His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada is the Founder Acharya of ISKCON and the Hare Krishna Movement. He worked relentlessly to impart knowledge, enlighten minds and establish the Krishna bhakti globally. Srila Prabhupada lived a truly inspirational life and is a phenomenal role model for anyone who seeks to bring about transformation in his life. As a 70-year-old, Srila Prabhupada travelled to New York with the sole purpose of fulfilling his guru’s dream of spreading the message of Krishna Consciousness all over the world. Starting his work from a small storefront in New York, he went on to ignite a worldwide phenomenon, now known as the Hare Krishna Movement.
Srila Prabhupada was born on 1st September, 1896, in Calcutta, and was known as Abhay Charan. He did his graduation from Scottish Church College in 1916 and got married in 1920. It was in 1922 that he first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami, who inspired him to impart Vedic teachings to the western world. 11 years later, in 1933, he was formally initiated as Abhay Charanaravinda. In 1944, when World War II was raging in Europe and the Far East, Srila Prabhupada all by himself launched ‘BACK TO GODHEAD’, an English fortnightly magazine that addressed the issues of the times from a Krishna conscious point of view. The magazine is today published in forty languages, and enjoys a monthly circulation of over a million.
As a recognition of Srila Prabhupada’s learning and devotion, the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society, in 1947, honoured him with the title “Bhaktivedanta”, meaning “one who has realized that devotional service to the Supreme Lord is the end of all knowledge.” In 1950, at the age of 54, Srila retired from married life and then adopted vanaprastha so as to devote more time to his studies and writing. Srila Prabhupada lived at the 400-year-old Radha-Damodara temple, situated in the holy city of Vrindavan for about six years – meditating, studying, writing, and preparing himself for his big mission. It is in this historic medieval temple that he started working on his life’s masterpiece: a multi-volume translation of the eighteen-thousand-verse Srimad Bhagavatam. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959.
The beginning of his journey to fulfil his spiritual master’s mission was an arduous one. With very little money at hand, it was a task to make it to New York City. He somehow managed to convince an acquaintance, Sumathy Morarji, owner of a shipping company, and obtained free passage on a freight ship called the ‘Jaladuta’. His only possessions then were a suitcase, an umbrella, a supply of dry cereal, about forty Indian Rupees and numerous boxes of books. After a gruelling forty-day sea journey and, he reached New York City. But once there, he began to feel helpless and lost. However, over time, he found himself an audience an ever-growing one – who listened to him with great interest when he spoke of yoga and meditation.
People watched him, fascinated, as he performed his aratis and showed them how to chant the Hare Krishna mantra using wooden beads. He cooked vegetarian meals for them and taught them how to live a good life. In July of 1966, he founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), and over the next few years, brought the teachings of Bhakti to thousands of people and went on to establish 108 Krishna temples across six continents. Age was never a barrier for Srila Prabhupada. During his 11 years of stay abroad, he circled the globe fourteen times and formally initiated around 10,000 disciples.