Enlightened people have attained the spiritual state of liberation–they are consciously aware of their oneness with the infinite.
How Enlightened People Can Help You Spiritually
Freedom From the Ego
A person who has yet to begin the spiritual journey is completely identified with the ego. You mistake it for who you are. The ego keeps you trapped on the surface of life in a false sense of separateness from everything you perceive. You are obsessed with endless thoughts and desires, unaware of the deeper reality.
The spiritual journey is the process of freeing yourself from the ego’s control. The ego is formed by karma (or past conditioning). Through grace and spiritual practices you can gradually dissolve past conditioning, which weakens and eventually destroys the ego allowing you to attain liberation.
You have accrued a vast amount of karma during your many past incarnations. Without the intervention of an enlightened being it takes much longer for you to find the spiritual path and dissolve your past conditioning.
Going Beyond Thought
The ego maintains control over your awareness through an endless stream of banal thoughts. Most people are so accustomed to thinking that they incorrectly believe that the divine is found through ideas (or spiritual beliefs).
Yet only by learning how to still the mind, and go beyond the limitations of thought, can you connect with the deeper reality. It is your constant contact with the deeper reality that gradually dissolves your past conditioning and enables you to make true spiritual progress.
Learning Spiritual Practices
A spiritual master will often give guidance in a particular spiritual practice that you can use to still the mind and connect with the deeper reality. Some examples of effective spiritual practices are kriya yoga, self-enquiry, or focusing on the present moment.
A useful spiritual practice is invaluable. Yet there is much more that a spiritual master can teach you.
Exposure to the Enlightened State
Simply by being exposed to a spiritual master’s energy (or enlightened presence) your own energetic body learns how to attune to the deeper reality.
You are exposed to a master’s enlightened presence when you are in his physical company, looking at his image, or reading his teachings. And that is why I’ve provided you this list of enlightened beings.
Types of Enlightened People
The various spiritual traditions have different ways of describing liberated souls. The following classifications for enlightened people is based on their level of spiritual responsibility and is borrowed in part from the teachings of Meher Baba.
The World Savior (or original soul) incarnates periodically, every 700 to 1,400 years. He has the greatest spiritual responsibility to help all living beings draw closer to the divine. Some examples of World Saviors are Ram, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Meher Baba.
The Perfect Master (or Sadguru or Qutub) has a profound spiritual responsibility, though not as great as the World Savior.There are always five Perfect Masters incarnate on the planet. They use the infinite knowledge, power, and bliss of the divine for the benefit of those still trapped in illusion (or maya). And through their divine office they have the power to control illusion.
An Avatar is born enlightened and is given a significant spiritual task, though not as vast as a world savior. Some examples of avatars are Babaji, the Dalai Lama, and Mother Meera.
A realized soul attains liberation during his lifetime. The level of spiritual responsibility varies among realized souls. Most can only help one other person attain liberation. Some examples of realized souls are Paramahansa Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, and Nisargadatta.
How Many People are Enlightened?
Enlightenment is rare, regardless of memes or the claims of the misinformed. And only a small number of liberated souls take on the responsibility of being spiritual teachers.
According to Meher Baba there are only fifty-six spiritual masters alive on the planet at any one time. Forty-eight of them are unknown to the public. That means only eight people on the planet are liberated and known to be spiritual teachers.
Unfortunately, the majority of people claiming to be enlightened are lying. A spiritual charlatan can manipulate a handful of people or even millions into believing he has attained liberation.
Why This List of Spiritual Masters is Accurate
There are a number of lists of enlightened people on other websites. But most people have not advanced far enough along the spiritual path to ascertain another person’s spiritual state. The best they can do is guess. They assume that just because a lot of people believe someone is enlightened that it must be true.
At the beginning of my spiritual journey I could not discern the spiritual state of those claiming to be enlightened. And the first person I meditated with on a regular basis turned out to be the worst kind of spiritual teacher. So take care and choose your spiritual teacher carefully.
Later I found my true spiritual path and received a great deal of assistance from Mother Meera, Meher Baba, and others. Through grace, I progressed along the path and eventually learned how to tell if a spiritual teacher is enlightened.
Now I don’t have to guess about someone’s spiritual state. And I’ve found that Meher Baba’s numbers are accurate. The number of living enlightened teachers is very small. I wish it were different. Each time I hear about a new spiritual teacher I research him only to be disappointed.
Which Enlightened People Are in This List
The people on the the following list are enlightened. Many of them have helped me progress spiritually through their teachings and grace, and they can benefit you as well. A condensed list of my favorite enlightened teachers can be found in my first book Into the Formless.
This list does not incorporate all the enlightened teachers throughout history. Yet I have made a point of including all the known living spiritual teachers who are actually enlightened. If a spiritual teacher is currently living and is not on this list, there is a good reason.
I hope you benefit greatly from this list of liberated souls. It exists for your benefit, so you aren’t mislead by charlatans and delayed in your spiritual development.
LIST OF ENLIGHTENED PEOPLE
- Anandamayi Ma
- Dalai Lama
- Eckhart Tolle
- Hazrat Babajan
- Jesus Christ
- Lahiri Mahasaya
- Lakshmana Swamy
- Mathru Sri Sarada
- Meher Baba
- Mirra Alfassa
- Mother Mary
- Mother Meera
- Narayan Maharaj
- Paramahansa Yogananda
- Ramana Maharshi
- Sai Baba of Shirdi
- Adi Shankara
- Tajuddin Baba
- Trailanga Swami
- Upasni Maharaj
- Sri Yukteswar
DESCRIPTION OF EACH SPIRITUAL MASTER
Anandamayi Ma was a modern spiritual teacher who dropped the body in 1982.
In the photos of Anandamayi Ma, she is often absorbed in ecstatic bliss.
Her teachings emphasize walking the spiritual path in daily life. She did not emphasize a particular spiritual approach other than making time each day to go within an communicate with the divine.
I can feel her subtle, still, and sweet enlightened presence while looking at her photos or reading her teachings. A seeker learns how to connect with the deeper reality by being exposed to the enlightened presence of a spiritual master.
You can learn more about Anandamayi Ma, including her teachings and life history, at www.anandamayi.org.
Aurobindo Ghose lived an extraordinary life. He was born in Calcultta in 1872 and educated in England. He became part of the Indian independence movement and was eventually arrested in 1908.
During his year in prison Aurobindo had a spiritual experience. Vivekananda visited him for two weeks and taught him about higher consciousness.
Aurobindo moved to Pondicherry, India to avoid the persecution of the British. There he began his spiritual writings in 1914.
He attracted spiritual followers and in 1926 the Sri Aurobindo Ashram was formed. The ashram was run by Mirra Alfassa who Aurobindo considered his spiritual equal.
How to learn more about Sri Aurobindo and his teachings
You can download all of Sri Aurobindo’s writings at his ashram website.
I have learned much about the spiritual path from Aurobindo’s writings. In Aurobindo’s book The Mother he explains that a seeker progresses spiritually through the descent of grace, total surrender to the divine, and the conscious rejection of the lower nature. He explains the different aspects of the Divine Mother that are present in creation. And he emphasizes that the grace of the Divine Mother is essential for spiritual transformation.
In A Practical Guide to Integral Yoga, Aurobindo describes the spiritual opposition that he and Sweet Mother had to overcome, from what he calls adverse forces, in order to accomplish their spiritual work. He also explains how adverse forces act to prevent our spiritual progress and how we can overcome them.
Aurobindo taught that the goal of a seeker’s spiritual practice should be more than just liberation from the endless cycle of rebirths. He should also assist in the evolutionary transformation of the world through a descent of the divine into this world.
In the book The Mother by Adilashmi, Mother Meera describes her spiritual experiences while attending the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. She was there as a child after Aurobindo and Sweet Mother had dropped their physical bodies. In one vision she describes the spiritual work started by Sri Aurobindo. And I believe that work is being continued by Mother Meera through the descent of the Paramatman light.
On another blog post you can read my favorite quotes by Sri Aurobindo.
Babaji is an immortal avatar. He maintains his physical form on earth and does not age.
Babaji is described in Paramahansa Yogananda’s book Autobiography of a Yogi.
According to Yogananda, simply repeating Babaji’s name brings a spiritual blessing.
The Buddha is the title given to Siddhārtha Gautama. His spiritual teachings became the foundation of Buddhism, the fourth largest religion in the world.
Gautama’s life story and teachings were shared by word of mouth for the first three centuries after his death. Many Buddhists believe he was born into a royal family. Then at the age of 29 he became a spiritual renunciant in search of the truth. And after years of arduous spiritual practice he attained liberation.
The Buddha taught that all people suffer because they are ignorant of the causes of suffering. Through mindfulness and what he called the Noble Eightfold Path you can bring an end to suffering and attain liberation.
According to Meher Baba, Gautama was an incarnation of the world savior who had the universal spiritual responsibility to help all life forms in creation.
How to learn more about the Buddha and his teachings
You can learn about the Buddha’s life and teachings by watching the documentary The Buddha narrated by Richard Gere and by reading the book Old Path White Cloud by Thich Nhat Hanh. You can access them online for free.
Buddhism is a man-made religion. Over the centuries there have been various interpretations of Guatama’s original teachings. I have found the books and talks by Dalai Lama to be helpful in assimilating the nuances and depths of Buddhism.
The Dalai Lama is the head of the Yellow Hat school of Tibetan Buddhism. And he is regarded by many Buddhists to be the spiritual leader of Tibet.
My Impression of the Dalai Lama
Here is an excerpt from my book Into the Formless that describes my first encounter with the Dalai Lama:
“Soon thereafter, I found out that the Dalai Lama was coming to town to give a teaching. I knew little about him, only that he is a Buddhist and enlightened. I decided to attend in hope of discovering a way to regain my health.
Upon opening the door to the auditorium where the Dalai Lama was speaking, I encountered the most powerful energy I had ever felt. It seemed as though I was suddenly much closer to the sun. I sat down and listened to him speak through a translator. After a while, I closed my eyes to meditate and had a vision of my third eye, the sixth chakra located in the forehead. I had been given a glimpse into the deeper reality.
After that, I became a seeker. I read many enlightened teachings and tried various spiritual practices in a search for the truth. I began an entirely new life, one with real meaning and purpose. Whenever the Dalai Lama returned to the city to give a teaching, I would attend.”
I have been to twelve spiritual talks by the Dalai Lama during his visits to Los Angeles. He has made a huge impact on my spiritual development.
Through the Dalai Lama I learned the importance of compassion for all life forms that, like us, want happiness and to avoid suffering. I learned how to access the energetic state of emptiness. And I learned the importance of preparing for the moment of death when each of us has the opportunity to merge with the infinite and attain liberation.
How to learn more about the Dalai Lama and his teachings
At the official website of the Dalai Lama you can read his biography and find out about his scheduled talks.
The Dalai Lama has written many books. My favorite is The Path to Enlightenment.
Eckhart Tolle is one of the most popular spiritual teachers alive on the planet. And fortunately for us he is actually enlightened.
What a blessing Eckhart Tolle provides to so many people who are searching for the truth and don’t know where to turn. Eckhart Tolle is good place to start if you are dissatisfied with your spiritual progress and you feel that something is missing from the teachings you receive at your church, synagogue, or mosque.
Each enlightened being has a spiritual responsibility. And no doubt that Eckhart Tolle’s role, at least in part, is to start a large number of people on the true spiritual path. Meher Baba describes this as the point that a person begins to perceive the energetic plane of reality. Plainly speaking this means the point when you can perceive reality without the use of the physical senses.
Eckhart Tolle does a good job of teaching people how to perceive the energetic plane by focusing on the present moment, a zen spiritual practice. It is important to note that Eckhart Tolle attained liberation all of a sudden, without using a spiritual practice. So even thought he teaches people to focus on the now, he did not use that approach to attain liberation.
How to learn more about Eckhart Tolle and his teachings
Eckhart Tolle’s Books
I would suggest that any serious seeker read Tolle’s two most popular spiritual books: The Power of Now and A New Earth. Tolle narrates the books, so you will gain just as much by listening to them as reading them. His enlightened presence infuses the words on the page and the words that he speaks. And being exposed to an enlightened presence is far more important than understanding concepts.
By being exposed to an enlightened presence your energetic body will learn how to attune to it energetic plane of reality, and that is the true spiritual path. Concepts can at best point you to the deeper reality, and most often they keep you trapped within the limitations of the ego-controlled mind. And you will find that Eckhart Tolle returns to his important aspect of the spiritual journey repeatedly in his teachings.
Eckhart Tolle’s Videos
Eckhart Tolle has a subscription website that contain videos starting in 2007. Each month there is a longer main talk as well as shorter questions and answers with his student. I’ve watched all of the main talks he has given each month. The insights will give you guidance in how to interact with the world of maya while also being a seeker of truth. And more importantly they will teach you how to attune to the deeper reality.
There are many videos of Eckhart Tolle available online. Perhaps the best one to watch first is an interview with Eckhart Tolle he did toward the beginning of his teaching career. It is my favorite. Hopefully the link will still be active when you find this post.
Eckhart Tolle’s popularity has created a lot of copycat spiritual teachers. If you watch interviews with spiritual teachers you will notice a similarity between the story of how they supposedly attained liberation and the account Tolle provides of his actual enlightenment experience. That is because many fakers see Eckhart Tolle’s story and teaching style as something they can emulate in order to convince others that they too have attained liberation.
Khāwje Shams-od-Dīn Moḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī was a Persian poet who lived in the fourteenth century. He took the pen name Hafiz that means one who has memorized the Quran.
Meher Baba was a great admirer of Hafiz, calling him a Perfect Master as well as a great poet.
“There is no barrier between the lover and Beloved; Hafiz,
lift yourself aside, you are yourself the covering over Self.”
Hazrat Babajan was a perfect master and a teacher of Meher Baba.
Her life story can be found in one of the early chapters in the book Lord Meher by Bhau Kalchuri.
Jesus Christ was an incarnation of the world savior. Many Christians have drawn closer to the divine through the grace of Jesus.
Looking at Jesus and His Teachings in a New Way
The life and spiritual teachings of Jesus are represented, at least in part, in the Holy Bible. Over the millennia a common view of Jesus and his message has become accepted dogma within mainstream Christianity. Among other things, we are taught that faith is the goal of the Christian spiritual path. And we have to wait until we die before we can be with Jesus.
The truth has been obscured. You can find it by simply opening your heart and mind.
How to learn more about Jesus Christ and his teachings
My Articles on Jesus
I have written several other posts about Jesus Christ and how important he has been to my spiritual journey.
In one of the posts, I talk about the difference between Jesus and the man-made Christian religion. And I describe how each of us can learn how to create a deep internal connection with Jesus now. You don’t have to wait until you drop the physical body to feel his presence and grace.
In another post I talk about the love of Jesus Christ and how it can teach you how to go beyond the limitations of the thinking mind to experience the divine directly.
You can also read my favorite quotes from Jesus Christ in the Holy Bible.
Learning About Jesus From Other Enlightened People
My relationship with Jesus changed profoundly after reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s book The Second Coming of Christ. Yogananda was an enlightened spiritual teacher from India. He was not indoctrinated into the commonly held western ideas about Jesus and his teachings. And Yogananda’s enlightened state provides a unique insight in Jesus that is invaluable to any Christian.
Eckhart Tolle talks about the deeper meaning of Jesus’ teachings that are unknown or misinterpreted by most Christians. For instance, when Jesus said, ” Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin” he was referring to the importance of living in the present moment.
Krishna was an incarnation of the world savior. His teachings are found in the famous spiritual classic The Bhagavad Gita.
Lahiri Mahasaya was an enlightened sage who resided in Varanasi, India and dropped the body in 1895.
Lahiri had a profound spiritual influence on the world. He was a devotee of the immortal sage Babaji who tasked him with publicly teaching the spiritual practice of kriya yoga. It had previously remained a closely guarded secret among Indian spiritual masters.
People frequently visited Lahiri’s residence seeking his grace and spiritual guidance. He could always been found meditating in the lotus position.
How to learn more about Lahiri Mahasaya and his teachings
Lahiri’s remarkable life story is depicted in the Paramahansa Yogananda’s book Autobiography of a Yogi. His kriya yoga teachings were passed onto the world through Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship.
Lakshmana Swamy attained liberation at 17 through the grace of Ramana Maharshi. He lived into his nineties and was the last living devotee of Ramana Maharshi to attain liberation. His life and teachings are recording in the book No Mind – I am the Self by David Godman.
Mathru Sri Sarada
Mahru Sri Sarada attained liberation through the grace of Lakshmana Swamy. Her life and teachings are part of the book No Mind – I am the Self.
Meher Baba is the most recent incarnation of the world savior who dropped the body in 1969.
How to learn more about Meher Baba and his teachings
You can watch films about Meher Baba online for free. Two of the best are Beyond Words and Meher Baba, the Awakener.
Meher Baba wrote many remarkable books including God Speaks, Discourses, In God’s Hand, Infinite Intelligence, The Path of Love, and Beams from Meher Baba on the Spiritual Panorama.
Some of Meher Baba’s close devotees have written biographies about him. Eruch Jessawala wrote about his experiences with Meher Baba in the book That’s The Way It Was. Bhau Kalchuri wrote a detailed 7,000 page biography of Meher Baba entitled Lord Meher.
Mirra Alfassa worked with Sri Aurobindo to carry out his spiritual work that they called integral yoga. Aurobindo considered her his spiritual equal and referred to her as the Mother, a name he also used for the divine. Mirra Alfassa ran Sri Aurobindo’s ashram in Pondicherry, India from 1926 until her death in 1973.
How to learn more about Mirra Alfassa and her teachings
Prayers and Meditations
Mirra’s book Prayers and Meditations is a compilation of over 300 prayers that were originally part of her spiritual diary. While reading the first sentence of the first prayer my heart opened. I read the book as a mediation, and I am immersed in Mirra’s love and grace.
Health and Healing in Yoga
I learned a great deal from Mirra’s book Health and Healing in Yoga. It explains the causes of the illness and how you can regain your health. According to Mirra, there are entities on the energetic plan that feed off our vital energy. They quarrel among each other and many are destroyed. The remnants of these entities continue to exist on the energetic plane and become the microbes that create illness in humans.
A person is more receptive to becoming ill when the mind, life force, and physical body are in disharmony. Once you have contracted an illness you can cure yourself. Begin by stilling the mind and the physical body. Try to identify where the disharmony is located. Then you can use what Sweet Mother
calls light, knowledge, and spiritual force (or purification) to bring your body back into harmony.
Microbes are not the only external threat to your health. Regaining your health is more complicated when you are attacked by adverse forces. The adverse forces can access your system through actions of your lower nature such as anger or violence. When the lower nature takes control of your system your
energetic vibration is lowered, and the adverse forces have greater ability to negatively affect you.
Once the adverse forces have overcome your defenses, spiritual purification is needed to dispel them. You can either access this spiritual force yourself or ask the divine for it. Once the force of spiritual purification is directed at the source of the illness, the adverse forces cannot survive. They will
either flee or be dissolved. And once that happens you are cured, and the illness will never return.
Mary was the mother of Jesus Christ. Since early Christianity, two thousand years ago, she has been worshiped by followers of Jesus.
I believe that Mary was more than the parent of the world savior. She was also a liberated soul–what Hindus refer to as an incarnation of the Divine Mother. She is always available to help those who reach out to her for guidance and comfort.
Mother Meera is a living enlightened spiritual teacher. She travels the world giving free darshans (or spiritual blessings) in silence.
Mother Meera was given a greater spiritual responsibility than most enlightened people. She is an Avatar, which means she was born enlightened. And she uses the Paramatman light for the benefit of others.
How to learn more about Mother Meera and her teachings
I mention Mother Meera frequently on this site as she has been instrumental in my spiritual development. In another post you can learn more about Mother Meera and the Paramatman light. You can also read my favorite quotes from Mother Meera.
Mother Meera has written two books: Answers and Answers II. There are many books about Mother Meera. My favorite is The Mother by Adillakshmi that details Meera’s spiritual experiences while growing up.
At Mother Meera’s website you can find out about her international darshan schedule, how to travel to Germany to see her, and how to view her live darshans online.
Muruganar was a prolific writer and poet who attained liberation through the grace of Ramana Maharshi.
How to learn more about Muruganar and his teachings
Muruganar’s book Guru Vachaka Kovi is a detailed description of Ramana’s teachings and is one of the most spiritually profound books I’ve read. Some of the profound quotes from the book can be found in another post.
Maruti Shivrampant Kambli was called Nisargadatta by his followers. Nisargadatta was an Advaita teacher. His teachings were recorded by students and published in the famous spiritual book I Am That. His teacher was Siddharameshwar.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Mohammad Rūmī was a Sufi Persian poet who lived in the thirteenth century.
“Eternal Life is gained by utter abandonment of one’s own life.
When God appears to His ardent lover, the lover is absorbed in Him, and not so much as a hair of the lover remains.
True lovers are as shadows, and when the sun shines in glory the shadows vanish away.
He is a true lover to God to whom God says ‘I am thine and thou art Mine.’”
– I Am Thine and Thou Art Mine by Rumi. Trans by RA Nicholson
HWL Poonja followed a rigorous spiritual practice for 25 years of devotion and japa to Krishna. He eventually attained liberation through the grace of Ramana Maharshi. He then became a well-known Advaita teacher and his students referred to him as Papaji.
How to learn more about Papaji and his teachings
Papaji’s fascinating life is documented in the three-volume biography Nothing Ever Happened by David Godman.
Many of Papaji’s satsangs with students were recorded in the 1990s and are available online for free.
Paramahansa Yogananda was an enlightened teacher who taught the meditation practice of kriya yoga. The famous spiritual book Autobiography of a Yogi is the story of his upbringing, spiritual journey, and founding of the Self-Realization Fellowship.
Rama was an incarnation of the world savior whose life is depicted in the famous Hindu epic The Ramayana.
For some reason japa (repeating a mantra) has not been a big part of my spiritual path. Yet while repeating the name Ram my awareness recedes into the Self. You might want to try repeating Ram as a mantra to see if it is a good fit for your unique spiritual path. You can read more about japa in another post.
Ramakrishna was a devotee of Kali, a form of the divine mother. His life and teachings are recorded in the book The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.
Venkataraman Iyer was called Ramana Maharshi by his followers. He is one of the most famous spiritual teachers of the last 150 years.
Ramana was an Advaita teacher who emphasized two spiritual practices for attaining liberation: surrender and self-enquiry.
How to learn more about Ramana Maharshi and his teachings
I’ve written other posts about Ramana Maharshi. One post provides an overview of Ramana’s teachings and his connection to Arunachala. Another post describes how the state of stillness was made more accessible for me through his teachings and grace. And a third post contains some of Ramana’s profound quotes.
Ramana’s devotees have written some excellent books on his teachings including: The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi in His Own Words and Be As You Are.
Sai Baba of Shirdi
Sai Baba was a perfect master and teacher of Upasni Maharaj.
Adi Shankara had a profound effect on Hindu philosophy. He helped to propagate the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta throughout India.
Trailanga Swami (aka Swami Ganapati Saraswati) lived in Varanasi, India and dropped the body in 1887.
Upansni Maharaj was one of five perfect masters that assisted Meher Baba to assume his spiritual responsibilities as the world savior. The other four were Hazrat Babajan, Shirdi Sai Baba, Tajuddin Baba, and Narayan Maharaj.
You can learn more about the perfect masters by reading opening chapters of Lord Meher by Bhau Kalchuri. It describes the life story of each perfect master.
During a trip to India I visited the mahasamadhi shrines of Meher Baba, Upasni Maharaj, and Shirdi Sai Baba. I developed a strong internal connection with Meher Baba and Upasni Maharaj.
Sri Yukteswar was a spiritual disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya and the teacher of Paramahansa Yogananda. Yukteswar wrote the book The Holy Science. His life is described in Yogananda’s book Autobiography of a Yogi.
Vivekananda was an enlightened teacher and devotee of Ramakrishna.