A Timeline of Spiritual Leaders
3228 BC – 3102 BC | Krishna – The Supreme Being
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu. Krishna is identified as a historical individual who participated in the events of the Mahabharata. Based on scriptural details and astrological calculations the date of Krishna’s birth, known as Janmashtami, is 19 July 3228 BCE and departed on 3102 BCE.
Krishna is often described as an infant or young boy playing a flute as in the Bhagavata Purana, or as a youthful prince giving direction and guidance as in the Bhagavad Gita. The stories of Krishna appear across a broad spectrum of Hindu philosophical and theological traditions. They portray him in various perspectives: a god-child, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero and the Supreme Being. The principal scriptures discussing Krishna’s story are the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana and the Vishnu Purana.
Worship of a deity of Krishna, in the form of Vasudeva, Bala Krishna or Gopala, can be traced to as early as 4th century BC. Worship of Krishna as svayam bhagavan, or the Supreme Being, known as Krishnaism, arose in the Middle Ages in the context of the bhakti movement. From the 10th century AD, Krishna became a favorite subject in performing arts and regional traditions of devotion developed for forms of Krishna such as Jagannatha in Orissa, Vithoba in Maharashtra and Shrinathji in Rajasthan. The Gaudiya Vaishnavism sect of Krishnaism was established in the 16th century, and since the 1960s has also spread in the West, largely due to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
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1350 BC – 1250 BC | Moses – The Ten Commandments
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible, a religious leader, lawgiver, and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed. Also called Moshe Rabbenu in Hebrew “Moses our Teacher/Rabbi”, is the most important prophet in Judaism, and is also considered an important prophet by Christianity, Islam, the Bahá’í Faith, Rastafari, and many other faiths.
According to the Book of Exodus, Moses was born in a time when his people, the Children of Israel, were increasing in number and the Egyptian Pharaoh was worried that they might help Egypt’s enemies. Moses’ Hebrew mother, Jochebed, hid him when the Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed. He ended up being adopted into the Egyptian royal family. After killing an Egyptian slave-master, Moses fled across the Red Sea to Midian where he tended the flocks of Jethro, a priest of Midian on the slopes of Mt. Horeb.
After the Ten Plagues were unleashed on Egypt, Moses led the Exodus of the Hebrew people out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, after which they based themselves at Mount Sinai and compassed the borders of Edom. It was at this time that Moses received the Ten Commandments. Despite living to the purported age of 120 given in the Bible, Moses died before reaching the Land of Israel.
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628 BC – 551 BC | Zoroaster – Founder of Zoroastrianism
Zoroaster was a religious reformer of ancient Persia (now Iran) and the founder of the pre-Islamic religion of Zoroastrianism. Thought to have lived about 300 years before Alexander the Great,
Zoroaster (Zarathustra in Greek) had a religious vision when he was about 30 years old, and for the next decade travelled throughout Persia preaching and running afoul of the established religious authorities. The story goes that he eventually settled in the land of King Vishtaspa, who embraced Zoroaster’s teachings and had his people adopt the new religion.
Zoroastrianism is considered an early influence on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and one of the first monotheistic religions. It emphasizes that good and evil are separate entities at war with each other, in the form of Ormuzd (the god of good, creation and truth) and Ahriman (the god of evil destruction and lies), both ultimately descended from the Wise Lord, Ahura Mazda.
The holy book of Zoroastrianism is the Avesta, which includes the hymns of Zoroaster (The Gathas, from which most of his biographical information comes), liturgical texts and prayers.
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563 BC – 483 BC | Siddhartha Gautama Buddha
Siddhartha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha of our age, “Buddha” meaning “awakened one” or “the enlightened one.” The Buddha found a Middle Way that ameliorated the extreme asceticism found in the Sramana religions.
The time of Gautama’s birth and death are uncertain: most early 20th-century historians dated his lifetime as c. 563 BCE to 483 BCE, but more recent opinion dates his death to between 486 and 483 BCE or, according to some, between 411 and 400 BCE. UNESCO lists Lumbini, Nepal as a world heritage site and birthplace of Gautama Buddha. There are also claims about birth place of Gautama Buddha to be Kapilavastu at Piprahwa, Uttar Pradesh, or Kapileswara, Orissa, modern India. He later taught throughout regions of eastern India.
Gautama is the primary figure in Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarized after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition, and first committed to writing about 400 years later.
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5 BC – 30 AD | Jesus Christ of Nazareth
Jesus (6–4 BC to 30–33 AD), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus of Galilee, is the central figure of Christianity, whom the teachings of most Christian denominations hold to be the Son of God. Christianity regards Jesus as the awaited Messiah of the Old Testament and refers to him as Jesus Christ, a name that is also used in non-Christian contexts.
In Islam, Jesus (commonly transliterated as Isa) is considered one of God’s important prophets and the Messiah. To Muslims, Jesus is a bringer of scripture and was born of a virgin, but neither the Son of God nor the victim of crucifixion. According to the Quran, Jesus was not crucified but was physically raised into the heavens by God. Judaism rejects the Christian and Islamic belief that Jesus was the awaited Messiah, arguing that he did not fulfill the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh.
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570 AD – 633 AD | Muhammad – Prophet of Islam
Muhammad is the central prophet of the Islamic faith. Born into a noble Quraish (Quraysh) clan, he was orphaned at an early age. He grew up to be a successful merchant, then turned contemplative; it’s said that beginning when he was 40, Muhammad was commanded by Allah (God) to recite the words that would later become Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an (or Koran).
As the revelations continued, Muhammad preached publicly of the duty to submit to the one true god, gaining followers and earning the enmity of the polytheistic authorities. To escape persecution, Muhammad was forced to flee in 622 to Yathrib (later called Medina). His poetic recitations and pleas for social justice continued to win converts, and Muhammad was repeatedly called into battle in his efforts to unite Arabia behind the faith known as Islam (meaning “submission”).
After finally conquering Mecca in 630, Muhammad returned to Medina, where he died in 632.
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