Who Is Srila Prabhupada?
“Victory ! Victory ! Victory ! I behold something wonderful: all the inauspiciousness of the living entities is destroyed… This is because all over the world an increasing number of Lord Vishnu’s devotees sing His names while dancing and playing musical instruments.”
– Tiruvaymoli (5.2.1)
In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana, in a conversation with Ganga Devi, Lord Krishna describes that after 5,000 years of Kali-yuga have passed, His mantra upasaka, the great sage and worshiper of Krishna’s holy names, will appear and spread the chanting of Krishna’s names (in the form of the Hare Krishna mantra) not only in India but throughout the world.
Lord Krishna explains that by the chanting of His holy names the whole world will become spiritualized and everyone will be hari-bhaktas, engaged in the process of devotion to the Supreme. The purified devotees will visit the holy places and holy rivers of India and will purify them. They will also purify those with whom they come in contact. Thus, Sri Krishna predicted the appearance of a powerful devotee who would spread the chanting of His names worldwide.
Even in the Sri Caitanya Mangala, a biography of Sri Caitanya, the most recent incarnation of Lord Krishna, written in 1537 by Srila Locana Dasa Thakura (who was born in 1520 A.D.), Lord Caitanya foretold the coming of an empowered devotee who would take the sankirtana process everywhere:
“I want to flood the whole world with the chanting of the holy names. I will personally preach and flood India with harinama sankirtana, chanting of the holy names. And My senapati bhakta (great devotee commander) will come, preach in different countries and flood the world with the chanting of Hare Krishna.”
This means that, though Sri Caitanya came to establish and spread the process of congregational chanting of Krishna’s names in India, there would be one great devotee who would appear and spread it throughout the world.
Later, in the 1800s, Bhaktivinode Thakura, a great devotee in the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya line, predicted in his magazine, Sajjana-toshani, in an article called Nityananda Suryodoy, “Soon there will be a time when chanting of Krishna’s name will be heard in England, France, Russia, Germany, and America.”
In this regard, Bhaktivinode also wrote in 1895 that, “Sriman Mahaprabhu [Sri Caitanya] did not descend with His associates to deliver a certain number of human beings in the land of India, but rather His purpose was to deliver and uplift all living beings in all countries of the world by practicing the eternal religion of all souls.”
In the same article, Bhaktivinode questioned, when will that day come when all greatly fortunate souls take up banners, drums, and hand cymbals and cause the ecstatic waves of harinama-kirtans [songs of the holy names of the Supreme] and the singing of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s holy name to rise in the streets of their towns and cities?
In 1896, Bhaktivinode predicted in his book, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts, on page 62, “The principle of kirtana, as the future church of the world, invites all classes of men without distinction of caste, creed, or clan to the highest cultivation of the spirit. This church will extend all over the world and take the place of all sectarian churches which exclude outsiders from the precincts of their mosque, church or temple.”
What all this means is that with his spiritual vision, Bhaktivinode could see how the sankirtana process would be taken in the near future to the western countries and, indeed, all over the planet. In fact, in 1875 Bhaktivinode Thakura also predicted: “A personality will soon appear to preach the teachings of Lord Caitanya and move unrestrictedly over the whole world with His message.”
But who could this be? Who would do it?
As an answer to these prayers and predictions, on Nandotsava, the annual festival day celebrating Krishna’s birth, in the year of 1896, there appeared His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, known as Srila Prabhupada to many. It was Srila Prabhupada, who grew up as a pure devotee of Krishna, who took the chanting of “Hare Krishna” around the world and made it a household word.
Some of Srila Prabhupada’s Unparalleled Achievements
In 1965, at seventy years of age, he ventured outside India for the first time to fulfill the order of his spiritual master. During his voyage at sea, he suffered two severe heart attacks. He reached the shores of America with the equivalent of seven dollars to his name.
He founded the International Society for Krsna Consciousness with a small group of disciples, after a year of struggling alone in New York City. This marked the only time in history that a Krsna devotee successfully trained non-Indians in the strict disciplines of Vaisnavism. Amazingly, this was achieved during the blossoming of America’s hedonistic counterculture movement.
He sent his followers, chanting the names of God, into the streets of cities and towns everywhere and Hare Krsna became famous in every corner of the earth.
He sent his disciples to London, where they recorded the single, “Hare Krsna Mantra”, with George Harrison, in 1969. It became the fastest selling of all the Apple Corporation’s releases, including those of the Beatles. The record reached #3 in Czechoslovakia, #9 in Britain, and made the top ten in Germany, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Yugoslavia, and many other countries.
He formally initiated approximately five thousand disciples. These initiates represented a sweeping diversity of nationalities, races, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds.
He established 108 Krsna temples on six continents, installed the deity of Krsna in each center and trained his disciples in the process of deity worship. Thirty-two new temples (almost three a month) were opened in a single year, between 1970 and 1971.
He inaugurated the Rathayatra Festival of Lord Jaganatha in major cities around the globe, in effect, bringing the temple to the people.
He instituted the brahmacarini ashram, something previously unheard of in Vedic culture, to give shelter to single women wishing to practice Krsna consciousness.
He instructed his disciples in 1967 to start an incense business to provide financial support for the temples. Within four years the business, Spiritual Sky Incense, generated an annual revenue of one million dollars (equivalent to $4,600,000 in 2004).
He introduced the “Sunday Love Feast” and other prasadam (sanctified food) distribution programs that provided millions of free meals to the public.
He created the world’s first chain of vegetarian restaurants.
He spoke daily on the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, delivering thousands of formal lectures. Over 2,200 were recorded and archived.
He conducted many hundreds of informal conversations on the science of Krsna consciousness with disciples, guests and friends. Over 1,300 were recorded and archived.
He had scores of interviews and philosophical discussions with news reporters, scientists, religious leaders and politicians, as well as meetings with world-renowned dignitaries and celebrities like Indira Gandhi, Allen Ginsberg, Ravi Shankar, Alice Coltrane, John Lennon and George Harrison.
He recorded more than twenty albums of devotional music.
He published the monthly magazine, Back to Godhead, which he called the backbone of his movement. At the height of its circulation in the mid seventies, over a million copies per issue were sold.
He launched the ISKCON Life Membership Program that enrolled tens of thousands of members.
He built major temples in Bombay and Vrndavana, and founded a spiritual city at Mayapur. All became international sites of pilgrimage.
He established primary schools to provide education in the principles of devotional service.
He founded the Bhaktivedanta Institute to advance Krsna consciousness within the scientific community, engaging serious academics in the consideration of the science of self-realization.
He formed the Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust to unearth and renovate the holy places of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes.
He set up farm communities to teach “simple living and high thinking”, emphasizing cow protection and dependence on God and nature.
He commissioned his artist disciples to produce hundreds of illustrations of Krsna’s pastimes based on his meticulous instructions and the descriptions in his books.
He directed some of his followers to learn the Indian art of “doll making” to present Vedic philosophy through dioramas. This project became the FATE Museums.
He counseled his disciples on complex managerial, philosophical and personal issues in more than 6,000 archived letters.
He was the subject of more than 30,000 archival photos and more than seventy hours of documentary film footage.
He wrote approximately seventy books on the science of Krsna consciousness, sleeping only a few hours per day. Dozens of prominent scholars and educators from leading universities praised his work. The Encyclopaedia Britannica proclaimed that his voluminous translations from the original Sanskrit and his lucid commentaries “have astounded literary and academic communities worldwide.” This feat is even more astonishing considering the translations and commentaries were in English, which was a second language to the author.
He founded the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) in 1972, to produce his books. By 1976, over 55,000,000 literatures had been published in twenty-five languages and distributed in almost every country, making the BBT the world’s largest publisher of Indian religious and philosophical texts. One printing alone of Bhagavad-gita As It Is required seventy-six train cars to ship the paper needed to print it.
He completed the entire Caitanya-caritamrta manuscript (seventeen volumes) in eighteen months.
He ordered and supervised the BBT in publishing seventeen volumes of his books in only two months time, in 1974.
Srila Prabhupada increased the standard of Deity worship in all the temples in Vrindavana, India when he installed the Deities in the Sri Sri Krishna-Balarama Mandir in the Vrindavana. Before this many of the Deities in the temples there were dressed in sheets, poor clothes, and even had bugs crawling on Them, and were often only offered tulasi water and no food offerings. Now everything has changed because of Srila Prabhupada, and numerous temples have beautiful worship for the Deities. Even the shop owners who cater to the needs of the growing number of devotees, many of whom are Western, have become rich because of Srila Prabhupada. Many also have his portrait hanging in their shops.
Prabhupada also circled the globe fourteen times, visiting twenty-four countries, preaching, inspiring his followers and making countless public appearances before multitudes of people.
He skillfully managed his international society simply through letters and personal meetings, virtually without the use of a telephone.
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