About Srila Prabhupada
His Divine Grace, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) is widely regarded as the worlds pre-eminent exponent of the teachings and practices of Bhakti-yoga to the Western world.
Born Abhay Charan De on September 1, 1896, in Calcutta, as a youth he became involved with Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement. It was, however, a meeting with a prominent scholar and spiritual leader, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, which proved most influential on young Abhay’s future calling. Upon their first meeting Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, who represented an ancient tradition of Bhakti (devotional yoga), asked Abhay to bring the teachings of Krishna to the English-speaking world. From birth, Abhay had been raised in a family devoted to Krishna – the name meaning the all-attactive, all-loving Lord. Deeply moved by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s devotion and wisdom, Abhay became his disciple and dedicated himself to carrying out his mentor’s request. But it wasn’t until 1965, at the age of seventy, that he would set off on his mission to the West.
Having since been awarded the honorary title of Bhaktivedanta in recognition of his learning and devotion, and having taken the vows of sannyasa (renunciation), Abhay Charan, now known as Bhaktivedanta Swami, begged free passage and boarded a cargo ship to New York. The journey proved to be treacherous, and the elderly spiritual teacher suffered two heart attacks aboard ship. After 35 days at sea he finally arrived at a lonely Brooklyn pier with just seven dollars in Indian rupees and a crate of his translations of sacred Sanskrit texts.
In New York he faced great hardships without money or a place to live. He began his mission humbly, by giving classes on the Bhagavad-gita in lofts on the Bowery, New York’s infamous skid row, and leading kirtan (traditional devotional chants) in Tompkins Square Park. His message of peace and goodwill resonated with many young people, some of whom came forward to become serious students of the Krishna-bhakti tradition. With the help of these students, Bhaktivedanta Swami rented a small storefront on New York’s Lower East Side to use as a temple. After months of hardship and struggle, in July of 1966, Bhaktivedanta Swami established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness for the purpose of checking the imbalance of values in the world and working for real unity and peace. He taught that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of God and that one could find true happiness through living a simpler, more natural way of life and dedicating one’s energy in the service of God and all living beings.
Having begun initiating his American followers into the Gaudiya Vaishnava lineage, Bhaktivedanta Swami next traveled to San Francisco. Amidst the emerging hippie community in the Haight-Ashbury district, during 1967’s “Summer of Love” he taught that the experience of devotion through kirtan was a spiritual “high” superior to any pleasures derived from material sources such as wealth, fame, or intoxication. In the following months many more came forward to assist him. Desiring to address him with the respect due a revered spiritual teacher, his disciples began to call him Srila Prabhupada, meaning “one at whose feet the masters sit”.
In the eleven years that followed, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times, bringing the teachings of Bhakti to thousands of people on six continents. Men and women from all backgrounds came forward to accept his message. With their help, Srila Prabhupada established centers and projects throughout the world including temples, rural communities, educational institutions, and what would become the world’s largest vegetarian food relief program. With the desire to nourish the roots of Krishna-bhakti in its home, Srila Prabhupada returned to India several times, where he sparked a revival in the Bhakti tradition. In India, he opened dozens of temples, including important centers in the holy towns of Vrindavana and Mayapur.
Perhaps Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contribution is his books. He authored over seventy volumes on Bhakti-yoga, which are highly respected for their authority, depth, clarity, and fidelity to tradition. His writings have been translated into seventy-six languages. His most prominent works include: Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the thirty-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the seventeen-volume Sri Caitanya-caritamrita.
For millennia the teachings of Bhakti-yoga had been concealed within Sanskrit and Indian vernacular languages, and the rich culture of Bhakti had been hidden behind the borders of India. Today, millions around the globe express their gratitude to Srila Prabhupada for revealing the timeless wisdom of Bhakti to a world immersed in a materialistic and self-destructive ethos.
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada passed away on November 14, 1977, in the holy town of Vrindaban, surrounded by his loving disciples who carry on his mission today.
About Bhakti Swarupa Damodara Swami
From the very beginning of Maharaja’s spiritual life in ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada chose to show him special attention and favor. Seeing Maharaja’s dual qualifications as a Vaishnava scientist and a Manipuri Vaishnava, Srila Prabhupada personally trained him in ‘spiritual science’ and gave great importance to his scientific work, and also instructed him to strengthen Krishna consciousness in Manipur. He was dear to the devotees for his saintly qualities and his powerful sankirtana, and for his disciples he served as their spiritual father and eternal friend. Srila Prabhupada gave special attention to Sripada Maharaja, even up to his last days in Vrindavana in November of 1977. He would sometimes refer to Sripada Maharaja affectionately as, “Our Dr. Svarupa Damodara” and “our scientist, Svarupa Damaodara”, and there were hours of conversations between Prabhupada and Sripada Maharaja. Sri Srimad Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Maharaja dedicated his life to fulfilling Srila Prabhupada’s order to spread Krishna consciousness throughout the world especially through the medium of the Bhaktivedanta Institute. Maharaja tirelessly worked to publish literature, develop relationships with leading scientists and organize elaborate conferences that brought the scientific community together to hear the message of Krishna Consciousness in a language they could appreciate. While doing that, he simultaneously established Krishna Consciousness in his native State of Manipur. Even at his advanced age, he was traveling the globe attending conferences, meeting top scientists, preaching at ISKCON temples and programs. He left this mortal world in 2006 in Calcutta, Srila Prabhupada’s place of birth.
About Radha Govinda Swami
His Holiness Radha Govinda Swami is a direct disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder Acharya of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness). His Holiness Radha Govinda Swami met Srila Prabhupada in Varanasi, India, in 1971. He at once accepted Srila Prabhupada as his spiritual master, and was initiated by him in 1975. Since 1974 he has been based at the Krishna Balaram Mandir in Vrndavana. On the order of Srila Prabhupada, he teaches Krsna consciousness all over the world. He is well-known in ISKCON for his scholarly, devotional discourses on Srimad-Bhagavatam. His Holiness has been conducting Bhagavat Katha in various countries around the world including Europe, Africa, Asia, America, and Canada.
About Amarendra Dasa
His Grace Amarendra Dasa is a diksha disciple of His Holiness Radha Govinda Dasa Goswami Maharaj, who is a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada, very well known world over for his Classes on the Srimad Bhagavatam. As a disciple, Amarendra Dasa aspires to practice and preach the message of the scriptures far and wide as much as possible and in this endeavour has travelled to many cities around the world spreading Krsna consciousness in Universities, temple Congregations and social platforms such as Youtube, Whatsapp and Facebook. As part of his student preaching endeavours, he has also been part of many student conferences and has contributed in areas such as Interfaith harmony and Science & spiritual synthesis. Academically, Amarendra Dasa is a Masters in Electrical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts and spiritually holds a Bhakti Shastri degree from Mayapur. With a sincere heart, he expresses his heartfelt gratitude to His Holiness Bhakti Swarupa Damodara Swami for being a very strong pillar in his life motivating and guiding him as a well wisher, to his family for selflessly sacrificing their personal interests for making him a devotee of the Lord and to all the devotees worldover who have lovingly nourished and nurtured him with their priceless care, intense prayers and sincere blessings. Amarendra Dasa can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for scheduling lectures and seminars.