SWAMI PRABHUPADA Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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Abhay Charan De was Born on September 1,1896 in Calcutta India, into a Vaishnava family. His father was a pure devotee of Lord Krishna, named Gour Mohan. Later, Abhay would be known to the world, as A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Young Abhay would many times wake up in the night, and hear the “ring ring” of the bell, as his father would worship the deity form of Lord Krishna, with arati. Gour Mohan wanted his son to grow to become a pure devotee of God, “Lord Krishna".


There was always devotion to Lord Krishna, which was totally proper in Vaishnava homes. Everything centered around Lord Krishna. God was always the basis for guidance in all regards. When Prabhupada was just 6 years old, he asked his father for his own deities to worship. Gour Mohan fulfilled his request, and provided young Prabhupada with his own pair of Radha Krishna deities. This greatly pleased Gour Mohan. As is the custom in devout Vaishnava homes, everything Srila Prabhupada ate, would first be offered to his own deities, then he would partake. He would also offer Ghee lamp, and incense.


This enhanced his devotional service, and his life, as well. Being raised in a Vaishnava home, there was naturally no meat eating, gambling, or intoxcation. Such extremely sinful activities were replaced with a high standard of morals, and of course love of God, “Lord Krishna". As Prabhupada grew in stature, so too did he grow in attraction, love and devotion to God. Lord Krishna reciprocated by guiding Srila Prabhupada to his spiritual master. Prabhupada first met his spiritual master in 1922.


His spiritual master’s name is Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Goswami Maharaj. He was from the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta came from a long line of spiritual masters, dating back to the original master, God himself, Lord Sri Krishna. The Vedic scriptures present the complete word of God, and are aimed at all people in creation, without exception. The importance of accepting a spiritual master in disciplic succession originating from Lord Krishna is stressed for all who are serious about approaching God, and perfecting his/her life. Basic morality as taught in all religions is important, and it forms a nice “start", but the goal of “pure love and devotion” to God “Lord Krishna", is the advanced pursuit.


Knowing this, Srila Prabhupada became Bhaktisiddhanta’s disciple. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta impressed Prabhupada with his great knowledge, devotion, and purity. He also impressed upon Prabhupada the importance of printing, and distributing books, in the belief that all intelligent persons would serve Lord Krishna. Unlike any other scriptures, the Vedas give a detailed system of how we can all attain pure love of God, and thus make our lives perfect and peaceful.


In 1947 Prabhupada started “Back To Godhead". First, it started out as a newsletter, but became a magazine. It is still printed today, and widely distributed worldwide. Wherever Prabhupada went, he would preach love of God, and the glories of Lord Krishna to all who would listen. He knew that as long as people are possessed of selfish interests, and desires for sense gratification, they will continue fighting. Real unity was possible only on the platform of spiritual understanding, and service to the Supreme. In 1950 Prabhupada took sannyasa (renounced order), and traveled from ashram, to ashram. He stayed in various temples, and homes of pious people, throughout India.


He preached Bhagavad Gita wherever he could find an audience. His goal was to establish a powerful movement for spreading God consciousness (Krishna consciousness) worldwide. In the spirit of Lord Caitanya, he preached the glories of the holy names of the Lord. He desired to write books on the ancient message of Lord Krishna. He planned to translate Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita, and other Vedic Vaishnava texts, such as Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, Sri Isopanisad, and more. Bhagavad Gita contains the literal word of God, and covers the essence of Vedic knowledge.


In 1965 at the age of 69, Srila Prabhupada set sail for America. By the mercy of Lord Krishna, and his guru, he was determined to fullfill his spiritual master’s order, to spread God (Krishna) consciousness to the west. He set forth on a mission, that only an empowered representative of the Lord could accomplish. Armed only with a trunk of books, and faith in Lord Krishna, he came forth. In the course of this journey across the great ocean, he had two heart attacks. He prayed to Lord Krishna, and chanted his holy names, and he recovered.


Arriving in New York City, he spent some time with a family in Butler Pennsylvania, but he eventually returned to New York to set up a store front temple in the bowery. In time news spread of this holy man from India who was having an effect, in spreading the word of God. The small temple provided a program of chanting, and discussing Bhagavad Gita. His programs consisted of Chanting the Hare Krishna “maha mantra". There was also arati, Bhagavad Gita class, and afterwards, Vedic vegetarian food, first offered to Sri Sri Radha Krishna, was distributed to all in attendance.


The mantra known as the “maha mantra", or “great chant for deliverance” was touching so many, and gave a unique way to connect with God. Srila Prabhupada touched many lives, and even inspired Beatle George Harrison to write the well known song, “My Sweet Lord". In the 12 years (1965-1977) since Srila Prabhupada, first arrived in America, he circled the globe 14 times. He set up temples, and Vedic farm communities worldwide, and led a following of many disciples, who wanted to find out, how they could have a truly personal relationship with God, on the personal, and devotional platform.


He gave love, and understanding, that reached beyond sectarian, and national boundaries, and embraced all as the children of the Lord. He translated over 30 volumes of Srimad Bhagavatam, 17 volumes of Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, Bhagavad Gita, and presented numerous other books. His books are praised by educated scholars, and religionists, worldwide. By reading his books, not only can one gain access to a wealth of Vedic teachings, culture, and history, but one also can traverse the path, to the highest perfection of human life. Srila Prabhupada never compromised his principles.


He set the pure example, of a humble, devotee of God, and gave the pure message of Lord Krishna, without adulteration. When he came to America, and saw for himself the high degree of materialistic life, he wondered, how he could have a spiritual impact. His mission later proved to be successful in ways that are still being realized. The Vedic scriptures, repeatedly emphasize the spiritual importance of India. India has always been the center, of religious knowledge, and culture, since time immemorial. We should not think that Srila Prabhupada was a mundane leader, of a sectarian religion.


Quite the contrary, the principles taught by Srila Prabhupada, were universal, far transcending the superficial, man- made, sectarianism of one group, or another. The original word of God, Vedas, apply to, and will benefit every person. Srila Prabhupada taught, “We do not speak of Hindu gold, or Christian gold. Gold is always gold". Similarly, when we speak of Krishna consciousness, we refer to the natural, pure consciousness, lying dormant within the heart, of every living being.” Srila Prabhupada didn’t care about the various man-made “isms", of this material world. He sought to awaken that dormant, unalloyed, love of God, within all. Let our senses be cleansed of all material, bodily designations, and let the purified senses, be engaged in the service, of the Supreme Lord. This is Srila Prabhupada’s desire.