Jagadguru Shankaracharya Swami Bharati Krishna Tirtha (IAST: Jagadguru Śaṅkarācārya Svāmī Bhāratīkṛṣṇa Tīrtha) (1884–1960), born Venkataraman Shastri (IAST: Veṅkatarāmaṇ Śāstrī), was an Indian Hindu monk and Shankaracharya of Govardhana matha in Puri, Odisha, from 1925 through 1960. He is particularly known for his book Vedic Mathematics , his being the first Jagadguru Sankaracarya in history to visit the West, and his connection with nationalist aspirations.
Venkataraman Shastri (IAST: Veṅkatarāmaṇ Śāstrī) was born on 14 March 1884 to a resolute Tamil Brahmin family. His father P. Narasimha Shastri was a tehsildar at Tirunelveli in Madras Presidency, who later became the Deputy Collector of the Presidency. His uncle Chandrasekhar Shastri was the Principal of the Maharaja's college in Vizianagaram, while his great-grandfather Justice C. Ranganath Shastri was a judge in the Madras High Court.
Venkataraman joined the National College in Trichinopoly. After this, he moved to the Church Missionary Society College and eventually the Hindu College, both in Tirunelveli. Venkataraman passed his matriculation examination from Madras University in January 1899, where he also finished first.
Although Venkataraman always performed well in subjects such as mathematics, sciences and humanities, he was also proficient in languages and particularly skilful in Sanskrit. According to his own testimonials, Sanskrit and oratory were his favourite subjects. Due to his knowledge of the language, he was conferred the title "Saraswati" at the age of 16 by the Madras Sanskrit Association in July 1899. At about that time, Venkataraman was profoundly influenced by his Sanskrit guru Vedam Venkatrai Shastri.
Venkataraman passed the B.A. examination in 1902. He then appeared for the M.A. examination for the American College of Sciences in Rochester, New York from the Bombay centre in 1903. He also contributed to W. T. Stead's Review of Reviews on diverse topics in religion and science. During his college days, he also wrote extensively on history, sociology, philosophy, politics, and literature.
Venkataraman worked under Gopal Krishna Gokhale in 1905 for the National Education Movement and the South African Indian problems. However, his inclination towards Hindu studies led him to study the ancient Indian holy scripture Adhyātma-Vidyā. In 1908, he joined the Sringeri Matha in Mysore to study under Swami Satchidananda Sivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati (IAST: Svāmī Saccidānandaśivābhinavanṛsiṁha Bhāratī, the Sankaracarya of Sringeri. However, his spiritual practice was interrupted when he was pressured by nationalist leaders to head the newly-started National College at Rajamahendri. Prof. Venkataraman Shastri taught at the college for three years. But in 1911, he suddenly left the college to go back to Sringeri Math.
Returning to Sringeri, Venkataraman spent the next eight years studying Advaita Vedanta and Sastra (scripture) under Jagadguru Sankaracarya Satcitananda Sivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati.
During those years, the Jagadguru initiated Venkatraman into yogic practices. Venkataraman also practised meditation, Brahma-sadhana and Yoga-sādhāna, in the nearby forests. He is said to have attained self-realization during his years at Sringeri Math. He would leave society and practice meditation in seclusion for many days. During those eight years, he also taught Sanskrit and philosophy at local schools and ashrams. He delivered a series of sixteen lectures on Adi Shankara's philosophy at Shankar Institute of Philosophy, Amalner (Khandesh). During that time, he also lectured as a guest professor at institutions in Mumbai, Pune and Khandesh.
Initiation into Sannyasa
After Venkataraman's eight-year practice and study of Vedanta, he was initiated into sannyasa, in the Tirtha sub-order of the Dashanami Sampradaya, in Varanasi by Jagadguru Shankaracharya (IAST: Jagadguru Śaṅkarācārya) Swami Trivikrama Tirtha (IAST: Svāmī Trivikrāma Tīrtha) of Dwarka Sharada Peetham in Dwarka on July 4, 1919, receiving the name "Swami Bharati Krishna Tirtha".
Life in Sringeri
Swami Bharati Krishna Tirtha remained a disciple of Swami Satchidananda Sivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati and also taught shastras to the next Jagadguru Sankaracarya of Sringeri, Swami Chandrasekhara Bharati.
Shankaracharya of Govardhana Matha
The Sankaracarya of Govardhana matha, Swami Madhusudhana Tirtha, was in failing health and was greatly impressed with Bharatikrishna. Madhusudana requested Bharatikrishna to succeed him at Govardhana Matha. Bharatikrishna declined the offer. In 1925, however, Madhusudhana's health worsened and Bharatikrishna was compelled to accept the Govardhana gaddi (chair). In 1925, Bharatikrishna assumed the pontificate of Govardhan Math. He installed Swami Swarupananda Saraswati as the new Sankaracarya of Dwarka Sharada Peetham.