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Adi Shankara Brahma Vidya Peeth

An institution established at Uttarkashi, India, with the primary aim of preserving and propagating the knowledge of Brahma Vidya, which is the very basis for India’s spiritual and cultural heritage and also has universal significance for all of mankind. This profound knowledge of one’s true Self, unfolded through the Vedantic scriptures, deals with the essential oneness of the individual and Brahman, the Cosmic Being. India is blessed in having a Sampradaya, a living teaching tradition of Brahma Vidya of great depth and elegance, with many acharyas and mahatmas (saints) such as Sri Adi Shankaracharya (788 CE – 832 AD), in this lineage of spiritual teachers and students. The spiritual teacher (Acharya) imparts this sacred knowledge to the student (shishya) by unfolding the profound inner meaning of the scriptures; the teaching is thus more than a mere intellectual or academic study.

The Acharya’s teaching of this Self-knowledge leads a student to discover within himself, the spiritual truth of his Oneness with Brahman. The commentaries in Sanskrit by Sri Adi Shankaracharya on the Upanishads, Brahma-sutras, and Bhagavad Gita are today the canonical texts of this teaching tradition. Adi Shankara Brahma Vidya Peeth is dedicated to the study, through an Acharya, of these profound scriptures. This institution is based in Uttarkashi, nestled in the Himalayas of India.

Uttarkashi has been an ancient seat of this teaching tradition of Brahma Vidya and a place of austerity and learning for many celibate sadhus and spiritual aspirants. This is the place where Sri Adi Shankaracharya deliberated Vedanta with Sri Veda Vyasa who blessed him by adding sixteen years to his life span, in order to propagate Brahma Vidya.

The inspiration for forming the Adi Shankara Brahma Vidya Peeth arose in the minds of the sadhus and mahatmas of Uttarkashi due to the urgent need to preserve and protect an important ashram of Uttarkashi, called the Somashram which is more than one hundred years old.

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A view of Somashram with the Ganga flowing in the distant background

Somashram : An Abode of Penance

Somashram is situated in Ujjaili, Uttarkashi, amongst a cluster of several Ashrams on the banks of the Bhagirathi Ganga, and has been a traditional abode for Vedanta and scriptural study, sadhana and tapas for many great sages for over a century. Their mode of living here was very austere and the sadhus lived on the frugal bhiksha (alms) gathered from the anna-kshetra (community kitchen), as well as from the surrounding villages. Such great sages like Swami Tapovanam ji Maharaj of Tapovan-Kuti and Swami Chaitanyananda ji Maharaj of Sivananda Ashram, Ujjaili, taught Vedanta at Somashram in the 1950s and 1960s. Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj of DLS Rishikesh, Swami Chinmayanandaji Maharaj of Chinmaya Mission, Swami Nirgunanandaji, Direct Disciple of Yugacharya Swami Pranavanandaji, the founder of Bharat Sevashram World Wide and Swami Ganeshanandaji Maharaj of Sadhana Sadan of Haridwar were all residents of this ashram at various times and pursued their tapas and sadhana here on the hallowed grounds of Somashram.

 

However, due to a paucity of funds, the previous trustees and patrons to whom this land belonged had decided to put up the Somashram land and the old building located on it, for sale. At this point, the respected Sadhus and Acharyas of Uttarkashi keenly felt a need to step in and purchase this land and retain this ashram as a seat of Brahma Vidya. Spiritual institutions promoting Brahma Vidya amongst sadhus, are becoming harder to come by as Uttarkashi has become a bustling town of local trade and commerce.

Adi Shankara Brahma Vidya Peeth formation

In view of the urgent need to preserve Somashram as a spiritual centre, the Adi Shankara Brahma Vidya Peeth, Somashram, Uttarkashi, was founded as a registered society. A committee of fourteen Mahatmas has been formed, of whom seven are to act as the executive governing body. There is also an advisory body of senior sadhus of various other ashrams and institutions from all over India. The land on which Somashram is currently located, has been acquired by this newly-formed Adi Shankara Brahma Vidya Peeth through the generosity of close devotees and sadhaks who share the ideals of this Peeth.