Adyashanti, whose name is translated as “primordial peace”, spent much of his twenties studying Zen Buddhism and meditating. It was during this period that he experienced a series of spiritual awakenings. At 31 he felt the calling to teach, offering satsangs in his small bedroom as his following grew.
His teachings themselves are reminiscent of his “Zen years” but also draw from Vedanta philosophy. He downplays any “special status” of realized sages, arguing that enlightenment is available to everybody and is often found in the normality of everyday life. He has published many books and audio courses and still holds regular satsangs.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is a secular teacher of mindfulness, perhaps best-known for inventing mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). He also founded the Cambridge Zen Center and was a student of several major Buddhist teachers, including Thich Nhat Hanh, in his early years.
Much like Ram Dass he appeals particularly to those seekers that are looking for a symbiosis of scientific and spiritual approaches. He is a major proponent of the view that ancient spiritual techniques are amongst the best tools available to people for dealing with uniquely Western problems like anxiety and depression.
His main work is Full Catastrophe Living, a broad introduction to his ideas.
For those looking to incorporate elements of spirituality into a busy, modern life, Jon Kabat-Zinn can provide supremely useful and relevant insights.
Ken Wilber is a fascinating individual. As a child he moved around America a great deal (his father was in the Air Force). He dropped out of college, leaving his degree in medicine unfinished, to study Western and Eastern philosophy. His “integral theory” is essentially a bringing together of these two fields of thought and practice.
The Spectrum of Consciousness and Sex, Ecology, Spirituality are perhaps his best-known works. Interestingly, he has criticised many spiritual movements, such as the New Age movement, for failing to capture the depth and complexity of what Aldous Huxley called the “perennial philosophy”. He is the founder of the integral institute.
The Dalai Lama is of course worth a mention too. The leader of Tibet in exile, he has published numerous practical books. The breadth of his interests are astonishing, covering everything from neuroscience to women’s rights. His own school of Tibetan Buddhism is layered and complex, but his mainstream teachings are filled with practical wisdom.
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