Founder of the Hare Krishna-movement
His divine grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was born on September 1st, 1896 in Kolkata, India. His first encounter with his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami, was in Kolkata in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, a prominent religious pundit and founder of 64 Gaudiya centres, took a liking to this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to the propagation of Vedic wisdom and Krishna Consciousness. Srila Prabhupada thus became the student of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and, in 1933, was formally initiated as his disciple.
At their first meeting in 1922 Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati requested Srila Prabhupada to spread knowledge of the Vedic teachings in English. In the following years Srila Prabhupada wrote an English commentary to Bhagavad-gita, assisted the Gaudiya mission in its efforts and, from 1944 onwards, published Back to Godhead – a bi-weekly magazine in the English language. Srila Prabhupada single-handedly edited the magazine, typed the manuscripts, proof read the articles, prepared the magazine for publication, and distributed the final product. Back to Godhead is still in publication today, now produced by his disciples.
In 1950 Srila Prabhupada withdrew from family life to become a vanaprasta (a man in the detached stage of life), dedicate more time to his studies and writings. He settled in Krishna’s famed place of birth, the holy district of Vrindavana, south east of Delhi. He resided there for several years, under modest circumstances, in the historic Radha Damodar temple, where, in 1959, he accepted the renounced order of life (called sannyasa). In the Radha Damodar temple he began writing his life’s work: a multiple volume translation and commentary of the 18.000 verses of Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavad Purana). He also wrote his først book, Easy Journey to Other Planets.
Having published three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam in September 1965, Srila Prabhupada sailed to the United States of America to fulfil his spiritual masters mission. He had obtained passage on a cargo ship traveling between India and America, and arrived in New York practically penniless, without knowing anyone at his destination (Prabhupada described his arrival in New York, saying: “I did not know whether to turn left or right”). After nearly a year of struggling, in July 1966, he finally inaugarated the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Despite the difficult beginnings and his advanced age Srila Prabhupada saw his international society expand, under his competent leadership, into a world wide organisation of ashramas, schools, temples, institutions, and farm communities, until he left this world on November 14th 1977, to go back home, back to Krishna.
In this way Srila Prabhupada had a massive impact on the world. He spread knowledge of Krishna Consciousness to all magor cities across the globe, Hare Krishna became a household expression in most places in the world, and his international society gained the support of millions. He established 108 temples in six continents, started his own schools, established farm communities to practically show examples of a more natural and simpel life, and even founded his own scientific institure (The Bhaktivedanta Institute). He gave thousands of lectures, wrote thousands of letters, and spoke with thousands of supporters and admirerers as well as critics and adversaries. Due to his spotless integrity he was held in high esteem among prominent intellectuals and leaders of society around the world.
Srila Prabhupada’s most important contribution is undoubtedly his books. Prior to his arrival in the United States in 1965 he had published three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam in India. The following 12 years where he, ad an advanced age, circumnavigated the globe 14 times, lecturing on six continents, he maintained a rigorous schedule, and published more than 50 books with authorized translations, commentary and summaries of the philosophical and religious classics of India. His books are today highly respected among academics and pundits for their authority, depth, and clarity, and are used as textbooks at numerous universities, and other institutions of educations across the world. They have been translated into more than 50 languages, and The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, which Srila Prabhupada created in 1972 has become the largest publisher of literature of Indian philosophy and religious texts. His books comprise a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature, and culture.