Jagat Guru Srila Prabhupada
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 honored 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.
After publishing three volumes of the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada came to the United States of America, in September 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada sailed from India to New York at the age of 69 to share Lord Krishna’s message. He brought with him nothing more than the clothes on his back, a box of books, and $7 worth of change.
In 1966, Srila Prabhupada established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna Movement.
In 1968, Srila Prabhupada created New Vrindaban, a farm community in the hills of West Virginia. 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.
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 have since been built in New Delhi and others are planned in important locations on the Indian subcontinent.
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.
Srila Prabhupada taught by example. For the last part of his life, he led the austere life of a sannyasi, a renunciate, and displayed great humility, never taking undue personal credit for his accomplishments. “My only credit,” he said, “is that I have strictly followed the order of my guru maharaja.” His spiritual master advised him: “whenever you get money, print books”. And he did that.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), established by Srila Prabhupad has the following purposes:
1. To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all people in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.
2. To propagate a consciousness of Krishna (God), as it is revealed in the great scriptures of India, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
3. To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krishna, the prime entity, thus developing the idea within the members, and humanity at large, that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of Godhead (Krishna).
4. To teach and encourage the sankirtana movement, congregational chanting of the holy name of God, as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
5. To erect for the members and for society at large holy places of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krishna.
6. To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler, more natural way of life.
7. With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines, books and other writings.
Srila Prabhupada introduced the Western world to the sublime benefits of chanting the Holy Names of Krishna. In the form of the mantra known in Vedic writings as the Maha-mantra, or Great Chant for Deliverance, the chanting goes:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
Translation: “Oh Energy of God [Hare], Oh All-Attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead [Krishna], Oh Supreme enjoyer[Rama], please engage me inYour service!”
Srila Prabhupada said that this mantra should be chanted “just like the call of a child for its mother,” There are no hard and fast rules for chanting this mantra, and it can be chanted at any time for relief from the miseries of material existence and to develop our innate love of God.
Though no longer physically present among us, he lives forever in his books, and in the hearts of those whose lives he touched.