Millennia of the profound teachings and rich culture of bhakti-yoga, also known as Krishna Consciousness, were concealed within the borders of India. Today, we express boundless gratitude to Srila Prabhupada for giving this timeless wisdom to the world.
A Remarkable Journey Begins
Born as Abhay Charan De on September 1, 1896, in Calcutta, he embarked on a remarkable journey. As a young man, he joined Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement. In 1922, a life-changing encounter with the prominent scholar and spiritual leader, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, altered the course of young Abhay’s life.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, a luminary in the Gaudiya Vaishnava community, a monotheistic tradition within the broader Hindu culture, made an extraordinary request at their first meeting. He implored Abhay to carry the teachings of Lord Krishna to the English-speaking world. Deeply inspired by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s devotion and wisdom, Abhay became his disciple in 1932. He later adopted the honorific title A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, dedicating the next 32 years to preparing for his transformative journey.
The Courageous Voyage to the West
In 1965, at the age of sixty-nine, Srila Prabhupada embarked on an audacious voyage, boarding a cargo ship, the Jaladhuta, to New York. This treacherous journey was marred by two heart attacks at sea. After 35 days of hardships, he arrived at a desolate Brooklyn pier, possessing only seven dollars in Indian rupees and a crate of his sacred Sanskrit texts.
In New York, he humbly initiated his mission, offering 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 deeply with a generation of young people. Some of them stepped forward to become ardent students of the Krishna-bhakti tradition.
Establishing ISKCON: The beginning of a golden period
In July of 1966, Bhaktivedanta Swami officially founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) with the purpose of “checking the imbalance of values in the world and working for real unity and peace.” Over the next eleven years, Srila Prabhupada embarked on a whirlwind global tour, circling the globe 14 times, and passionately spreading the teachings of Lord Krishna.
Men and women from diverse backgrounds embraced his message. With their unwavering support, Srila Prabhupada established temples, farm communities, a publishing house, and educational institutions worldwide. His vision also gave birth to the world’s largest vegetarian food relief program, Hare Krishna Food for Life.
Nurturing the Roots and Literary Legacy
Srila Prabhupada’s desire to nourish the roots of Krishna consciousness led him back to India several times, where he ignited a renaissance in the Vaishnava tradition. He opened dozens of temples, including prominent centers in the sacred towns of Vrindavana and Mayapur.
Perhaps his most enduring contributions are his books. Srila Prabhupada authored over 70 volumes on the Krishna tradition, cherished by scholars for their authority, depth, fidelity to tradition, and clarity. Some of his works are even used as textbooks in college courses. His writings have been translated into 76 languages, including prominent works like Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the 30-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the 17-volume Sri Caitanya-caritamrita.
The Passing of a Legend
On November 14, 1977, in the sacred town of Vrindavana, a significant chapter in the history of Iskcon HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada left this mortal world.
As he left this mortal world, Srila Prabhupada was not alone. He was encircled by his devoted disciples, who had walked alongside him on his remarkable journey. These individuals, deeply touched by his wisdom and unwavering devotion, were not merely followers; they were torchbearers of his legacy. His disciples, carrying the torch he lit, persist with the same zeal and dedication, ensuring that his mission thrives and his teachings resonate with people from all walks of life.
The legacy of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada lives on, echoing through the ages, as his devoted disciples perpetuate his mission of spreading love, devotion, and spiritual enlightenment