lives. Their methods, quality and authenticity vary tremendously, as do the degree to which they encourage worship of their exalted selves and even their conceptions of our misery. What they have in common (mostly) is a kind of free-standingness, at least a semi-independence from traditional established (organised) religious structures and hierarchies, although of course there is nothing to stop them from setting up their own structures and hierarchies.

Their willingness to "take us on" as cases or disciples cannot exactly be described as taking responsibility for us and our spiritual progress, but something like that. Beyond this admittedly inadequate phrase, it is difficult to say in our limited language what their end of the master-disciple deal is. Let them speak for themselves in their websites.

To find any particular guru figure, click on the appropriate letter page link below. Alphabetical listings are according to the name they are most familiarly known by, could be first, last or middle name; gurus with multiple aliases may require a few tries. Search may be best for them, if you can spell at least one of their names. If this is your first visit, you may want to read the introductory material below.

And if you are tempted to take it too seriously, please visit the About page.


Yes folks, we've been "on the air" for ten years now*, from a humble one-page beginning to our current stupendous compendiumshipness.
* = as of late 2008

"How tragic! How weird! Rating the non-dual teachers – how tragically American."

A gloriously
mixed review from Sri Ganesha Tea and Book Stall
"Okay, so it's biased, square, skewed, uninformed, rigged, ignorant, opinionated, and just plain wrong. It obviously does not reflect the opinions of the Tea Stall. That said, it's actually not all bad or innacurate [sic] or unintelligent either. But it was inevitable: Sarlo's Guru Rating Service."

And i am toying with the idea of an official GR motto. How about:
"Never underestimate the genius of mediocrity" ~ Harsh K Luthar

Use these letter links to browse the alphabetical listings
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z
For other site navigation, a Site Map link 
is provided at the bottom of every page

There are now over 1800 teachers/gurus/masters listed. Additions have slowed down but thanks for new info go to my fellow collectors, and to many visitors and explorers of The Way. Other major lists and spiritual resources at Outside Links.

There is a dated list (such as it is) of new people added, rating changes, new urls and other recent stuff here for those who like to keep up with that kind of stuff, such as it is. Please note that most new entries (as of Oct 2015) are in a new quasi-category U (Unprocessed) to indicate they haven't been looked at much, just suggested and thrown in the bin with a few factoids.

The Guru Ratings email forum for discussion of issues that arise out of these guru-opinions and the Search in general grew to over 1700 subscribers.  It was once very busy, even out of control, only occasionally quiet, and sometimes quite nasty, though some efforts were made to keep that somewhat in check, until late 2012, when group dynamics and nastiness overwhelmed the owner (moi) and posting was suspended. You can read about that there too.

It is hosted by Yahoo Groups, free and open to all, and
you can subscribe at GuruRatings. Messages are archived, and include some worthy insights and observations, though Yahoo's search function, like much of Yahoo, has been going to the dogs in the last year or two (2015 +). Also included is a lot of rubbish but at least it is frequently entertaining, depending on your standards of course. Some self-satire on its very busyrubbishness can be found here (free peek!). And fwiw, a list of who among my listees has appeared or been discussed there can be found at Archives.

The Ratings & How They Work

All information in quotes in the mini-descriptions is taken from the Master's words or the literature of adherents. My characterizations contain some judgments and prejudices, usually (if negative) triggered by perceived fatuities in the literature or legend. Founders of major established religions are not included because people mostly know who they are, where to find them and what they already think of them. Exceptions to that exclusion have been made for Jesus and, depending on your definition of founders, Bodhidharma and Dalai Lama. 

My information for evaluating these guys comes mostly from their websites, though visitor feedback and scuttlebutt / legend have modified website impressions on many occasions. I have received complaints that websites are made by fallible followers and cannot represent a master adequately. This is so, but since even established religions suffer from the inability to present themselves well – being similarly composed of fallibles – the playing field is level enough to be a reasonable starting place. Thereafter my judgments can be subject to the usual feedback processes.

So let the rating begin!

(It is assumed the visitor does not have to ask, "What is a guru?" If that is the case, a visit to Wikipedia might be in order: everything you might want to know about the broadbrush general notions of guru, very informative. I extend those ideas to cover an even wider ground, though i stick to the "spiritual" side.)

So first off, what is it, what qualities exactly, am i rating? It is not the quality of their realization. One with the cosmos is one with the cosmos. Those who posit different planes or levels of enlightenment will not find traction here. Whether they are enlightened or not is of interest but not how enlightened. The other main consideration is how useful might they be to the hypothetical "average seeker." This breaks down into how available or accessible the master might be, how flexible in terms of methods or approaches, and how able to take on large numbers. In the case of masters no longer living, they may be considered accessible via their (enlightened) disciples.

There are other general criteria i have used for this assessment, but they can in no way be considered absolute. They are more like red flags, which can alert us to the possibility of something awry. For instance, independent of any moral considerations, we can see the vast potential for abuse of power in a sexual relationship between master and disciple, and certainly the stench of hypocrisy will be there if sexual morality is being preached. My red flags are, in no particular order, big money, exploitive sex, hypocrisy, morality, absence of freedom, the master's death, hype, fanaticism, excessive devotion, delusions of grandeur, tradition and isolation from the rest of the world. Absence of these flags may only indicate safety, no particularly wonderful quality, rather than greatness.

I have made a beginning to expounding further on these red flags, for those deeply interested. As of 2005, there are enlarged explanations of how i apply five of them. More coming irregularly, with occasional updates and fine tunings.

In addition to the red flags mentioned above, there are some "positive" characteristics of enlightenment which may be considered. I do not personally use them, since many of them are not mutually compatible, and their applicability in any given situation is suspect, but i have gathered a collection at Criteria for the delectation, amusement and perhaps even education of visitors.

And of course one person's positives may be another's negatives. I am not a completely non-partisan observer (duh!!) The wholly subjective characterizations in yellow will not be everybody's experience, nor will the ratings, a ludicrous attempt to evaluate when there is clearly no universal quantitative standard. Still if movie, music and restaurant critics can do it, why not i? You can call it yellow journalism. Further information on where i am coming from – personal investments, history and tendencies that might affect the contents, either rating- or opinion-wise – can be found below. And see also Disclaimer.

The yellower the better?: For a naysayer's view of non-mainstream spiritual groups, you can find a professional collection of dirt on many of these guys from Rick Ross. Also worthwhile is Steve Hassan. They are far more objective than some anti-cult activists, such as TranceNet, and have lots of material, though of course their basic disposition is still anti-guru. It is worth noting that by far the most common thread in the dirt reported by disaffected seekers is hypocrisy about celibacy and materialism. Time and time again the lesson is: Morality=Hypocrisy. 


    The ratings are:

= the greats, helping many

= limited, some handicaps, or maybe not yet full stature

= very limited, narrow approach or ideology, or still developing

= suspect but on balance positive

= suspect

= bogus, may have some value, who knows

= worse than bogus, no redeeming value

Unrated 

= too new, old or retiring, not enough info, or a "teacher" type
 

To view a list of all the rated gurus organized by rating, Click here
For a fuller explanation of the rating characterizations, Click here

If your favourite figure is not listed, send in the info and i'll be happy to include, although i will keep it short. I am more comfortable with English web sites but have started to include other languages, although not for rating purposes. (Feedback) And if your favourite figure is here, but underrated or categorized wrongly, let me know and i'll have another look. No flamers please. Most ratings, it will be perceived, are in the low range. This in many cases reflects an unfamiliarity with the figure in question (along with an uninformative web site), the willingness to give them a little slack but unwillingness to rate them too high until they establish themselves, especially considering the harm that a phony can do. Okay? The soundest rule in commercial transactions also applies here: Caveat emptor.

In some cases, i will have more to say about them than will fit comfortably in the mini-description format, so there will be a link to a separate page, simply MORE, or occasionally a QUOTE, FEEDBACK, REPORT or TALES, an informed visitor opinion presented as an alternative to my limited viewpoint. It may be worth noting also that though my standards are fairly tough, i consider anyone with a rating of or more to be worth checking out, and many of those at may be too. 

If you like your judgments to be at least based on personal experience, there is a great feature of Jerry Katz' otherwise non-judgmental guru info site, Satsang Reports, which consists of first-hand reports of personal encounters with some of the enlightened ones in the biz. Its reports are mainly on the advaita crowd, descended from Papaji and Nisargadatta. This site has also started featuring such reports. And check out the excellent online magazine, Realization.org, now unfortunately no longer updated but with a wide variety of articles archived on many aspects of the spiritual path, including quite a few of these guys.

The Categories

I have taken the additional liberty of categorizing these guys into four different types, according to their basic methods and flavour and the type of seeker to whom they might appeal. The traditional literature describes two basic approaches, the heart, or devotional / surrender to the master approach, and understanding, or advaita / non-dualism / meditation / wisdom etc. There is no contradiction in these approaches as both lead to dissolution of the ego, or sense of separation from the whole, but they have practical application to different types of seeker.

A third category can be considered to exist in a continuum with the first two. This is the so-called middle path, willing to play with the paradoxes that arise and use methods that might seem outrageous to purists of the first two categories. The fourth category i will use is one basically outside the devotion-advaita spectrum, a kind of catchall of diff'rent folks, which i call fringe: esoterics and wankers, whose focus is basically outside, on objects or systems, rather than inside, on the self or the heart connection with the master. For more on this categorization, see Expo.

The categories: Surrender is only of the Ego(Devotion)     Ask Who Creates Separation into Two(Advaita)     Methods and Devices to Slow the Pendulum of Duality(Middle Path)     Round and round and round we go(Fringe)

The Unrated Teachers

This great group is for all those who are not standing out from the crowd, relatively speaking, especially as the crowd is growing so fast. For various reasons – they are just new to the biz and haven't had the time to stake out a market niche, or they are too unassuming, preferring to avoid the fast lane, or there is not enough info on their website to form an opinion, or just generally too above-it-all – it is premature or pointless to rate them. If there is a basic common thread, it might be lack of Western market share or desire thereof.

Few claim to be enlightened, with the exception of those with neo-advaita leanings, the Indians and the venerable ancients, who may make no claims but their fans do. Some are happy to labour away from the crowd or in the shadows of their masters. Most of the living ones could be thought of as teachers. Since they are making no big personal claims and are offering spiritual training – a product, say, as opposed to a far-off goal – their lack of pretension allows them to escape judgment. Many will still have the presence and/or charisma associated with the big guys but they do not flash it around on their (usually modest) web pages, again excepting the Indians.

This lot will be divided for now into fifteen groups: Zen; Tibetan; other Buddhists; Sufis; Yogis; Gnostic/Scientific types; Nondualists; Indian, usually Hindu, with some Sikhs and others; Perennials, long-time-gone worthies without a strong lineage to the present; Earth Medicine, aboriginals, pagans and the like; Quasi-Christian, including ACIM types; Channels/New Age; Humour; Literature; Misc, all the rest.

Note that the Tibetan group has now spun off a new sub-category (DT – see the Tibetan page for a link) of dead ones, to avoid overcrowding. This may happen in other groups as well.

A few inappropriately once-rated have been moved to unrated categories. Their old write-ups are preserved for now at Das Boot. And as of 2015, a new sort-of category has been introduced, "Unprocessed", so that suggestions for new listings can still be handled. These will be just a few keywords plus a link. "Real" unrated categories are:

Zap your mind, leave the past behind(Zen)   Emanations, Tulkus and Bodhisattvas(Tibetan)   La Illaha Il Allah(Sufis)   Nothing ever happens -- What is just is(Buddhists)   The One-of-a-kind's -- Not that the others aren't(Misc)   Stretching the body, stretching the soul(Yoga)   
Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram(Indian)
   Disappearing into the void(Nondual)   Gone, gone, totally gone(Perennials)   The Heartbeat of the Universe(Earth Medicine)   ROTFL(Humour)
   A Cross between East and West(Quasi-Christian)   Making a cosmos of the chaos(Gnostic/Science)    Learning to unlearn(Literature)   (Channels/New Age)

Where I'm Coming From

First off, and most important i suppose, my religious history. I was raised as rather an agnostic Canadian, with but one perfunctory effort on the part of my parents, also agnostic, to make me have a taste of the local church. Boring! But okay, that out of the way. My early forays into "alternative" paths consisted of trips to India, a "back-to-the-land" phase, lots of drugs though no addictive ones (save alcohol and cigarettes, now finished), dabbles with Paramahansa Yogananda and a few others and finally (seeing the light?) a long-term (since 1978) relationship with a master, Osho.

My time with Osho has led me to downgrade the value of belief systems and morality, as time and time again morality turns out to be hypocritical and belief systems so insubstantial. If something is not one's experience it seems unintelligent to make anything more than a working hypothesis out of it. I can't similarly argue with the power of devotion, or surrender of the separate self to an appropriate master, but it does not appeal to me personally, nor (i suspect) to many modern types, and since the possibility of abuse is so strong, i feel it's good to be cautious.

Further glimpses of me and my psychology can be found in my own rating – yes, i rate myself – or at page bottom there are links to other writings of mine. And – once more with feeling – see also Disclaimer and AboutGR. And a new page, as of Dec 2009, Philosophical and similar concerns, dealing with my generalized outlook which may inform re attitude, etc.

Loose Ends

More Expoundables: Further discussions of ratings, categories, the path, etc and observations on these guys, general and specific.
Outside Links: Other collections of links to these guys and their ilk, some specialized by type or geography, and other spiritual web resources.
Dirt: Special "Anti-"sites devoted to particular masters or groups.

A prime source of information in HARD COPY about these guys and many more, at least the Western contingent, is The Book of Enlightened Masters: Western Teachers in Eastern Traditions, by Andrew Rawlinson, published by Open Court, Chicago and LaSalle, Illinois. ISBN 0-8126-9310-8. Jerry Katz (Non-Duality Salon) quotes it extensively to give exposure to those unfortunates without web sites.

MORE HARD COPY: Another good source reference on these guys and why they go wrong is Halfway up the Mountain – The Error of Premature Claims to Enlightenment, by Mariana Caplan, Hohm Press, ISBN 0-934252-91-2. This is an excellent compendium of the ways of the ego liberally sprinkled with quotes from many respected teachers. An excerpt from another of her books, also relevant, is here. In a similar vein but more negative, focusing exclusively on the misuse of power by gurus, is The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power, by Joel Kramer and Diane Alstad, Frog Press, Berkeley.

Happy Hunting, and may all your Mays become Junes!

Navigation – Site Map

The link below is an index to Sarlo's other writings and wrandom wrants.

And there's more of his and others' writings in Osho Pulse,
the archived magazine of the Vancouver sannyas community