Srila Prabhupada
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Srila Prabhupada

His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-acharya of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), was born Abhay Charan De, on the 1 September 1896, in Calcutta. In 1922 he met His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, Founder of the Gaudiya Math, who requested Abhay to broadcast Vedic knowledge in the English medium. In 1933, at Allahabad, Abhay was formally initiated and made it his life ambition to expound the Vedic conclusion that real freedom means liberation from the miseries of material life: birth, death, old age and disease, a state that can be permanently attained by awakening one’s pure love for God, krsna-prema or krsna-bhakti.

In the ensuing years Abhay Charanaravinda (his initiated name), wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita. In 1944 he started the Back to Godhead magazine, which to this day is being continued by his disciples.

In recognition of his philosophical knowledge and devotion the Gaudiya Vaishnava Society honored him with the title Bhaktivedanta in 1947. Following his retirement from married life, A.C. Bhaktivedanta traveled to Vrindavan where he lived in the humble surroundings of the Radha Damodar temple. In 1959 he took the sannyasa order of life and, as A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami, started his work on the multi-volume translation and commentary of the 18,000 verse Srimad Bhagavatam. In 1965, at the age of 69, when ordinary persons are thinking of retirement, he went to the United States to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master.

In 1965, when he first arrived by freighter in New York City, Srila Prabhupada was practically penniless. It was after almost a year of great difficulty that he established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in July of 1966. Under his careful guidance, the Society has grew within a decade to a worldwide confederation of almost one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes and farm communities.

He brought to the West the divine teachings of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who taught the public glorification of the Hare Krishna mantra. Srila Prabhupada, (as he was affectionately called by his followers), taught on a non-sectarian level that every living being is an eternal servant of Lord Krishna with a dormant natural propensity to experience the eternal bliss of pure love of God.

Srila Prabhupada was not  ‘just another swamji’ starting ‘just another movement’. The standard of purity and dedication he demanded of his followers testifies to his genuineness, as well as his unwillingness to compromise for the sake of having many admirers.

In 1968, Srila Prabhupada created New Vrndavana, an experimental Vedic community in the hills of West Virginia. Inspired by the success of New Vrndavana, then a thriving farm community of more than one thousand acres, his students 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. The school began with three children in 1972, and by the beginning of 1975 the enrollment had grown to one hundred fifty.

Srila Prabhupada also inspired the construction of a large international center at Sridhama Mayapur in West Bengal, India, which is also the site for a planned Institute of Vedic Studies. A similar project is the magnificent Krsna-Balarama Temple and International Guest House in Vrndavana, India. These are centers where Westerners can live to gain firsthand experience of Vedic culture.

Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contribution, however, is his books. Highly respected by the academic community for their authoritativeness, depth and clarity, they are used as standard textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into eleven languages. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 exclusively 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 the last ten years of his life, in spite of his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe twelve times on lecture tours that have 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.

By 1977 when Srila Prabhupada left this world in Vrindavan he hadcompleted over 70 volumes of authoritative translations and commentaries including the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Caitanya-caritamrita and several Upanishads. These literary contributions are today highly respected by the academic community for their authoritativeness, depth and clarity. Srila Prabhupada’s works have been translated into all the major languages of world and are used as standard textbooks in college courses. Srila Prabhupada also brought India’s cultural and religious festivals, such as Rathayatra to the West.

Srila Prabhupada continues to live up the reputation as a spiritual revolutionist who instilled in many millions krsna-prema. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is considered as India’s foremost spiritual ambassador. It was through his spiritual dedication and unprecedented achievements that India’s cultural richness was introduced in the West and is now practiced, throughout the world.