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 (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 Buddhist Dharma 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 CE, Germany), mystic and visionary
17. Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226, Italy), Christian mystic
18. Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (1207 – 1273), Sufi master in Iran
19. Mirabai (15th century CE, India), famous Krishna devotee
20. Guru Nanak Dev (1469 – 1539, Punjab), founder of Sikh religion
21. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836 - 1886), Bengali mystic
22. Shirdi Sai Baba (* 1838 or 1856; † 1918 in Shirdi), Hindu saint and Muslim Fakir
23. Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff (* approx. 1870-1949), Armenian mystic
24. Ramana Maharshi (1879 - 1950), South-Indian mystic
25. Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj (* 1888 Pathri, † 1936 Mumbai), Indian mystic
26. Paramahansa Yogananda (1893 - 1952), Indian mystic
27. Meher Baba (* 25.02.1894, 31.01.1969), 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), Advaita guru
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!

other masters and teachings, which I found inspiring:

advaita (non-dual)
  • 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.

  • Mooji Baba
  • Satsang is the invitation to step into the fire of Self-discovery. This fire will not burn you, it will burn only what you are not, and set your heart free.

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

tibetan traditions and mystics
  • overview
  • There are about 500 lineages originating from Bön and Tibetan Buddhism and many contemporary incarnations are sharing their wisdom around the world.

  • Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
  • One of the greatest teachers of Dzogchen and Mahamudra in recent times.

  • Drukpa Kunley
  • Known also as the Madman of the Dragon Lineage he was a Buddhist monk in the Tibetan Mahamudra tradition, as well as a famous poet. He lived in Tibet and Bhutan from 1455 to 1529.

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 Still shining: more ancient masters
  • Kabir
  • 15th century Indian mystic and poet

Still shining: remarkable scriptures and legends
  • The Mahabharata
    Sanskrit epic of ancient India by Vyasa

  • The Ramayana
    Sanskrit epic of ancient India by Valmiki

  • 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.<

  • The Upanishads
    Ancient wisdom from Vedic India

  • The Mystical Theology
    Early Christian mysticism by Dionysius

  • Hsin Hsin Ming
    Ancient Chinese wisdom by Jianzhi Seng-Ts'an

  • 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.

  • Khadgapa, the Master Thief
    A Tibetan Mahasiddha