Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham - Dr. Kurkoti
Notes by Swami Jnaneshvara
What I am writing here is not intended to be controversial, though I acknowledge it probably will be to some people.
Much of the biographical information of Swami Rama describes that Swami Rama was initiated as Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham around 1950 and that he was successor to the current Shankaracharya at the time, who was also known as Dr. Kurtkoti. This was said to be in Nashik, India, and was supposedly a fifth Shankaracharya mutt (monastery) not listed with the four most known mutts.
During the late 1990s I traveled to the area of Nashik and was looking for the mutt of Karvirpitham. What I found was the home of Dr. Kurtkoti and about 5-6 families who had been his students. Most significant of these was a man in his 80s who was Dr. Kurtkoti's lawyer of many years, a Mr. Dixit.
It was explained to me by these various families that during the early 1930s Shankaracharya Kurtkoti was traveling away from the mutt, and that when he returned he had been replaced by a new man. The raj (the Indian man in charge of the region) and the British government officials had not approved of Kurtkoti's most progressive actions, which included bringing an end to the practice of young women being brought to the monks for sex, women being permitted in temples, and arranging marriages between Indians and foreigners. I cannot, and do not wish to prove or disprove these points, but am only sharing what I was told by the followers of Dr. Kurtkoti.
Swami Rama was not known to any of the people I met, other than the lawyer, who remembered him as Bhole Baba and Yogeshvar. Dixit explained to me that Bhole Baba was "the most beautiful human being I have ever met", that he was initiated by Kurtkoti as a dandi swami around 1950, and was given the name Dandi Swami Sadashiva Bharati. He explained Bhole Baba's incredible mind, and said that at the time of the dandi swami diksha, he recalled from memory the names and addresses of some 2,000 people to be invited guests, while a clerk transcribed in writing. Mr. Dixit, while aged when we spoke, seemed very clear of mind and explained that there was no history of Sadashiva Bharati having been initiated as shankaracharya. Kurtoti was actively fighting in court for the reversal of his being replaced as shankaracharya, spending most of his personal family fortune on legal expenses up to the time of his leaving the body in 1967, but at the time, he was officially not shankaracharya and therefore not authorized to pass on this position I have found it fascinating, however, to be told years later that the prerequisite to be installed as a shankaracharya is to first receive diksha (initiation) as dandi swami. He said he had not seen or heard from Sadashiva Bharati since he left Nashik without notice in the early 1950s. The lawyer, Dixit explained that much of Sadashiva's time was spent in Bombay where Kurtkoti and he wanted to set up teaching centers, which never fully came into being.
I was told that Shankaracharya Dr. Kurtkoti left the body in 1967, and that after many years of negotiations surrounding his estate, that was finally settled shortly before my visit. I visited and stood at the samadhi shrine where his physical remains are entombed. There is a childrens' school within about a hundred meters, which continues in his name, and I spoke with the teacher, who was aware of the stories about the shankaracharya and his life. There is also a two-story building there, which was not being used at the time. Supposedly, trustees were exploring uses of the building.
I was only in Nashik for a few days, and did not have time to explore further, and did not formally meet with the trustees, which would be a next logical step for one trying to follow through on this. The samadhi shrine of Dr. Kurtkoti is several kilometers outside of Nashik and should be easy to find by anybody wanting to search this further. From there, one could likely find people with more information. It is also important to note that there is a Kurtkoti library open to the public, and this is in Nashik.
I have no explanation for the inconsistencies about Swami Rama and the position of Shankarachara of Karvirpitham. However, over many years when I read the bios of Swami Rama sitting in this regal position for several years, and then leaving because he got tired of the streams of people coming daily to touch his feet, it never made sense to me that it would have taken Swami Rama so long to figure this out. Afterall, I am a virtual nobody, and it is obvious to me that this is no way for a sincere aspirant, let alone an adept, to live. What seemed very likely, however, was his connection with Kurtkoti. As I heard from people about him, I became more and more impressed; this was a man of tremendous values, who was far beyond his times. That the Swami Rama I know would want to spend time with him, to work with him on serving humanity, made perfect sense, regardless of any official title. Clearly, in the spirit of service, Swami Rama acted as successor to Shankaracharya Dr. Kurtkoti, regardless of official status of either of these two great men.
I showed Mr. Dixit a copy of a newsletter from the Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust in Dehradun, which was created by Swami Rama. I told him about the hospital campus, and what I knew of the plans for it to be a full status university. I told him about the many countries where Swami Rama had personally taught may thousands of people, and had influenced millions. As we both sat there together, each with a tear or two in our eyes, I told Mr. Dixit that I think Swami Rama carried on with the work that Kurtkoti was wanting to do; he agreed.
I personally took the above photograph of Shankarachara Dr. Kurtkoti from a picture that was hanging in the school near the samadhi shrine.