His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada
The Founder Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appeared in this world in 1896 in Calcutta, India. He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, in Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent religious scholar and the founder of sixty-four Gaudiya Mathas (Vedic institutes), liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge. Srila Prabhupada became his student and, in 1933, his formally inititated disciple.
At their first meeting, in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati immediately asked him, "You are an intelligent young man. Why don't you preach the message of Lord Caitanya in English?" This request was to be the driving force in Srila Prabhupada's life.
In 1936, Srila Prabhupada wrote to his spiritual master, who was then passing his last days on the planet. In the letter Prabhupada asked, "Is there any particular service I can do?" Srila Bhaktisiddhanta said in his reply, "I am fully confident that you can explain in English our thoughts and arguments......I have every hope that you can turn yourself into a very good English preacher." Srila Prabhupada knew this was to be his life's mission, and he began to prepare himself.
In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commnetary on the Bhagavad-gita, assisted the Gaudiya Matha in its work, and, in 1944, started Back to Godhead, an English fortnightly magazine. Singlehandedly, Srila Prabhupada edited it, typed the manuscript, checked the proofs, and even distributed the individual copies. The magazine is now being continued by his disciples in the West.
In 1950, Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, adopting the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. He traveled to the holy city of Vrndavana, where he lived in humble circumstances in the historic temple of Radha-Damodara. There he engaged for several years in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959. At Radha-Damodara, Srila Prabhupada began work on his life's masterpiece: a multivolume commentated translation of the eighteen-thousand-verse Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). He also wrote Easy Journey to Other Planets.
After publishing three volumes of the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada came to the United States, in September 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. Subsequently, His Divine Grace wrote more than fifty volumes of authoritative commentated translations and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India.
When he first arrived by freighter, the Jaladuta, in New York City, Srila Prabhupada was practically penniless. He later related, "I didn't know where to turn, left or right." After a difficult six months, he rented a small store front on 26 Second Avenue and was affectionately known to his first disciples as "Swamiji." Only after almost a year of great difficulty did he establish the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in July of 1966. Before he passed away on November 14, 1977, he had guided the Society and seen it grow to a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes, and farm communities.
Srila Prabhupada also inspired the construction of several large international cultural centers in India. The center at Sridhama Mayapur is the site for a planned spiritual city, an ambitious project for which construction will extend for many years to come. In Vrndavana are the magnificent Krsna-Balaram Temple and international guesthouse, gurukula school, and Srila Prabhupada Memorial and Museum. Many other centers are located in dozen important locations in India.
Srila Prabhupada's most significant contribution is his books. He wrote over 50 volumes of transcendental literature. From the original Sanskrit or Bengali texts, he would write word-for-word translations and comment on the texts in his famous Bhaktivedanta purports. He called these purports "my emotional ecstasies." Highly respected by scholars for their authority, depth, and clarity, they are used as textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into over fifty languages. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 to publish the works of His Divine Grace, has thus become the largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.
In just twelve years, in spite of his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times that took him to six continents and initiated 5,000 disciples. In the early morning hours, between 1:30 and 4:30 a.m., he would spend writing, and later in the day he would preach to all classes of people in public and in private. Prabhupada slept only 3 hours a day and ate only a handful of food. Even up to the day of his death, when his physical body was at its end, he was writing purports to the Tenth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. By any calculation, he was an extraordinary person and a saint.
His Divine Grace A.Ch. Bhaktivedanta Snami Prabhu Pada appeared in this world in 1896 in Calcutta (India). There, in Calcutta, in 1922 he first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, an outstanding philosopher and founder of sixty-four Gaudiya Maths (Vedic societies), liked an educated young man, and he persuaded him to devote his life to spreading Vedic knowledge. So he became the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada, who eleven years later received official initiation from him as a disciple.
At their first meeting, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur asked Srila Prabhupada to distribute Vedic knowledge in English. In the following years, Srila Prabhupada helped with the work of the Gaudiya Math, wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, and in 1944 he began to publish an English-language magazine called Back Tu Godhead (Back to Godhead), published twice per month. Currently, his students continue to publish this journal in more than thirty languages of the world.
In 1947, the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society, paying tribute to the philosophical knowledge of Srila Prabhupada and his devotion to God, awarded him the title of "Bhaktivedanta." In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Srila Prabhupada moved away from family life, taking vanaprastha in order to devote all his time to scientific studies and literary work. He settled in the holy city of Vrindavan, where he lived in a very modest setting in the famous Radha-Damodara temple. For several years, Srila Prabhupada was completely absorbed in scientific and literary pursuits. In 1959, he renounced the world by accepting sannyas. It was in the temple of Radha Damodara that Srila Prabhupada began work on his masterpiece - a multi-volume translation and commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata-Purana), a classical philosophical work in Sanskrit consisting of eighteen thousand verses. In the same place he wrote a small book, "Easy Journey to Other Planets."
In 1965, the first three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam were published. Srila Prabhupada went to the USA to fulfill the mission assigned to him by the spiritual master. In the following years, he published over sixty volumes of translations, commentaries, and overview essays on Indian classical works on philosophy and religion.
In September 1965, when Srila Prabhupada arrived in New York on a cargo ship, he had practically no means. After living in the United States for almost a year and overcoming many obstacles, in July 1966 he founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). When he left this world (November 14, 1977), the society he founded was a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred ashrams, schools, temples, institutes, and agricultural communities.
In 1968, Srila Prabhupada founded the first experimental Vedic agricultural community in the United States. Encouraged by the success of this endeavor, his students have since created many. of similar communes in the United States and beyond.
In 1972, he introduced the Vedic system of primary and secondary education in the West, founded in Dallas gurukulu. Srila Prabhupada's followers, guided by his instructions, organized schools for children around the world, and the two main centers of the ISKCON educational system are now in Vrindavan and Mayapur (India).
In addition, Srila Prabhupada was the inspiration for the construction of several large international cultural centers in India. Around the center in Sridham Mayapur (West Bengal) it is planned to erect a spiritual city; the implementation of this ambitious project will take several decades. In Vrindavan, the majestic Krishna-Balarama Temple and a hotel for pilgrims from all over the world were built. ISKCON's major cultural and educational centers are located in Bombay and many other large cities in India.
However, the most important thing that Srila Prabhupada left to the people is his books. Highly appreciated by scientists for their authority, depth and clarity of presentation, they serve as textbooks in many colleges and universities. His works have been translated into more than fifty languages of the world. Bhaktivedanta Buk Trust (a publishing house founded by him in 1972) is the largest publishing house in the world publishing works on Indian philosophy and religion.
In just twelve years, despite his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada traveled around the world fourteen times to give lectures on all five continents. But, despite the utmost busyness, he never stopped writing his books. Srila Prabhupada's works constitute a genuine encyclopedia of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.