The Hare Krishna movement
has been recently brought to the Western world by His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of the Hare
Krishna movement. In this century, Srila Prabhupada is the foremost
proponent of Vaishnava philosophy, represented by the
This unbroken line of disciplic succession boasts the names of great spiritual preceptors (Acharyas) such as Lord Brahma, Vyasadeva (compiler of the four Vedas, Vedanta Sutras, 18 Puranas, Upanishads, and Mahabharata), Sri Madhvacharya, Sri Krishna Chaitanya and many others.
Srila Prabhupada appeared in the year 1896 in Calcutta, India, born to the De family, related to the Mulliks. In his early childhood, Srila Prabhupada was inclined to worship the deity of Krishna, and his father, taking note of his son's spiritual leanings, encouraged him to learn Sanskrit and mrdanga [a clay drum used in accompanying devotional music], but in his later youth Srila Prabhupada was enrolled in Scottish Churches' College in Calcutta. At that time he was influenced by Subhas Chandra Bose and Gandhi and talk of peaceful revolution and independence for India, and to signal his protest, did not accept his diploma on graduation in 1920. His father had arranged for his marriage in while he was a third-year student at the College, so on leaving school, he found it necessary to take up employment, and got a position with a pharmaceutical outfit. In 1921, he and his wife had their first child, a son.
In 1922, at the age of 26, Srila Prabhupada first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur in Calcutta. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, was a prominent religious scholar and the Founder-Acharya of the Gaudiya Math, having 64 branches. At this meeting he persuaded Srila Prabhupada that the entire world was in need of this science of Krishna consciousness, and convinced him to dedicate his life to presenting the Vedic literature in English language to the
people of the Western world. Srila Prabhupada took this instruction to heart, and recognized Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati as his spiritual master, although it was not until 11 years later (1933) that he was formally initiated a
disciple at Allahabad. In 1936, his spiritual master left this world.
While he was a family man with wife and children and operating his own pharmaceutical business, Srila Prabhupada spent his free time studying the Vaishnava literature and writing, and gave whatever assistance he could to the mission of his spiritual master. He began translating the Bhagavad-gita to English, but suffered a setback when the manuscript went missing. In 1950, at the age of 54, his pharmacy business got into difficulty, and at the same time, he was having recurrent dreams that his spiritual master was calling him to enter into the renounced order of life (sannyasa), and so he settled up his affairs, left his home and travelled to Vrindaban [holy place of pilgrimage in UP, India, approx 55-60km from Agra], where he busied himself fulltime with his studies and writing. He formally took sannyasa in 1959. From this time he began to translate the 18,000-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavat Purana), complete in 12 cantos, giving elaborate purports to practically each and every verse. He also wrote and published the first edition of Easy Journey to Other Planets.
In 1965, having published the first three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada determined to fulfil the order of his spiritual master by traveling to the USA on board a freighter. He was 70 years old when the boat docked in New York. At first he put up in Butler, Pennsylvania, with the son of a well-wisher back in India, who had sponsored his visa application, and from there was invited to stay with Dr. Ramamurti Mishra in New York, who ran a hatha-yoga studio. But finding that there was little reception to his teachings amongst the clientele, most of them elderly ladies, Srila Prabhupada ventured out on his own to rent a small space in New York City, depending on the meagre money received from sales of his books and help from newfound friends. Pleas for help from godbrothers and well-wishers back in India were either turned down or unanswered. Yet he persevered, and at last became acquainted with a handful of young Americans, who took him seriously, and that was the birth of the Hare Krishna movement. [Read more about the early pioneer days of the movement in the experience of one of the first American disciples, Professor Howard Wheeler: Hare Krishna Explosion, published online.] It was 1966 when Srila Prabhupada officially incorporated The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in New York. Over the next 11 years it expanded to a world-wide community of some 10,000 initiated disciples and followers recruited from all around the world, 108 temples, a number of schools, institutes, restaurants and farm projects.
Srila Prabhupada himself considered his most important work to be the translation and publishing of his books. From the period of 1966 till 1977, Srila Prabhupada translated and wrote purports to nearly all of the 18,000 verses of Srimad-Bhagavatam, 700 verses of Bhagavad-gita, and 17 volumes of Chaitanya-charitamrita. He published a monthly magazine, Back to Godhead, which at one point was distributed in excess of one million copies per month. His published books number 160. Millions of copies have been distributed around the world in 28 major languages. Highly respected by academicians for their authoritativeness, depth and clarity, they are used as standard course material in numerous colleges and universities in India and the USA. In 1972, Srila Prabhupada founded The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust for publishing his works exclusively, and The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust went on to become the world's largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.
Srila Prabhupada gave
lectures daily to his students and to capacity crowds at
universities and festivals. He produced phonographic
records. He brought about a revival of spiritualism in art by engaging
the talents of his disciples to draw and paint hundreds of
illustrations for his books, and to create sculptures and
dioramas depicting the pastimes and features of God and His
associates, as well as to produce performances in drama, dance
In just 12 years, in spite of his advanced age (70-82), Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents. In spite of such a vigorous schedule, Srila Prabhupada continued to write prolifically. His writings constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.
Young and old and from countries all over the world, his students have embraced Vedic principles enthusiastically, chanting Hare Krishna in towns and villages worldwide. It is said in Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya-lila 6.279), "lohake yavat sparsi hema nahi kare, tavat sparsa-mani keha chinite na pare:
"One cannot understand the value of touchstone until it turns iron into gold. One should judge by action, not by promises. A maha-bhagavata (great spiritual personality) can turn a living entity from abominable material life to the Lord's service. This is the test of a maha-bhagavata."
Srila Prabhupada has received respect and accolades from leaders of all religious camps, both within and outside the Hindu religion. Even leading politicians and international scholars have appreciated Srila Prabhupada's efforts and valuable contribution to human society. No other personality of group has accomplished as much in 100 years or even 500 or 1,000 years as Srila Prabhupada accomplished in the last 12 years of his physical presence. Therefore he is the Sampradaya Acharya for the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya and most worshipable spiritual personality.
Before his departure in 1977, Srila Prabhupada appointed senior disciples to continue to oversee the affairs of his international society and to recruit, initiate and train new disciples on his behalf. Hansadutta das is one of those who were deputised to represent Srila Prabhupada as Rittvik Representative of the Acharya.
Evam parampara-praptam imam rajarshayo vidhuh (Bhagavad-gita 4.2). The science of Krishna consciousness is received through this disciplic succession: