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 person or a title affixed to the names of learned people. The designation has different meanings in Hinduism, Buddhism and secular contexts.
Acharya is sometimes used to address a teacher or a scholar in any discipline, e.g.: Bhaskaracharya, the mathematician.
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.
Prominent acharyas in the Hindu tradition are as given below :
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 Sanskrit institutions, acharya is a post-graduate degree.