Adi Shankara Brahma-vidya Peeth is an institution run from the hallowed grounds of Somashram with the primary aim of preserving and propagating the knowledge of Brahma-vidya which is the basis of India’s spiritual and cultural heritage. The institution is dedicated to the study of the profound scriptures in the traditional Indian way and to promote secular learning. Situated on the banks of Bhagirathi Ganga in Ujjaili, Uttarkashi the Peeth came into being in 2010 to protect and preserve the more than 100 year old Somashram as a centre for spiritual learning.
Due to paucity of funds, Somashram which has been residence to many great sages and teachers in the past was being put up for sale. That is when the Sadhus and Mahatmas of Uttarkashi stepped forward and bought the land from the previous owners with the generous help of like-minded devotees and Sadhakas.
The Peeth functions as a trust with an executive governing body of six members comprising sadhus from Uttarkashi and an advisory body comprising senior sadhus of various other Ashrams and spiritual institutions from all over India. Apart from spreading the teaching and philosophy of Adi Shankaracharya, the Peeth is dedicated to the mission of trying to attain world peace, brotherhood and religious harmony through spiritual knowledge and texts. Capable students are given free education and a suitable environment for learning. The Peeth currently houses 11 inmates including Acharyas. All the needs of the residents, educational and otherwise, are fully taken care of. A library is being constructed within the premises which will house books on various spiritual subjects, old manuscripts, audio-visual facility and much more. It is likely to start functioning on Adi Shankara Jayanti in 2018.
Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj (Divine Life Society, Rishikesh), Swami Chinmayanandaji Maharaj (Chinmaya Mission), Swami Nirgunanandaji (direct disciple of Yugacharya Swami Pranavanandaji) and Swami Ganeshanandaji Maharaj (Sadhana Sadan, Haridwar) have been residents of Somashram pursuing their spiritual practice. In 1950 and 1960s sages like Swami Tapovanam Ji Maharaj of Tapovan Kuti and Swami Chaitanyanandaji Maharaj of Sivananda Ashram, Ujjaili taught Vedanta here.
Brahma-vidya essentially is the knowledge of one’s true Self.
Unfolded through the Vedantic scriptures, this knowledge of one’s true Self establishes the oneness of the individual and Brahman, the Cosmic Being or the Supreme Consciousness. This great knowledge has been passed on in an unbroken lineage from the acharyas (spiritual teachers) and mahatmas (saints) like Sri Adi Shankaracharya (788 CE – 832 AD) to the Shishyas (students) through a Sampradaya, a living teaching tradition which has been an intrinsic part of the Indian tradition.
Brahma-vidya is not a subject that can be understood and realised by mere intellectual study, reasoning or even by discussions and arguments. The Acharya imparts this knowledge to the Shishya by unfolding the profound inner meaning of the scriptures going way beyond the intellectual or academic study, thereby leading him to the discovery of his oneness with Brahman.
The main texts of this teaching tradition are the commentaries in Sanskrit by Sri Adi Shankaracharya on the Upanishads, Brahma-Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. These timeless teachings which form the basis of Indian culture and tradition are relevant even today and are of great significance to humankind irrespective of race or religion.
Acharya Swami Vishnu Tirtha, 63 years, is the senior-most Acharya in Uttarkashi and the chief patron of the Trust. A disciple of Sri Swami Narahari Tirthaji of Gangotri, he has studied the darshanas and vyakarana from the Sri Kailash Brahmavidya Peeth, Rishikesh and from Mahamandaleswar Divyananda Saraswatiji. The sannyasis and sadhakas of Uttarkashi have benefited immensely from his lucid teaching of Vedanta.
Acharya Swami Sharvananda Giri, 63 years, is also the Vice-president of the Trust. Initiated into sannyasa Brahmaleen Acharya Mahamandaleshvar Swami Vidyanandaji Maharaj of Kailash Ashram, Rishikesh, he has been tirelessly engaged in study, sadhana and service for over thirty years. He is also associated with the Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Uttarkashi.
Acharya Swami HaribrahmendranandaTirtha, 38 years, also the Secretary of the Trust has been diligently teaching Vedanta for over fifteen years after having studied under several noted Acharyas of Uttarkashi. He was inspired to come to Uttarkashi from Kerala at the young age of fifteen years and at sixteen years was initiated into sannyasa deeksha through the guidance of Swami Brahmendrananda Tirthaji.
Swami Premananda Saraswati, 80 years, is the President of Trust. He is a direct disciple of H.H.Swami Sivananda Sarasawati Maharaj of Divine Life Society, Rishikesh. Following in his Guru’s footsteps, he has been guiding sadhakas and doing seva activities with the help of volunteers in several remote villages of Uttarkashi for over fifty years. Focussed on health and education, these activities are conducted under the aegis of the Sivananda Seva Samiti.
Swami Janardhanananda Saraswati, 53 years, General Secretary, has been a guiding force for the Peeth right from the beginning. A disciple of Swami Vishnudevanandaji Maharaj of ISYVC, he has been engaged in teaching and seva activities in Uttarkashi for over two decades Residing at Vishnudevananda Tapovananam, he has been mentoring children and young adults from the local villages, teaching them the importance of values and an ecologically sensitized lifestyle in addition to guiding them in their school or college subjects. His recent activities also include guiding the staff and students at his Guru’s Ashram in Neyyar Dam, Kerala.
Swami Hariomananada Saraswati, 53 years, Additional Secretary, has been a student of Yoga and Vedanta for nearly three decades. He is a disciple of Swami Vishnudevanandaji of ISYVC and a resident of Vishnudevananda Tapovanam. Besides assisting with the Peeth activities and his sadhana and study at Uttarkashi, he is also the visiting Acharya at Madurai Ashram of SYVC.
Swami Aananda Tirtha, 47 years, is the Treasurer of the Trust. He takes care of the office, administrative and construction activities at the Peeth. A disciple of Swami Vishnu Tirthaji, he is a keen student of Vedanta for over two decades. He is widely travelled and has authored few books on his travels and experiences with people from varied backgrounds.
Swami Shardananda Saraswati, 45 years, founder trustee, is the Aacharya of Chinmaya International Foundation, Veliyanadu, Kerala. Formerly known as Brahmachari Samvid Chaitanya, he was initiated into sannyasa by H. H. Swami Tejomayanadaji Maharaj of Chinmaya Mission. He is proficient in Vedanta and at the same time a perfectly chiseled devotee./p>
Swami Govindananda, 53 years, is the founder of Sivananada Yogavidya Peeth, Kerala. A disciple of Swami Vishnudevanandaji Maharaj of ISYVC, he is an accomplished Yogacharya who conducts Yoga TTCs for Indian and international students. He is also a regular contributor to charitable causes in different parts of India.
Swami Krishnananda, 62 years, stays in the Himalaya for the last 20 years. He wandered through all over the country and stayed in Gangotri during his tapasya period. Presently he stays in a small kutiya in Dharali, 25 kms before Gangotri. He prefers solitude and spends his time reciting the Bhagavatam.
Swami AsimanandaTirtha, 51 years, has been staying in Uttarkashi for the last 25 years. In his younger years he stayed at Divine life society, Rishikesh as a sevak to Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj. He studied vedantic texts from Mahamandaleswar Sri Swami Divyananda Saraswatiji. He was intiated into sannyasa by Aacharya Swami Vishnu Tirthaji. Presently he stays at Mukti Dham, Uttarkashi.
Swami Medhanandaji, 59 years, is the Pradhan Acharya at Kailash Brahmavidya Peeth, Rishikesh. He is a disciple of Brahmaleen Mahamandaleshvar Swami Vidyananadaji Maharaj, the 10th pontiff of Kailash Ashram. He has been teaching Vedanta to both monks and lay students for over four decades. He has presided over several of the Bhashya Parayananjali programs conducted by the Adi Shankara Brahma-vidya Peeth.
Mahamandaleshwar Swami Pranavchaitanya Puriji, 53 years, is the head of Paramartha Sadhana Sangh, Varanasi. He is a leading Acharya in Varanasi and both a scholar and teacher of Vedanta who has authored numerous insightful articles and books on the subject for both beginners and advanced students. These especially address the contemporary questions and issues in Vedanta.
Swami Satchidananda Giri, 70 years, is the head of Koteshwar Ashram, Uttarkashi which was managing Somashram prior to the establishment of the Adi Shankara Brahma-vidya Peeth. His guidance and help facilitated the transformation of Somashram in to a Brahmavidya Peeth.
Swami KamaleshanandaSaraswati, 71 years, is a senior Acharya at DivyaDham, Uttarkashi and is well-known in Uttarakhand for his discourses on Vedanta and Puranas. He runs several charitable institutions including ashrams, schools and colleges in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
Also known by the name of Saumyakashi, the holy town of Uttarkashi is located in the state of Uttarakhand in the Himalayas at an altitude of 1158 m above sea level. Abode of Lord Viswanath, it is one of the five Kashis in India. Other than Varanasi, this is the only other place where the flow of Ganga is from south to north as against north to south.
Uttarkashi is home to a number of Ashrams and temples and has been an important dwelling place for Sadhus and spiritual aspirants for a life of austerity and learning.It has been the ancient seat of the teaching tradition of Brahma Vidya and an auspicious place for spiritual practices. Over the centuries many monks and yogis of various traditions have resided here doing their Sadhana.