A list of spiritual biographies. Including spiritual personalities from Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam and other traditions.
Jesus Christ (0 AD – 32 AD) – Jesus taught a gospel of love and forgiveness. His philosophy and spirit inspired the creation of the Christian religion.
St Francis of Assisi (1182 – 1226) – Italian saint of the Twelfth / Thirteenth century. St Francis started a new order of monks – The Franciscans, who were devoted to poverty and chastity.
St Paul (c.5 – c. 67) – Missionary and influential early Christian. The letters of St Paul form a significant part of the New Testament. St Paul is responsible for the growth and development of Christianity as a modern religion.
Mary Magdalene (approx 0 AD – unknown) – Close disciple of Jesus Christ. Present at the crucifixion of Christ. The first disciple to see Christ’s resurrection.
Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431) – A peasant girl from rural France. She inspired the Dauphin of France to fight the English and regain French independence.
Simone Weil (1909 – 1943) French philosopher, anarchist and mystic. She experienced mystical experiences, which gave her a newfound interest in Christianity and spirituality. She was close to Roman Catholicism but also loved other religious traditions.
Mother Teresa (1910 – 1997) – Albanian Catholic nun. Mother Teresa devoted her life to the care and service of the poor, especially in India where she founded her Missionaries of Charity organisation.
William Wilberforce (1759 – 1833) – With others, Wilberforce campaigned successfully for the abolishment of slavery. He felt slavery was incompatible with his Christian conscience.
Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) – Sought to reform the Roman Catholic Church which he felt had been corrupted and lost its original focus. A key figure in the Protestant Reformation.
Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005) Had a great effect on many lives that he touched. People felt he was a sincere and compassionate person. Lived through two very difficult periods of Poland’s history – occupation by Nazi Germany and Communist era, before becoming Poland’s first pope.
C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963) – A best selling author who sought to promote Christian ideas within the context of his Narnia chronicles. He was also a leading Christian apologist.
Abbe Pierre (1912 – 2007) – French Catholic priest who found the Emmaüs movement, which has the goal of helping poor and homeless people and refugees.
Bernadette Soubirous (1844 – 1879) – French peasant girl from the town of Lourdes, who received visions of the Virgin Mary. Later became a nun.
Desmond Tutu (1931 – ) Charismatic and principled church leader. Played a key role in fighting apartheid during the 1970s and 1980s. Widely respected as a world figure of great principles.
John Wesley (1703 – 1791) – Anglican preacher. Wesley is credited with founding the Anglican tradition of Methodism. Methodism stresses the role of social service to cultivate love of one’s fellow man. It placed less emphasis on the church establishment.
Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515 – 1582) – Spanish mystic, writer and reformer. St Terese of Avila was an influential and pivotal figure of her generation. She reformed and help to expand the Carmelite order.
St Thérèse of Lisieux (1873 – 1897) A saint of great humility and simplicity. The way of St Thérèse of Lisieux was to do small things with love. Largely anonymous during her life, her writings became best sellers after her death.
Thomas Beckett (1118 – 70) – Archbishop of Canterbury during the time of Henry II. He was killed at Canterbury Cathedral and is now considered a saint.
Thomas More (1478 – 1535) – Martyred for standing up to King Henry VIII when Henry wished to split from the Roman Catholic Church to get a divorce.
Maximilian Kolbe (1894 – 1941 ) was a Franciscan priest who encouraged devotion to Mary and was committed to praying for those hostile to the Church. In 1941, he was arrested for sheltering Jews and sent to Auschwitz. He volunteered to take the place of a man condemned to death.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945 ) was a Lutheran Pastor who was an influential critic of Hitler and Nazism, executed in 1945. His theology and writings remain influential today.
William Tyndale (1494 – 1536 ) was one of the first persons to print the Bible in English. Executed for blasphemy after years of avoiding capture.
William Booth (1829 – 1912) – founder of Salvation Army. William Booth sought to bring Christian charity to the most underprivileged sections of society.
John Wycliffe (1330 – 1384) Translated some of the first versions of Bible into English. Wycliffe was an early critic of the Papacy, becoming a precursor for the reformation of Martin Luther.
Pope Francis (1936 – ) The first Jesuit Pope and the first Pope from the Americas. Pope Francis has been credited with revitalising the Catholic Church by concentrating on the basic message of the Gospels, ‘selflessness, humility, charity and faith.’
Sri Ramachandra considered the seventh Avatar of Vishnu. Rama’s life is held as an example of the perfect devotion to dharma. His life and teachings are incorporated in the Ramayana, which tells of his exploits and adventures against the demon Ravana.
Sri Krishna considered an incarnation of Vishnu. Sri Krishna’s life is documented in the Bhagavad Gita. Sri Krishna gave the immortal teaching of the Gita on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to his disciple Arjuna.
Ramana Maharshi (1880 – 1950) Spiritual teacher who experienced self-realisation at the age of 16 and spent the remainder of his life at the Holy Mountain of Arunachala in south India. He taught a path of self-inquiry. “Who Am I?”
Arjuna was one of the greatest warriors of his age. The third Pandava brother, Arjuna was a key figure in the Mahabharata. It was Arjuna who listened to the great discourse of his Teacher, Sri Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
Mirabai (c. 1498 – c. 1557) was a Hindu saint who left a legacy of devotional bhajans dedicated to Lord Krishna. Mirabai was forced to marry a rich prince, but she rebelled against the wishes of her family and devoted her life to singing the praises of Sri Krishna.
Sri Anandamayi Ma (1896 – 1982) a Hindu saint from Bengal. From an early age, she slipped into a God-intoxicated state. Her divine ecstasy and devotion attracted many followers and observers. Healing and other miracles have been attributed to her.
Sri Aurobindo (1872 – 1950 ) was a spiritual Teacher, philosopher and poet. After retiring from politics, he was based in Pondicherry, India where he attracted disciples. He wrote many works, including The Life Divine and Savitri.
Swami Vivekananda (1863 – 1902 ) a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda helped spread Ramakrishna’s message and mission to the West.
Sri Chaitanya (1486 – 1534) a devotee of Lord Krishna, Sri Chaitanya’s followers saw him as an avatar and incarnation of Vishnu.
Sai Baba of Shirdi (c 1860 – 1918 ) Sai Baba of Shirdi was an Indian Guru, fakir and saint. He was widely venerated by Muslims and Hindus alike, who saw Sai Baba as a saintly, holy figure.
Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897 – 1981) was an Indian Spiritual Teacher and philosopher of Advaita. His book, I Am That – summarises his Advaita philosophy of discriminating between the real and unreal.
Sri Ramakrishna (1836 – 1886) Influential Bengali mystic and spiritual Guru. Ramakrishna practised an intense spiritual sadhana – through his experience, he believed that all religions led to the same goal of God-realisation.
Paramahansa Yogananda (1893 – 1952) was a popular spiritual Teacher, who came to the West in the 1920s. Yogananda was a disciple of Sri Yukteswar and was responsible for the early spread of Hindu yoga in the US.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) – Indian nationalist and politician. Gandhi led prayer groups and sought to reconcile different religions, believing all could help a seeker to realise God.
Lahiri Mahasaya (1828 – 1898) One of India’s greatest spiritual Teachers. He received initiation from Babaji and was the Guru to Sri Yukteswar.
Amma Mata Amritanandamayi (1953 – )Indian saint who has embraced millions of pilgrims from around the world.
Sadhguru Indian yogi and guru. Founder of Isha Yoga centre. Teaches course of ‘Inner Engineering” Frequently travels around the world answering questions on yoga, politics and spirituality.
Annie Besant (1847-1933) Indian nationalist, women’s rights activist and later in life, a leading Theosophist and guardian of Jiddu Krishnamurti.
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: (1896 – 1977) is the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a form of Vaishnavism
Sri Chinmoy (1931 – 2007) Spiritual Teacher born in India, Sri Chinmoy came to the US in 1964. He established meditation centres around the world and created the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, and other initiatives for world peace.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918 – 2008) Indian spiritual Teacher, who founded the popular Transcendental meditation movement.
Meher Baba (1894 – 1969) Indian spiritual master
Swami Satchidananda (1914 – 2002) Indian spiritual Master who founded Yogaville and promoted an Integral Yoga.
Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539) Spiritual Guru and founder of Sikhism.
Buddha (c 560BC – c 460) Siddhartha the Buddha was a privileged prince who gave up his palatial life to become a wandering ascetic. After realising nirvana he spent the remainder of his life teaching and taking disciples.
Milarepa (c. 1052 – c. 1133) a Tibetan yogi. Milarepa underwent extreme austerities at the behest of his Guru. His devotion and discipline enabled him to be liberated and gain spiritual powers.
Dalai Lama (14th) (1950 – ) the leader of Tibetans both politically and spiritually. The Dalai Lama has practised non-violent opposition to Chinese rule, whilst maintaining Buddhist principles of compassion and forgiveness.
Thich Nhat Hanh (1926 – ) Vietnamese monk who inspired the movement of engaged Buddhism. Hanh has been a prominent peace activist and has written extensively on incorporating Buddhist teachings into everyday life.
Prophet Abraham (2nd Century BC). Abraham is mentioned in Genesis and is a key figure in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Considered first Patriarch of the Jewish people.
Moses (1391 BC – 1271 BC) Moses was a key figure in Jewish history, who led the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt across the Red Sea to the promised land. On Mount Sinai, he wrote down the Ten Commandments.
Baal Shem Tov (1698 – 1760) Polish Jewish mystic. Founder of Hasidic Judaism. Baal Shem taught the importance of immanent spiritual experience and rejected some of the more legalistic aspects of Judaism.
Prophet Muhammad (570 – 632) Muhammad was a prophet and messenger of God. The revelations he shared became the foundation of the Qu’ran and the Muslim religion. His main spiritual teachings were centred on the complete “surrender” (lit. Islam) to the One God.
Rumi (1207 – 1273) Rumi was a Sufi mystic and poet. Born near modern-day Afghanistan, he settled in modern day Turkey. Rumi’s poetry speaks of the Divine romance between seeker and God.
Rabia Basri (717 – 801) a female Muslim saint. Her poetry sets down her philosophy of ‘Divine Love’. She spent her days and nights in prayer and meditation.
Mansoor Al-Hallaj (858 – 922) a Sufi mystic who preached a radical gospel and philosophy to everyone. He experienced mystical trances and exclaimed ‘I am the Truth’ – trying to convey the Divine essence of man. He was sentenced to death for blasphemy, but during a prolonged execution, he retained his equanimity and faith.
Confucius (551 BC – ) Chinese sage, who wrote The Dialects. Became influential philosopher for China
Modern Spiritual Figures
Deepak Chopra – modern new age Guru
Preethaji – Indian. Modern-day philosopher and sage.
Famous saints – From different religious and spiritual traditions.
Famous Religious leaders and founders – Key people who helped to found different religions and spiritual movements.
Spiritual Teachers – Spiritual teachers from different religious and spiritual traditions – From ancient times to modern.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Spiritual Biographies”, Oxford, UK. www.biographyonline.net, 18th April 2014.
Famous Religious leaders and founders – Key people who helped to found different religions and spiritual movements. Including Moses, Sri Krishna, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad and Guru Nanak.
People who promoted world peace – People who have made a great contribution to creating a more peaceful world. Including Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Malala Yousafzai Pope John Paul II and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Inspirational people – People who made a difference in a positive way and left the world a better place. Includes Eleanor Roosevelt, Mother Teresa and Emil Zatopek.
Essays on Spirituality
- Essays on spirituality
- Benefits of religion
- Religious tolerance
- Religion of peace
- Religion vs spirituality
- Science vs religion
- Human religion – Divine religion
Essential mystics and saints
Essential mystics and saints at Amazon