For millennia the teachings and the rich culture of bhakti-yoga, or Krishna Consciousness, had been hidden within the borders of India. Today, millions around the globe express their gratitude to Srila Prabhupada for revealing the timeless wisdom of bhakti to a world.
Born as Abhay Charan De on September 1, 1896, in Calcutta, as a young man he joined Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement. In 1922, a meeting with the prominent scholar and spiritual leader, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, proved to be most influential on young Abhay’s future calling.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was a leader in the Gaudiya Vaishnava community, a monotheistic tradition within the broader Hindu culture. At their very first meeting, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta asked Abhay to bring the teachings of Lord Krishna to the English-speaking world. Deeply moved by his devotion and wisdom, Abhay became a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta in 1933, and resolved to carry out his mentor’s request. Abhay, later known by the honorific A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, spent the next 32 years preparing for his journey west.
In 1965, at the age of sixty-nine, Srila Prabhupada begged a free passage and boarded a cargo ship, the Jaladhuta, to New York. The journey proved to be treacherous and he suffered two heart attacks aboard. After 35 days at sea, he first arrived at a lonely Brooklyn pier with just seven dollars in Indian rupees and a crate of his translations of sacred Sanskrit texts.
In New York, he faced great hardships and began his mission humbly by giving classes on the Bhagavad-gita in lofts on the Bowery and leading kirtan (traditional devotional chants) in Tompkins Square Park. His message of peace and goodwill resonated with many young people, some of whom came forward to become serious students of the Krishna-bhakti tradition. With the help of these students, Bhaktivedanta Swami rented a small storefront on New York’s Lower East Side to use as a temple.
In July of 1966, Bhaktivedanta Swami established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) for the purpose he stated of “checking the imbalance of values in the world and working for real unity and peace”.
In the eleven years that followed, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe 14 times on lecture tours spreading the teachings of Lord Krishna. Men and women from all backgrounds and walks of life came forward to accept his message. With their help, Srila Prabhupada established temples, farm communities, a publishing house, and educational institutions around the world. And, he began what has now become the world’s largest vegetarian food relief program, Hare Krishna Food for Life.
With the desire to nourish the roots of Krishna consciousness in its home, Srila Prabhupada returned to India several times, where he sparked a revival in the Vaishnava tradition. In India, he opened dozens of temples, including large centers in the holy towns of Vrindavana and Mayapur.
Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contributions, perhaps, are his books. He authored over 70 volumes on the Krishna tradition, which are highly respected by scholars for their authority, depth, fidelity to the tradition, and clarity. Several of his works are used as textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into 76 languages. His most prominent works include: Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the 30-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the 17-volume Sri Caitanya-caritamrita.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada passed away on November 14, 1977 in the holy town of Vrindavana, surrounded by his loving disciples who carry on his mission today.
Srila Prabhupada’s Life Milestones:
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appeared in this world in 1896 in Calcutta, India.
2. First Rath Yatra begin:
Srila Prabhupada conducted a Ratha Yatra festival in a suburb of Calcutta at age of 5 in the year 1901.
3. Met with Spiritual Master:
Srila Prabhupada met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami for the first time in Calcutta in 1922. At the very first meeting Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati advised Abhay to preach the message of Krishna to the western world.
4. Receives Initiation:
On his very first meeting, Abhay accepted Srila Bhaktisiddhanta as his spiritual master within his heart, but he take formal initiation in 1932.
5. Receives Bhaktivedanata Title:
In 1935, he was instructed by his spiritual master on publishing books and constructing temples. And he was given the final order to preach in the West. Therefore, in 1939, he was honored with the title “Bhaktivedanta” by the society of Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
6. Publishes “Back to Godhead” Magazine:
In the year 1944, he started Back to Godhead Magazine.
7. Started League of Devotees:
In 1952, Srila Prabhupada started League of Devotees in Jhansi. Initiated his first disciple, Acharya Prabhakar.
8. Adopt Vanprastha Order:
In 1954, he retired from family life, and adopted vanaprastha (retired) order of life.
9. Adopt Sannyasa Order:
In 1959, he awarded sannyasa (the renounced order of life) in Mathura by one of his God-brothers, His Holiness B.P. Kesava Maharaj.
10. Published First Book:
First book, Easy to Journey Planets was published by Srila Prabhupada in 1960.
11. Published Srimad Bhagavatam:
Volume 1 of first canto of Srimad Bhagavatam was published in 1962.
12. Journey to USA:
Srila Prabhupada journeyed to the USA in 1965 in order to fulfill the order of his spiritual master. During that journey at Jaladuta ship for about 1 month, at that time he experiences two-time heart attacks.
13. Incorporates the ISKCON:
Srila Prabhupad incorporates the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in 1966 in New York.
14. Complete Translation of Bhagavad Gita:
Prabhupada completed translation and commentary of Bhagavad-gita As It Is in 1967.
15. Established BBT:
Srila Prabhupada established the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) in 1972 for publishing his books.
16. Published Chaitanya Charitamrita:
In 1975, he completed the translation of and published Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita in 17 volumes.
17. Departure from Material World:
In 1977, at the age of 81, Srila Prahupada left the material world in Vrindavan, India.