A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Srila Prabhupada (1896-1977) was the foremost representative of Lord Krsna’s Vedic culture in modern times. Though I know that I am unqualified and unworthy somehow l became fortunate enough to be counted among his disciples. The following brief biography gives a glimpse into Srila Prabhupada's remarkable life:
Concise Biography of Srila Prabhupada
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was born in 1896 in Kolkata (Calcutta), India at 4:00 PM (see his chart). He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, in Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent devotional scholar and the founder of sixty-four branches of Gaudiya Mathas (Vedic institutes), liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge in the Western world. Srila Prabhupada became his student, and eleven years later (1933) at Allahabad, he became his formally initiated disciple.
At their first meeting, in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura requested Srila Prabhupada to broadcast Vedic knowledge through the English language. In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita and in 1944, without assistance, started an English fortnightly magazine.
Recognizing Srila Prabhupada's philosophical learning and devotion, the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society honored him in 1947 with the title Bhaktivedanta. In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, and four years later he adopted the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. Srila Prabhupada traveled to the holy city of Vrndavana, where he lived in very humble circumstances in the historic medieval temple of Radha-Damodara. There he engaged for several years in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959. At Radha-Damodara, Srila Prabhupada began work on his life's masterpiece: a multivolume translation and commentary on the 18,000-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). He also wrote Easy Joumey to Other Planets.
After publishing three volumes of Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada came to the United States, in 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. Since that time, His Divine Grace has written over sixty volumes of authoritative translations, commentaries and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India.
In 1965, when he first arrived by freighter in New York City, Srila Prabhupada was practically penniless. It was after almost a year of great difficulty that he established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in July of 1966. Under his careful guidance, the Society grew within a decade to a worldwide confederation of almost one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes and farm communities.
In 1968, Srila Prabhupada created New Vrndavana, an experimental Vedic community in the hills of West Virginia. Inspired by the success of New Vrndavana, now a thriving farm community of more than one thousand acres, his students have since founded several similar communities in the United States and abroad.
In 1972, His Divine Grace introduced the Vedic system of primary and secondary education in the West by founding the Gurukula school in Dallas, Texas. The school began with three children in 1972, and by the beginning of 1975 the enrollment had grown to one hundred fifty.
Srila Prabhupada has also inspired the construction of a large international center at Sridhama Mayapur in West Bengal, India, which is also the site for a planned Institute of Vedic Studies. A similar project is the magnificent Krsna-Balarama Temple and International Guest House in Vrndavana, India. These are centers where Westerners can live to gain firsthand experience of Vedic culture.
Srila Prabhupada's most significant contribution, however, is his books. Highly respected by the academic community for their authoritativeness, depth and clarity, they are used as standard textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into eleven languages. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 exclusively to publish the works of His Divine Grace, has thus become the world's largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy. Its latest project is the publishing of Srila Prabhupada's most recent work: a seventeen-volume translation and commentary-completed by Srila Prabhupada in only eighteen months-on the Bengali religious classic Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.
In spite of his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe twelve times on lecture tours that have taken 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.
On November 14, 1977 at 7:25 pm, Bhaktivedanta Swami entered into samadhi and left the material world in Vrndavana, India at the age of 81.
Ramesvara Dasa one of the original BBT trustees gives a concise description of the circumstances in which Srila Prabhupada's books were translated and published.
For the record, Srila Prabhupada finished 2nd Canto and started 3rd Canto [of Srimad Bhagavatam] in 1969. He then took a break to write the Krsna Books and Nectar of Devotion. Sometime in 1970 - 1971 he resumed 3rd Canto and oversaw the publication of the Bhagvad-gita As It Is by McMillan in 1972. By 1973 the 4th canto was finished and His Divine Grace next wrote the 17-volumes of Sri Caitanya-Caritamrita, which he completed in Nov 1974. He then began working on the 5th Canto that was completed in early 1975. His transcendental literary output, year after year, averaged one volume per month between 1970-1977 - which is by any standard a miracle in writing! Traveling the world, managing a growing worldwide revolutionary movement, writing dozens of letters a day, giving morning and evening class lectures, giving loans to buy and build temples throughout the world, meeting dignitaries, reporters, guests and of course meeting with his disciples - with all those distractions no author in the history of the world could have concentrated, let alone authored one volume every month (average) for years. He gave up his sleep for all those years; no, he gave his life to give the world these transcendental literatures. And his disciples were thus empowered and inspired by him to give up everything in their lives to distribute them to the masses of fallen embodied humans in non-stop marathons. He cannot be compared to others - no one had such worldwide preaching spirit that manifest is such tangible ways.
Your aspiring servant,
The following anecdote bt H.H. Giriraja Swami gives insight into Srila Prabhupada's motivation for doing what he did.
I was staying in the Calcutta temple. The temple president had somehow become preoccupied with doing business - for the temple, but doing business nonetheless - and he wasn't taking care of the devotees. Most of the devotees were quite disturbed. We weren't getting proper food, we were new in India, and we depended on the temple president to make many arrangements for us. The devotees were just waiting for Srila Prabhupada to come. When Srila Prabhupada did come, many devotees approached him and complained about the conditions in the temple and about the temple president. Eventually
Srila Prabhupada called a meeting with all the devotees, and he heard all of their complaints. He listened very sympathetically, very patiently, and then he made a managerial arrangement. He formed a committee, and he said that the committee should meet every week and that whatever they decided should be recorded in a book that everyone should sign. And then, whatever they decided, they should do.
But then Srila Prabhupada's mood changed and he started talking about his own struggles - and I would say his own sufferings - in bringing Krsna consciousness to the West and spreading Krsna consciousness: two heart attacks; some buzzing in his brain in New York, [a stroke] as he explained it; and suffering in so many ways to spread Krsna consciousness. “I don't even wish to discuss how much I suffered,” Srila Prabhupada said, “but I never complained because my policy was always ‘Everything for Krsna and nothing for myself.’”
Many Moons - by Giriraj Swami - Torchlight Publishing 2012, pp 257-258
Books written Srila Prabhupada:
Bhagavad-gita As It Is (see scholarly reviews of this book)
Srimad-Bhagavatam (see scholarly reviews of this book)
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (see scholarly reviews of this book)
Teachings of Lord Caitanya
Nectar of Devotion - Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu
Nectar of Instruction - Upadesamrta
Easy Journey to Other Planets
Civilization and Transcendence
Krsna Consciousness The Topmost Yoga System
KRSNA, The Supreme Personality of Godhead
Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers
Teachings of Lord Kapila, the Son of Devahuti
Teachings of Queen Kunti
Krsna, the Reservoir of Pleasure
Science of Self Realization
Path of Perfection
Life Comes from Life
The Perfection of Yoga
Beyond Birth and Death
On the Way to Krsna
Renunciation Through Wisdom
Raja-Vidya: The King of Knowledge
Elevation to Krsna Consciousness
Krsna Consciousness, The Matchless Gift
Message of Godhead
Light of the Bhagavata
Journey of Self-Discovery
Laws of Nature: An Infallible Justice
Transcendental Teachings of Prahlada Maharaja
A Second Chance: The Story of a Near - Death Experience
Dharma: The Way of Transcendence
Quest for Enlightenment
Beyond Illusion & Doubt
Gitar Gan (Bengali)