Dalai Lama tops list of 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People in 2016, Several Other Buddhists Included

Dalai Lama tops list of 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People in 2016, Several Other Buddhists Included February 21, 2016

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

This is just one of the many often-quoted statements from the Dalai Lama that continue to land him on top of global lists of influential and inspiring world religious leaders. For several years now, Watkins Magazine has placed the Dalai Lama at the top of their list of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People. He was #1 in 2015, 2014, 2013 (when Thich Nhat Hanh was #2!), and 2012.

In their 2016 list, published earlier this month, the Tibetan spiritual leader is once again #1.

From their website’s 2015 list:

Born in Taktser, Tibet/ 6 July 1935 (Cancer/Pig) / Spiritual Leader1
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. (www.dalailama.com).

The Dalai Lama with Italian politician Marco Pannella (2007) Flickr C.C. Mihai Romansiuc
The Dalai Lama with Italian politician Marco Pannella (2007) Flickr C.C. Mihai Romansiuc

Other notable Buddhists/Buddhist-inspired individuals include:

#4. Eckhart Tolle: Love him or hate him, the uber-spiritual little guy with a fuzzy beard and cute laugh and quotes like: “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have” and “Life is the dancer and you are the dance” ranks among the richest self-help gurus in the world, due in part to sprinklings of Buddhist wisdom.

#15. Arianna Huffington: Best known to most as the founder of the Huffington Post, Huffington recently took up meditation after succombing to exhaustion related to over-working, as told in her best-selling book Thrive.

#20. Karen Armstrong: Not a Buddhist, but a former Roman Catholic sister and scholar of comparative religion. Her 2001 book, Buddha is an excellent and widely read introduction to the religion’s founder and early start. Read more about her here.

#21. Jon Kabat-Zinn: Also not a Buddhist per se, but Kabat-Zinn did study with a number of Buddhist teachers before developing the now wide-spread Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). One can’t speak about mindfulness practice in America today without acknowledging his enormous role in the field.

#25. Sam Harris: One of the “Four Horsemen” of New Atheism, Harris has taken up the practice of vipassana, derived from the early Buddhist tradition, and even teaches it – stripped of aspects he considers religious. His recent book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion develops this merging of Buddhist practice and Atheism.

#34. Daniel Goleman: A well known psychologist and long time scholar of meditation who has worked closely with the Dalai Lama for over a decade. One of his breakthrough books was Emotional Intelligence (1995), and later works include  Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama (2003) and Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence (2015).

#36 is Gary Snyder, #38 is Pema Chödrön, #50 is Robert Thurman, #65 is Thich Nhat Hanh, #66 is Jack Kornfield, #68 is Ajahn Brahm, #78 is Tara Brach, #82 is Huston Smith (another wonderful scholar of many world religions, including Buddhism), #89 is Richard Gere, #95 is Sogyal Rinpoche, and #99 is Sharon Salzberg.

Did I miss any? Several others could be included in the “influence by” category, as that allows for plenty of grey area. If you think any of the others listed at Watkin’s Spiritual 100 List of 2016 should be included here, drop a note in the comments below.

Watkins Magazine is produced by the Watkins Bookshop, London’s oldest bookshop specializing in esotericism, mysticism, occultism, Asian religions and contemporary spirituality. According to their website, the criteria – along with being alive as of Jan 1st – are:

  • The person has to have made a unique and spiritual contribution on a global scale
  • 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.

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