what is inspiration?
Perhaps the initial page has given you a glimpse that you are not what you think you are, but rather ( if one wants to attempt to describe the indescribable) the screen on which the thoughts appear and disappear. Or in another analogy, when the wave realizes that it is the ocean and not a temporary wave, a paradigm shift is happening. It is an extremely simple revelation, but almost too obvious, so it is easily overlooked. The mind loves to cling to the ongoing drama and sees itself as a separate entity. But fortunately there have been many wise people on the earth inspiring us to remember, who we really are.
During thousands of years of looking for lasting happiness and contentment, the first human beings must have followed their instincts to influence their living conditions and learned to improve the environment . But since perhaps 3000 years there are records of humans exploring within and asking themselves questions like "Who are we?" and "Why are we here?".
Some of these people found solutions, some started sharing their insights and became an inspiration to their fellow human beings. They are our spiritual teachers, leaders, guides, gurus or saints. Here is a selection of 36, which I have chosen from their influence on humanity and personal liking.
Of course this selection can never be complete, I had to limit it at some point. Quite a few have been chosen as representatives of long standing traditions with many more great masters.
I would like to express my reverence and gratitude to all of them plus the ones not shown!
They are in order of their (sometimes estimated) date of birth.
1. Shenrab Miwoche (date uncertain, Zhangzhung kingdom), founder of Bön
2. Lao Tzu (a mythical figure, supposedly living in the 6th, 5th or 4th century BC, China), supposedly author of Tao Te Ching
3. Zarathustra aka Zoroaster aka Zartosht (probably lived 6th century BC, Persia), presumably author of the Avesta
4. Gautam Buddha (lived between 6th and 5th century BC, North India)
5. Mahavir (lived between 6th and 5th century BC, Bihar), saint of the Jainas
6. Socrates (470 – 399 BC, Athens), Greek philosopher
7. Jesus of Nazareth (approx. 4 BC – 30 AD, Israel), founder of the world’s biggest religion
8. Patanjali (probably between 2nd and 4th century AD, India), author of the Yoga Sutras
9. Mahavatar Babaji (* 203 AD), legendary Himalayan master
10. Bodhidharma (5th or 6th AD, China), brought Buddhism to China
11. Adi Shankara (788 – 820 AD, India), renewer of the Vedic philosophy
12. Padma Sambhava (around 8th century AD, India, Tibet), brought Buddhism to Tibet
13. Rinzai Gigen (9th century AD, China), Zen master
14. Ateesha (982 – 1054 AD, India, Tibet), Indian mystic, took Buddhism to Tibet
15. Milarepa (1052 – 1135, Tibet), most famous Tibetan Yogi
16. Hildegard von Bingen (1098 – 1179, Germany), wise German nun
17. Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226, Italy), Christian saint
18. Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (1207 – 1273), Sufi master in Iran
19. Mira Bai (15th century AD, India), famous Krishna devotee
20. Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539, Punjab), founder of Sikh religion
21. Sri Ramakrishna (* 18.02.1836 Kamarpukur, Bengal; † 16.02.1886 in Kolkata)
22. Shirdi Sai Baba (* 1838 or 1856; † 1918 in Shirdi)
23. George I. Gurdjieff (* approx. 1870 Alexandropol, † 29.10.1949 France)
24. Sri Aurobindo, (* 15.02.1872 in Kolkata; † 05.12.1950)
25. Ramana Maharshi (* 30.12.1879 Tiruchuli; † 14.04.1950 Tiruvannamalai)
26. Paramahansa Yogananda (* 5.01.1893 Gorakhpur, Bengal; † 7.03.1952, USA)
27. Meher Baba (* 25.02.1894 Pune, 31.01.1969 Meherabad)
28. Jiddu Krishnamurti (* 12.05.1895 Madanapalle,† 17.02.1986 Ojai)
29. Anandamayi Ma (* 30.4.1896 Bengal, † 27.08.1982 Dehradun)
30. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (*1897 Mumbai; † 8. September 1981 Mumbai)
31. Neem Karoli Baba (* 1900 Akbarpur, † 11.09.1973 Vrindavan)
32. HWL Poonja aka Papaji (* 13.10.1910 Punjab, † 06.09.1997 Lucknow)
33. Osho aka Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (* 11.12.1931 Kuchwada, † 19.01.1990 Pune)
34. The Dalai Lama (* 06.07.1935 Tibet)
35. Mata Amritanandamayi aka Amma (* 27.09.1953 Kerala)
36. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (* 03.09.1957 Mysore)
introducing a selection of masters and their teachings:Many of these wise women and men have shared or still share their wisdom with us:
1. advaita (non-dual) teachings
"Find out who you are - here and now. You are not the mind. You are not even the prana - the breathing. You know very well that breathing is in and out, inhaling and exhaling. You can feel, "I am inhaling, I am exhaling." You know this activity also. Who is watching the inhaling and exhaling? This is all that the body is.
So who are you? You are not all these functions. You will have to ask the question, "Who am I?" This is what we have come here to understand, and we have not done this at any time before. This question must be solved but we have postponed it. Everyone has postponed it for millions of years. We will not postpone this here. There is no method to practice. Simply find out, "Who am I?" This is not a method or practice or sadhana."
This can be done here and now - in this instant - because the Self is here.
"Enlightenment means to know thy Self - to know, "Who am I." This is Enlightenment. This is Wisdom. This is Bliss. This is Existence. This is Being. This is Truth.
This truth is not located at a distance - it is your own Self through which you are searching for truth and freedom. It is not any distance from here. It is within you, nearer than your own breath. It is behind the retina of your eyes, which you cannot see. You need not look outside. It is behind the retina; it is that through which the retina sees. You need no effort to see it. "
>> Find out more about Papaji here
As all living beings desire to be happy always, without misery, as in the case of everyone there is observed supreme love for one’s self, and as happiness alone is the cause for love, in order to gain that happiness which is one’s nature and which is experienced in the state of deep sleep where there is no mind, one should know one’s Self. For that, the path of knowledge, the enquiry of the form ‘Who am I?’, is the principal means.
(Opening paragraph of 'Who Am I?')
"If I appears, the world appears. Without I, is there anything?"
>> Find out more about Ganga Mira on her page...
"How can it be said that the body is pure? It produces shit and piss. It's a dirty thing, a shit factory, and yet you say, "I am this." As long as the power continues to animate it, you worship it, but the moment the power leaves it to die, you want to get rid of it as soon as possible. Don't be the owner of a dying shit factory, but rather be the owner of the Eternal Reality."
Find out more about Ranjit Maharaj here ...
"Consciousness is all there is"
Find out more about Ramesh here ...
2. wisdom from indigenous people
Deborah, who runs a lovely retreat center close to the Costa Rican Pacific coast, has been working with various spiritual traditions all her life. Some years ago she met Mikistly, a shamanic healer from the Aztec people, who introduced her to the traditional techniques of the Red Road, like vision quests, sun dances, moon dances and more. He has been initiating groups of people in Costa Rica, Colombia and Brazil, who are practicing these traditions. If you are interested, please inquire at mx[at]planetoflove.net
Some members of the Costa Rican group with Mikistly standing in the middle and Deborah with hat.
3. various contemporary masters and teachers
Osho, born in 1931 in Kuchwada, started an Ashram in Poona in 1974. His teachings and work quickly became famous allover the world and attracted thousands of followers, called Rajneesh Neo-Sannyasins.
In 1977 I travelled overland to Poona (now Pune), and Osho (then called Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) initiated me into neo-sannyas with an intense look and a short talk:
"This will be your name: swami deva ananya.
Deva means divine, ananya means one – one with the divine. That’s our reality, that’s how it is. We may know, we may not know, but our knowledge or our ignorance does not change the reality at all. It is so: we are one with the divine! Otherwise is not possible because we cannot exist without being one with the divine. We are rooted in it, we are part of it. In fact to say we live is not right: only he lives through us. So many millions of forms but the reality is one. Ananya is one of the beautiful terms, the most beautiful terms. Literally it means ‘not other’…not other than god. Mm? somebody thinks he is a man, somebody thinks she is a woman, somebody thinks he is a child, somebody thinks he is old, somebody thinks he is beautiful and somebody thinks he is not beautiful, somebody thinks he is intelligent and somebody thinks he is not – but all are one the divine. These are all just forms of the surface; deep down our reality is one. They are just like waves of an ocean: they are all ‘ananya’ with the ocean, not other than the ocean. A small wave, a big wave, a very big tidal wave – all are one with the ocean. So this name will remind you again and again, and whenever you are reminded of it feel one with god in that moment. By and by one becomes more and more skilled in that feeling, that’s all. We have not lost anything, we have simply forgotten. Once the memory returns, once the remembrance comes back, everything is there, has always been there. The treasure is not lost, we have only forgotten where we have put it. It is in our houses; we have lost track of it. "
Mahendra (then called Ananya) sitting in front of Osho (then called Bhagwan) at Darshan (Sanskrit for 'Seeing the Divine') at his second stay in Poona in 1979
After four years in the USA and some adventures around the world Osho returned to India in 1986. His Poona Ashram flowered again and he resumed to give daily talks. I was working in the video department and managed to produce this little clip on the side:
"Self Realization – The Gateway to Eternal Happiness: The true Self is an abode of infinite bliss, yet you are looking for happiness in temporary things! Until you realize who you really are, everything proves to be transient and temporary. When you realize the Self, you attain eternal happiness."
Arjuna was born in 1957 in England. After earning his master's degree in literature in Cambridge he went to India in search of a deeper meaning of life.
In 1981 I met him in the Shree Rajneesh Ashram, where we both worked in the Ashram. In 1991 he introduced me to the work of HWL Poonja, whom he had met the same year.
He developed some powerful techniques to work with the mind and wrote some interesting books, like "The Translucent Revolution". He also contributed to the film "Awake", a documentary about contemporary spiritual teachers.
4. ancient masters and scriptures
A statue from Dhauli near Bhuwaneshwar with the Bhumisparsa Mudra (earth touching gesture), representing Gautama the Buddha in his awakened state. Buddha lived about 500 BC in Northern India.
The Upanishads, also referred to as Vedānta, variously interpreted to mean either the "last chapters, parts of the Veda" or "the object, the highest purpose of the Veda".
The Isha Upanishad, a very short text, is conveying non-dual wisdom in a concise form. Here is a translation from Sanskrit by Eknath Easwaran.
1 The Lord is enshrined in the hearts of all.
The Lord is the supreme Reality.
Rejoice in him through renunciation.
Covet nothing. All belongs to the Lord.
2 Thus working may you live a hundred years.
Thus alone will you work in real freedom.
3 Those who deny the Self are born again
Blind to the Self, enveloped in darkness,
Utterly devoid of love for the Lord.
4 The Self is one. Ever still, the Self is
Swifter than thought, swifter than the senses.
Though motionless, he outruns all pursuit.
Without the Self, never could life exist.
5 The Self seems to move, but is ever still.
He seems far away, but is ever near.
He is within all, and he transcends all.
6 Those who see all creatures in themselves
And themselves in all creatures know no fear.
7 Those who see all creatures in themselves
And themselves in all creatures know no grief.
How can the multiplicity of life
Delude the one who sees its unity?
8 The Self is everywhere. Bright is the Self,
Indivisible, untouched by sin, wise,
Immanent and transcendent. He it is
Who holds the cosmos together.
9-11 In dark night live those for whom
The world without alone is real; in night
Darker still, for whom the world within
Alone is real. The first leads to a life
Of action, the second to a life of meditation.
But those who combine action with meditation
Cross the sea of death through action
And enter into immortality
Through the practice of meditation.
So have we heard from the wise.
12-14 In dark night live those for whom the Lord
Is transcendent only; in night darker still,
For whom he is immanent only.
But those for whom he is transcendent
And immanent cross the sea of death
With the immanent and enter into
Immortality with the transcendent.
So have we heard from the wise.
15 The face of truth is hidden by your orb
Of gold, O sun. May you remove your orb
So that I, who adore the true, may see
The glory of truth.16 O nourishing sun,
Solitary traveler, controller,
Source of life for all creatures, spread your light
And subdue your dazzling splendor
So that I may see your blessed Self.
Even that very Self am I!
17 May my life merge in the Immortal
When my body is reduced to ashes.
O mind, meditate on the eternal Brahman.
Remember the deeds of the past.
Remember, O mind, remember.
18 O god of fire, lead us by the good path
To eternal joy. You know all our deeds.
Deliver us from evil, we who bow
And pray again and again.
OM shanti shanti shanti
Another example is the story of Satyakama, an example from the Chandogya Upanishad, retold by Swami Vivekananda (from a talk given 1896 in USA): .
.I will relate to you a very ancient story from the Chhandogya Upanishad, which tells how knowledge came to a boy. The form of the story is very crude, but we shall find that it contains a principle.
A young boy said to his mother, I am going to study the Vedas. Tell me the name of my father and my caste. The mother was not a married woman, and in India the child of a woman who has not been married is considered an outcast; he is not recognised by society and is not entitled to study the Vedas.
So the poor mother said, “My child, I do not know your family name; I was in service, and served in different places; I do not know who your father is, but my name is Jabala and your name is Satyakama.” The little child went to a sage and asked to be taken as a student. The sage asked him, “What is the name of your father, and what is your caste?” The boy repeated to him what he had heard from his mother. The sage at once said, “None but a Brahmin could speak such a damaging truth about himself. You are a Brahmin and I will teach you. You have not swerved from the truth.” So he kept the boy with him and educated him.
Now come some of the peculiar methods of education in ancient India. This teacher gave Satyakama four hundred lean, weak cows to take care of, and sent him to the forest. There he went and lived for some time. The teacher had told him to come back when the herd would increase to the number of one thousand.
After a few years, one day Satyakama heard a big bull in the herd saying to him, “We are a thousand now; take us back to your teacher. I will teach you a little of Brahman.” “Say on, sir,” said Satyakama. Then the bull said, “The East is a part of the Lord, so is the West, so is the South, so is the North. The four cardinal points are the four parts of Brahman. Fire will also teach you something of Brahman.”
Fire was a great symbol in those days, and every student had to procure fire and make offerings. So on the following day, Satyakama started for his guru’s house, and when in the evening he had performed his oblation, and worshipped at the fire, and was sitting near it, he heard a voice come from the fire, “O Satyakama.” “Speak, Lord,” said Satyakama. (Perhaps you may remember a very similar story in the Old Testament, how Samuel heard a mysterious voice.) “O Satyakama, I am come to teach you a little of Brahman. This earth is a portion of that Brahman. The sky and heaven are portions of It. The ocean is a part of that Brahman.” Then the fire said that a certain bird would also teach him something.
Satyakama continued his journey and on the next day when he had performed his evening sacrifice a swan came to him and said, “I will teach you something about Brahman. This fire which you worship, O Satyakama, is a part of that Brahman. The sun is a part, the moon is a part, the lightning is a part of that Brahman. A bird called Madgu will tell you more about it.”
The next evening that bird came, and a similar voice was heard by Satyakama, “I will tell you something about Brahman. Breath is a part of Brahman, sight is a part, hearing is a part, the mind is a part.”
Then the boy arrived at his teacher’s place and presented himself before him with due reverence. No sooner had the teacher seen this disciple than he remarked: “Satyakama, thy face shines like that of a knower of Brahman! Who then has taught thee?” “Beings other than men,” replied Satyakama. “But I wish that you should teach me, sir. For I have heard from men like you that knowledge which is learnt from a Guru alone leads to the supreme good.” Then the sage taught him the same knowledge which he had received from the gods. And nothing was left out, yea, nothing was left out.
Now, apart from the allegories of what the bull, the fire, and the birds taught, we see the tendency of the thought and the direction in which it was going in those days. The great idea of which we here see the germ is that all these voices are inside ourselves. As we understand these truths better, we find that the voice is in our own heart, and the student understood that all the time he was hearing the truth; but his explanation was not correct. He was interpreting the voice as coming from the external world, while all the time, it was within him. The second idea that we get is that of making the knowledge of the Brahman practical. The world is always seeking the practical possibilities of religion, and we find in these stories how it was becoming more and more practical every day. The truth was shown through everything with which the students were familiar. The fire they were worshipping was Brahman, the earth was a part of Brahman, and so on…
It’s a very long and complex epic, in which many stories are interwoven and great teachings are given.
Just to give you one example: in the main plot, which is often told as the complete story, it's the usual Hollywood scheme. There is an evil king (Ravana), who steals the hero's wife (Sita). Rama, the main hero, gathers his friends and sets out to destroy the villain's empire, kills Ravana and is reunited with Sita. So far, so good, happy end.
However, in the prologue, which is often omitted, the gods are having a council and decide that humanity should be taught a lesson. Vishnu, one of the three major gods, decides to incarnate as Rama and act as the hero and teacher. For the role of the villain a strong guy is needed. So they pick Ravanna, who is actually a powerful demon and ardent Shiva devotee with a sincere longing for enlightenment. The gods promise him liberation in his next life, if he agrees to play the villain in his current incarnation. Ravana agrees and does his thing. During the rest of the drama this initial agreement naturally has to be kept in the dark, because, if the other participants would find out that Rama and Ravana are just playacting, they wouldn't get the teaching, which was the original divine intention.
So actually we have two totally contradictory stories depending on the version you're looking at. If you just look at the core story, the conclusions are quite simple: Do as Rama does and do NOT do as Ravana does. For billions of Hindus this has been a valuable practical guideline in life, and the values of the Ramayana have been the foundation for every Hindu society around the planet.. Nothing wrong with that! There have been much less fights within the Hindu communities than within Muslim or Christian groups throughout the centuries.
If however you happen to be one of the few that are willing to see the whole story, the whole value system falls apart and becomes relative. For the seeker of liberation from the cycle of life and death there is no moral code. Ravanna is often more admirable in the way he plays his role until the end than Rama and his brother Lakshman, who are committing a lot of blunders and succeed in the end only with the help of their divine companion Hanuman.
In other words: for those, who desire a good life within society and the worldly realms, it is advisable to follow certain rules and ethics and you can demand that your fellow human beings follow these rules, too. If they don’t, they have to be ready to accept punishment.
But for those, who seek liberation, it’s a whole different story. You might be chosen to be a villain in a divine drama and that may just be your path to awakening.
A beautiful modern film version by American artist Nina Paley:
The story of the five Pandavas going to war against their cousins, the Kauravas. It is a Sanskrit epic ascribed to the sage Vyasa. Besides the main story there are many small episodes, depicting live of the ancient Indians and their wisdom. In the eighties the text was made into a TV serial with 94 episodes:
The first known (though historically not proven) master of ancient Taoism, Lao Tzu, wrote down his concise teaching in the Tao Te Ching in Chinese.
Over one hundred translations from the original Chinese version to English have been published, which are widely differing. I've chosen two contemporary versions for viewing (and download) here and a link with four more versions, amongst them my favorite translation by Stephen Mitchell:
Tao Te Ching (trans. Stanley Rosenthal)
Tao Te Ching (trans. Derek Lin)
Translation comparison Tao Te Ching
The Teaching of Seth Behramshah Naoroji Shroff, who spread the light of the knowledge of kshnoom and removed the darkness in the study of Zoroastrian faith.
Read "A Manual of Kshnoom" here ...
The most profound and sacred exposition in the Jain religious tradition.
In a living organism the soul can be conceived as the nucleus circumscribed by the limits of the gross physical body. It is to be liberated and enlightened. Kundakundacharya's advice – remain a spectator, an observer, a witness to all that is happening in the physical world but do not become an actor, a doer, because the drama is being played by the aliens and you being a spectator have right knowledge, right faith and right conduct constituting the right path to final emancipation and liberation of soul. The trio is known as “The Three Jewels”.
Samayasâra is the ultimate conscious reality. The enlightened soul has infinite glory. It has the innate ability to demolish the power of karmas, both auspicious (punya) as well as inauspicious (pâpa), which constitute the cycle of births and deaths, and are an obstacle in the path of liberation of the soul.
"Have love always in this (soul’s nature); be always contented therein. By this be satisfied. Then will the highest bliss be (thine)."
Complete text in English: Read the Samayasara here ...
.Seng-Ts'an [Wade-Giles: Chien-chih Seng-ts'an; Pinyin: Jianzhi Sengcan; Japanese: Kanchi Sosan] was a Buddhist layman over forty years of age when he came to the second Patriarch, Hui-k'o, with a request that the master purify him of his sins. The response (see Hui-k'o on the Other Ch'an Masters page) inspired Seng-Ts'an to become a monk under Hui-k'o, leading to his enlightenment and succession as Patriarch. He died in 609, leaving us the priceless stanzas titled Hsin Hsin Ming, which are variously identified in English as Inscribed on the Believing Mind, On Trust in the Heart and The Mind of Absolute Trust. The full text of a translation attributed to Richard B. Clarke. .
The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood
the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail.
The Way is perfect like vast space
where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things
and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.
When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain in one extreme or the other
you will never know Oneness.
Those who do not live in the single Way
fail in both activity and passivity,
assertion and denial.
To deny the reality of things
is to miss their reality;
to assert the emptiness of things
is to miss their reality.
The more you talk and think about it,
the further astray you wander from the truth.
Stop talking and thinking,
and there is nothing you will not be able to know.
To return to the root is to find the meaning,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance.
Do not search for the truth;
only cease to cherish opinions.
Do not remain in the dualistic state;
avoid such pursuits carefully.
If there is even a trace
of this and that, of right and wrong,
the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
Although all dualities come from the One,
do not be attached even to this One.
When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
nothing in the world can offend,
and when a thing can no longer offend,
it ceases to exist in the old way.
When no discriminating thoughts arise,
the old mind ceases to exist.
When thought objects vanish,
the thinking-subject vanishes.
Things are objects because of the subject;
the mind is such because of things.
Understand the relativity of these two
and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness.
In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable
and each contains in itself the whole world.
If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.
To live in the Great Way
is neither easy nor difficult,
but those with limited views
are fearful and irresolute;
the faster they hurry, the slower they go,
and clinging cannot be limited;
even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment
is to go astray.
Just let things be in their own way,
and there will be neither coming nor going.
Obey the nature of things [your own nature],
and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden,
for everything is murky and unclear,
and the burdensome practice of judging
brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefits can be derived
from distinctions and separations?
If you wish to move in the One Way,
do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to accept them fully
is identical with true Enlightenment.
The wise man strives to no goals
but the foolish man fetters himself.
There is one Dharma, not many; distinctions arise
from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
To seek Mind with the mind
is the greatest of all mistakes.
Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
with enlightenment there is no liking and disliking.
All dualities come from ignorant inference.
They are like dreams or flowers in the air:
foolish to try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong:
such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.
If the eye never sleeps,
all dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations,
the ten thousand things
are as they are, of single essence.
To understand the mystery of this One-essence
is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen equally
the timeless Self-essence is reached.
No comparisons or analogies are possible
in this causeless, relation-less state.
Consider movement stationary
and the stationary in motion:
both movement and rest disappear.
When such dualities cease to exist
Oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate finality
no law or description applies.