Who is Srila Prabhupada?
Srila Prabhupada, known as His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, appeared in this world in Calcutta, India on Nandotsava, the annual festival day celebrating Krishna’s birth, in the year of 1896. His father was a pure devotee of Lord Krishna who would always invite holy men to his house for meals and ask them to bless his son to become a great devotee of Radharani, Lord Krishna’s most beloved devotee and consort. Srila Prabhupada’s father once bought him a small cart to pull the Deity of Lord Jagannatha, as they do during the great Rathayatra festival in Jagannatha Puri. So even as a child Srila Prabhupada would organize little festivals centered around Krishna in his neighborhood.
Prabhupada later attended Scottish Church College in Calcutta, which was administered by the British. Later, he joined Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement and refused to accept his diploma from that college as a type of protest, although he had actually completed all the requirements for the degree. After this, a friend of his father, Dr. Bose, made him a manager of his chemical company.
Thereafter, in 1918, Prabhupada became married and soon started a family.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 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, 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 Prabhupada’s philosophical learning and devotion, the Gaudiya Vaishnava Society honored him in 1947 with the title “Bhaktivedanta”.
On the order of his spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada began translating and writing Vedic literature in the English language to bring the message of Lord Krishna to the Western countries. 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 Vrindavana, 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. 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. 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.
Only after almost a year of great difficulty did he establish the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in July of 1966.Thereafter, he continued to distribute this spiritual knowledge and the process of singing and chanting Hare Krishna all over the world. He traveled around the world 12 times and visited every major country to take bhakti-yoga and harinama sankirtana to the western countries. He gave thousands of lectures, wrote thousands of letters, and met with many important scholars and dignitaries who very much appreciated his efforts. Therefore, it was Srila Prabhupada who had been predicted by the previous acharyas, and by Sri Caitanya, and even by Lord Krishna in the ancient Puranas, as the person who would spread this new spiritual awareness.
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 ashramas, 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 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 Vrindavana, India, is the magnificent Krishna-Balarama Temple with an International Guesthouse, and the 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. 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, Srilla Prabhupada continued to write prolifically. His writings constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.He wrote 51 volumes of books with translations in 28 languages, especially Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, so anyone can take advantage of this knowledge.
He established 108 temples in most major cities around the world, and touched so many people who can also teach this philosophy that this genuine spiritual knowledge, as predicted in the ancient Puranic literature, will continue to spread and be available for at least the next 10,000 years.