Srila Prabhupada

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An old man, a bold dream, and New York City. This is the story of Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami, more popularly known as “Srila Prabhupada”, a religious leader, a spiritual teacher, a philosopher, and the founder of ISKCON.

• Born on September 01, 1896, the day after Janmashtami in a Kayastha family in the Tollygunge suburb of Kolkata, he was named Abhay Charan De. His father Gour Mohan De and his mother Rajani De were devotees of Lord Vishnu. From infancy, he went to the Radha-Krishna temple with his father and eventually became a devotee of Lord Krishna.

• Srila Prabhupada received his education at the Scottish Churches’ College and graduated in 1920 with majors in English, Philosophy and Economics. As a young man, he was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and advocated independence of India, he even rejected his diploma in response to Gandhi’s independence movement. While in college, he was married to Radharani Devi who was 11 years old at the time of marriage and 14 years old when she gave birth to their first son. He managed a pharmaceutical business to support his family.

• Srila Prabhupada first met his spiritual master Shri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami in 1922 who initiated him into the Goudiya Vaishnava Society later. It is widely believed that in the late 15th century, Lord Krishna appeared as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and declared that the chanting of His holy names would spread to every town and village in the world. For this reason, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami ordered his disciples to preach the Chaitanya message in the West.

• In 1944, he started publishing an English magazine “Back to Godhead” and was later bestowed upon with the honorific name “Bhaktivedanta”. Thereafter he started living at the Radha-Damodar mandir in the holy town of Vrindavan, where he began his translation of the Sanskrit works.

• He later became a Sanyasi and at the age of 69, the time by which most of the people take retirement, Srila Prabhupada took up a new quest and headed West. The quest was to fulfil the final order from his spiritual master.

• Srila Prabhupada embarked on his journey to the United States of America in the month of August 1965 which took a total of 38 days to complete. During his travel, he suffered from seasickness and he also had two heart attacks but he survived by the mercy of Lord Krishna. All the events of his travel are mentioned in his diary that was given to him before his travel as a complimentary by the Scindia Steam Navigation Company.

• During the first year after he arrived in New York City, Srila Prabhupada struggled to establish his movement. He lived simply and lectured whenever and wherever he got the opportunity. Nonetheless, he founded a spiritual society in July 1966 which was intended for worldwide participation. The society was named the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, commonly known as ISKCON.

• This was a decade of discontent in the US as there was widespread dissatisfaction with the war between American and Vietnam. People were searching for an alternative, trying to break away from the status quo. Srila Prabhupada started the Hare Krishna Movement and presented the people with that alternative. People gradually began to take interest in his teaching and became his disciples. He started a gurukul in Dallas, Texas and established more than 108 temples across six continents.

• He came back to Vrindavan to spend his last days where he died on November 14, 1977, at the age of 81.

• Even after his death, ISKCON continued to grow and it currently comprises of hundreds of temples, farms, schools, and special projects throughout the world. Srila Prabhupada considered his books to be the most important part of his contributions. They primarily present the wisdom of Vedic scriptures in modern English and the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness very extensively, which, according to him, is not a part-time religion, but is a way of life.

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