Brief biography of Srila Prabhupada: The Ambassador of the Kingdom of God
Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Conscious-ness (ISKCON), was instru¬mental in distributing the price¬less treasure of Vedic knowl¬edge to the whole world in the modern times. A brief descrip¬tion of his life and activities is given here. Srila Prabhupada appeared in this world in Calcutta in 1896 on Nandotsav day, the day following Janmashtami. In his youth in 1922, he met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, who convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge, especially In the English language.
In 1944, he started Back to Godhead, an English fortnightly magazine – single-handedly writing the articles, editing them, typ¬ing the manuscripts, proof-reading the galley proofs and even distributing the individual copies. The magazine continues even today in over thirty languages. Though practically penniless, his faith in the order of his spiritual master took him to New York in 1965 at the advanced age of 70. After a year of intense struggle, in July 1965, he established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) with its first center in New York. During the next eleven years, before his passing away on No¬vember 14, 1977, he undertook vigorous lecture tours that took him round the globe fourteen times. Under his guidance, he saw the society grow to over 108 centers. ISKCON continues to ex¬pand even now with over 600 centers all over the world. Commending the rapid and remarkable growth of Krishna consciousness in the West, the renowned scholar on Indian history and culture, A L Basham pointed out, “The Hare Krishna movement arose out of next to nothing in less than twenty years and has become known all over the West. This is an important fact in the history of the Western world.”
In 1968, Srila Prabhupada created New Vrindavana, an ex¬perimental Vedic community in the hills of West Virginia. In¬spired by its success, his students have founded several similar communities in different parts of the world. In 1972 His Divine Grace introduced the Vedic system of education in the West by founding a gurukula in Dallas, Texas. ISKCON now has children’s schools worldwide with the principal educational center in Vrindavana, India.
Srila Prabhupada inspired his scientist-disciples to introduce a higher-dimensional theistic paradigm in modern science, thus inaugurating a historic new chapter in the revival of Vedic science in modern times. Srila Prabhupada was the greatest cultural am¬bassador of India to the world. Srila Prabhupada’s vision was a global East-West synthesis. Just as the lame man, if carried by the blind man, can guide the latter, he felt that if the materially wealthy but spiritually blind West, especially the United states and the spiritually wealthy but materially lame India joined forces, the combination together would usher in an era of real peace and prosperity all over the world, He therefore trained thousands of disciples from varying backgrounds in the Vedic way of life He also took India’s cultural and religious festivals to the West, es¬pecially the Ratha-Yatra festival, which has now become a major event in over 64 cities worldwide. The international cultural cen¬ters in Sridhama Mayapur, Vrindavana, Bombay and other places are also a manifestation of this principle.
Over and above all his other activities, Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contribution is his books. He authored 70 vol¬umes of authoritative translations, commentaries and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India. His ‘Bhagavad-Gita As It Is’, an extensive translation and commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, has become the most widely read edition of the Bhagavad-Gita in the English language. With over twelve million copies in print, ‘Bhagavad-Gita As It Is’ has been translated in over fifty languages.
His life’s masterpiece, however, is a multi-volume commentated translation of the eigh-teen- thousand-verse Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Recognized by the academic community for their authority, depth and clarity, his books are used as standard textbooks in numerous college courses. They have been translated in over fifty languages and constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion litera¬ture and culture. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT), the publishing house that he founded, has become one of the world’s leading publishers of books in the field of Vedic spiritual knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada was not just a great scholar, however; he was, first and foremost, a pure devotee of Lord Krishna, motivated by no desire other than to offer the greatest spiritual gift of devotion to Krishna to all human beings, seeing them as the lost children of Krishna. Seeing that people were chasing after material pleasures, being unaware of the great spiritual happiness that was available in devotional service to Krishna, he endeavoured tirelessly to distribute the treasure of spiritual wisdom to everyone and thereby remove their poverty of knowledge.
Thus, Srila Prabhupada spread the light of genuine spirituality amidst the darkness of materialism and built a house in which the whole world can live.