His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is the extraordinary person who dedicated his life to teaching the world about Krishna Consciousness, ancient India’s most noble message of spiritual wisdom.
In 1965, at the age of 69, on the order of his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, representing a line of teachers dating back to Lord Krishna Himself, Srila Prabhupada sailed from India to New York to share Lord Krishna’s message. He brought with him a trunk of books, $7 in change, and the firm faith that the holy name of Krishna would transform the hearts of people he would meet. In the years that followed, he founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), traveled and taught throughout the world, opened more than 100 temples and inspired thousands of devotees.
He wrote over forty volumes of translation and commentary. Srila Prabhupada’s mood was to convey the natural meaning of the scriptures without far-fetched interpretations, giving us an authentic rendition of the Vedic conclusions on such important topics as the purpose of human life, the nature of the soul, consciousness and God.
An Examplary and Perfect Disciple
Srila Prabhupada taught by example. For the last part of his life, he led the austere life of a sannyasi, a renunciate, and displayed great humility, never taking undue personal credit for his accomplishments. “My only credit,” he said, “is that I have strictly followed the order of my guru maharaja.” His spiritual master advised him: “whenever you get money, print books”. And he did that.
A Pure Devotee Dependent on Krishna
Srila Prabhupada arrived in the West almost penniless, but he preached with full conviction the chanting of the holy names of Krishna [see Maha-mantra towards the bottom of this page.] Gradually, young people felt attracted to the chanting and to “Swamiji” and his mission: to spread Krishna Consciousness worldwide. Krishna Consciousness is the original consciousness of the soul. Srila Prabhupada stressed the importance of accepting a bona fide guru. Such a bona fide teacher leaves the message of Krishna intact. Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by Srila Prabhupada, remains the best-selling and most potent English edition of this classic.
The Bhaktivedanta Institute
To establish the scientific merits of Krishna Consciousness and to encourage academic study of the soul, Srila Prabhupada established the Bhaktivedanta Institute (BI). Staffed by devotee scholars, the BI has published several books on the nature of consciousness, Vedic Cosmology, and the origins of the human race. The Institute has twice gathered renowned scientists for a World Congress on the Synthesis of Science and Religion.
The Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust
Srila Prabhupada started the Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust to revive and restore some of the important Gaudiya-Vaishnava shrines in India. Several temples in Vrindavan and Mayapur are under the Trust’s care. In addition, Srila Prabhupada desired that nobody within a ten-mile radius of a Hare Krishna temple should go hungry. With that aim in mind, ISKCON temples in India and around the world have set up programs for the free distribution of sanctified food to the needy.
Srila Prabhupada introduced the Western world to the sublime benefits of chanting the Holy Names of Krishna. In the form of the mantra known in Vedic writings as the Maha-mantra, or Great Chant for Deliverance, the chanting goes:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
Translation: “Oh Energy of God [Hare], Oh All-Attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead [Krishna], Oh Supreme enjoyer[Rama], please engage me in Your service!” Srila Prabhupada said that this mantra should be chanted “just like the call of a child for its mother,” There are no hard and fast rules for chanting this mantra, and it can be chanted at any time for relief from the miseries of material existence and to develop our innate love of God.