Spiritual Masters from India Who Made an Impact in the USA

Spirituality stands for different things to different people. Some people believe spirituality is about having faith in God and strong participation in organized religion. For others, spirituality is about non-religious experiences that enable them to get in contact with their spiritual selves through peaceful introspection, spending time in nature, prayer, yoga, or meditation.

To concentrate on the growth of spirituality in a person, many ancient religions and practices have given birth. Some spiritual leaders help to build up spirituality in us to achieve self-realization. 

All over the world, there are famous spiritual gurus to promote their practices and values. Many people have become devoted followers of their gurus irrespective of their religion in search of the glow they were ignoring throughout their life. 

In this comprehensive guide, let us learn more about some of the most well-known Spiritual gurus and their useful teachings. Let’s get started!

Spiritual Masters from India Who Made an Impact in the USA

Best Spiritual Masters from India

At intervals of about 30 years, the most well-known spiritual gurus like Swami Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and many more landed in the USA from India. They all were well experienced not only educated in English but also highly knowledgeable in Science and by all means, they all were Hindu monks.

These spiritual gurus were ambitious, heartfelt, well-organized, committed, and chosen. In the modern world, these gurus integrated reliable self-esteem for practices with expert transformation. 

Along with these well-known gurus, many other Yoga masters and swamis with their Buddhist companions landed in the USA from India reversing the face of spirituality in the West. They started introducing the significance of their traditions and science of knowledge that can enrich the life of anyone, whether holy or worldly.

Pioneering Spiritual Masters: The First Wave

A. Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda who is renowned for his teachings on Vedanta and Yoga was an Indian Hindu monk. In bringing Indian philosophy and practices to the Western World he played a very momentous role. 

Vivekananda was born on January 12, 1863, during the Makar Sankranti festival, and died on July 12, 1902. In 1837 he was named Narendranath and was also a famous devotee of 19th-century Indian mystic Ramakrishna. Vivekananda was well-versed in several professions including psychology, religion, history, science, and art. From a very young age, he was connected to spirituality and frequently meditated before illustrations of divinities such as Shiva, Rama, and Mahavir Hanuman.

12th January, this day is observed as National Youth Day to commemorate the birth anniversary of Narendranath. This day was very great for him as he delivered his famous speech at the Parliament of Religions. 

Swami Vivekananda was also referred to as the “maker of India” by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. His thoughts and teachings deeply influenced modern India. Vivekanands’s focus on self-confidence, federal dignity and spirituality infused a sense of purpose and revived the nation.

Impact on American thought 

In the year 1893, it was the first time that Hinduism was formally delivered to a Western audience at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. It was held in Chicago, where Swami Vivekananda defined India and Hinduism.

His journey to Chicago was not easy, it was full of challenges. Despite coming across financial difficulties his devotion and commitment to the motivation of spreading Hindu philosophy kept him going. 

When he delivered his first speech on 11 September 1893, in his speech he focused on the significance of tolerance, presented the Western audience concept of Yoga, highlighted that all religions are different ways to the same God and motivated people to see the commonalities between them.

Narendranath’s speech in Chicago had a serious impact on both the Western and Indian worlds. The awareness was brought to Hinduism and Indian spirituality, covering the route for the Western interest in yoga, meditation and Eastern philosophies. 

His teachings enlightened the appearance of the Vedanta society and the Ramakrishna mission which continues to promote his objectives and serve humanity. In today’s multicultural world, Vivekanand’s message of tolerance and universal acceptance still exists. 

B. Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda was the first yoga guru of India to take up permanent living in the West. He was also known as Swami Yogananda and Swami Paramahansa Yogananda.

Swami Yogananda was born Mukunda Lal Ghosh in Gorakhpur, India, on 5th January 1893 and died on 7th March 1952. Paramahansa Yogananda in his youth looked for many of India’s scholars and Saints wishing to find a bright teacher to steer him in his spiritual exploration.

At the age of seventeen, in the year 1920, he met and became a devotee of the respected Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri. In 1920, he was personally requested by the Liberal Unitarian Church to reach America to orate on the unity of all religions. Throughout the United States of America, he traveled broadly teaching keen Americans about his yoga religion.

Yogananda was remarkably well-known in the places he traveled. He fascinated audiences with his great charm and strong presence. He started focusing more on the Los Angeles site where he thought people were more responsive to his message. He founded the headquarters in Los Angeles for his Self-Realization Fellowship on the location of a vintage hotel on the top of Mount Washington. After initiating a followership here, Yogananda was the first Eastern Indian Philosopher to take up a permanent place in the United States Of America.

Influence through his book “Autobiography of a Yogi” 

The autobiography of a Yogi was published in 1946 which defines the autobiography of Paramahansa Yogananda. It was a spiritual book that enlightened Jobs throughout his life, embracing self-realization and the practice of Kriya Yoga meditation.

This book has touched millions of hearts and minds all around the world. For many years, it has introduced multiple readers to scientific techniques and India’s ancient science of Yoga for achieving the realization of God which is India’s remarkable and enduring contribution to the world’s culture.

The Autobiography of a Yogi emerged among many best-book lists as it influenced untold numbers of men and women who left behind their Western faith and values for ancient Eastern teachings. Due to steady and rising interest, this book has been translated into 50 languages and sold millions of copies worldwide.

The vision of Kriya Yoga is much more intricate than most people think it to be. It is a spiritual way of yoga, meditation, and moral living. Kriya yoga is an important element of the Hindu tradition which combines the main concepts of the religion. In chapter 26, Yogananda provides a thorough account of his knowledge of the science of Kriya Yoga and its participation in karma, pranayama, concentration, and meditation. (Yogananda 1946:263-273).

With the existence of Kriya Yoga, throughout time yogis have undergone a feeling of disconnection from the world and harmony with the divine realm. It has resulted in bringing peace, nonviolence, and independence to the world.  

The Transcendental Movement and Continued Influence

A. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Mahesh Prasad Varma who was known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was born on 12th January 1917, in Raipur, Chhattisgarh and passed away on 5th February 2008, in Vlodrop, Holland. He was a Hindu spiritual leader who gave an introduction to the practice of transcendental meditation to the West. 

Maharishi studied physics at the University of Allahabad before becoming Secretary to a popular Hindu Holy man named Guru Dev. Later on, he headed for the Himalayas, where he studied under Guru Dev for almost 13 years who was the founder of Transcendental Meditation. 

In the year 1952 Guru Dev passed away. After the death of Guru Dev, Maharishi moved into a migratory two-year retreat of stillness in the Himalayan foothills. After returning from the Himalayas, Maharishi committed himself and set up a movement to spread the teachings of Transcendental Meditation across the world. His first world tour took place in the year 1959 and carried him to the United States.   

The TM movement refers to the programs and associations linked with the transcendental meditation technique. In 1977, the TM organization included more than 900,000 participants, and in the 1980s millions of people joined this movement. By the early 21st century around six million people across the world had taken lessons in the meditation technique.

According to Maharishi’s teaching, stress could be relieved by everyday meditation. He has instructed 40000+ Transcendental Meditation teachers and around five million people. He also established hundreds of universities, academics, and charitable communities along with teaching centers. 

Influence on popular culture and scientific research

Maharishi’s first trip to the United States was on 29 January 1959. Before taking his message to other parts of the world he first carried his message to Los Angeles and New York. He traveled to California, and San Francisco for two months and passed on his teachings to hundreds of Americans.

In India, his impact was comprehensive, where he redefined the appearance of the guru and the corpus of wisdom that the guru was expected to characterize. Over the past 50 years, the most influential yoga guru with countless disciples in every part of the earth has been Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. 

In the year 1967, Maharishi’s second world tour took place. He started conveying his teachings at the main American universities such as Yale and California University at Berkeley. By the late 1960s, Maharishi attained a large number of followers which included well-known celebrities such as The Beatles, a philosopher named Marshall McLuhan, actors like Jane Fonda, and Mia Farrow as well as football star Joe Namath

He also supported the practical applications of Vedic science and knowledge, comprising Ayurveda, Vasty, Jyotish, and Yogic flying. His work has made a significant contribution in connecting the gap between the tangible and intangible, the scientific and spiritual and he kept going to uplift research into awareness and human potential.

Maharishi became a followership figure in the West, and the media spotlight as the yoga and meditation master. Maharishi’s numerous well-known and rich followers also came to visit him at his ashram, or center for yoga, in Rishikesh, India.

 B. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Swami Prabhupada also called A.C. Bhaktivedanta was born on 1st September 1896 in Calcutta and died on 14th November 1977 in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh. He is known as a philosopher, a scholar, a cultural ambassador, a spiritual teacher, a social critic, and a religious man.

He completed his B. A in chemistry in 1920. In the year 1922, a spiritual leader of the Vaisnava was his guru, a Hindu sect, who insisted Prabhupada address the teaching of Krishna throughout the world. Later, Prabhupada started dedicating his time as an educator, writer, translator as well and editor for the Vaisnava. In 1933 he formally originated as a devotee at Allahabad.

In 1965, Bhaktivedanta set out on his journey to America. He moved into Boston with a small amount of money in his pocket and a box full of Lord Krishna’s books. At the start, he struggled a lot but after a few days, people started noticing him and entered in his orations.

At the age of sixty-nine, he established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and journeyed fourteen times around the world, founded more than 100 temples of Krishna and activated more than 10,000 followers into Krishna Consciousness by delivering his orations and by talking about the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness.

Influence on Western perceptions 

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness which is also called the Hare Krishna movement had a momentous influence on Western perceptions of devotional bhakti practices.

ISKCON’s teachings on bhakti are seen as a path to directly connect with God which is done by highlighting the significance of vocalizing the Hare Krishna mantra. It helped to teach numerous Westerns the notion of Bhakti which is the Sanskrit word signifying ‘Devotion’. It directs the cultivation of an in-depth and adoring connection with God.

The ISKCON had a positive influence on Western perceptions of devotional bhakti practices.

The Hare Krishna Movement in the West also enabled people to encourage the idea of community living. It helped to make vegetarianism common and also introduced that it is a vital part of a spiritual lifestyle. ISKCON also benefited from popularise the practice of devotional chanting known as Kirtan. 

Contemporary Spiritual Leaders: Carrying the Torch

A. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was born on 13 May 1956 in Tamil Nadu and was a gifted child. From his childhood, he was found in deep meditation and by the age of four, he was skilled in reading some parts of the Bhagavad Gita. 

In 1973 by the age of seventeen, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar held a qualification degree in Vedic literature and physics as well. Sudhakar Chaturvedi was Gurudev’s first teacher who had an extended establishment with Mahatma Gandhi.  

In 1981, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar founded the Art Of Living Foundation as a global, non-profit, educational, and humanitarian organization. This organization’s main purpose was to stimulate peace, stress-free living, and emotional growth among people. Over the years, this organization has been prosperous in reaching millions of people through different programs, initiatives, and workshops.

The Art Of Living program is currently presented in 180 countries. Its educational and self-growth programs deliver powerful implements to wipe out stress. These techniques have proven applicable not only to specific populations but also to all classes of society. 

In the year 1997, he founded the International Association for Human Values (IAHV). His programs in the USA for youth are helping Americans to overcome the problems of drugs and alcohol. IAHV has delivered trauma relief programs to 50,000 affected people. His teachings have exceeded boundaries, with his foundation operating in over 155 countries.

Humanitarian efforts, peace initiatives, and educational programs.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar by way of discussion and strategic initiatives has encouraged peace that fascinates numerous levels of government, firms, and humanitarian organizations. 

These programs have supported millions of people around the world to grind down stress, anxiety, and forceful movements. This foundation puts forward breathing techniques, meditation, and yoga which help in eliminating stress.

The Art of Living movement through various humanitarian projects has spread peace across communities, possessing conflict resolution, disaster relief, empowerment of women, prisoner healing, education for all, environmental sustainability, and rural development.

This movement has also instigated conflict resolution and trauma relief programs in many countries like Brazil, Cameroon, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Kenya, Morocco, Nepal,  Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the United States of America.

B. Sadhguru, Jaggi Vasudev

Jagadish Vasudev also known as Sadhguru, Jaggi Vasudev was born in the year 1957 on 3 September. From his childhood, he became enchanted with nature and would often spend hours and even stretch days in the jungle. After completing his education with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, he then ventured into a career as a businessman.

On September 23, 1982, he had a spiritual knowledge that made him understand that he had to re-evaluate his life and priorities. In 1983, he started teaching yoga in Mysore and as time passed he started conducting yoga classes across Karnataka and Hyderabad. 

In 1992, Jaggi Vasudev founded the ‘Isha Foundation’ a non-profit organization that offers yoga programs across the world. Over time, the foundation became involved in different social and community development activities. 

With over five million volunteers, the organization has its existence felt in several countries across the world, and it started functioning in teams with international bodies like the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

The rapid growth and worldwide honor came with Sadhguru’s signature program which was shared on social media known as ‘ Inner Engineering’. It’s a transformative program that contains simple yoga exercises, sessions, and meditative techniques directed by Sadhguru. It helps you develop a foundation of health, happiness, and liveliness along with a chemistry of blissfulness.

Contributions through environmental and social outreach, and influence through digital platforms

Sadhguru has spoken out on various types of environmental problems, including climate change, deforestation, and water pollution. He is a spirited exponent for environmental protection and has founded various organizations that function to deliver environmental problems such as the Isha Foundation’s Cauvery calling initiative which seeks to plant 2.42 billion trees along the Cauvery River Basin in India.

Sadhguru is a substantial follower of women’s empowerment and has established various initiatives to support gender equality. He is devoted to social outreach, his Isha Foundation handles a number of programs that provide education, healthcare, and source of income opportunities to diminished societies.

He also has an extensive and involved following on digital platforms. He makes use of his social media accounts and YouTube channels to attract millions of people with his messages on environmental conservation, social outreach, and personal development which will enlighten them to take a step and make the world a better place.

The Cultural and Spiritual Impact of Indian Gurus in the USA

The cultural and spiritual impact of Indian gurus in the USA has had a momentous contribution to transforming people’s lives. Indian gurus have put forward Americans to a broad range of spiritual practices which includes yoga meditation, Vedanta philosophy, and many more. 

Starting with Swami Vivekananda’s oration in Chicago at the World’s Parliament of Religions in the year 1893. He taught Americans the significance of tolerance and for the very first time gave an introduction to them about the concept of Yoga.

Paramahansa Yogananda fascinated people in the West with his charm and strong presence. He taught Americans deeply about yoga and its importance in life. He founded his self-realization fellowship and wrote a spiritual book named ‘ Autobiography Of a Yogi’ which embraces self-realization and the practice of Kriya Yoga meditation.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi founded the Transcendental Movement and guided Americans in meditation techniques by encouraging stress-free living. This movement is still practiced by millions of people around the world.

Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada started addressing the teachings of Krishna. He founded the International Society For Krishna Consciousness known as Hari Krishna Movement and encouraged people to the idea of community living and chanting Kirtan.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar founded the Art of Living Foundation by offering a variety of humanitarian projects to spread peace. This movement has also conducted various programs and workshops on stress management, meditation, and personal growth.

Sadhguru, Jaggi Vasudev founded the Isha Foundation and supported gender equality. He also launched programs for healthcare, a source of income for diminishing societies as well as workshops on yoga, meditation, and spirituality.

Indian gurus have influenced American culture in a number of ways. Concepts such as karma, non-violence, and transmigration of the soul have also been popularized in American culture.


In conclusion, a person becomes a guru only when a determined guru gives consent for one of their shishya (student) to carry on the tradition because of their devotion to spirituality.

These gurus influenced many Americans to transform their lives. Many Americans discovered that the teachings of Indian gurus deliver a direction to inner peace and self-realization. Indian gurus have also helped to teach people in America the notion of a universal spirituality that exceeds traditional religious borders.

The number of ashrams and meditation centres in the USA were inaugurated which serves as an influential community place for spiritual seekers. These centers usually represent classes on yoga, meditation, and other spiritual techniques. Indian Gurus have guided Americans through a wide range of various spiritual practices and concepts which in turn have enabled them to shape the spiritual landscape of the country.

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