7 Great Eastern Philosophy Teachers & Their Teachings

Eastern philosophy teachersIt’s difficult to pinpoint the core differences between Eastern and Western philosophy. There are those that divide the types of philosophy based on the simple notion of their geographical location. Others make mention of their focus on parts (or lack thereof) of a whole.

This isn’t a debate of Western vs Eastern philosophy. Rather, what we’d like to cover are the Eastern philosophy teachers and how they have helped shaped (and brought over) their Eastern philosophies to the West.

Seven Eastern Philosophy Teachers (and Their Teachings)

Determining which teachers to include in our list is a challenging task. Do we choose them based on popularity or merit? Perhaps it’s their lasting wisdom or influence? Who’s deserving and who’s worth leaving out?

We hope the following bios and teachings will encourage you to take up the study of Eastern philosophy. Let’s explore those that have resonating effects on our understanding of the world and self-identity…

Mao Zedong

Born to a rich peasant family, 1893, Mao Zedong found his way to study in Changsha. There he would find influence from his teachers and country distress would catapult him to the front of a cultural revolution. Mao committed himself to the Marxist ideals and later Leninist philosophies — the two of which formed Maoism.

“Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.”

Mao led the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The notable accomplishments are difficult to classify. The “Great Leap Forward”, meant to unite labor forces, resulted in millions starving to death. Yet, Maoism thrives due to its placement of collectivization.


Confucious (551BC – 479BC) is the influential being behind Confucianism. A philosophy equal parts in tradition and religion. Confucious saw himself as one that passed down the teachings (Dao) of the Zhou dynasty. He collected and taught these ideas which were later known as The Hundred Schools of Thoughts.

“It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve, and bad things are very easy to get.”

Confucianism is a “middle way” when compared to Taoism and Legalism; it is a way for followers to find a balance between actions and consequences. The belief that the people will self-govern toward good.

Lao Tzu

The father of Taoism.

Lao Tzu (Li Erh) is thought to be a compilation of poems rather than a single individual. Yet, legend tells of Lao, being a keeper of the archives, taking on a journey toward Tibet and distilling his experience and knowledge into the work known as “Tao Te Ching”.

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”

Taoism is a way of living to harmonize with the world and its inhabitants. The practice has a relaxed approach to rituals and order. The focus is on compassion, humility, and frugality. The philosophy has been a dictating influence throughout China and, now, the world.

Siddhartha Gautama

The moral philosophy of Buddhism originates from the “one who has awakened”, Siddhartha Gautama (6th century B.C.), the first Buddha. The teachings of Buddha directs its followers to find balance in life through the understanding of the metaphysical nature of the world.

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”

The Buddha is one who has reached the point of Nirvana through enlightenment. The absolute truth. These truths explain suffering, attachment, and end of suffering through the Nobile Eightfold Path. Buddhism is now practiced by an estimated 350 million people in the world.


The first Tirthankara of Jainism, Rishabhanatha is a mythical figured that lived millions of years ago and guided the earliest teachers through death and rebirth. Jain Dharma (Jainism) teaches non-violence, non-attachment, and many-sidedness while seeking virtues such as celibacy and not stealing.

Mahavira, one of the 24 teachers in Rishabhanatha’s succession is perhaps the most well-known of Jainism.

Mulla Sadra

Mulla Sadra (1571-1636), the famous Iranian philosopher, combined a wide mix of Greek, Islamic, and Neoplatonic theology to contribute toward metaphysics and the Shi’i theology. Sadra produced many works. The most famous being “Journeys”. He took a focus on linking the universe and nature to a permanent state between the eternal and temporary.

“In Him there is no room for non-existence or imperfection.”

Mulla is contributed as a major figure in the Islamic Golden Age.

Sun Tzu

The famed military general, Eastern philosophy teacher, and strategist, Sun Tzu (544BC – 496BC) is best known for his works ‘The Art of War’. A native of Wu, born in Qi, his experience during the Warring States Period in Eastern China believed the best general to be of Taoist teaching.

“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”

The legacy of Sun Tzu is felt to this day through its rippling impact on the unification of Japan to the use of the philosophies in business.

“But what does it all mean?” You’re wondering and trying to understand how it applies to your understanding of yourself and the world.

What We Gain from The Teachings

There are benefits like developing a critical eye for the facts behind the reasoning or understand a culture. Some even take it to help them explore the mystical natures of life and spirituality in such areas as astral projection. The Eastern teachings also find their way through feng shui inspiration for home decor.

If there’s one truth for every person it is this: We study and follow the wisdom of Eastern philosophy teachers to challenge our viewpoint.

The beauty of philosophy is its low barrier. Pick up a book and dive deep into the teachings of a masterful mind. Branch and explore other perspectives, take part in discussions, and never settle for the hard truth.

Over to you: Who are your favorite Eastern philosophy teachers? What knowledge (or experience) would you share about your awakening?

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