About Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya
spiritual teacher, Vedic scholar and religious leader
"Sri Acharyaji represents the Sankalpa [the will] of the Hindu people and the cause of Sanatana Dharma. I urge all Hindus everywhere to give him your full support, assistance, and encouragement in his crucial work. He needs and deserves our help."
- Dr. David Frawley (Oct. 14, 2007)
From the Skyscrapers of New York to the Feet of God
Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya is widely renowned for his unapologetically authentic, traditional and fearless approach to teaching the spiritual truths of the Vedic tradition. Whether speaking to an audience of thousands, or having a heart-felt discussion with only one person, Sri Acharyaji vividly conveys a deeply moving sense of personal compassion, peace, humility, and spiritual insight that has endeared him to thousands of students and admirers throughout the world. He is the real thing: An enlightened and exceedingly qualified spiritual master.
Sri Acharyaji was born in New York City. He is a European-American of Italian and Spanish descent. Sri Acharyaji has been studying and practicing the ancient tradition of Sanatana Dharma and Yoga spirituality intensely for over 40 years. He has been teaching the Vedic way to the world since 1988.
The dedicated pursuit of self-realization and for a direct experience of God began for him at a very early age. He chose to follow the path of Sanatana Dharma specifically when he first read the Bhagavad Gita, the most important philosophical scripture of the Sanatana Dharma tradition, at the tender age of ten. As a philosophically inquisitive and deeply contemplative child, Acharyaji then began collecting and studying a vast number of books relating to Dharma spirituality, Vedanta, Vedic civilization, meditation and Yoga. He also proceeded to intensely practice various forms of Yoga, pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation soon after this first encounter with the Bhagavad Gita.
At the young age of 14, Sri Acharyaji formally visited a Hindu temple for the first time. This was the famous Ganapati Temple in Flushing, Queens, the very first Hindu temple built in North America. So awed was he with the majestic beauty and spiritual power that he encountered in this historic temple that, on the spot, he surrendered his life at the feet of Sriman Narayana (God) and decided to devote every fragment of his life to the path of Vedic spirituality. It was at this time that he was first initiated into the Vedic mantra Aum Namo Narayanaya. Soon after this transformative experience, Sri Acharyaji lived the highly disciplined life of a celibate Hindu monk for six years in several ashrams throughout New York, as well as in the Bay Area, London and India. Sri Acharyaji was formally ordained in India as an orthodox Vedic brahmana (a spiritual teacher and Hindu priest) in 1986 by his guru, the world famous Vaishnava Acharya Bhakti Rakshaka Sridhara Swami.
His full Sanskrit name is Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya. "Dharma-Pravartaka" means "He Who Sets Dharma in Motion." He is known today to his many thousands of students and followers affectionately as Sri Acharyaji.
Sri Acharyaji has been working tirelessly to "set Dharma in motion" for all of his adult life. He began formally teaching Sanatana Dharma, Yoga spirituality and meditation in Chicago in 1988, and today teaches the most authentic and spiritually compelling form of Sanatana Dharma and Classical Yoga spirituality available anywhere in the world today.
Spiritual Pursuit Coupled with Academic Achievement
In addition to being an accomplished spiritual practitioner and a globally recognized Hindu guru, Sri Acharyaji coupled his personal spiritual practice with a formal regimen of rigorous academic training. Sri Acharyaji earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Theology, magna cum laude, from Loyola University Chicago in 1994. While there, he studied the theological, intellectual and philosophical foundations of Western civilization under the brilliant tutelage of Jesuit (an order of Catholic priests) professors. While at Loyola, Sri Acharyaji was inducted into five national academic honor societies. In May of 1999, Sri Acharyaji earned a Master of Arts degree in South Asian Languages and Literature. In December of 2002, Sri Acharyaji earned a Ph.D., summa cum laude, in Languages and Cultures of Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a focus on Religious Studies and Philosophy of Religion. His entire academic career from start to finish was financially secured by a variety of academic scholarships and fellowships that recognized his academic genius. As a scholar, Sri Acharyaji specializes in Philosophy of Religion, Sanskrit, Vedic Studies, and South Asian Affairs. He served briefly as an Adjunct Professor with Antioch University.
He has written for numerous academic journals, magazines and anthologies, as well as presented talks at many formal academic conferences, including the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Sri Acharyaji has guest lectured at dozens of major universities, including such prestigious institutions as Harvard, Columbia, Rutgers, Cornell, Northwestern, and the University of Virginia. He has also served as a religions consultant for many Fortune 500 corporations, including Ford Motor Company, Global Health Corporation and Lucent Technology. In early 2002, just a few short months after the 911 terrorist attacks, for example, Sri Acharyaji was commissioned by Ford Motor Company to address over 1000 of its employees as the representative of the Hindu religion at a company organized interfaith conference.
Explaining very early on at his first meeting with his doctoral adviser in 1995 that "I don't want to just study the history of religion…My ultimate aim is to make religious history", Sri Acharyaji eventually left academia to devote himself exclusively to spiritual teaching and to the preservation of the great tradition of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism).
The Real Thing: An Authentic Guru
Sri Acharyaji is currently recognized as one of the world's foremost scholars of the Vedic religion, the Yoga tradition, Dharma, and meditation, as well as being one of the precious few truly authentic and enlightened gurus (spiritual teachers) fully capable of leading his sincere disciples to enlightenment. Sri Acharyaji is one of the very few non-Indian spiritual teachers on earth today to be fully accepted by both the orthodox Indian Hindu community, in addition to the large community of Western spiritual seekers, as being a fully authentic and recognized spiritual teacher (Acharya). He is the President and Acharya of the International Sanatana Dharma Society, a world-wide movement dedicated to teaching Dharma spirituality. Sri Acharyaji's many students and supporters come from both Indian and non-Indian communities and number in the multiple thousands.
The form of Dharma spirituality that Sri Acharyaji both practices and teaches is the most ancient, authentic and effective of all Dharma traditions. Sri Acharyaji's depth of knowledge about the Yoga tradition, his authentic and personal approach to teaching others, and his own exalted level of personal achievement in meditation and self-realization have become legendary in the Yoga and Hindu communities throughout the world. Sri Acharyaji's teachings stress the achievement of self-realization (atma-jnana) and God-consciousness (brahma-vidya) through the practice of devotional meditation (bhakti), Yoga, and directly experiencing the presence of the Divine. Another overarching aspect of Sri Acharyaji's teachings focuses on the importance of spiritual love, meaningful compassion and service toward all living beings.
Sri Acharyaji teaches the ancient philosophy of Sanatana Dharma in a way that is both understandable and inviting to the modern mind. Sri Acharyaji has delivered many hundreds of lectures, satsangs, and seminars throughout North America, as well as written countless published articles, on many key aspects of Yoga philosophy and Dharma spirituality. In addition, he has been the keynote speaker at several very large national Hindu events, each with audiences in the multiple thousands. In June, 2007, as one example, Sri Acharyaji was the keynote speaker at the largest single gathering of Hindus in American history. During the "Swadhyay" event in Washington, D.C., Sri Acharyaji spoke to an estimated 20,000 Hindus about the benefits of Dharma spirituality.
Sri Acharyaji was formally appointed as the Resident Acharya (Spiritual Preceptor) of the Hindu Temple of Nebraska (2007-2009), which represents the first time in American history that a Hindu temple had ever made such an esteemed appointment.
His Ph.D. dissertation, the 408 page The Vedic Way of Knowing God, was published in book form for the public November, 2010.
His thus far released books include:
The Vedic Way of Knowing God
Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Natural Way
The Shakti Principle: Encountering the Feminine Power of God
The Art of Wisdom: Affirmations for Boundless Living
Radical Universalism: Are All Religions the Same?
Living Dharma: The Teachings of Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya
Taking Refuge in Dharma: The Initiation Guidebook
His most recent book is destined to be his most ground-breaking and revolutionary work yet, the 410 page work Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Natural Way, which was published in August, 2011. An all-in-one guide to the world of Yoga, Vedanta, meditation and Hinduism, this book is a celebration of the tradition of Sanatana Dharma. This magnum opus is a comprehensive summary of this profound spiritual tradition. It is the first English language systematic theological compendium (summa theologica) and philosophical exposition of the entire world-view of Sanatana Dharma ever produced.
To read a sampling of Sri Acharyaji's ground-breaking writings on Sanatana Dharma, please see these: Articles by Sri Dharma Pravartaka.
Setting Dharma in Motion
Sri Acharyaji is recognized by many contemporary Hindu leaders as being the most innovative, forward-thinking, dynamic and brilliant spiritual leader in the world Hindu community today, instigating many ground-breaking projects designed to preserve Vedic spirituality in its most pristine form, to strengthen and expand the world's understanding of the philosophy and culture of Sanatana Dharma, and to teach the life-enhancing yogic techniques of the Vedic tradition to all sincere spiritual seekers.
Clarification of Terminology
Beginning in the late 1980s, for example, Sri Acharyaji began a single-handed campaign to encourage the abandoning of such incorrect terms as "Hindu" and "Hinduism", and to encourage instead the more proper use of the respective terms "Dharmi" and "Sanatana Dharma". As Sri Acharyaji explains the issue in his book "Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Natural Way"
"The word "Hinduism" is not found anywhere in either Vedic or classical Sanskrit, nor in any of the recognized sacred scriptures (shastra) of this spiritual path. Rather, the proper name of this spiritual tradition, the name that is found throughout the scriptures of the tradition, is Sanatana Dharma, or the Eternal Natural Way. Additionally, followers of Sanatana Dharma are not properly referred to as “Hindus”, but as “Dharmis”, or followers of Dharma." (Pg. 16)
At the time that Sri Acharyaji began this campaign, he was one of the very few Hindu leaders even using the term "Sanatana Dharma"; almost every other leader of the tradition was still unthinkingly using the incorrect term "Hinduism". Indeed, he was initially greeted with a degree of opposition and push-back from many less-knowledgeable Hindu leaders when he first began this important campaign. The situation today, of course, has now dramatically changed.
As of 2011, over two decades after Sri Acharyaji began his concerted campaign as a lone voice in the wilderness, multiple millions of followers of the Vedic way have now begun to use Sri Acharyaji's preferred terms "Sanatana Dharma" and "Dharmi". More, those very same Hindu leaders who at first challenged the wisdom of re-adopting our religion's true name are now themselves using the correct name with ever-increasing frequency, thus helping to make the term "Sanatana Dharma" a veritable household term. We have none other than Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya to thank for this gradual shift in terminology in the last two decades, and for the reclaiming of our spiritual tradition's true and beautiful name: Sanatana Dharma.
A similar campaign that was designed to re-instantiate authentic Sanatana Dharma in the philosophical realm was dramatically initiated by Sri Acharyaji in 2005. It was in that year that his now world famous "Radical Universalism" thesis was first published for the world to see. Originally released as a long 44 page philosophical essay, and now rendered in an expanded book form, Acharyaji's innovative "Radical Universalism: Does Hinduism Teach that all Religions are the Same" thesis went on to be read by over one-million Dharmis in its first year alone, and has now changed our understanding of Sanatana Dharma forever. In this important work, Acharyaji explained in an unassailable philosophical manner that Sanatana Dharma never taught that all religions are the same, or that all paths are one, and that this false proposition is a thoroughly modern and Western notion that was superimposed upon traditional Sanatana Dharma for the last two centuries. Commenting upon Sri Acharyaji's work, Dr. David Frawley has stated the following:
"In his critique of radical universalism, Sri Acharyaji has boldly addressed this complex issue with depth, clarity, comprehensiveness and sensitivity and, most importantly, with a profound rationality based upon the great principles of Vedanta. He shows how the Hindu tradition does not teach such a blind equation of all religions, but instead emphasizes an enlightened pluralism that not only allows for the existence of many paths but insists that only a path as sharp as the edge of a razor can take us to the highest goal. There can be no compromise about truth if one wants to realize the Divine Self within, which is the real aim of all religious and spiritual striving. Sri Acharyaji restores this older and deeper approach of the Hindu mind which combines tolerance with truthfulness, and insists upon a philosophical clarity to one's views, regardless of whether others might agree or not."
Like with his campaign to revive the tradition's original name of "Sanatana Dharma", at first there was a modicum of resistance from less-knowledgeable quarters. Today, however, Sri Acharyaji's Radical Universalism thesis is accepted by the vast majority of authentic and more knowledgeable Vedic and Hindu leaders as the philosophical norm in understanding the relationship of Sanatana Dharma in comparison to the other religions of our world. Sri Acharyaji's ground-breaking work in this issue has changed the world's understanding of the very nature of Sanatana Dharma. We have Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya's tireless efforts to thank for this positive philosophical transformation.
Bridging the Gap
Sri Acharyaji was the very first Sanatana Dharma guru and scholar to write and publically speak about the unfortunate divide that exists between the two separate Vedic communities of A) Indian Hindus, and B) Western Yoga practitioners. Indian Hindus and Western yogis rarely communicate with each other, have found it challenging to relate to one another, have vastly different approaches to Vedic spirituality, and have remained two radically distinct communities. As he has describe the problem in his article "Bridging the Gap: Uniting the Indian Hindu and 'Hidden Hindu' Communities",
"The gap between the two communities of Indian Hindus and "Hidden Hindus" in America and Europe needs to be bridged. Together, as one, united Vedic community - Indians and Americans, Nepalis and British, Sri Lankan and Australians - let us endeavor to exhibit in our own personal lives and actions the spiritual qualities that form the very essence of Sanatana Dharma, and to work tirelessly together to preserve our common spiritual heritage for all future generations."
"Bridging the Gap" between these two separate communities, with the eventual creation of one, united community of followers of the Sanatana Dharma tradition, has been one of Sri Acharyaji's most important projects in the last several decades. In his writings, talks and projects on this on-going issue, Sri Acharyaji has done more to bring the Indian Hindu and Western Yoga communities to a greater sense of unity than any other guru in the world today.
Women Awarded the Brahmana Thread
Brahmanas are individuals who have the qualities necessary to be Vedic teachers, scholars, priests, philosophers and cultural guardians. Very few in the present-day Vedic community would dispute the clear fact that the brahmana profession has severely degenerated over the last several centuries to now being a mere shadow of what it once was. Over the last few decades, Sri Acharyaji has taken it upon himself to reintroduce the very highest of brahminical standards to the Vedic world, as well as to reassert the foundational understanding of what constitutes an authentic brahmana. Reintroducing the orthodox teaching that a brahmana is known exclusively by his or her individual qualities, and not by birth or "caste", Acharyaji has waged a fearless campaign against the anti-Vedic, modern social perversion known as the "caste" system. Indeed, he has waged this campaign against the unjust "caste" system often at very great personal sacrifice to himself.
In addition, with the historical degeneration of the original Vedic brahmana system, the awarding of brahmana threads to women was also eventually discarded many centuries ago. Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya has now actively revived the orthodox Vedic practice of awarding of brahmana threads to qualified women. Beginning in 2008, Sri Acharyaji has made history as the very first qualified Vedic Acharya in over 2000 years to award the brahmana thread to Western women, having now invested several of his female disciples with brahmana threads in orthodox Vedic ceremonies. As Acharyaji himself boldly explains his actions: "I know that this historic precedent is only the beginning of the reclamation of an ancient and important Vedic tradition. My hope is that this represents only the first of many thousands of women who I will see awarded the sacred thread in my lifetime."
If you wish to explore the life-enhancing teachings and practices of the Vedic way in a manner that is steeped in meaningful authenticity and rigorous philosophical depth, feel free to explore the teachings of Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya here on Dharmacentral.com. If you wish to extend your practical support to this extraordinary Vedic leader and teacher in his mission to share the benefits of Sanatana Dharma with the world, visit here: Donate to ISDS.
"The true guru has deep gravitas (dhira). He is an ocean of steadfastness, persistence, firmness, fortitude and strength. Being firmly situated in the center of calm that lies within, he establishes Dharma decisively for the benefit of the entire world." - Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya
What Others Have to Say About Sri Acharyaji
"You've done truly phenomenal work teaching the pure essence of Yoga." - Dr. Deepak Chopra
Sri Acharyaji and Deepak Chopra
"Few have the background and fewer still the courage to speak boldly about Hinduism in modern times. Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya has both, and wields them to trenchant purpose." - Paramacharya Palaniswami ( Editor-in-Chief: Hinduism Today Magazine)
"You are a pioneer in many ways and you have our congratulations and support. If any of us can be of any assistance to you in your work, please do not hesitate to ask." - Dr. Jeffery Long (Professor of Religious Studies, Elizabethtown College, and practicing Hindu)
"Sri Acharyaji is one of the most informed and articulate teachers of the greater Yoga tradition in the West today. He is in contact with the roots of this profound tradition of Self-realization going back to the mantras of ancient Vedic seers and rishis. He has a deep understanding of the foundations of Yoga in Hindu (Sanatana) Dharma and a special insight into Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion." - Dr. David Frawley (Internationally known author of over 26 books on Yoga spirituality)
Sri Acharyaji with Dr. David Frawley and Yogini Shambhavi
"Sri Acharyaji, I am astounded at your knowledge and realization of our Dharma. That an American would grasp the Divine teachings as deeply as you have is wondrous. You are truly a Maha Jagad Guru, the Great World Teacher." - Sri Swami Brahmananda Saraswati
"I recommend Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya. He is a noteworthy academic scholar of Hinduism, a formal convert/practitioner as Acharya in Hindu temples, and a great public champion of Hinduism with courage to stick his neck out." - Rajiv Malhotra (Infinity Foundation)
“You are an awakened soul. May God bless you" - Dr. Ganesh D. Dixit (Department of Mathematics, University of Auckland)
Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya
"Hindus need a person of your caliber to enlighten them. Hindu people, at this juncture, are looking for someone to guide them and encourage them to stand up for Dharma. You are the best suited person in America to guide Hindus in the right direction." - Narain Kataria (President: Indian-American Intellectuals Forum)
"In twenty years of attending spiritual discourses, I have never encountered a teacher with such power of authority, complete authenticity and abiding humility. Dr. Morales is the real thing...a truly enlightened teacher!" - Nathaniel Garber, M.D.
"Sri Acharyaji comes across to me as a very sincere and honest practitioner and teacher of Hindu Dharma. Sri Acharyaji is a very devoted, practicing Hindu and at the same time, he is very well versed in the academic jargon that is so necessary to communicate with his peers in US Universities. He preaches a spiritually oriented, non-sectarian brand of Hindu Dharma, bringing out the deepest truths of our traditions in a very lucid language." - Vishal Agarwal (Director: Voice of Dharma)
"I have heard you speak twice and feel you are an excellent speaker and knowledgeable in your field. As much or more so than any I have heard." - Ken Adi-Ring (Director, Tri-Unity Well-life, Madison, WI)
Sri Acharyaji teaches an authentic weekly Dharma Spirituality Gathering at the new ISDS Ashram and center for Dharma studies.
Request to Have Sri Acharyaji Speak to Your Organization
Sri Acharyaji is currently recognized as one of the nation's leading authorities on Dharma philosophy and spirituality. In addition to directing his own institute, Acharyaji works in conjunction with several educational institutes and think tanks globally. Acharyaji maintains a very demanding schedule consisting of lecturing, consulting and writing. Acharyaji has been a guest lecturer at many dozens of major universities throughout the USA, including Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, Rutgers, Northwestern, and University of Virginia. In addition, Acharyaji has served as a South Asian affairs consultant for such corporations as Ford Motor Company, Lucent Technologies, Goodwin Procter Law Firm, and the Global Health Corporation. Topics that Acharyaji has spoken on include:
Meditation, Philosophy, Religion, Hindu Studies, South Asian Affairs, Ethics, Asian Culture, Contemporary South Asian Politics, History of Religion, Foreign Affairs, Comparative Theology, Principles of Effective Leadership, Yoga
as well as many other subjects. He has spoken throughout North America before diverse audiences ranging from 50 to 20,000 people. If you would like to arrange for Acharyaji to give a presentation to your Hindu temple, university, company, conference, Yoga center or organization, please contact us to schedule an event.
Help Support Sanatana Dharma
Sri Acharyaji has established many different projects designed to restore authentic Sanatana Dharma for the spiritual benefit of all. Such projects include: the International Sanatana Dharma Society, Dharma Central, Dharma Journal, the Center for Dharma Studies, Living Dharma T.V. series, among many others. These projects are only successful due to the voluntary support of persons like you. If you would like to help Sri Acharyaji with his mission of educating the world about the profound teachings of the Vedic world-view, please contact us today. Your help and involvement are crucially needed. Please Donate to ISDS.
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