Whenever there are serious violations of God’s law, God comes or His pure devotee comes to this material world and Vedic scriptures predict their appearances. His divine appearance and mission were predicted by ancient sages, acharyas and God:
“My commander-in-chief devotee will spread the chanting of the holy names around the world.”
― Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, 500 years ago
“Very soon a great personality will appear who will spread Krishna consciousness all over the world.”
― Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a great Vaisnava saint, in 1881
“After 5,000 years of this age have passed, the great sage and worshiper of my holy names will appear and spread the chanting of my names throughout the world.”
― Lord Sri Krishna in Brahma-vaivarta Purana, 5000 years ago
A Brief Overview
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, better known as Srila Prabhupada is a Gaudiya vaishnava acharya. He is a Vedic scholar, a spiritual teacher, a philosopher, a religious leader and a social critic. He is also the founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) commonly known as the “Hare Krishna Movement” and successfully transplanted an ancient culture on Western soil, which has grown into a worldwide confederation of temples, farm communities, schools and institutes. And the movement is still spreading by all of his powerful representatives, all of his devotees! Since he was directly empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he did this miracle at his advanced age. Therefore, his position as the pre-eminent acharya (greatest spiritual teacher) in recent times has been acknowledged by other great teachers, and will not be eclipsed (as predicted) by anyone at least for the next ten thousand years.
A Short Biography of Srila Prabhupada
Life in India
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 eleven years later (1933) at Allahabad he became his formally initiated disciple.
At their first meeting, in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura requested Srila Prabhupada to broadcast Vedic knowledge through the English language. In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, assisted the Gaudiya Matha in its work and, in 1944, started Back to Godhead, an English fortnightly magazine. Maintaining the publication was a struggle. Single-handedly, Srila Prabhupada edited it, typed the manuscripts, checked the galley proofs, and even distributed the individual copies. Once begun, the magazine never stopped; it is now being continued by his disciples in the West and is published in over thirty languages.
Recognizing Srila Prabhupada’s philosophical learning and devotion, the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society honor him in 1947 with the title “Bhaktivedanta.” In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, adopting the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. Srila Prabhupada traveled to the holy city of Vrndavana, where he lived in very humble circumstances in the historic medieval 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 annotated translation of the eighteen-thousand-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). He also wrote Easy Journey to Other Planets.
Journey to the West
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 sixty volumes of authoritative annotated translations and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India.
When he first arrived by freighter in New York City, Srila Prabhupada was practically penniless.
Establishment of ISKCON
Only after almost a year of great difficulty did he establish the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in July of 1966. Before his passing away on November 14, 1977, he guided the Society and saw it grow to a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes and farm communities.
In 1968, Srila Prabhupada created New Vrindaban, an experimental Vedic community in the hills of West Virginia. Inspired by the success of New Vrindaban, which became a thriving farm community of more than two thousand acres, his students have since founded several similar communities in the United States and abroad.
In 1972, His Divine Grace introduced the Vedic system of primary and secondary education in the West by founding the Gurukula school in Dallas, Texas. Since then, under his supervision, his disciples have established children’s schools throughout the United States and the rest of the world, with the principal educational center now located in Vrndavana, India.
Impact in India
Srila Prabhupada also inspired the construction of several large international cultural centers in India. The center at Sridhama Mayapur in West Bengal is the site for a planned spiritual city, an ambitious project for which construction will extend over many years to come. In Vrndavana, India, are the magnificent Krsna-Balarama Temple and International Guesthouse, and Srila Prabhupada Memorial and Museum. There is also a major cultural and educational center in Bombay. Other centers are planned in a dozen important locations on the Indian subcontinent.
Contribution of Srila Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contribution, however, is his books. Highly respected by the academic community for their authority, depth and clarity, they are used as standard 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 world’s 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 on lecture tours that took him to six continents. In spite of such a vigorous schedule, Srila Prabhupada continued to write prolifically. His writings constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.
Appreciations of Srila Prabhupada
“His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is doing invaluable work, and his books are significant contributions to the salvation of mankind.” – Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri, the former prime minister of India
“Undoubtedly this work of Swamiji’s is a great contribution to the troubled human society of today’s world.” – Dr. Sooda L. Bhatt, Professor of Indian Languages, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
“I liked Prabhupada’s humbleness. I always liked his humility and his simplicity… He just made me feel so comfortable… I felt that he was a good friend. Even though he was at the time seventy-nine years old, working practically all through the night, day after day, with very little sleep, he still didn’t come through to me as though he was a very highly educated intellectual being, because he had a sort of childlike simplicity. Which is great, fantastic. I always thought of him as sort of a lovely friend, really, and now he’s still a lovely friend… Even compared to someone like William Shakespeare, the amount of literature Prabhupada produced is truly amazing. It boggles the mind… Srila Prabhupada has already had an amazing effect on the world. There’s no way of measuring it.” – George Harrison, an English guitarist, singer-songwriter, and producer who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles.
“Swami Bhaktivedanta came to the USA and went swiftly to the archetype spiritual neighborhood, New York’s Lower East Side, and installed intact an ancient, perfectly preserved piece of street India. He adorned a storefront as his Ashram and adored Krishna therein. By patience, good humor, and singing and chanting and expounding Sanskrit terminology, he day-by-day established Krishna consciousness in the psychedelic center of America East. He and his children sang the first summer through in Tompkins Square…To choose to attend to the Lower East Side, what kindness and humility and intelligence ….The main thing, above and beyond all our differences, was an aroma of sweetness that he had, a personal, selfless sweetness like total devotion. And that was what always conquered me…” – Allen Ginsberg, American Poet, Philosopher & Writer
“I was impressed not only by his Sanskrit scholarship, but by his exhaustive knowledge of Indian philosophy, particularly the philosophy of Gaudiya Vaisnavism… Srila Prabhupada gave meaning to many whose lives had become meaningless during the countercultural revolution. In a time of prosperity, many American youth have felt a disdain for the materialistic goals of the established culture… they have not found direction toward a goal in our established culture, nor have they found meaning in the mainline religions that have supported this culture… It was Prabhupada who changed the hearts of many from hatred of society to love to a love of God and a love of all people through the deep spiritual recognition of God within each one of us as the Supersoul.” – Dr. J. Stillson Judah, Professor of the History of Religions and Director of the Library, Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California