From the Streets of New York to the Feet of God

via published on October 30, 2011

Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya (Dr. Frank Morales, Ph.D.) was born in New York City. He is a European-American of Italian and Spanish descent.  Acharyaji has been studying and practicing the ancient tradition of Sanatana Dharma and Yoga spirituality intensely for over 35 years. He has been teaching since 1988.

His dedicated interest in self-realization began when he first read the Bhagavad Gita, the most important philosophical scripture of the Sanatana Dharma tradition, at the tender age of ten. A philosophically inquisitive child, Acharyaji began collecting and reading a vast number of books relating to Dharma spirituality and Yoga. He also proceeded to practice various forms of Yoga, pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation soon after this first encounter with the Gita.

At the young age of 14, Acharyaji 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 temple that, on the spot, he surrendered his life at the feet of Sriman Narayana (God) and decided to devote his life to the path of Vedic spirituality. After living the highly disciplined life of a celibate Hindu monk for six years, Sri Acharyaji was ordained in India as a brahmana (a spiritual teacher and Hindu priest) in 1986 by his guru B.R. Sridhara Swami.

His Sanskrit name is Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya.  “Dharma Pravartaka” means “He who sets Dharma in motion.”  He is known to his many students and followers affectionately as Sri Acharyaji.

Sri Acharyaji began formally teaching Yoga spirituality and meditation in Chicago in 1988, and today teaches the most authentic and spiritually compelling form of Classical Yoga spirituality available anywhere outside of India.

In addition to being an accomplished spiritual practitioner, Sri Acharyaji coupled his personal spiritual practice with 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 intellectual and philosophical foundations of Western civilization under the brilliant tutelage of Jesuit (Catholic) professors. 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. As a scholar, Sri Acharyaji specializes in Philosophy of Religion, Sanskrit, Hindu 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 numerous formal academic conferences. 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.

Explaining very early on at his first meeting with his doctoral advisor 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).

Sri Acharyaji is currently recognized as one of the world’s foremost scholars of Hinduism, the Yoga tradition, Dharma, and meditation, as well as being a truly authentic and enlightened guru (spiritual teacher). 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 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 students come from both Indian and non-Indian communities and number in the multiple thousands.

The form of Dharma spirituality that Sri Acharyaji both follows and teaches is the most ancient, effective and authentic 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 meditation, Yoga, and directly experiencing the presence of the Divine. Another overarching aspect of Sri Acharyaji’s teachings focuses on the importance of love, 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 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, for 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 has ever made such an esteemed appointment.

Sri Acharyaji is widely renowned for his unapologetically authentic, traditional and fearless approach to teaching. 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 compassion, peace, humility, and spiritual insight that has endeared him to thousands of students and admirers throughout the world.

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