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 early 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 importance for humanity and my personal liking.
The masters are in order of their (sometimes estimated) date of birth from left to right and top to bottom. The list below the picture contains more information on each master.

masters

who is who?
1. Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche (date uncertain, Zhangzhung kingdom), founder of Bön
2. Lao Tzu, supposedly living in the 6th, 5th or 4th century BCE, China.
3. Zarathustra aka Zoroaster aka Zartosht (probably lived 6th century BCE, Persia)
4. Gautama the Buddha (around 6th and 5th century BCE, North India)
5. Mahavir (lived between 6th and 5th century BCE, Bihar), 24th Tirthankara (teacher of the dharma) of the Jain tradition
6. Socrates (470 – 399 BCE, Athens), Greek philosopher
7. Jesus of Nazareth (approx. 4 BCE – 30 CE, Israel), founder of the world’s biggest religion
8. Patanjali (probably between 2nd and 4th century CE, India), author of the Yoga Sutras
9. Mahavatar Babaji (* 203 CE), legendary Himalayan master
10. Bodhidharma (5th or 6th CE, China), brought Buddhism from India to China
11. Adi Shankara (788 – 820 CE, India), renewer of the Vedic tradition
12. Padma Sambhava (around 8th century CE, India & Tibet), Buddhist mystic
13. Linji or Lin-Chi, in Japanese Rinzai Gigen (9th century CE, China), Chan master
14. Atisha (*982 in Bengal – 1054 CE in 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 CE, India), famous female Krishna devotee
20. Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539, Punjab), founder of Sikh religion
21. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (* 18.02.1836 Kamarpukur, Bengal; † 16.02.1886 in Kolkata), Bengali mystic
22. Shirdi Sai Baba (* 1838 or 1856; † 1918 in Shirdi), Hindu saint and Muslim Fakir
23. Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff (* approx. 1870 Alexandropol, † 29.10.1949 France), Armenian mystic
24. Ramana Maharshi (1879 - 1950), South-Indian mystic
25. Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj (* 1888 Pathri, † 1936 Mumbai), Indian mystic
26. Paramahansa Yogananda (* 5.01.1893 Gorakhpur, Bengal; † 7.03.1952, USA), Indian mystic
27. Meher Baba (* 25.02.1894 Pune, 31.01.1969 Meherabad), Indian mystic
28. Jiddu Krishnamurti (* 12.05.1895 Madanapalle,† 17.02.1986 Ojai), Indian mystic
29. Anandamayi Ma (* 30.4.1896 Bengal, † 27.08.1982 Dehradun), Indian mystic
30. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (*1897 Mumbai; † 8. September 1981 Mumbai), Indian mystic
31. Neem Karoli Baba (* 1900 Akbarpur, † 11.09.1973 Vrindavan), Indian mystic
32. HWL Poonja aka Papaji (1910 - 1997), Indian mystic
33. Osho aka Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1931 - 1990), Indian mystic
34. The Dalai Lama (* 06.07.1935 Tibet), highest Tibetan Lama
35. Mata Amritanandamayi aka Amma (* 27.09.1953 Kerala), Indian mystic
36. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (* 03.09.1957 Mysore), Indian mystic

Of course this selection can never be complete, I had to limit it at some point and thirty-six seemed to be a good number. Quite a few have been chosen as representatives of long standing traditions with many more great masters, like the Tibetan Buddhist lineages, the Bön lineage in Tibet, the Chan and Zen lineages in China and Japan and the Sufi masters from Central Asia.
I would like to express my reverence and gratitude to all the presented ones plus the ones not shown!

Here is a further selection of masters and teachings, which I found inspiring:

advaita (non-dual) teachings

Ganga Mira
Former lover and disciple of Papaji
If I appears, the world appears. Without I, is there anything?

Ranjit Maharaj
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.

Ramesh Balsekar
Consciousness is all there is.

James Swartz
Because suffering is unnatural and freedom is natural to us, everyone seeks freedom knowingly or unknowingly.

various contemporary masters and teachers

Akram Vignan: "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 Ardagh
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.

wisdom from indigenous people

The Red Road - Talks with Mikistly Ozelot by Deborah Brackman

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

Mikistly

Some members of the Costa Rican group with Mikistly standing in the middle and Deborah with hat.

Still shining: more ancient masters

Kabir Das was a 15th-century Indian mystic. His writings where influenced by the Quran and Hindu Scriptures both. He influenced Hinduism's Bhakti movement and the Sikh's scripture Guru Granth Sahib. His early life was in a Muslim family, but he was strongly influenced by his teacher, the Hindu bhakti leader Ramananda. Kabir was born in the Indian city of Varanasi but spent most of his life in the city of Faridabad near Delhi.

O friend! hope for Him whilst you live, know whilst you live,
understand whilst you live: for in life deliverance abides.
If your bonds be not broken whilst living, what hope of deliverance in death?
It is but an empty dream, that the soul shall have union with Him
because it has passed from the body:
If He is found now, He is found then,
If not, we do but go to dwell in the City of Death.
If you have union now, you shall have it hereafter.
Bathe in the truth, know the true Guru, have faith in the true Name!
Kabîr says: "It is the Spirit of the quest which helps;
I am the slave of this Spirit of the quest."
Complete text in English (translation Rabindranath Tagore): the Songs of Kabir

Still shining: more written jewels from the past


The Upanishads, ancient wisdom from Vedic India

Hsin Hsin Ming, ancient wisdom from China

The Manual of Kshnoom
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.

The Samayasara
The most profound and sacred exposition in the Jain religious tradition by Acharya Kundkund.
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. Acharya Kundkund'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).

The Mahabharata- Sanskrit epic of ancient India by Vyasa

The Ramayana- Sanskrit epic of ancient India by Valmiki