The Bhagawad Gita in Portuguese? Well, why not? Gloria Arieira, a Brazilian and an authority in Sanskrit has translated the Bhagawad Gita and parts of the Vedas to Portuguese, enabling her students across Brazil and Portugal to access the depths of this great philosophy. So if you are seeking spirituality in the holiday resort of Copacabana, Rio, then you will find it at Vidya Mandir, a school of Vedanta studies founded and run by Gloria.
Gloria, who is visiting Kalady, with a group of 28 students, has been to Kerala before. A disciple of Swami Chinmayananda and of Swami Dayananda, Gloria's entry into the world of spirituality was after she heard Swami Chinmayananda's talk on Vedanta in Rio. That was in 1973. Gloria felt that her search for the greater meaning to lifewas answered. With her curiosity aroused she wished to delve deeper into the philosophy of the Vedas and found her way to an ashram in Mumbai (Powai). Here she studied the Vedas and lived the ashram way of life. “It was a simple life and I felt at ease,” recalls Gloria who began teaching the Vedas when she went back to Rio in 1979. It was five years later that she started Vidya Mandir on land donated by one of her students. From eight students to start with, the numbers kept increasing. Soon the school became a centre where people came seeking spirituality.
Raised in a western way of life, what exactly drew Gloria to this foreign philosophy and way of life? “I was looking for answers to life itself. I thought it could not be only for pleasure, nor could it be only for ‘dharma'. There had to be something else.”
Drawn to Vedic ways
Dissatisfied with her search in other philosophies she was drawn towards Vedic ways. Was this attraction to another completely new way of thought strange? Gloria believes that at the start of this journey itself she was able to identify with the food, people and life in the ashram.
Gloria learnt Sanskrit because it was the only way she could reach the depths of knowledge that she was seeking. The Bhagvad Gita and the Upanishads had to be read in the language they were written in. Once having mastered Sanskrit, Gloria translated the books into Portuguese so as to propagate the meaning of the text to her group of students. The number of her students increased as she could now reach out to them in Sanskrit, Portuguese and English.
“I could find a change in my students. They were all beginning to enjoy the goodness and greatness in these books. Vedanta studies had become popular,” she says. Her student group comprises office goers, married couples, twenty year olds and also people who are in their eighties. “There's this 80 year old gentleman who was my student once but comes daily to hear the talk on Vedanta.”
Gloria dresses like an Indian. Her teacher-mother-guru charm comes from her kind face, her thick neatly plaited salt and pepper hair, a gentle, slightly accented voice and a winning smile. She carries an aura of compassion and understanding of the complexities of life.
Commentaries on Gita
The course followed at the school is an initial study on Tatthva Boddha of Sree Sankara and then the Bhagwad Gita, with Gloria quoting high and low from the texts and explaining them to her enthusiastic students. She has done two commentaries on Gita in Portuguese.
Earlier in 1996 she had visited the char dhams, along with her group. Later in 2007 they took a pilgrimage to Gangotri, Gomukh and Badrinath. This time she plans to visit Kedarnath, Yamunothri, Kalady and Kanyakumari.
Gloria, 57, is married and has three children, a lawyer, an engineer and one studying social sciences. Her husband is a yoga teacher. Does her family practise her way of life? She says that there is no compulsion to change. “The Vedic dharma does not ask for conversion. But the understanding of the Vedas changes life completely.” Her children are proud of her work and value the Vedic tradition.
Has her Indian inspired spirituality taken her away from Brazil? “How can it? I am a Brazilian except that I see the logic, the higher order behind my learning Vedanta and teaching it to students in Brazil”, she says.
Gloria in a strange way belongs to the ‘parampara' or lineage of the women Vedic experts- the great lineage of Gargi, Ghosha, Lopamudra and Maitreyi.