The Watkins Spiritual 100 List

Top 20 Global Spiritual Leaders

One of our most popular posts in the last few years was Can you be successful without ticking the boxes?, where we took the time to consider the meaning of success from a different point of view. We wondered…

What if you made an enormous success of being happy, or being in a relationship, or mastering your emotions?

What if being successful simply meant being the best possible version of you?

Have you ever considered your success as a human being, rather than how many things you’ve ‘done’?

That post generated an enormous number of positive comments in our inbox, so we thought the following might interest you.

Every year, the Watkins Mind Body Spirit Magazine publishes what it calls, The Watkins Spiritual 100 List. The idea is to celebrate spiritual activists, leaders, teachers and authors by making a list of the most spiritually influential living people.

Here’s what Watkins says about the criteria for the list:

There are several factors that were taken into account when compiling the list. The main three criteria are:

1) The person has to be alive as of January 1st, 2015

2) The person has to have made a unique and spiritual contribution on a global scale

3) The person is frequently googled, appears in Nielsen Data, has a Wikipedia page, and is actively talked about throughout the Internet.

By taking into account the amount of times that a person is googled or how many times their Wikipedia profile is viewed, the list gains a highly democratic and transparent parameter. Additionally, we were highly selective in creating this list and did our best to remove candidates who spread messages that were hateful or intolerant. Ultimately, this list is meant to celebrate the positive influence of today’s spiritual teachers.

Here’s the top twenty on the Watkins Spiritual 100 List for 2015:

IMG - Dalai Lama1. Dalai Lama

Born in Taktser, Tibet/ 6 July 1935 (Cancer/Pig) / Spiritual Leader

Born Lhamo Dondrub, Tenzin Gyatso is the 14th Dalai Lama and the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. Tibetan Buddhists believe him to be a reincarnation of his predecessors and the Buddha of compassion. He is a vocal activist for Tibetan independence and has made an incredible contribution to global spirituality. During his first trip to the University of Minnesota in 2011, he was given their highest award, an Honorary Doctor of Letters. On his return trip to Minnesota in March 2014, he spoke at Macalester College which awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. In September 2014, the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag published an interview with the Dalai Lama where he stated “the institution of the Dalai Lama has served its purpose”, adding that “We had a Dalai Lama for almost five centuries. The 14th Dalai Lama now is very popular. Let us then finish with a popular Dalai Lama.” The Chinese government responded by saying they would select their own Dalai Lama regardless of his decision. 2014 also saw the release of the documentary film Monk with a Camera and the film Dalai Lama Awakening.His latest book Buddhism: One Teacher,Many Traditions, written with Thubten Chodron, was published in hardback in December.(

IMG - Pope Francis2. Pope Francis

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina / 17 December 1936 (Sagittarius/Rat) / Current Pope

Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis is the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. He worked briefly as a chemical technician and nightclub bouncer before entering the seminary, and was ordained a priest in 1969. He became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and was created a Cardinal in 2001. Following the resignation of Pope Benedict in February 2013, Bergoglio was elected his successor in March 2013. Choosing the papal name Francis in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi, Bergoglio is the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from the Americas, and the first non-European Pope since Gregory III in 731. In February 2014, at the first consistory of his papacy, Francis created 19 new cardinals. These included 9 prelates from South America, Africa and Asia, with appointees in some of the world’s poorest countries. On May 24th, he arrived in Jordan to start a tour of the Middle East, “aiming to boost ties with Muslims and Jews as well as easing an age-old rift within Christianity”. In October 2014 at a meeting with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law, he called for the abolition of both the death penalty and life imprisonment. Francis was also one of the signatories of a Joint Religious Leaders Declaration Against Modern Slavery, which was also signed by Amma, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. During his 2015 new year mass, Francis asked people from all cultures and religions to help combat human trafficking and modern slavery, adding that all human beings are brothers and sisters and all have a right to be free. A new movie based on Elisabetta Pique’s biography Pope Francis:Life and Revolution was due to start filming in January. Other recent biographies include: Francis: The People’s Pope (Vincenzo Samsonetti) and The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope (Austen Iverreigh).(

IMG - Eckhart Tolle3. Eckhart Tolle

Born in Lünen, Germany / 16 February 1948 (Aquarius/Rat) /Modern teacher and writer

Eckhart’s profound yet simple teachings have helped countless people throughout the world find inner peace and greater fulfilment in their lives. At the core of the teachings lies the transformation of consciousness, a spiritual awakening that he sees as the next step in human evolution. His books, The Power of Now and the highly acclaimed follow-up A New Earth are two of the best-selling Mind, Body, Spirit books in the world. A film of his children’s book Milton’s Secret, written with Robert Friedman (publisher of Conversations with God) is now in pre-production with Peter Fonda confirmed to play ‘Grandpa Howard’. The producers and director Barnet Bain (What Dreams May Come, The Celestine Prophecy) are hoping to keep the film true to the book by raising the finance through a co-creation campaign. To find out more about the film, the campaign and how to support it, go to: (

IMG - Thich Nhat Hanh4. Thich Nhat Hanh

Born in Thua Thien, Vietnam / 11 October 1926 (Libra/Tiger) / Spiritual Leader

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master, poet, scholar and peace activist. During the war in Vietnam, he worked tirelessly for reconciliation between North and South Vietnam and his courageous efforts moved Martin Luther King to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. He founded the Order of Interbeing and the Unified Buddhist Church, along with monasteries and spiritual centres in Vietnam, the USA and France. He lives in Plum Village, his meditation centre in France, and travels widely, leading retreats on the art of mindful living. In November 2014, he suffered a severe brain haemorrhage and was taken to hospital. Though he is not yet able to speak, he is no longer in a coma and there are signs that a full recovery may be possible. His latest books How to Eat (Oct 14) and How to Love (Feb 15) are part of the Mindful Essentials series. (

IMG - Desmond Tutu5. Desmond Tutu

Born in Klerksdorp, Western Transvaal, South Africa/ 7 October 1931 (Libra/Goat)/ Cleric and Activist

Now retired, Tutu was the first black South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and has campaigned to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, homophobia, transphobia, poverty and racism. In July 2014, Tutu came out in support of assisted suicide, stating that life shouldn’t be preserved “at any cost” and that laws that remove the right to assisted suicide deny the dying their “human right to dignity”. Giving the example of Nelson Mandela, whose long and painful illness was in his opinion “an affront to Madiba’s dignity”, Tutu added that in a similar situation, he wouldn’t want to have his own life “prolonged artificially”. His latest book In God’s Hands is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2015.(

IMG - Deepak Chopra6. Deepak Chopra

Born in New Delhi, India/ 22 October 1946 (Libra/Dog)/ Physician, writer and public speaker

As a writer on Ayurveda, mind-body medicine and spirituality, Chopra has had huge success with titles such as Ageless Body, Timeless Mind and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, which was on The New York Times Best Seller list for 72 weeks. He has written 75 books, 21 of them New York Times bestsellers, translated into 35 languages. In 2014 Chopra founded ISHAR (Integrative Studies Historical Archive and Repository). His latest book The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for Our Times was published in November.(

IMG - Paul Coelho7. Paulo Coelho

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/ 24 August 1947 (Virgo/Pig)/ Novelist

Coelho has sold more than 165 million books worldwide, and is the all-time bestselling Portuguese language author. The Alchemist has been translated into 80 languages and many celebrities have declared it their favourite novel. In 2014, Oprah interviewed Pharrell Williams, who told her the book had changed his life. The Pilgrim (Portuguese: Não Pare na Pista), a Brazilian-Spanish biographical drama film about Coelho, premiered in Brazilian Theatres in 2014 and will be distributed internationally in 2015. Coelho is the writer with the largest online community, with more than 25 million fans on Facebook and more than 10 million followers on Twitter. In 2014, he launched a free Notegraphy app to access his online content, as well as daily quotes and updates in Portuguese, Spanish and English. His latest book Adultery was published in hardback last August and will be out in paperback in April. (

IMG - Oprah Winfrey8. Oprah Winfrey

Born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, USA / 29 January1954 (Aquarius/Snake)

Talk Show Host, actress, producer and philanthropist Oprah might just be the most influential person in the world. She has discovered and advocated many spiritually influential thinkers — from Obama to Eckhart Tolle. Her multi-award-winning talk show became the highest-rated program of its kind in history. As of 2014, she has a net worth in excess of 2.9 billion dollars and has overtaken former eBay CEO Meg Whitman as the richest self-made woman in America. What I Know For Sure, a revised and updated collection of her popular life lessons from her column in O, The Oprah Magazine, was published in hardback in September. (

IMG - Ram Dass9. Ram Dass

Born in Newton, Massachusetts, USA/ 6 April 1931 (Aries/Goat)/ Spiritual Teacher and Author

Born Richard Alpert and known for his associations with Timothy Leary at Harvard University in the early 1960s, Ram Dass acquired his name from his guru Neem Karoli Baba. In 1971 he published Be Here Now, his seminal book on spirituality, yoga and meditation. His latest book Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from Your Spiritual Heart was published in paperback in October.(

IMG - Alice Walker10. Alice Walker

Born in Eatonton, Georgia, USA/9 February 1944 (Aquarian/Monkey)/ Author, Poet, and Activist

Walker is best known for her 1982 novel The Color Purple, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her latest book The Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to Being in Harm’s Way and her latest collection of poems The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness into Flowers (New Poems) were both published in paperback last May.(

IMG - Rhonda Byrne11. Rhonda Byrne

Born in Melbourne, Australia/ 12 March 1951 (Pisces/Rabbit)/ Writer and TV/ Film producer

Well known for The Secret book and DVD, Byrne advocates the belief that we can all transcend our suffering by not falling prey to negative thoughts. She has been listed among Time Magazine’s list of 100 people who shape the world, and has also produced television shows. Her latest book Hero, was published in hardback in November 2013.(

IMG - Arianna Huffington12. Arianna Huffington

Born in Athens, Greece / 15 July 1950 (Cancer/Tiger) / Journalist and Author

Born Ariánna Stasinopoúlou, Huffington is a Greek-American author and syndicated columnist. Best known for her news website The Huffington Post, she is currently the chair, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group. Originally from Greece, she moved to England when she was 16 and graduated from Cambridge University with an M.A. in economics. At 21, she became president of the famed debating society, the Cambridge Union. She launched The Huffington Post in May 2005 and it quickly became one of the most widely-read, linked to, and frequently-cited media brands on the Internet. In 2012, the site won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. Her international bestseller Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life was published in paperback in January. (


IMG - Jon Kabat-Zinn13. Jon Kabat-Zinn

Born in New York, USA / 5 June 1944 (Gemini/Monkey)/ Scientist, Writer, and Meditation Teacher

Kabat-Zinn is Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he was founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, and founder and former director of its world-renowned Stress Reduction Clinic. His books include Wherever You Go, There You Are, Full Catastrophe Living, and Coming to Our Senses. For his latest book Everyday Blessings: Mindfulness for Parents, he teamed up with his wife Myla. (


IMG - Matthew Fox14. Matthew Fox

Born in Madison, Wisconsin, USA/21 December 1940 (Sagittarius/Dragon)/Priest and Theologian

Fox is an internationally acclaimed spiritual theologian, an Episcopal priest, and an activist who was a member of the Dominican Order for 34 years. An early and influential exponent of Creation Spirituality, Fox’s effort to reawaken the West to its own mystical tradition has included revivifying awareness of Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas and the Cosmic Christ tradition, as well as interacting with contemporary scientists who are also mystics. His books include: Original Blessing, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, and Christian Mystics. His latest book Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-warrior for Our Times, was published in August and a new edition of The Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm Where Science and Spirit Meet, co-written with Rupert Sheldrake, was published in October.(


IMG - Alejandro Jodorowsky15. Alejandro Jodorowsky

Born in Tocopilla, Chile / 17 February 1929 (Aquarius/Snake) / Filmmaker and Author

Jodorowsky’s contributions transcend any particular medium and range from philosophy and film to comic books. He is best known for his films, which blend mysticism and surreal images (El Topo, Santa Sangre, etc.). He developed his own spiritual system of “psychoshamanism” and has written prolifically on the occult. He is an expert on Tarot and has researched and reconstructed the original form of the Tarot de Marseille. 2014 saw the release of The Dance of Reality: A Psychomagical Autobiography, the book of his 2013 film, and Metagenealogy: Self-Discovery through Psychomagic and the Family Tree, co-written with Marianne Costa. (

IMG - Louise Hay16. Louise L. Hay

Born in Los Angeles, California, USA/8 October 1926 (Libra/Tiger)/Author, Speaker and Publisher

Louise Hay is a motivational author and the founder of Hay House. Her best known work is You Can Heal Your Life. In 2014, she teamed up with Ahlea Khadro and Heather Dane to produce their book Loving Yourself to Great Health: How to Live a Nutrient-Rich Life for Health, Happiness and Longevity. (

IMG - Jaggi Vasudev17. Jaggi Vasudev

Born in Mysore, Karnataka, India/ 3 September 1957 (Virgo/Rooster)/ Mystic, Yogi, Author and Philanthropist

Commonly known as Sadhguru, Jaggi Vasudev is a yogi, mystic, and philanthropist, and the author of over 100 titles in 8 languages. He is also the founder of the Isha Foundation, a non-profit organisation offering yoga programs around the world. The Foundation is also involved in various social and community development activities, which have resulted in the Foundation being granted special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.(

18. Rupert Sheldrake

Born in Newark-on-Trent,Nottinghamshire, England/28 June 1942 (Cancer/Horse)/ Biologist and Author

One of the world’s most innovative biologists, Sheldrake is best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance, which leads to a vision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory. His books include A New Science of Life, Seven Experiments That Could Change the World, The Sense of Being Stared At, and his latest book The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry (called Science Set Free in the US). A new edition of The Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm Where Science and Spirit Meet, co-written with Matthew Fox, was published in October. (

IMG - Waye Dyer19. Dr Wayne W Dyer

Born in Detroit, Michigan, USA/ 10 May 1940 (Taurus/Dragon)/Author and Speaker

Affectionately called the “father of motivation” by his fans, Dyer is one of the most widely known and respected people in the field of self-empowerment. His childhood was spent in orphanages and foster homes, and he has overcome many obstacles to make his dreams come true. Today he spends much of his time showing others how to do the same. His latest book Getting in the Gap: Making Conscious Contact with God through Meditation was published in September and Co-creating at Its Best: A Conversation between Master Teachers, co-written with Esther Hicks, was published in December (see page 80). (

IMG - Byron Katie20. Byron Katie

Born in Breckenridge, Texas, USA/ 6 December 1942 (Sagittarius/Horse)/ Author and Speaker

Others talk about the what of enlightenment; The Work of Byron Katie is the how. The Work is a simple yet powerful method of self-inquiry that shows people how to identify and question the thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world. Katie’s three bestselling books are Loving What Is, I Need Your Love–Is That True?, and A Thousand Names for Joy. Her website is, where you will find many free materials to download, as well as audio and video clips, a schedule of events, and a free helpline with a network of Work facilitators. (

For more information and the full list, see the Watkins Mind Body Spirit website.

If you’re interested in pursuing success as a human being, whatever your beliefs, you’ll find more than enough inspiration and insight from the individuals on this list.

Explore the possibilities…