Spiritual & Religious Leaders

Religion and spirituality are two things that are probably the most difficult to define in definite terms. It would be wrong to say that spirituality and religion don’t go hand in hand because they do; the only difference is that while religion is an organized system that pays homage to a god, spirituality is something that does not always need a deity to define the parameters of the person’s spiritual conduct. Throughout history there have been people who have played the roles of, both, spiritual and religious leaders for their societies. Some of them have done such exemplary work, with such dedication, that their work, and in turn they themselves, were recognized the world over for their steadfast dedication and wisdom in guiding their flock. Some examples of religious leaders would be people like the Dalai Lama and Pope Benedict XVI while a list of spiritual leaders would include people like the famous Osho Rajneesh. It is natural, at this point, to look for more information about these people and others like then so here is a list of just such people along with their biographies, timelines, trivia, life stories and interesting facts about them.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ
Famous As: Founder of Christianity
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Judea
First-century Jewish preacher Jesus, known as the Son of God, led to the formation of Christianity, the world’s largest religion. He was born to Joseph and the Virgin Mary. His miracles irked the Roman government, who then tried him and crucified him. Jesus later rose from the dead.

 2 Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa
Famous As: Founder of Missionaries of Charity
Birthdate: August 26, 1910
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Skopje
Died: September 5, 1997

An Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and a missionary, Mother Teresa was the founder of Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation. She was both an admired and controversial figure and was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. While she was admired by many for her charitable work, she also earned criticism for her stance against abortion and contraception.

 3 Pope Francis

Pope Francis
Birthdate: December 17, 1936
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Pope Francis is the sovereign of the Vatican City and head of the Catholic Church. He is the first Jesuit pope and first non-European pope since Pope Gregory III. Often praised for having a comparatively less formal approach, Pope Francis is popular for his humility, international visibility, and concern for the poor.

 4 Moses

Famous As: Hebrew Religious Leader, Lawgiver, Prophet
Birthdate: 1391 BC
Birthplace: Land of Goshen
Died: 1272 BC

A prominent prophet in Islam, Christianity, and the Baháʼí Faith among other Abrahamic religions, Moses is also the most important prophet in Judaism. One of the most important biblical characters, Moses received the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments are fundamental to both Christianity and Judaism. The authorship of the Torah is also attributed to Moses.

 5 Gautama Buddha

Gautama Buddha
Famous As: Founder of Buddhism
Birthdate: 0563 BC
Birthplace: Lumbini, Nepal
Died: 0483 BC

Gautama Buddha is said to have lived in the 5th to 4th century BC and is revered as the founder of Buddhism. He is said to have spread his teachings for around 45 years based on his insights regarding suffering, nirvana and cycle of birth and rebirth. He had a large following. He obtained ‘enlightenment’ in India’s Bodh Gaya.

 6 Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda
Famous As: Indian Monk
Birthdate: January 12, 1863
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India (present-day Kolkata, West Bengal, India)
Died: July 4, 1902

The founder of the Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math, Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk, philosopher, and spiritual leader. He is credited with introducing the Indian philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta to the Western world. He is also credited with elevating the status of Hinduism as a major religion in the modern world by raising interfaith awareness.

 7 St. Augustine

St. Augustine
Listed In: Philosophers
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: November 13, 0354
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Thagaste, Numidia (now Souk Ahras, Algeria)
Died: August 28, 0430

Saint Augustine was a philosopher, theologian, and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Roman North Africa. His writings are often credited with influencing the growth of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He is also regarded as one of the Latin Church's most important Church Fathers in the Patristic Period. Among his many important works are Confessions and On Christian Doctrine.

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 8 Thomas More

Thomas More
Famous As: Catholic Saint
Birthdate: February 7, 1478
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: City of London
Died: July 6, 1535
Lawyer, philosopher, and poet Thomas More, author of Utopia, had served as the British Lord Chancellor for 3 years. He opposed Henry VIII's separation from the Catholic Church and refused to take the Oath of Supremacy. He was thus beheaded for treason. Pope Pius XI later declared him a martyr.

 9 Jacob

Famous As: Religious leader
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Canaan

 10 Prophet Muhammad

Prophet Muhammad
Famous As: Founder of Islam
Birthdate: 0571 AD
Birthplace: Mecca, Hejaz, Arabia
Died: June 8, 0632

Prophet Muhammad was an Arab religious, political, and social leader. He is credited with founding the world's second-largest religion, Islam. He is believed to have been sent to preach and confirm the teachings of other prophets, such as Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. He is also believed to have received revelations from God, which form the verses of the Quran.

 11 Martin Luther

Martin Luther
Listed In: Theologians, Priests
Famous As: Father of Protestantism and Church Reformer
Birthdate: November 10, 1483
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Eisleben, Germany
Died: February 18, 1546

German monk Martin Luther challenged the dogmas of Roman Catholicism and the authority of the pope, in his Ninety-five Theses, and was thus excommunicated. His German translation of the Bible enriched the German culture, and his marriage set an example for clerical marriage. His teachings are now known as Lutherans.

 12 Kabir

Famous As: Saint and Mystic Poet
Birthdate: 1440 AD
Birthplace: Varanasi
Died: 1518 AD

Kabir was an Indian saint and mystic poet whose works influenced Hinduism's Bhakti movement, which in turn played a key role in the formation of Sikhism, the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Kabir is an important figure in both Hinduism and Islam and his legacy continues to live through a religious community known as the Kabir panth.

 13 Saint Valentine

Saint Valentine
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0226 AD
Birthplace: Terni
Died: February 14, 0269

The patron saint of lovers, beekeepers, and epileptics, Saint Valentine was a 3rd-century Roman saint from Terni. One legend describes how he cured a jailer’s daughter of blindness. He was martyred during the persecution of Christians by Claudius II Gothicus. Valentine’s Day is celebrated in his honor on February 14.

 14 Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama
Famous As: Spiritual Leader of Tibet
Birthdate: July 6, 1935
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Taktser, Qinghai
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is known for his advocacy for peace in Tibet and has won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. He belongs to a lineage of reincarnations of Avalokiteśvara. He fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan Rebellion and formed a Tibetan government in exile.

 15 St Paul

St Paul
Famous As: Religious Preacher
Birthdate: 0005 AD
Birthplace: Tarsus, Mersin
Died: 0067 AD
Paul the Apostle, or Saint Paul, was a Christian apostle who disseminated Christ’s teachings and established Christian communities in Asia and Europe. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, about 14 are said to be authored by Paul, though only seven are said to be genuinely written by him.

 16 Jiddu Krishnamurti

Jiddu Krishnamurti
Famous As: Public Speaker & Philosopher
Birthdate: May 12, 1895
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Madanapalle
Died: February 17, 1986

Jiddu Krishnamurti was an Indian philosopher, speaker, and writer. Many years after his death, Krishnamurti's supporters oversee several schools based on his views and ideas. The Krishnamurti Foundation runs several schools in India and foreign countries. Among those who were influenced by his works were Toni Packer, Dada Dharmadhikari, and Achyut Patwardhan.

 17 Abraham

Famous As: Religious Leader
Birthdate: 0000 BC
Birthplace: Ur Kaśdim, Mesopotamia

Abraham is an important historical character, considered one of the fathers of the human race by the Abrahamic religions, including Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Abrahamic religions believe that Abraham was in contact with God; his story and life events have inspired several important paintings, sculptures, works of literature, and music.

 18 Mahavira

Famous As: Last tirthankara of Jainism
Birthdate: 0599 BC
Birthplace: Vaishali
Died: 0527 BC
Mahavira, or Vardhamana, was the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism. Ancient texts suggest that he was a contemporary of Buddha. Mahavira renounced all worldly possessions at age 30. Following a long life of austerity, he attained Kevala Gyan and Moksha. His teachings came to be known as the Jain Agamas.

 19 Paul of Tarsus

Paul of Tarsus
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0005 AD
Birthplace: Tarsus
Died: 0064 AD

Paul the Apostle, also known as Paul of Tarsus, is known for spreading Jesus’s teachings in the Apostolic Age. It is believed 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament were penned by Paul. His family trade of tent-making helped him move from place to place when he preached.

 20 Saint Peter

Saint Peter
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0001 AD
Birthplace: Bethsaida, Gaulanitis, Syria, Roman Empire
Died: 0068 AD

One of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, Saint Peter played a key role in the formation of Christianity as one of the earliest leaders of the early Church. Considered to be the first Pope by Catholics, Saint Peter appears frequently in influential texts, such as the New Testament. Over the years, Saint Peter has been an important subject of paintings.

 21 Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick
Famous As: Missionary
Birthdate: 0385 AD
Birthplace: Britannia
Died: March 17, 0461

Saint Patrick was a Romano-British bishop and Christian missionary in Ireland. Widely regarded as the main patron saint of Ireland, Patrick is often referred to as the Apostle of Ireland. According to early medieval tradition, Patrick is credited with popularizing Christianity in Ireland. His life and work inspired the 2000 TV historical drama film, St. Patrick: The Irish Legend.

 22 Arlyn Phoenix

Arlyn Phoenix
Birthdate: December 31, 1944
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: The Bronx

Arlyn Phoenix, or Heart Phoenix, is the mother of actor Joaquin Phoenix. Her other son, River Phoenix, died of a drug overdose. Her three other children are also actors. She and her first husband were members of the cult The Children of God. She is now a renowned peace activist.

 23 Ramakrishna Paramhamsa

Ramakrishna Paramhamsa
Famous As: Spiritual & Religious Leader
Birthdate: February 18, 1836
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kamarpukur
Died: August 16, 1886

The widely revered Hindu religious leader and saint who had a large following was known for promoting the ancient Indian philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and Bhakti. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a devotee of Goddess Kali who he worshipped as the universal mother. His marriage to Sharada Devi was never consummated. Swami Vivekanada was the most famous disciple of the Bengal-born mystic.

 24 John The Baptist

John The Baptist
Famous As: Jewish Preacher
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Jerusalem

John the Baptist was a 1st century AD Jewish preacher. The Gospels mention John as the forerunner of Jesus, as John announces Jesus's arrival and Jesus describes him as “Elijah who is to come.” It is also believed that John had baptized Jesus. John was eventually beheaded by Herod Antipas.

 25 Mary, Mother of Jesus

Mary, Mother of Jesus
Famous As: Mother of Jesus
Birthdate: September 8, 0018
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Nazareth

The mother of Jesus Christ and the wife of Joseph, Mary, also known as the Virgin Mary, finds mention in both the New Testament and the Quran. Though most Catholic scholars believe in traditional Marian dogmas, Protestants have often argued, questioning ideas such as the Assumption of Mary.

 26 Guru Nanak

Guru Nanak
Famous As: Sikh Guru
Birthdate: April 15, 1469
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nankana Sahib
Died: September 22, 1539

Guru Nanak was the founder of one of the most popular monotheistic religions of the Indian subcontinent, Sikhism. Widely regarded as the first of the ten Sikh Gurus, Nanak contributed 974 hymns to the religion's sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Nanak is worshipped by Sikhs around the world and his birth is celebrated as Guru Nanak Gurpurab.

 27 Neem Karoli Baba

Neem Karoli Baba
Famous As: Guru
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Akbarpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: September 11, 1973

 28 Tulsidas

Listed In: Poets
Famous As: Poet & Saint
Birthdate: 1497 AD
Birthplace: Rajapur
Died: 1623 AD
Tulsidas was a 16th-century Vaishnava saint and poet, who was devoted to the Hindu deity Rama. His most popular works are the Ramcharitmanas, which retells the Sanskrit Ramayana in Awadhi, and the Hanuman Chalisa. He established the Sankatmochan Temple in Varanasi and also began the tradition of Ramlila plays. 

 29 Guru Gobind Singh

Guru Gobind Singh
Famous As: Warrior
Birthdate: December 22, 1666
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Patna
Died: October 7, 1708
Guru Gobind Singh, the son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, became the 10th guru, or spiritual leader, of the Sikhs after his father was killed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. He established the concept of the “Five Ks” of Sikhs and formed the Khalsa community. He also finalized the Guru Granth Sahib.

 30 Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas
Famous As: Christian Saint
Birthdate: March 15, 0270
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Patara
Died: December 6, 0343
Fourth-century Greek Christian bishop Saint Nicholas gave rise to the legend of "Santa Claus," associated with the tradition of gifting during Christmas. One legend states that he saved three girls from prostitution and dropped sacks of gold coins through their window to help their father pay for their dowry.

 31 St Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi
Famous As: Founder of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)
Birthdate: November 26, 1182
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Assisi, Duchy of Spoleto, Holy Roman Empire
Died: October 3, 1226

An Italian Catholic friar, deacon, mystic, and preacher, St Francis of Assisi was the founder of the men's Order of Friars Minor and the women's Order of Saint Clare. He arranged for the first Christmas live nativity scene in 1223. Also known as Francesco, he is one of the most venerated religious figures in Christianity.

 32 Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo
Listed In: Revolutionaries
Famous As: Political and Spiritual Leader
Birthdate: August 15, 1872
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kolkata
Died: December 5, 1950

Sri Aurobindo was an Indian philosopher, poet, yogi, teacher, and nationalist. He was one of the most influential leaders of the Indian independence movement before becoming a spiritual reformer, focusing on spiritual evolution and human progress. He is credited with founding the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, which continues to serve spiritual aspirants from all over the world.

 33 Mirza Ghulam Ahmad

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
Famous As: Founder of Ahmadiyya Sect
Birthdate: February 13, 1835
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Qadian
Died: May 26, 1908

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was an Indian religious leader. He is credited with founding the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which is an Islamic revival movement. A prolific author, Ghulam Ahmad wrote over 90 books on various theological, moral, and religious subjects. He continues to be revered as a subordinate prophet by Ahmadi Muslims, which is often debated by mainstream Muslims.

 34 Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda
Birthdate: January 5, 1893
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gorakhpur
Died: March 7, 1952

 35 Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 30, 1879
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Tiruchuzhi, Virudhunagar, India
Died: April 14, 1950

 36 Adi Shankara

Adi Shankara
Famous As: Advaita Philosopher
Birthdate: 0788 AD
Birthplace: Kalady
Died: 0820 AD
Indian philosopher and theologian Adi Shankaracharya, or Adi Shankara, promoted the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. His Sanskrit works talk about concepts such as the Ātman and Nirguna Brahman. He criticized the Mīmāṃsā school and explained the differences between Hinduism and Buddhism. He also established four "mathas," or monasteries.

 37 General Butt Naked

General Butt Naked
Famous As: Criminal
Birthdate: September 30, 1971
Sun Sign: Libra

 38 Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Famous As: Founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism
Birthdate: February 18, 1486
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Nabadwip
Died: 1534 AD

 39 Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Famous As: Spiritual & humanitarian leader
Birthdate: May 13, 1956
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Papanasam, Tamil Nadu, India

 40 Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Famous As: Founder of Transcendental Meditation Technique
Birthdate: January 12, 1918
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: India
Died: February 5, 2008

Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is best remembered for pioneering the concept of Transcendental Meditation. A disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, he started the TM-Sidhi program, founded the Natural Law Party, and launched the non-profit Global Country of World Peace. He also set up TM teaching centers worldwide.

 41 George Gurdjieff

george gurdjieff
Famous As: Spiritual Teacher
Birthdate: January 1, 1866
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gyumri
Died: October 29, 1949

Born to a poet and carpenter, George Gurdjieff grew up reading a lot of science books in his hometown, Kars. He later laid down the concept of The Fourth Way, stating that humans can overcome their state of waking sleep through methods involving a combination of music, dance, and lectures.

 42 Meher Baba

Meher Baba
Famous As: Religious Leader
Birthdate: February 25, 1894
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Poona, India
Died: January 31, 1969

 43 Swaminarayan

Famous As: Religious leader
Birthdate: April 3, 1781
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chhapaiya, India
Died: June 1, 1830

 44 Gaur Gopal Das

Gaur Gopal Das
Famous As: Spiritual Leader, Motivational Speaker
Birthdate: December 24, 1973
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Maharashtra

 45 Narayana Guru

Narayana Guru
Famous As: Spiritual Leader, Social Reformer
Birthdate: August 20, 1856
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chempazhanthy, Thiruvananthapuram, India
Died: September 20, 1928

 46 Nizamuddin Auliya

Nizamuddin Auliya
Famous As: Sufi Saint
Birthdate: 1238 AD
Birthplace: Budaun
Died: April 3, 1325

 47 Guru Arjan

Guru Arjan
Famous As: Fifth Sikh Guru
Birthdate: April 15, 1563
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Goindval
Died: May 30, 1606

 48 Ravidas

Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: 1377 AD
Birthplace: Varanasi, India
Died: 1520 AD

Ravidas was an Indian mystic, social reformer, poet-saint, and spiritual figure. An influential personality, Ravidas taught his followers to disregard social divisions of gender and caste that were prevalent in India at that time. The Ravidassia sect, a religious sect of Vaishnavism, is based on Ravidas' teachings. Ravidas is revered even today as a saint by his followers.

 49 Charaka

Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: 0100 AD
Birthplace: India
Died: 0200 AD

 50 Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy
Famous As: Indian spiritual leader
Birthdate: August 27, 1931
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Shakpura Village, Chittagong District, East Bengal, British India (now Bangladesh)
Died: October 11, 2007
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