THE AMBASSADOR FROM THE SPIRITUAL WORLD
Srila Prabhupada – At various times people have called him a scholar, a philosopher, a cultural ambassador, a prolific author, a religious leader, a spiritual teacher, a social critic, and a holy man. In truth, he was all these things and more.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) is widely regarded as the foremost Vedic scholar, translator, and teacher of the modern era. He is especially respected as the world’s most prominent contemporary authority on bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the Supreme Person, Krishna, as taught by the ancient Vedic writings of India. He is also the founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
At various times people have called him a scholar, a philosopher, a cultural ambassador, a prolific author, a religious leader, a spiritual teacher, a social critic, and a holy man. In truth, he was all these things and more.
Over five hundred years ago, Lord Sri Krishna appeared as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Navadvipa, a village in West Bengal. The purpose of His appearance was to inaugurate the Sankirtana Movement, the Yuga Dharma for this age of Kali. He declared that the chanting of His holy names would spread beyond the shores of India to every town and village in the world. He predicted that His commander-in-chief would appear to accomplish this mission.
Yes… Srila Prabhupada appeared to fulfill this prophecy.
On September 01, 1896, the day after Janmashtami (the auspicious appearance day of Lord Sri Krishna) in a little house in the Tollygunge suburb of Calcutta, a male child was born. His father, Gour Mohan De, and his mother Rajani, named him Abhay Charan (one who is fearless – having taken shelter at the lotus feet of Lord Krishna).
An astrologer prepared the horoscope for the baby and revealed:
When this child reaches the age of seventy, he will cross the ocean, become a great teacher of religion and establish 108 Krishna temples. And this is exactly what happened.
Srila Prabhupada set out to America in 1965 and established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness at the age of sixty-nine. He travelled around the world fourteen times, established more than 100 temples of Krishna and initiated more than 10000 disciples into Krishna consciousness.
A Brief Biography of Srila Prabhupada
When a pure devotee or spiritual master speak, what he says should be accepted as having been directly spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the Parampara System.
— Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, Antya Lila, 05.71.
A HISTORICAL TIME LINE OF MAJOR EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF SRILA PRABHUPADA
• 1896 Srila Prabhupada appeared in Calcutta. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura sends the first book on genuine Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy to the West.
• 1901 Srila Prabhupada began Rathayatra festivals
• 1902 Srila Prabhupada began worshiping Radha-Krishna
• 1916 Student of Philosophy at Scottish Churches’ College
• 1918 Entered married life (grhastha ashrama)
• 1920 Appeared in BA exam
• 1921 Appointed assistant manager of Bose Laboratory. Joined Gandhi’s movement
• 1922 Met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who ordered him to preach in English in the West
• 1925 Visited Vrndavana for the first time
• 1928 Assisted in establishing Allahabad center of Gaudiya Matta
• 1932 Initiated by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
• 1934 Helped establish Gowalia Tank center of Gaudiya Matta
• 1935 Instructed by his spiritual master on publishing books and constructing temples
• 1936 Final order from his spiritual master to preach in the West
• 1939 Honored with the title “Bhaktivedanta” by society of Gaudiya Vaishnavas
• 1944 Started the Back to Godhead Magazine
• 1953 Started League of Devotees in Jhansi. Initiated his first disciple, Acarya Prabhakar
• 1954 Retired from family life, adopting vanaprastha (retired) order of life
• 1959 accepted renounced order of life (sannyasa)
• 1960 Published first book, Easy Journey to Other Planets
• 1962 Published Volume 1 of First Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam
• 1965 Journeyed to USA in order to fulfill the order of his spiritual master
• 1966 Established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
• 1967 Completed translation and commentary of Bhagavad-gita As It Is
• 1968 Bhagavad-gita As It Is published by Macmillan Company
• 1972 Established the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust for publishing his books
• 1975 Completed translation of and published Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita in 17 volumes
• 1976 Established the Bhaktivedanta Institute for scientific preaching
• 1977 Disappearance from this mortal world.
Achievements of Srila Prabhupada
ebe nama sankirtana tikshna khadaga laiya
antara asura jivera phelibe katiya
Taking the sharp sword of the congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, (nama-sankirtana) I will root out & destroy the demoniac
mentality in the hearts of all the conditioned souls.
yadi papi chadi dharma dure dese yaya
mora senapati-bhakta yaibe tathaya
If some sinful people escape and giving up religious principles go to far off countries, then my Senapati Bhakta will come at that time to give them Krsna consciousness. (senapati – a military field commander, bhakta – a devotee. Lord Caitanya will empower His own devotee to spread Krsna Consciousness around the world.)
Sri Caitanya Mangala, Sutra-Khanda
by Locana das Thakura
ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF SRILA PRABHUPADA
Srila Prabhupada’s attempts to propagate Krishna Consciousness were not received well by the people in India. At the age of 69 (in the year 1965) he went to the United States of America and incorporated the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). In the next 11 years, he circled the globe fourteen times inspiring his followers, delivering lectures, and discussing the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness with all interested persons.
Srila Prabhupada arrived in the US during the decade of discontent; there was widespread dissatisfaction with America’s war with Vietnam. The American youth created their counter-culture popularly known as hippie culture. They were trying to break away from the status quo, searching for an alternative. Srila Prabhupada presented this alternative.
Srila Prabhupada brought the Hare Krishna Movement to the public eye by:
- chanting in the parks,
- distributing the Back to Godhead Magazine,
- conducting love feasts,
- delivering lectures from the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam in a rented store-front.
Thus, he attracted many youngsters, who gradually became his disciples. Srila Prabhupada trained his disciples in the tradition of Deity Worship, to help them advance spiritually. The Supreme Lord appears in the form of Deities to give us an opportunity to serve Him; and by rendering services to the Deities with utmost care one can advance spiritually. When we are attracted to the beautiful form of the Deities, we will forget our attraction to material things; and by serving the Deities we will develop pure love of God and thus our lives will be successful.
To revive the Krishna conscious tradition, he envisioned God-centered self-sufficient farm communities based on the principles of Simple Living, High Thinking. In 1972, he started a gurukul in Dallas, Texas – an educational institution set up according to the traditional Vedic model. He established more than 108 temples and instructed his disciples that no one should go hungry within a 10 mile radius of an ISKCON temple.
SRILA PRABHUPADA AND HIS BOOKS
Of all his contributions, Srila Prabhupada considered his books to be of utmost importance. These books present the timeless wisdom of Vedic scriptures in modern English with startling clarity and a convincing, simple eloquence that proves the relevance of the science of self-realization to our modern world and our own lives. These books have changed the lives of millions.
The transcendental knowledge in his books forms the basis of the Hare Krishna Movement. Srila Prabhupada encouraged the devotees to distribute this literature profusely. These books are translated in most of the major languages and are widely distributed across the world.