Gloria Arieira, a Brazilian, was awarded Padma Shri in 2020 by the Government of India for pioneering contributions she made in Sanskrit Studies and Vedanta literature.
An authority in Sanskrit, she has translated the Bhagawad Gita and parts of the Vedas into Portuguese and has established Vidya Mandir, a school of Vedanta studies in the city of Copacabana, near the famous sea side city of Rio de Jeneiro- Vidya Mandir Centro de Estudos de Vedanta e Sânscrito in Copacabana, teaches Advaita Vedanta and Sanskrit in Portuguese language.
A disciple of Swami Chinmayananda, and Swami Dayananda Saraswathi, Gloria’s initiation into the world of spirituality happened in 1973 when she heard a talk on Vedanta by Swami Chinmaya-nanda in Rio de Janiero. She felt that her search for the greater meaning of life was answered. In order to delve deep into the philosophy of the Vedas, living in the Chinmaya Ashram in Mumbai (Powai), she studied Hindu scriptures. “It was a simple life and I felt at ease,” recalls Gloria. She believes that at the start of this journey itself she was able to identify herself with the food, people and the way of life of Bharat.
Having mastered the language of Sanskrit, Gloria translated the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads into Portuguese. Day by day, the number of her students increased and she started taking classes in Sanskrit, Portuguese and English. “I could clearly see a change in my students. They were beginning to enjoy the goodness and greatness in these scriptures. Vedic studies had become popular,” she says.
Gloria dresses like an Indian. The course followed at the school is an initial study on Tatthva Boddha of Sree Sankara and then the Bhagwad Gita. Earlier in 1996, she had visited the char dhams, along with her group and in 2007, they went on a pilgrimage to Gangotri, Gomukh and Badrinath.
Gloria, 58, is married and has three children. Her husband is a yoga teacher and her family is proud of her work and value the Vedic tradition. Every Friday at Vidya Mandir, Professor Henrique Castro, a disciple of Swami Dayananda performs Saraswati puja. The Ashram celebrates all Indian festivals.
Gloria belongs to the ‘parampara’ or lineage of the women Vedic experts – the great lineage of Gargi, Ghosha, Lopamudra and Maitreyi. She was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in a family of four children. Because of her father’s work, we had opportunity to travel and live outside the country for a few years. Although her mother tongue is Portuguese, she could speak English from a very young age. She studied in a college in Brazil, before going to India.
She met Swami Chinmayananda in 1973 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
She says,”though I had no problems in life, I was searching for the meaning of life. Although my family is Christian, I did not find any meaning in Christianity or in any other religious tradition. There were no clear or logical explanations for the understanding of God or for the meaning of life and much less for the reality of the individual. But all became very clear as I came in contact with Vaidika Dharma.”
“Swami Dayanandaji taught me Vedanta and Sanatana Dharma. He convinced me that Vedanta is not a religion that one has to believe, rather it is a pramanam, a means of knowledge to know the reality of I, God and the world, which is the one Brahman. Swamiji made me clearly understand Ishvara (God) and the identity of jiva and Ishvara, explained in the mahavakya “tat tvam asi”.
“Through my Gurus, I came to know of Sri Sankara and his commentaries on Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma sutras. Sri Sankara´s explanations on Advaita Vedanta are so clear that one has to appreciate him and to have gratitude for his life and works…I consider Sri Sankaracharya as the greatest teacher of Advaita Vedanta. “