Sarlo's Guru Rating Service
(presumed historical)

The greats in this category are thought mostly to have existed, and not only that, been enlightened. They are from many different traditions and streams, some working within their contemporary systems, some outside. The six streams or subcategories i have divided them into are Christian, Indian, Sufi, Tibetan, Zen/Ch'an and Misc, the last consisting of Greeks, Taoists and a smattering of others.
Dates are given when available but their presumed historicity cannot always be so "validated." Avatars, Messiahs, saints, great yogis, masters and sages, all here for your inspiration across the centuries, although a discernable living lineage to the present may be tenuous. Devotional types will have the best chance of connecting with these guys. Omitted are Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and the usual gang of founders. Not many women here, but such was life in the patriarchal lane. Suggestions? Feedback.
For obvious reasons, these figures will most often appeal to those who have a greater regard for both the general idea of tradition and for a particular one. For an examination of how tradition can be of positive or negative value in assessing gurus, click here.
A background note: more and more of these folks are ending up with their story best told by good ol' Wikipedia. As their enthusiasts get tired or places like Geocities fold, WP is the final repository of decently reliable info, if incomplete. So it goes. We now return you to our regularly scheduled drivel.
Some descriptive information is included. Some sites have very little information but may be followed up via a book or other inspiration. A yellow asterisk (*) = suggested or located by visitor, thank you.

Jacob Boehme M 1575-1624 Xian mystic, writer never published in lifetime due to threats from authorities but really pretty tame
Nicholas of Cusa M 1401-1464 German aka Niclas Krebs cardinal, mystic, mathematician, created a mathematical / theological theory of infinity, Eckhart
Dionysius * M c190-265 bishop of Alexandria. Page is Osho excerpt, links to others
Meister Eckhart* M 1260-1327/8 German aka Eckhart von Hochheim widely influential Dominican mystic though accused of heresy. Page is Wiki page, linked to many sources
Francis of Assisi M 1181(?)-1226 Xian mystic known for rapport with animals
George Fox M 1624-1691 English founder of the Quaker movement, aka Religious Society of Friends, insisted on finding truth within, discouraged hierarchy, intermediary priesthood, reliance on scripture, etc
Hadewijch of Antwerp/Brabant F dc1260 Dutch Xian "love mystic," poet known only by letters
Hildegard von Bingen F 1098-1179, Xian mystic and author
St John of the Cross M 1542-1591 Xian mystic, classic author
Brother Lawrence M c1605-1691 Carmelite monk/mystic aka Nicholas Herman, "Practice of the Presence of God."
Mechthild of Magdeburg F c1207-1294, German Beguine mystic, author of "Flowing light of the Godhead," 7 vols
Marguerite Porète F ?-1310 French Beguine mystic, author burned as heretic
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite M late 5th c Syrian(?) Xian author, cross-pollinator synthesized (neo-)Platonist and pagan writings into Xianity
Emanuel Swedenborg M 1688-1772 Swedish visionary, scientist, philospher, theologian, multi-author.
Jan van Ruysbroeck* M 1293-1381 Flemish Xian mystic, contemplative author also heretic basher. Page is in Wikipedia
Teresa of Avila F 1515-1582 Spanish Carmelite nun

Abhinavagupta M c 950-c1020, important philosopher/mystic and creative polymath, especially of Kashmir Shaivism.
Sri Nadadur Ammal M author, 1165-1275
Bhartrihari* M c 5th c Skt grammarian (considered impt to maintaining the sacredness of the language).
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu* M 1486-1534 incarnation of Krishna asa Caitanya, aka Visvambhar Mishra, Bengali monk led reform bhakti movement, traveled widely, settled in Puri
Dattatreya* M avatarish ancient Tantric figure poss c 2000 BCE, author of Avadhuta Gita and Tripura Rahasya.
Gaudapada * c 8th c "the philosophical grandfather of Shankara," see also Bhartrihari's page. Page is of sutras
Guru Gobind Singh Ji M warrior-prince, 10th guru of Sikhs
Siri Guru Harkrishan Dev Ji M 8th Guru of Sikhs (with links to others) b1656
Jnaneshvar M aka Jnanadeva 13th c mystic/poet nondualist
Kabir M 1398-1518, poet/mystic
Sri Krishna M c3000 BC, "Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, I descend Myself to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants."
Lalla* F b1357 Kashmiri mystic, poetry, went around naked, "claimed" by both Moslems and Hindus. aka Lal Ded, Lalleshwari, Lalla Yogeshwari. Site has various articles with different povs
Madhusudana Sarasvati* M c1540-1640 bhakta philospher turned advaita logician, author of Advaitasiddhi.
Sri Madhvacharya* M c1238-1317 Dvaita Vedanta exponent, God highest then mortals ranked by devotion, Pancha-bheda = five real and eternal distinctions, "third incarnation of Vāyu (Mukhyaprāṇa), after Hanumān and Bhīma."
Mahadeviyakka* F 12th c South Indian Siva bhakti poet, wandering naked ascetic blew off marriage to the king to celebrate celestial marriage
Mirabai F 1498-1535 Rajputani poet, dancer, Krishna devotee, said to have disappeared into a Krishna idol when persecuted
Nagarjuna M c150-250 major Buddhist commentator promulgated sunyata, or emptiness
Namadeva* M c1270-1350 poet-saint famous for abhangas, buddy of Jnanadeva above. Site has refreshing non-hagiographical bio
Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji M 1469-1539 founder of Sikh religion
Nandanar M Tamil Shiva devotee no bio-info, save Dalit, various vintages BCE given.
Patanjali M c300 BC, Yoga Sutras author
Ramananda* M 1400-1470ish, influential Ram-Bhakti reformer, guru of Kabir.
Sri Ramanujacharya* M 1017-1137 Vishishtadvaita school of Vedanta, social reformer, ditched wife when she freaked out over R's guru's wife's caste
Shri Samarth Ramdas M 1608-1681 Ram chanting, temples, "Dasbodh" author
Ribhu* no bio sage author of Ribhu Gita. Page is anecdote told by Ramana
Akkalkot Niwasi Shree Swami Samarth Maharaj M Indian c1275-1878(!) aka Shrimad Nrusimha Saraswati, incarnation of Lord Dattatreya, 250 years in termite hill, disciples said to include Ramakrishna and Shirdi Sai Baba
Adi Sankara M c805-837 great treatises on Advaita Vedanta, etc, major influence on Hinduism
Saraha M 8th c "re-founder" of Tantra (evolved into Mahamudra) brahmin learned from low-caste woman to be total in moment
Srimad Athivan Satakopan M 1379-1458 aka Srinivasacharya, founded Jeeyars, order of mendicant sadhus based in Ahobilam
Thayumanavar M 1706-1744 prolific psalm-writer
Tirugnanasambandar* M 7th c poet wrote tons of songs devoted to Shiva. New URL is a Brahmin msg board discussion
Srimad Ananda Tîrtha M d1317 aka Sukha Tîrtha, Pûrnabodha, Pûrnapragnya and Madhva, sannyas at 11, debater, miracle-worker, etc
Tukaram M 1608-1649 composer of thousands of Marathi devotional song-poems, called abhangs
Goswami Tulsidas* M 1532-1623 Rama devotee, renunciate, poet and author of Hindi version of Ramayana, reincarnation of Valmiki (author of original Ramayana).
Vasugupta* M late 8th to early 9th c expounder of the Shiva Sutra, "originator" of Kashmir Shaivism. Page chez Wikipedia, has 860-925

Baal Shem Tov M Jewish mystic 1698-1760, founder of Hassid movement
Chuang-tzu M Chinese various dates dc286 BC aka Zhuang Zi / Zhou / Chou, Taoist "successor" of Lao Tzu (not directly but collected eponymous writings had similar heft)
Heraclitus M 535-475 BC, Greek philosopher/mystic
Ko Hsuan * M 3rd c (?) Taoist, not much known. Page is Osho commentary
Lao Tzu * Chinese 6th c BC, author of Taoist classic Tao Te Ching. Page has this complete
Lieh-Tzu M 4th c BC influential Chinese Taoist aka Lieh Yu-Kou
Oyasama F Japanese 1797-1888 aka Miki Nakayama, mind replaced by that of God the Parent, taught the "Joyous Life," org = Tenrikyo
Plotinus M 204-270 Greek non-dualist, author of Enneades
Pythagoras M 6th c BC Greek mystic and mathematician
Socrates M b c470 BC Greek philosopher/mystic, offed by authorities
Walt Whitman M 1819-1892 American poet, free spirit. Site focuses mostly on poetry, not much bio, see also complete poems 
Zoroaster M c630-c550 BC Persian aka Zarathustra, first organised religion, survives (modified) among Parsis in Bombay aka Mumbai

Shaikh al-'Arabi ad-Darqawi M, founded Sufi order in North Africa in 13th century
Al-Hallaj, Abu al-Mughith al-Husayn ibn Mansur M Persian Sufi c858-922 executed as heretic: "Ana al-Haqq" = "I am the truth."
Al-Junayd al-Baghdadi M early Sufi d908 "sober" mysticism in contrast to that of "God-intoxicated" Sufis, wrote Kitab al-Fana' ("Book of the Annihilation of the Self"). Page in Wiki has links to others
Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani M 1075-1166 Iraqi, major Sufi, founder of Qadiri Order
Sahl ibn 'Abdallah al-Tustari M d896 memorized Quran by age 7, super ascetic, commentaries on Quran and others
Farid ud-Din Attar* M 1145-1221? aka Abū Hamīd bin Abū Bakr Ibrāhīm, Attar Neyshapuri, Persian mystic poet, author of classic Conference of the Birds, also Biographies of the Saints
Bayazid-i Bistami M c800-874 Persian "intoxicated Sufi"
Haji Bektash Veli M d 1337? Turkish "founder" of big Alevi-Bektasi dervish order whose women were and are unusually liberated and which survived much persecution
Yunus Emre M c1240-c1320 Turkish poet of humanitarian bent
Hafiz M 1320ish-1389ish aka Khwajah Shams al-Din Muhammad Ibn-i Muhammad of Shiraz Persian Sufi poet, composed over 500 high-quality ghazals
Ibn 'Arabi M 1165-1240, Moorish Spain, visionary Sufi poet
Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti* M 1141-1230 aka Gharib Nawaz founded Chishti Order, main Sufi order in India based in Ajmer, celebrates music more than most Muslim groups
Mojud * M no dates Sufi who followed Khidr from pillar to post. Page is Osho discourse excerpt
Ahmed er Rifa'i M 1118-1181 Iraqi founder of Rifa'i Order, cousin of al-Qadir, Turkish branch merged with Qadiri
Moulana Jalaluddin Rumi M 1207-1273 Persian scholar turned mystic, major poet now quoted everywhere, whirler, love as path, Shams
Rabi´a al-Adawiyya F 717-801 aka Rabia al Basri, Rabi`a al-Qaysiyya, Iraqi kidnapped into slavery, won freedom through prayer, major Sufi figure
Shams-i Tabriz M d1248? Sufi mystic poet, guru of Rumi, murdered (?) by Rumi's jealous disciples. Page is book bumpf of Me and Rumi, Shams' "autobio"

Atisha Dipankara M Indian 982-1051, brought Buddhism to Tibet. Site has a lot of material and commentaries.
Gampopa M 1079-1153 Tibetan Kagyu "most famous disciple of Jetsun Milarepa," master of first Karmapa
Je Tsongkhapa M Tibetan 1357-1419 aka Losang Drakpa, Gelugpa founder, fulfilled many prophecies
Longchenpa M 1308-1363 aka Longchen Rabjampa, major Nyingmapa author unified divergent streams, Rigdzin Kumararaja
Jetsun Milarepa M 11th c Tibetan, yogi, Marpa. Site is comic-book bio
Naropa M 10th c Tibetan, Tilopa, guru of Marpa
Padmasambhava M 8th c Indian aka Guru Rinpoche first brought Buddhism to Tibet, bio inseparable from mythology. Page has links to other "versions"
Patrul Rinpoche M Tibetan 1808-1887 Dzogchen. Page is reprimand to himself
Tilopa M 988-1069 Indian, many gurus, guru of Naropa, starting Karma Kagyu lineage (Karmapas), history semi-mythological
Yeshé Tsogyel F 9th c asa Tsogyal, consort, first disciple and compiler of Padmasambhava, major female archetypal yogini, Nyingma

Bankei Yotaku Zenji* M 1622-1693 Japanese rebellious as child. "original mind is the Unborn; and is always present, though obscured, and its activities, when unhindered, are perfectly natural," Umpo, Tao-che
Bassui Tokusho Zenji* M 1327-1387 Japanese, teachings  collected in Arthur Braverman's "Mud and Water," Tokukei 
Chien-chih Seng-ts'an* M c600, Chinese author of classic Hsin Hsin Ming, aka Seng-ts'an, Sosan, 3rd Patriarch of zen. Page has full text of HHM
Chinul M 1158-1210, Korean zen reformer. Page has a good history / overview of zen.
Chiyono F 1223-1298 Japanese nun aka Mugai Nyodai, "No water, no moon," Bukko.
Cold Mountain M Chinese 618-690 (8th c?) aka Han Shan, Kanzan, zen poet, hermit, world-class poems, no bio
Dengyo Daishi M 9th c Japanese founder of Tendai Buddhism. Site is a miscellany of thoughts of current practitioners
Dogen Zenji M 1200-1253, major Japanese Soto zen master, brought Soto to Japan
Dongshan Liangjie* M 806-869 Chinese Soto zen founder aka Tung-shan Liang-chieh, Tozan Ryokai. Page cached by The Wanderling
Hakuin Ekaku M Japanese 1686-1769 big Rinzai reformer overcame early Nichiren influence, systematized koan practice, Shoju
Hongzhi Zhenjue M Chinese 1091-1157 aka Hung-chih Cheng-chueh, Wanshi Shogaku, poet, Caodong school (Soto predecessor). Page in Dutch
Huang Po M Chinese d850 aka Obaku, Wobaku Kiun, lineage: Hui Hai > HP > Rinzai (Lin Chi)
Hui Neng* M 638-713 Chinese, 6th zen patriarch. Page cached by The Wanderling
Dazu Huike* M 487-593 2nd zen patriarch aka Hui-k’o, Taiso Eka, began, with Bodhidharma, the Zen trend of sudden enlightenment.
Hyakujo Ekai M Chinese 720-814 aka Baizhang Huaihai,  Pai-chang Huai-hai, created shingi or rules of deportment used in monasteries. Page is an anecdote
Ikkyu Sojun* M Japanese 1394-1481 aka Kyounshi, Crazy Cloud, Rinzai poet, artist, calligrapher, shakuhachi, "radically egalitarian" iconoclast specializing in crazy-wise and erotica
Joshu M b778 Chinese zen master. Page is small commentary
Kakuan Shion 12th c aka Kuo-an Chi-yuan composed the ten verses and pictures of the Ox-herding series, classic Zen allegory based on an earlier Taoist version of eight, Daizui Genjô (1065-1135) MORE 
Keizan Jokin Zenji M 1268-1325 Japanese Soto zen
Kyozan Ejaku* M 807-883 aka Yangshan Huiji, Yang-shan Hui-chi, disciple of Isan. Page is an Osho book excerpt
Ma Tsu * M 708/9-788? Chinese aka Mazu Daoyi, major zen figure two "generations" descended from Hui Neng, guru of Hyakujo and others
Rinzai Gigen M d866/7 Chinese monk aka Lin Chi, "Rinzai zen" founder, major figure
Ryokan Taigu* M 1758-1831 Japanese, young monk became hermit, major poet, poems transcribed only in last years by young lover Teishin, also a poet.
Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien* M Chinese 700-790 aka Shitou Xiqian, Sekito Kisen, poet, Soto Zen precursor, Hui Neng. Page cached by The Wanderling
Shih-wu M Chinese 1272-1352 hermit poet aka Stonehouse, "Mountain Poems." Page incl links
Ta Hui (Tsung-kao) M 1089-1163 Chinese, developed and expanded use of koans, Yuan-wu K'o-ch'in. Long page fitting him in his place in Ch'an
Takuan Soho* M 1573-1645 Japanese zen abbot into calligraphy, poetry, swordsmanship, author of "Unfettered Mind," etc
Yakusan Igen* M 750-834? aka Yaoshan Weiyan, Yueh-shan Wei-yen disciple of Sekito. Page is an Osho book excerpt
Yuan-wu* M 1063-1135 Chinese aka Engo compliler of the Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku) of Koans, Wu-tsu Fa-yen, heirs include Ta Hui. Page is a talk of Tarrant Roshi
Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh M Chinese 665-713 aka Yongjia Xuanjue, Yoka Genkaku, etc, major poet, "Song of Enlightenment," heir of 6th patriarch Hui-neng

Navigation: Site Map   Home