(Last Updated on : 05-09-2009)
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada born on 1st September 1896 was the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) popularly known as the Hare Krishna's .His real name was Abhay Charan De born in Kolkata .He studied at the Scottish Church College in Calcutta which was then under the British rule. Before living the life of vanaprastha from 1950, he was married and had two children and had a pharmaceutical business.
He took sannyasa in 1959and became a Vaishnava sadhu and also an influential communicator of Gaudiya Vaishnava theology in India .He has been described as a charismatic leader and has been successful in acquiring followers in the United States, Europe, India and elsewhere.
In 1922 Prabhupada first met his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura .Srila Bhaktisiddhanta requested that Prabhupada spread the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in English .In 1944 Prabhupada started the publication 'Back to Godhead' fortnightly .He was the publisher ,editor ,copy editor and distributor.
In 1947 the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society recognised Prabhupada's scholarship with the honorific title Bhaktivedanta, meaning "one who has realised that devotional service to the Supreme Lord is the end of all knowledge"Prabhupada's disciples in America gave him the name Prabhupada which literally means "he who has taken the position of the Lord" (i.e one who is representing Krishna)From 1950 onwards started living at the medieval temple of Radha-Damodara in the holy city of Vrindavan, where he began his translation work on the Sanskrit epic Srimad Bhagavatam. His guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had always encouraged Prabhupada, "If you have any money, print books!", referring to Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita, Chaitanya Charitamrita, and other fundamental works.
In 1959 he took sannyasa vows from his god brother Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Maharaja at Mathura. Immediately after this he singlehandedly published the first three volumes of his thirty-volume translation of the 18,000-verse Bhagavata Purana with detailed commentary. In 1965 he left India for New York city to spread the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu around the world .For this journey he carried a suitcase , an umbrella, a supply of dry cereal, Indian currency worth seven dollars and several boxes of books.In July 1966 he brought "Hare Krishna"to the West founding the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in New York City. Prabhupada spent much of the last decade of his life setting up the institution of ISKCON. Since he was the Society's leader, he was responsible for much of ISKCON's growth and development
After successfully establishing a temple in NewYork followed with a group of devotees he started another centre in San Francisco .From here Prabhupada adopted various means for popularising the movement throughout America through street chanting ,book distribution (Sankirtana)and public speeches.
With the success of ISKCON in America a small number of devotees from the San Francisco temple were sent to London .In London the group came in contact with The Beatles of whom George Harrison took the greatest interest and spent a significant time speaking with Prabhupada and producing a record with members of the London Radha Krishna Temple.In the following years Prabhupada went around the world and set up temples and communities in all of the major continents .Eleven years later in 1977 they died in Vrindavan leaving behind a widely known expression of Vaishnavism on an international basis .
Through his mission,Prabhupada followed and communicated the teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and introduced bhakti yoga to an international audience .Prabhupada's most significant contribution has been his books Within the final twenty years of his life Prabhupada translated over sixty volumes of classic Vedic scriptures (such as Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam) into the English language. For their authority, depth, and clarity, his books have won praise from professors at colleges and universities like Harvard, Oxford, Cornell, Columbia, Syracuse, Oberlin, and Edinburgh. His writings have been translated into seventy languages.The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust was established in 1972 to publish his works.
Prabhupada was tolerant towards other religions as well and considered Moses, Jesus and Mohammed to be representatives of God. However Prabhupada was critical of the monist philosophies of Hinduism The Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition was neither fully dualistic nor monistic but was more in common with the Dvaita as opposed to the Advaita schools.
ISKCON is a recognized religious organization within India. Srila Prabhupada has been honored by the Government and praised by the highest leaders of the country.In 1996 the Government of India recognized Srila Prabhupada's accomplishments by issuing a commemorative stamp in his honor.