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 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.

 3 Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda
Famous As: Indian Monk
Birthdate: January 12, 1863
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: 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.

 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 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.

 6 Sai Baba of Shirdi

Sai Baba of Shirdi
Famous As: Spiritual Guru
Birthdate: September 28, 1835
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pathri
Died: October 15, 1918

Sai Baba of Shirdi was an important and influential Indian spiritual master. Identified both as a Muslim fakir and a Hindu saint, Sai Baba's teachings are still relevant among Muslim and Hindu communities around the world. While Shri Sai remains a common name for establishments in India, his temples are also located in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Australia, and Asia.

 7 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.
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 8 St. Augustine

St. Augustine
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.

 9 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.

 10 Kabir

Listed In: Poets, Philosophers
Famous As: Saint and Mystic Poet
Birthdate: 1440 AD
Birthplace: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
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.

 11 Zoroaster

Listed In: Philosophers
Famous As: Founder of Zoroastrianism
Birthdate: 0000 BC
Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra, was an Iranian spiritual leader who founded the religion Zoroastrianism, which challenged the traditional religious ideas of Ancient Persia. There is no record that states the exact period of his existence with certainty. He is said to have authored the Gathas and the Yasna Haptanghaiti.

 12 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.

 13 Isaiah

Famous As: Judean Prophet
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Kingdom of Judah

Israelite prophet Isaiah is mentioned in the Book of Isaiah of the Bible. Some believe the 8th-century prophet had written all the 66 chapters of the Book of Isaiah, while others believe two separate portions were written by two people. He also finds mention in Judaism and Islam.

 14 Pope Francis

Pope Francis
Famous As: Pope, Head of the Catholic church (Since 2013)
Birthdate: December 17, 1936
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Flores, 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.

 15 Ramakrishna Paramhamsa

Ramakrishna Paramhamsa
Listed In: Philosophers
Famous As: Spiritual & Religious Leader
Birthdate: February 18, 1836
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kamarpukur, West Bengal, India
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.

 16 Osho Rajneesh

Osho Rajneesh
Listed In: Philosophers
Famous As: Spiritual leader
Birthdate: December 11, 1931
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Raisen, Madhya Pradesh, India
Died: January 19, 1990

Osho Rajneesh was an Indian godman and mystic. Also known as Acharya Rajneesh and Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, he was the founder of the Rajneesh movement. He preached the importance of meditation, mindfulness, celebration,  love, courage, and creativity and called for a more open attitude to human sexuality, because of which he was considered a controversial new religious movement leader. 

 17 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.

 18 Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo
Listed In: Philosophers, Poets
Famous As: Philosopher, Spiritual Leader
Birthdate: August 15, 1872
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
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.

 19 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.

 20 Francis Xavier

Francis Xavier
Listed In: Preachers
Famous As: Missionary
Birthdate: April 7, 1506
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Javier, Spain
Died: December 3, 1552
Navarrese Catholic missionary and saint Francis Xavier co-founded the Society of Jesus. His mission focused on the Portuguese Empire in Asia. He is remembered for his efforts to spread Christianity in Goa. He extended his mission to Japan and Borneo but died before he could preach in China.

 21 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.

 22 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.

 23 Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda
Famous As: Guru
Birthdate: January 5, 1893
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: March 7, 1952

Paramahansa Yogananda was an Indian Hindu monk, yogi, and guru. He is known for introducing the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his organization Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) / Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) of India to millions across the world. He authored the book Autobiography of a Yogi and is considered the Father of Yoga in the West.

 24 St Paul

St Paul
Famous As: Religious Preacher
Birthdate: 0005 AD
Birthplace: Tarsus, Turkey
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.

 25 Aphrodite

Famous As: Greek Goddess
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Greece

 26 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.

 27 Jeremiah

Famous As: Prophet
Birthdate: 0655 BC
Birthplace: Anathoth
Died: 0586 BC

Jeremiah was one of the major prophets, according to the Hebrew Bible. As per Jewish tradition, he authored the Book of Lamentations, the Books of Kings, and the Book of Jeremiah. According to Judaism, Jeremiah is the second of the major prophets and the Book of Jeremiah is often considered a part of the religion's canon.

 28 Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

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

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a 15th-century Indian saint. Some of his disciples consider him to be the combined avatar of Radha and Krishna. His mode of worship characterized by ecstatic song and dance rituals had a deep influence on Vaishnavism in Bengal. He expounded Bhakti yoga and founded Gaudiya Vaishnavism. His birthday is celebrated as Gaura-Purnima by his disciples.  

 29 Joseph Smith Jr.

Joseph Smith Jr.
Listed In: Theologians
Famous As: Religious leader, Theologians
Birthdate: December 23, 1805
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Sharon, Vermont, United States
Died: June 27, 1844

Religious leader Joseph Smith Jr. is known as the founder of the Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement. He also published the Book of Mormon. He established his communities in Ohio and Missouri and eventually founded the city Nauvoo in Illinois, which became the center of his spiritual activities.

 30 Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas
Listed In: Priests, Saints
Famous As: Philosopher, Theologian
Birthdate: January 25, 1225
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Roccasecca, Italy
Died: March 7, 1274
Dominican friar and Catholic priest Thomas Aquinas was also a Doctor of the Church. He tried to mingle Aristotelian philosophy and Christianity. His works, including Summa Theologica and Disputed Questions on Truth, and his views on the Scriptures have been studied as prominent texts on theology, philosophy, and canon law.

 31 Jaggi Vasudev

Jaggi Vasudev
Famous As: Yoga Guru
Birthdate: September 3, 1957
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mysore, Karnataka, India

The recipient of Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award of India, Jaggi Vasudev is a mystic, yogi, and author.  His spiritual program called inner engineering is famous all over the world, particularly in the Western world. Popularly known as Sadhguru, Jaggi Vasudev's yoga programs, environmental initiatives, and educational and social initiatives have earned him celebrity status in India.

 32 Saint George

Saint George
Famous As: Christian martyr
Birthdate: 0280 AD
Birthplace: Cappadocia
Died: April 23, 0303

Saint George was a Christian soldier in the Roman army who is accepted as a saint in Christianity. He was sentenced to death for refusing to recant his Christian faith and was executed by decapitation, according to Greek tradition.  Saint George's Day is celebrated in his memory on 23 April. He is one of the most venerated saints in Christianity.

 33 Athena

Famous As: Goddess
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Greece

 34 Ali ibn Abi Talib

Ali ibn Abi Talib
Famous As: Prophet of Islam
Birthdate: September 15, 0601
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Died: January 29, 0661

Ali ibn Abi Talib was the son-in-law and a cousin of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He played a key role in establishing the Muslim community by participating in almost all the battles that the nascent community fought. He ruled as the fourth caliph and is revered by Shia Muslims even today.

 35 John The Baptist

John The Baptist
Listed In: Saints
Famous As: Jewish Prophet & Christian Saint
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Herodian Tetrarchy, Roman Empire
Died: 0030 AD

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.

 36 Abu Bakr

Abu Bakr
Famous As: Companion of Muhammad
Birthdate: October 27, 0573
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mecca
Died: August 23, 0634

Abu Bakr was a companion and father-in-law of the founder of Islam, Muhammad. After Muhammad's death, Bakr played an important role in leading the Muslims as the first Rashidun Caliph. Under Abu Bakr’s leadership, the Muslim state expanded over the entire Arabian peninsula. Abu Bakr's work during his reign eventually led to the Muslim conquests of the Levant and Persia.

 37 Brigham Young

Brigham Young
Famous As: Second President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Birthdate: June 1, 1801
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Whitingham
Died: August 29, 1877
Brigham Young, known as the "American Moses," was the second president of the LDS Church. He founded Salt Lake City, was the first governor of the Utah Territory, and led to the formation of the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. He was a polygamist who had 55 wives.

 38 Artemis

Famous As: Greek goddess of the hunt
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Greece

 39 Jacob

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

 40 Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle
Famous As: Spiritual teacher and self-help author
Birthdate: February 16, 1948
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lünen, Germany
Spiritual and self-help writer Eckhart Tolle is best known for his bestselling books The Power of Now and A New Earth. He collaborated with Oprah Winfrey, appearing in 10 live webinars and was also named to Oprah’s SuperSoul 100. He also launched Eckhart Teachings and the website Eckhart Tolle TV.

 41 Nimrod

Famous As: Biblical Figure
Birthdate: 0000 BC
Nimrod appears in the Bible as a ruler of Shinar, or Mesopotamia. Genesis and the Books of Chronicles state he was the son of Cush. Some sources link him to the Towel of Babel. He has been identified with countless real and mythical figures, such as the Mesopotamian god Ninurta.

 42 Elijah

Famous As: Prophet
Birthdate: 0900 BC
Birthplace: Tishbe
Died: 0849 BC
9th-century B.C. prophet Elijah was from the northern kingdom of Israel and lived during King Ahab’s rule. He appears not just in the Bible, but also in the Quran, the Talmud, and several other religious texts. According to Kings, he defended the worship of Yahweh over the Canaanite god Baal. 

 43 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.

 44 John Calvin

John Calvin
Listed In: Theologians
Famous As: Protestant Reformer, Theologian, Pastor
Birthdate: July 10, 1509
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Noyon, France
Died: May 27, 1564

French theologian, pastor, and reformer John Calvin was a major figure during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. He was influential in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church to embrace Protestantism. As an apologetic writer, he generated much controversy.

 45 Hera

Famous As: Goddess
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Greece

 46 Ezekiel

Famous As: Prophet
Birthdate: 0622 BC
Birthplace: Jerusalem
Died: 0570 BC

The Book of Ezekiel, or The Prophecy of Ezechiel, of the Hebrew Bible talks about Ezekiel, the prophet. He is said to have lived near the Chebar River during the Babylonian Captivity. In about 592 BC, Ezekiel received a religious call, having viewed the “throne-chariot” of God in a vision.

 47 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.

 48 Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: December 21, 1118
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cheapside
Died: December 29, 1170
Thomas Becket, also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury or Thomas of London, served as the archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until 1170. He is known for his conflict with King Henry II of England, regarding the powers of the Church, following which he was killed by the king’s followers.

 49 Husayn ibn Ali

Husayn ibn Ali
Famous As: Imam
Birthdate: December 31, 0626
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Medina, Saudi Arabia
Died: September 30, 0680

 50 Apollo

Famous As: God of archery
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Greece
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