Holy Shankaracharya Order

Holy Shankaracharya Order
(est. 1974)
   The Holy Shankaracharya Order was founded in 1974 by Swami Lakshmy Devyashram (d. 1981), a disciple of Swami SHIVANANDA SARASWATI (1887–1963). Swami Lakshmy had started on a spiritual path alone when she met the late Shivananda, who taught her the techniques to enter samadhi (the highest state of mystical consciousness). The meeting occurred in a vision, which convinced her that she should travel to the Poconos and con-tinue under his tutelage there. In 1969, she took the vows of the renounced life and was ordained by Swami Swanandashram into the Holy Order of Sannyasa, the same spiritual order in which Shiva-nanda had been ordained.
   In the early 1970s, Swami Lakshmy estab-lished contact with the ancient SHANKARACHARYA ORDER headquarters at its monastic complex in Sringiri, India. In 1974 she was selected Maha-mandaleshwari or great overlord of the Holy Shankaracharya Order in the United States. By this time a small group of Indian Americans had begun to attend services at the temple’s property in rural Pennsylvania. Having purchased property in Virginia, she began building a second ash-ram-temple there, completed in 1977. In 1978, Jagadguru Shankacharya Abhinava Vidyateertha Maharaj traveled from his seat at the Shanka-racharya Order at Sringiri to visit and satisfy himself of the accomplishments of the Ameri-can Shankacharya Order. Subsequently, additional Indian families began to accept the leadership provided by Swami Lakshmy.
   Responding to a request by the order in Srin-giri, Swami Lakshmy established a shakti peetam (monastery), called Sri Rajarajeshwari Peetam. As Swami Lakshmy attracted students to her teach-ings the ashram grew, and new instructors and teachers were ordained. They serve the order as guides for the different activities and programs developed to serve others. In 1978 a Hindu Heritage Summer Camp program was initiated. The success of this undertaking further convinced Indian Hindus that although an American, Swami Lakshmy could lead. Her leadership has also paved the way for more women to become accepted as leaders in other spiritual camps.
   In 1981, Swami Saraswati Devyashram, a disciple of Lakshmy, was ordained as her succes-sor. She assumed authority shortly before Swami Lakhsmy died. A trailblazer herself, she, much as Swami Lakshmy had, maintained and enriched the outreach program. Swami Saraswati is responsible for a new center in Tucson, Arizona. During 1982, a winter heritage camp was established there.
   In 1988, Saraswati Devyashram retired and passed her lineage to Swami Parvati Devyashram. In early 1991, she moved the Holy Order from Pennsylvania to Rush, New York (near Roches-ter). It continues as a small organization of pri-marily Indian American Hindus.
   Further reading: Andrew Rawlinson, The Book of Enlightened Masters: Western Teachers in Eastern Tradi-tions (La Salle, Ill.: Open Court Press, 1997).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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