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In Indian religions and society, an acharya (IAST: ācārya) is a preceptor or instructor in religious matters; founder, or leader of a sect; or a highly learned man or a title affixed to the names of learned men. The designation has different meanings in Hinduism, Buddhism and secular contexts. It is also a Brahmin surname found in Nepal and across India, including Odisha, West Bengal and Maharashtra.
Acharya is sometimes used to address a teacher or a scholar in any discipline, e.g.: Bhaskaracharya, the mathematician. It is also a common suffix in Viswabrahmin names, e.g.: sankaracharya. In South India, this suffix is sometimes shortened to Achar, e.g., TKV Desikachar.
The term "acharya" is most often said to include the root "char" or "charya" (conduct). Thus it literally connotes "one who teaches by conduct (example)," i.e. an exemplar.
The Five Main Acharyas in the Hindu tradition are:
- Adi Sankaracharya
- Nimbarkacharya
- Vallabhacharya
- Sri Ramakrishna
- Swami Vivekananda
- Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
- Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
- Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acharya of ISKCON
In Buddhism, acharya is a senior teacher. Notable acharyas:
In Jainism, an acharya is the highest leader of a Jain order. Acharya is one of the Pañca-Parameṣṭhi (five supreme beings) and thus worthy of worship. They are the final authority in the monastic order and has the authority to ordain new monks and nuns. They are also authorized to consecrate new idols, although this authority is sometimes delegated to scholars designated by them.
In scientific/mathematical scholarship
In Sanskrit institutions, acharya is a post-graduate degree.
- Platts, John T. (1884). A dictionary of Urdu, classical Hindi, and English. London: W. H. Allen & Co.
- [viswakarma community] Although famous for being the proponent of advaita vad, he established the supremecy of bhakti to Krishn.
- He propagated the bhakti of Bhagwan Vishnu. Source: Ramanujacharya Archived 26 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- His philosophy is called dvaita vad. His primary teaching is that "the only goal of a soul is to selflessly and wholeheartedly love and surrender to God" Source: 
- His writings say that Radha Krishn are the supreme form of God.
- "Ani Pema Chödrön". Gampo Abbey. Retrieved 2014-10-21.