Henri Le Saux, also known as Abhishiktananda (Aug. 30, 1910–Dec. 1973), was a French-born Benedictine monk who, having moved to India in 1948 in search of a more radical form of spiritual life, adopted sannyasa in accordance with Indian tradition and became one of the pioneers of Hindu-Christian dialogue. He had numerous contacts with Sri Ramana Maharshi, spending several weeks and months in the caves of Arunachala between 1950 and 1955 in deep meditation. , A leading thinker in the development of the dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism, and a leader in the Christian Sanyas and Ashram Movement, he founded a Christian ashram called Shantivanam ('forest of peace'). He was the author of many books, including Saccidananda: A Christian Experience of Advaita, and The Further Shore.
Sister Mary Pascaline Coff (b. Jan. 20, 1927) is an American-born Benedictine nun inspired by the Christian sannyas of Father Bede Griffiths, a Benedictine who lived in India at an ashram called Shantivanam ('forest of peace'), founded by Abhishitananda. Learning Griffiths approach to Christian sanyas and Hindu-Christian dialogue, Sister Pascaline returned to the United States, and with the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, purchased 40 wooded acres in Sand Springs, Oklahoma in l979, which they called, Osage Monastery: Forest of Peace (Shantivanam). Today Sister Pascaline lives in solitude as a hermit.
Gayatri Devi (1906-1995) was an Indian-born mystic, close to the poet, Rabindranath Tagore, and an early follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Inspired by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, she came to the United States when she was 19 and took her place as the disciple of her uncle, Swami Paramananda, himself a disciple of Swami Vivekananda, the first Indian woman and youngest sister in the monastic community. In 1927, she became the first Indian woman ordained to teach Vedanta in the West. Recognizing the depth of her illumination, Swami Paramananda empowered Srimata Gayatri Devi as his spiritual successor in the ecumenically-oriented Vedanta lineage. Upon his death, she took her place as leader of the community, spiritual guide, editor of the publications and teacher to thousands. She is the author of One Life's Pilgrimage.
Alan Richard (Bede) Griffiths, also known as Swami Dayananda (Dec. 17, 1906–May 13, 1993), was a British-born Benedictine monk and priest who lived in ashrams in South India and became a noted yogi. He was a leading thinker in the development of the dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism, and a leader in the Christian Sannyas and Ashram Movement, who lived at the Christian ashram, Shantivanam, founded by Abhishitananda. He was the author of Christ in India: Essays Towards a Hindu-Christian Dialogue, and many other books.
Thomas Keating (b. Mar. 7, 1923) is is an American-born Cistercian monk, former abbot, and one of the foremost teachers of contemplative prayer in the Christian tradition. He was born in New York in 1923 and converted to Catholicism while a student at Yale University in the 1940s. He later entered a cloistered Roman Catholic monastery of the Cistercian order, eventually becoming novice master and abbot. While abbot of St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, Keating hosted dialogues and meditation retreats with masters of other religions, and contributed to the development of the Centering Prayer practice. After retiring from the abbatial role, he founded the Contemplative Outreach, a worldwide nonprofit organization dedicated to disseminating the Centering Prayer practice, as well as the innovative Snowmass Interreligious Dialogue Conference. He currently resides at St. Benedict's Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, and is the author of Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, and numerous other works.
Vilayat Inayat Khan (June 19, 2016–June 17, 2004) was an Indian-English born Sufi master of Chishti-Inayati Order, and son of the first Sufi master in the West, Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of universalist Sufism. Pir Vilayat graduated from Sorbonne University in Paris in 1940 after completing studies in both psychology and philosophy. Hazrat Inayat Khan designated Pir Vilayat as his successor in 1926. After World War II, during which he served in the British Royal Navy, Pir Vilayat pursued his spiritual training by studying with many different religious traditions throughout India and the Middle East. He later founded the Sufi Order International, through which he offered a universal approach to spiritual development, holding meditation retreats, lectures and seminars in Europe in the United States. He was active in interfaith dialogue and was instrumental in bringing together leaders from different religions to explore their underlying unity and mutual interests. He is the author of Awakening: A Sufi Experience, and many other works.
Raimon Panikkar-Alemany (Nov. 2, 1918–Aug. 26, 2010) was a Indian-Spanish born Roman Catholic priest. A profound scholar of theology and comparative religion, he was a major proponent of inter-religious dialogue and a leading thinker in the development of the dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism, as well as explorations of of the monk as a universal archetype. He was the author of The Unknown Christ of Hinduism and Blessed Simplicity: The Monk as a Universal Archetype, and numerous other works.
C. K. Ramaswamy Gounder, known as Swami Satchidananda Saraswati (Dec. 22, 1914–Aug. 19, 2002), was an Indian-born religious teacher, spiritual teacher, yoga adept, and founder of the Integral Yoga International, who gained fame and following in the West. After losing his wife as a young man, he turned his attention to spiritual practice and studying with many great spiritual masters, including Sri Ramana Maharshi. Finally, in 1949, he met his guru, Sri Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh. He received sannyas diksha (initiation into monasticism) from his spiritual master and was given the name Swami Satchidananda. Swami Sivananda sent Swami Satchidananda to serve in various parts of India and Sri Lanka. That led to Swami Satchidananda’s service in many other countries, and eventually—at the insistence of his many American students—to his moving to the United States, where he founded Satchidananda Ashram—Yogaville, Virginia, and the Integral Yoga Institutes around the world. He is the author of To Know Your Self: The Essential Teachings of Swami Satchidananda, and many other works.
Zalman Meshullam Schachter-Shalomi (Aug. 17, 1924–July 3, 2014), better known as “Reb Zalman,” was a Polish-born Hasidic rebbe and Holocaust survivor who was inspired to found a new version of Hasidism based on the Jewish monastic model of the Essenes in Qumran. A pioneer of inter-spiritual dialogue, he was known for his profound engagement and dialogue with leaders of many different spiritual traditions. In the mid-1970s, he became a Sufi sheikh and later co-founded the Inayati-Maimuni Order, combining Hasidic and Sufi lineages of teaching and practice. He is the author of Gate to the Heart: A Manual of Contemplative Jewish Practice and many other works.
David Steindl-Rast (b. July 12, 1926) is an Austrian-born Benedictine monk, notable for his active participation in interfaith dialogue and his work on the interaction between spirituality and science. He emigrated to the United States in 1952 and became a Benedictine monk in 1953 at Mt. Saviour Monastery in Pine City, New York, a newly founded Benedictine community. With permission of his abbot, Damasus Winzen, in 1966 he was officially delegated to pursue Buddhist-Christian dialogue and began to study Zen with masters Haku'un Yasutani, Soen Nakagawa, Shunryu Suzuki and Eido Tai Shimano. He co-founded the Center for Spiritual Studies with Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi teachers, and since the 1970s has been a member of the Lindisfarne Association. He also co-founded A Network for Grateful Living, an organization dedicated to gratefulness as a transformative influence for individuals and society in 1996. He is the author of The Ground We Share: Everyday Practice, Buddhist and Christian, coauthored with Robert Baker Aitken, and numerous other works.
Wayne Robert Teasdale (1945–2Oct. 20, 2004) was an American-born Benedictine monk in the order of Christian sannyas of Father Bede Griffiths. A disciple of Father Thomas Keating, founder of the Centering Prayer movement, he was a contemplative devoted to a new interfaith understanding, and came to espouse what he called "interspirituality," a perspective that discovered in the world religions a degree of commonality which could be approached through mystical experience. Living in Chicago, Teasdale worked on various social causes, from environmental responsibility to homelessness, and served on the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World's Religions, which he helped to organize. In 2002, Teasdale, with friends and colleagues, founded Interspiritual Dialogue (ISD), an NGO accredited by the United Nations Department of Public Information. He is the author of The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions and numerous other works.
Chögyam Trungpa (Mar. 5, 1939–April 4, 1987) was a Tibetan-born Buddhist meditation master and holder of both the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, the eleventh Trungpa tülku, supreme abbot of the Surmang monasteries, scholar, teacher, poet, artist, and originator of a radical re-presentation of universalist Shambhala vision. Recognized both by Tibetan Buddhists and by other spiritual practitioners and scholars as a preeminent teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, he was a major figure in the dissemination of Tibetan Buddhism to the West, founding Vajradhatu, Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America, the Shambhala Training program, and an international association of meditation centers known as Shambhala International. In the 1980s, he instituted an unprecedented series of Buddhist-Christian dialogues at Naropa University. He is the author of numerous books including Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, and numerous other works.
Vandana Mataji was a pioneer in the Christian ashram and sannyas movement and the abbess of the Christian ashram, Jiva Dhara, in Rishikesh, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. She studied history, politics, and Indian classical music, but her main objective was to promote an integration of Hinduism into Christian spirituality. She regularly spent six months of the year in the Himalayas for her spiritual exercises and emphasized the role of japa-yoga as a spiritual bridge between Hinduism and Christianity. She is the author of numerous works, but many of her teachings can be found in the World Wisdom anthology, Pray Without Ceasing.