Sarlo's Guru Rating Service

I have used this basically Hindu term* because it is in India that the theory of this approach is most developed and it seems to be the term of choice among many leading exponents. While its best practitioners go way beyond mental methods, one way of characterizing it is as a mental/existential approach. The most direct is the simple use of the question, "Who am I?" More than a mantra, it is meant to apply existentially to every situation where self-observation reveals some identification with a less-than-cosmic level of reality. I am pissed, i enquire as deeply as i can into precisely who it is that is pissed. Finding the one who was pissed to be non-existent, i can discard that identity. Or something like that, until i come to the conclusion that i am not separate from the whole.

A visitor has suggested i refine this notion a bit to include a more incisive pointing to oneself, the ostensible doer, along not only the lines of "i am pissed," but "i am pissing." Therefrom we can investigate our investment in pissing (or any circumstance) and uncover the elusive sense of "me" that pervades all identity. It makes me feel real. Nice tool for those for whom it is suitable, requiring as it does a far more intense involvement than is suggested by some of the major "nothing-to-do" wallahs.

One thing about most of these folks is they can sound quite similar, and since the philosophical position, that there are no beings separate from the whole, is so easy to state and maintain, it is more difficult for me without direct experience of them to unmask the bogi, so most here have a rating of 1 or more. To test-drive this approach is easy. Its practitioners are everywhere, touring aggressively and popping up like mushrooms after a fall rain. See also Nonduals, Quality Control and The Advaita Disease.

*: The term "advaita" is contentious among some adherents of traditional "Advaita Vedanta," who feel their specific use and meaning have been debased. More on this at Yadvaita.

And it is worth noting that both traditional Advaita (Vedanta) and its modern, mainly Western version neo-advaita run the risk of "realizing" from the head only, ignoring the substantial part of our being "under the hood" which really runs our lives, the heart or feeling portion. Actually all paths can do this, but the large conceptual emphasis of advaita makes it particularly susceptible. More on this at Ydaya.

    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


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

If your favourite figure is not here, send in the info and i'll be happy to include, although i will keep it short. (Feedback) And if your favourite figure is here, but underrated or wrongly categorized, let me know and i'll have another look. No flamers please.

Name, M/F, b/d, aka, rating, links, 
* = suggested or located by visitor          shtick, principles, rap (+ / –)

  M   b1957ish 
aka Steven Gray

Open Gate Sangha


American (CA). Many years of Zen training with Arvis Joen Justi and Jakusho Kwong Roshi. "Stop all delays, all seeking and all striving. Put down your concepts, ideas and beliefs. For one instant be still and directly encounter the silent unknown core of your being. In that instant Freedom will embrace you and reveal the Awakening that you are." A small fleet of his students are also now teaching (see N, and a couple in O or on his site). Good rep,  wide accessibility, etc. New site has spiffier image. 2010 book, The End of Your World, of useful tips for advanced mature seekers solidifies impression.

Aja Thomas 
  M   b1954
aka Aja Acharya
 Atma Inst

American (OR). "In the center of your Being is a Point of Space which opens into Pure Awareness and Absolute Infinity. Vedic Priest . . . Naturopathy Degree . . . Sanskrit teacher . . . Awakening in 1990." Said to be available and hands-on.  Solid traditional approach,  benefit of doubt. 

Sri Atmananda 
  M   1883-1959 
aka Krishna Menon

Sri Atmananda*

Indian from Trivandrum, author of several classic books on the nondual, absorbed essence of bhakti, jnana and middle paths in one night with guru (a Rajput Yogananda) in his 20s, stayed a householder. Impact growing via disciples and books.

Anadi    M  b1962 
aka Master Aziz, Aziz Kristof

Aziz' teachings

Polish, on path since early age, hardship stories, meditated his way through Korea and Japan, Seung Sahn, Harada, many Indians with most affinity for Nisargadatta, never satisfied until final Grace. Interesting autobio as Aziz struck chords of authority balanced with humility. Benefit of doubt. Then:  withdrew for several years from teaching work, coming back in 2008 with a new name, Anadi, and a  "breakthrough vision of human enlightenment based on multidimensional evolution into wholeness and transcendence." Oh well.   QUOTE

Ramesh Balsekar 
   M 1917-2009
    Ethics article
Rumours discussion

Indian disciple of Nisargadatta, guru of Wayne Liquorman. Ret'd banker met guru, began translating for him, soon experienced the "Ultimate Understanding." Many books, articulate exponent of fatalist, "no-doer" position. Clear and authoritative.  Rumours (and waffling) about sex and money undermining appeal in some markets, "discussion" a series of GRF posts. No-doer shtick not for everyone. First "anti" page gone, replaced by authoritative compilation by Timothy Conway.

Swami Chinmayananda  
  M   1916-1993 
aka Balakrishna Menon 

Chinmaya Mission

Big Vedanta teacher, a purist, scripturally based (Vedas) approach to understanding. "Through rational analysis, Vedanta lifts the veil of ignorance to reveal the source of all happiness and fulfillment, namely, yourself." Austere intellectualism balanced by service, started with Sivananda, got his jnana from Swami Tapovan. Bucked tradition to teach Vedanta to the masses, now Mission all over the world. Big, succeeded principally by Swami Dayananda. Benefit of doubt. 

Andrew Cohen 
M   b1955
Anti (by his mother)
John Horgan's take*
Enlightenment Blues*

What Enlightenment?!
American Guru 
EnlightenNext Revisited*

Found and left the "then little-known Indian teacher HWL Poonja" in 1986. His book, My Master Is My Self, is the "compelling story of one man’s single-hearted dedication to the discovery of the truth," etc. Org put out an impressive eclectic magazine, What is Enlightenment?, with interviews with many different important teachers. Lack of respect for his guru, self-aggrandizement formerly balanced otherwise solid rep, now abusiveness and other negatives accumulate."What Enlightenment?!" blog created by collective including some ex-WIE editors, was inactive for two years but archived, now back, sort of, for a while (2009). American Guru and Guru-talk both purport to be "former students speak out," the first clearly anti but taking responsibility, the latter pro-Cohen but concealing a continuing affiliation, now content has disappeared. "Apology" put up in his blog June 2013, offered to all students for insufficient atttention to his own ego and announcing extended sabbatical. Hopes to return to teaching as a better teacher and better man, judged by many commenters as too little too late. With 2015 blog post, ostensibly deeper, impressive apology overshadowed by belief that some of previous teachings had merit. More processing needed! "EnlightenNext Revisited" a long and comprehensive critique from Mary Adams, a senior teacher with him for nearly thirty years.

Dadashri   M    ?- 1987? 
aka Dada Bhagwan,
Ambalal Muljibhai Patel

Akram Vignani

Indian, org based in US. "Self Realization in just 48 minutes! This direct approach to the Bliss of the Self opened up to the world in 1962 through the medium of a Gnani Purush." Succeeded by Atma Vignani Pujya Niruben Amin (F). "Vishaya (sexual culmination) is sundaas (excretory toilet)." Lots of Gujarati jargon. At least there's no pitch for money or adulation. Niruben [sic] above, called Niruma on their site(s), has since died herself, succeeded by Pujya Deepakbhai Desai (M, b1953). 2nd site more flowing and accessible, 1st has lots of enlightenment testimonials.

Let Davidson  
M   b1941-2010
aka Dasarath  
Let Davidson

American. Zen, Vipassana, Yoga and Advaita Vedanta . . . Werner Erhard, emotional trauma release, holistic health and psychoneuroimmunology. (Oooh that's a long word). "Five years of HWL Poonja has radically transformed his sense of identity and teaching work." Earnest, professional.

Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati  
  M   1934-2015
Arsha Vidya Gurukulam

Indian based in States and India. From lineage of traditional Vedic scholars (Swami Chinmayananda). "Neither preacher nor missionary nor mystic . . . Helps every student to see the truth revealed by the Upanishads as a verifiable fact." Multifaceted AND methodological approach includes prayer, chanting, lots of study. Said to be sincere, competent and compassionate. See also WIE interview.

John de Ruiter
M   b1958 
JdR    MORE 

Guruphiliac Update
leaving JdR

Canadian (Ed). “Humanity mistakes the true self for mental, emotional, intuitional, volitional and physical bodies [ie] surface resources. Only surrender of identification with them can allow consciousness to finally be in Truth without the veil of self-created constructs and attachment.” Truth, truth, "core-splitting honesty", etc + surrender, may encourage dependency. Message has become less Xian after attracting non-dualist seekers. Was: May have the right stuff, but Edmonton? "Update" from 2009-11 has disaffected stories, including re court case brought by his ex-chief admin, re their sexual relationship, etc. May not have the right stuff after all. "Leaving" link a blog with thoughtful examination of issues. OTOH, +ve impressions have him heartful, impressive presence and silence but somewhat inarticulate.

Eli Jaxon-Bear 
 M   b1947  
aka Elliot Jay Zeldow

Eli (see also Gossip links below under Gangaji)

American (OR), varied background before Papaji train, now big on Enneagram. Married to Gangaji, whom he led to Papaji. Big in Germany. Retired from teaching and downgraded Oct '06 for secrecy re sex-with-student. More links below with Gangaji.  Benefit of doubt retracted. 

Gangaji   F   b1942
aka Toni Roberson, 
Toni Varner

Sangha Gossip

"Be absolutely still. Recognize what is already present, what is already here. This recognition is the end of desire, the end of need of the 'other.' It is fulfillment itself." After 18 years of search and meditation, met her master Papaji in 1990. Most prominent of Papaji franchise. Seems to have inspired many, but now dragged down by Eli's problems. site has disappeared, dealt with "cover-up" of Eli affair (while running couples workshops), included a "worst of" from Ashland paper's ongoing comments page on the affair and fallout. Gossip page includes some impressive and sophisticated observations.

Douglas E. Harding 
  M    1909-2007

Harding – Headless

British. "Realised he could see his legs, arms, trunk, but not his head. From where he was looking, he was headless. Instead of his head there was nothing – clear space, emptiness. And in this space was the world. He had 'lost a head and gained a world'." Not much info. Into "experiments," ie practice / sadhana as "try this and see what comes of it," rather than X causes Y. Dry website but highly thought of. 

Catherine Ingram 
  F   b1952ish 
Dharma Dialogues

American Buddhist, with communities there, EU and Oz. "The world has been mad for as long as we know. What is unique to our time is that through extensive media we have awareness of the darkness all over the planet simultaneously." Co-founder of Insight Meditation Society. "You need not acquire anything to realize. You need only subtract beliefs which obscure your living as this radiant presence, as love itself." Seems intelligent, has streamlined formerly stultifying credentials.

Leonard Jacobson 
M   b1949ish 

Leonard Jacobson

Australian based in US (CA). "Profound insights about the nature of the human condition and many of the keys to spiritual awakening, etc. Able to convey this state by direct transmission, but not in a way that encourages any kind of dependency or projection." Conscious Living Foundation, teaching for 25 years, since 1981, "a series of spontaneous mystical awakenings [and] enlightenment experiences." Said to be both warm and direct and good therapeutically. Initial impression of corporate and self-salesmanship offset by positive feedback. 

Sri Jinendra Swami*
  M   b1948

Jinendra opinion

Indian. "It is a spark from one who turned inward, became introspective and experienced Joy. The meaningfulness and the suggestiveness of his utterances impress your mind . . . Look at the Abstract Core of true Knowledge. Does it reveal anything to you?" Awakening 1994 in spite of non-seeking, met "master" Swami Harish Madhukar 1996. Benefit of doubt. Now into "Sustainable Happiness" and institutional outreach, working with orgs from Lonavla Yoga Institute to Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. 

Byron Katie 
  F   b1943
aka Byron Kathleen Reid 

The Work

American. "After a spontaneous . . . awareness in 1986, Byron Katie began sharing her way . . . This way became known as: The Work of Byron Katie® . . . The WorkSM . . . Four questions, etc." Simplistic site and ordinariness said to conceal hidden depths.  Widely respected, benefit of doubt. Gossip link concerns alleged avarice, asking $50K + perks for 3rd world gig

Jean Klein 
  M    1916?-1998 

Jean Klein


"When, by self-inquiry, you find out that the meditator does not exist, all activity becomes pointless and you come to a state of non-attaining, an openness to the unknowable . . . His capacity to transmit in Western terms the truths of Advaita, is unparalleled." Studied music and medicine, left Europe for India seeking an environment that would welcome self-inquiry, etc. Also into yoga. Guru was an unidentified pandit, variously described as Kashmiri and from Bangalore. Led a full long life, cool dude. 

Jiddu Krishnamurti 
  M    1895-1986 

J. Krishnamurti
a critical assessment (scroll down to Sloss for dirt portion)

Brought up to become a great world teacher by Annie Besant of the Theosophical Society but renounced this, turning away all followers. "No organisation should lead or coerce people along any particular path." No path, no method, no gurus. Extremely influential, enlightened, but not directly helpful as guru. Critical site has lots of stuff from TheoSoc + some dirt. Books site has text from all books.

UG Krishnamurti 
(Uppaluri Gopala)
M    1918-2007

"I have no message for mankind." "No gatherings, no lectures, no courses, no method, no mantras, no organization, no office, no secretary, no telephone number, no fax and no fixed address." No relation to J. Krishnamurti. "The Howard Hughes of the guru set." No where. (OK – tough call.) Said to have refused treatment for a bone fracture and waited calmly for death.

Wayne Liquorman 
M   b1948ish
aka Ram Tzu 


American, met guru, Ramesh Balsekar, in 1987. Enlightened in 1989. Author of No Way: For the Spiritually "Advanced."  "Advaita uniquely presented in a modern, humorous, hard-hitting way without compromise, religious dogma, or New Age veneer. . . no cures, exercises, miracles, or techniques. . . nothing to join, nothing to do, nothing to attain." Great "Wayne" interview reveals penetrating other side from acerbic, hard-hitting "Ram Tzu" persona.

Barry Long 
M   1926-2003
 Barry Long

"Western Tantric Master." Australian. Found truth for himself in India at age 31. Dispensed harsh truths about the search and gurus and tantra, singling out sannyasins of Osho for special treatment. Google ad keyword = satsang. Wrote about approaching death, though not penetratingly. Benefit of doubt.

Franklin Merrell-Wolff
  M    1887-1985


American philosopher, mathematician, mystic. Coiner of words like introceptualism, imperience, convincement, etc. "Our most abstract language [mathematics] is the best vehicle of ultimate truth." "Reality is inversely proportional to ponderability." Heavy duty polysyllabism makes him inaccessible to most. Still, has inspired enough to be worthy of respect. 

Richard C Miller
  M   b1946ish 

Richard C Miller

American PhD (CA), combines Yoga, nonduality and Western psychology, mentors = Jean Klein, T.K.V. Desikachar and Stephen Chang. "Yoga Nidra" the main subspecialty, synthesized and updated into iRest, innovative PTSD treatment (among other things) recognised by the Military. Integrative Restoration Institute, etc, runs retreats and trainings. Appears to walk talk. 

Satyam Nadeen 
M   b1938?
aka Michael Clegg
Nadeen    MORE  
Premie angle    
Ecstasy History 

Drug dealer finds awakening in crowded heavy-duty jail, returns to tell us his story, a "comic book about a no-path, no-goal, wake-up call." "Reminds us that we have made a complicated journey out of a simple truth – which can reveal Its Self anywhere." Whatever. Unimpressive. Was apparently off the air for a while due to ego return. Jan 2008 update: Nadeen said to be no longer offering satsang at his river ashram nor at his resort, Pura Vida. "Premie angle" is a Maharaji (Prem Rawat) forum discussion remembering him as a Premie and con man. Ecstasy history traces a general MDMA history, his walk-on part a big distributor.

  F   b1963
aka Katherine

Fire of Truth Satsanga

Polish, based in US, Papaji train. Ramana, Osho, J. Krishnamurti, Mother Meera, Gangaji, etc were influences. In 1994, met Papaji. Realized in 1996, gives "satsangs with his blessings. . . Everything that arises in you – thoughts, feelings, emotions, body sensations – if met with simple willingness, reveal themselves to be Freedom itself, too." Satsangs said to be down-to-earth, non-aggressive. Not much info. Benefit of doubt.

Nisargadatta Maharaj 
  M    1897-1981 
aka Beedie Baba, Maruti Kampli 

"Realized master of the Tantric Nath lineage, wife and four children lived in a small apartment in the slums of Bombay . . . Sold cheap goods on the streets outside his tenement. A telling parable of the absolute nonduality of Being." Author of the classic I Am That. Enormous impact in world of Advaita. 

Master Nome
  M   b1955 
(aka Jeffrey Smith)

Nome - SAT
    MORE (–ve, exes testify) FEEDBACK (+ve)

American, Society of Abidance in Truth. Long partnership with brother Russell, with "backgrounds in Advaita Vedanta and Ch'an (Sudden Awakening school of Zen) Buddhism respectively, both awakened by the Teaching of [and borrowing the authority of] Ramana Maharshi." Now Russell is involved with his wife Helga in her enterprise, since 404'd, with Russ and Helga in (X). Nome supposedly teaches Ramana-style Advaita. Once upon a time, appeared to be a no-nonsense dynamic duo, but damning reports from exes now damaging rep . . . (never mind the back-and-forth lawsuits, see MORE).

Toni Packer 
  F   1927-2013


German based in upstate NY. "The simplicity of being here without any sense of separation, and responding out of silent, empty listening cannot be captured in a definition, a word, a label. Defining oneself in any way harbors dangers . . . Questioning can bring about a wholeness of being – a freshness of living, out of which may spring understanding, love and compassion." Started with Roshi Philip Kapleau, left zen formality and ritual. Not much bio, good vibe and rep. Off-site Obit

Papaji   M   1910-1997 
aka Sri HWL Poonja

TALES   Critical (long and mixed)

"Realized the Truth when he was 8 years old. This Realization infinitely blossomed in his early 30’s when he met his Guru, Ramana." Just sitting and being and self-enquiry, is the teaching. Articulate master with "thousands of ways to stop your mind, to help you inquire into who you really are, etc." Inspires instant enlightenments, many since recanted. Some doubt about self-appointed successors but major influence.  Site re-org* in '08 adopted lower profile, cut some successors loose.

Tony Parsons   M   b1945ish 
aka Sw Bodhisattva

Tony Parsons

Brit author ("Open Secret") offers workshops, no bio-info, and "no special states of bliss, stillness or presence are on offer . . . You will not be invited to look within and discover 'your true nature' or that state of awareness which promises so much but comes and goes so quickly. There are no spiritual lollipops of any kind on offer here." Was Osho sannyasin but that not acknowledged. Hard-line nothing-to-do wallah, benefit of doubt. REPORT 

Ramana Maharshi
   M    1879-1950
aka Venkataraman Iyer


Teaching of Self-enquiry. "Through his silence devotees experience the pure bliss of True Being." "No outward formalities, only a simple change in 'point of view' and a sustained effort on the part of the seeker." Giant whose body-time recedes but influence grows. Classic pix from Life Mag.

Shri Ranjit Maharaj 
  M    1913-2000



Indian. "Happiness cannot be achieved by external objects or persons . . . Real Happiness is within. I have gathered these thoughts from my guru Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj. I bow down to the feet of my Guru as long as I live." Devotional advaita? Said to have awakened young, waiting and assimilating many years before entering teaching. "I don't exist, and that's the pleasure in it." Widely respected.  Not much info. Benefit of doubt.

Sailor Bob   M   b1933ish 
aka Bob Adamson

  Sailor Bob

Australian. Guru Nisargadatta told him the greatest help that can be given to anyone is to take them beyond the need for further help. "…This Nisargadatta did by pointing to the reality, the actuality, THAT I AM. Now, I abide as THAT." Feels right, mature, straight. Semi-ret, some disciples in the biz.

Phil Servedio*
  M   b1957
Phil Servedio

American. Site is "a real life journal on the experience of Self-Realization." Did the tour of Ramana, Adi Da, Gangaji, Arjuna, U.G. Krishnamurti, David Wheeler, Ramesh Balsekar, Guru Maharaji, Advaita, Dzogchen and more. Hopes to be of help. Benefit of doubt.

Dr Vijai S Shankar
  M   b1952ish
Shankar - Advaita

WIE interview

Anti (GR Forum)

Indian medico was based in Texas, disappeared, resurfacing in Holland. Influenced by Nisargadatta, Ramana and both Sai Babas. Used to tout discovery of a fifth state of consciousness, "TURIYATITA," literally "beyond the fourth," and formerly highest, unnameable state of consciousness. New site in seven languages as impersonal "Advaita Publications." "It is the illusory which can be understood, and this is the world, man and the mind, as proclaimed by the sages." Pretentious crap, no bio, unsavoury rumours.

Isaac Shapiro 
  M   b1950 
Isaac Shapiro

South African based in Australia and Germany. First met Papaji in 1991. Next year,  "Papaji told Isaac that he had found the Diamond and to assist seekers from all around the world . . . Everything just is, and we are surrounded by freedom – we are freedom itself." More instant Papaji, benefit of doubt. One-time Kalki association may be overblown, does not offer deeksha. Now downplaying master-disciple trappings, Satsang ==> "meetings"

Shri Samartha / Sadguru Siddharameshwar Maharaj 
  M  1888-1936 S'rameshwar

"One of the greatest unknown saints of the age . . . Understanding of Final Reality should be taught in a very simple language without using high sounding or bombastic words, to make the people understand the Ultimate Reality." Nisargadatta's and Ranjit's guru. Apparently very much into effort in his own realization. Now getting wider western recognition. A smoker too, but nobody's perfect.

Alexander Smit
M  1948-1998QUOTE  
Awakening Interview

Dutch disciple of Nisargadatta. Apparently well-respected throughout Europe. Never had a website, except in Dutch. See also sites of his disciples Jan Koehoorn and Volker Hinten. Dutch bilingual advaita mag Am1gos is also a good source. The legend grows.

Swami Tejomayananda
 M  b1955ish
Chinmaya Mission

Indian, "fulfilling the vision that Swami Chinmayananda charted: 'I am not in Swamiji’s shoes, I am at his feet'." Heads big org making formerly elitist Vedanta available to common people, author, translator. Seems to be capable successor, benefit of doubt.

Eckhart Tolle 
M   b1948 
aka Ulrich Tolle
MORE (WIE interview)
neg book reviews in GRF, pulled from Amazon

German based in Vancouver. Age 29 "profound spiritual transformation, the next years devoted to integration." On, eg, relationship: "If you accept that relationship is here to make you conscious instead of happy, then the relationship will offer you salvation. For those who hold to the old patterns, there will be increasing pain, violence, confusion, and madness." Big book = Power of Now, satsangs, workshops, varied approach. Not much info. Some disciples also in the biz. Sterling rep, benefit of doubt. Some history in this interview, including Barry Long in 80's, said to have inspired him to become a spiritual teacher, and MORE history, a jaded view

Metta Zetty 
  F   b1957ish

Metta Zetty

"A business consultant and mother . . . transformed by an extraordinary experience of spiritual awakening. Throughout her life. . . fundamental questions of meaning and purpose. . . experienced a sudden and profound insight into the nondual nature of Reality." Young, ordinary, benefit of doubt.

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