His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) is widely regarded as the foremost Vedic scholar, translator, and teacher of the modern era. He is especially respected as the world’s most prominent contemporary authority on bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the Supreme Person, Sri Krishna Bhagavan, as taught by the ancient Vedic writings of India. He is also the founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada, as he’s known to his followers, translated and commented on over eighty volumes of the Vedas’ most important sacred bhakti texts, including the Bhagavad-gita—a concise handbook for understanding the purpose and goal of human life—and the multi-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam—an epic biography of Krishna, Krishna’s avatars, and His many devotees throughout the history of the universe.
Srila Prabhupada’s own spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, was the leading proponent of Krishna consciousness in India during the early part of the twentieth century. He specifically taught the philosophy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the divine avatar who revived Krishna-bhakti all over India in the 1500s. When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta first met the young man later known as Srila Prabhupada – in Calcutta in 1922 – he urged him to preach Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s message of Krishna consciousness throughout the English-speaking world.
After forty years of struggling within India to carry out his guru’s order, while maintaining family and business responsibilities, Srila Prabhupada boarded a steamship bound from Calcutta to New York City in 1965. At age sixty-nine, with forty rupees and a trunk of his Bhagavatam commentaries – the first ever in English – his aim was to introduce “India’s message of peace and goodwill” to the western world. During the last twelve years of his life, Srila Prabhupada would inspire thousands of Westerners and Indians to devote their lives to Krishna consciousness, launching one of the fastest-growing spiritual movements in the history of the world.
Many scholars and professors who met him and became familiar with his work continue to use Srila Prabhupada’s books as standard university texts, and regard him as a genuine, realized, and scholarly teacher of bhakti. His authoritative yet down-to-earth presentation of Vedas continues to inspire a worldwide audience.
With the help of his students, he established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in July of 1966. ISKCON is popularly known as the “Hare Krishna” movement, due to its members’ widespread practice of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra in public. In the eleven years that followed, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe 14 times on lecture tours spreading the teachings of Lord Krishna. Men and women from all backgrounds and walks of life came forward to accept his message. With their help, Srila Prabhupada established temples, farm communities, a publishing house, and educational institutions around the world. And, he began what has now become the world’s largest vegetarian food relief program, Hare Krishna Food for Life.
With the desire to nourish the roots of Krishna consciousness in its home, Srila Prabhupada returned to India several times, where he sparked a revival in the Vaishnava tradition. In India, he opened dozens of temples, including large centers in the holy towns of Vrindavana and Mayapura.
Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contributions, perhaps, are his books. He authored over 70 volumes on the Krishna tradition, which are highly respected by scholars for their authority, depth, fidelity to the tradition, and clarity. Several of his works are used as textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into 76 languages. His most prominent works include: Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the 30-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the 17-volume Sri Caitanya-caritamrita.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada passed away on November 14, 1977, in the holy town of Vrindavana, surrounded by his loving disciples who carry on his mission today. Srila Prabhupada intended ISKCON to facilitate the association and education of bhakti-yoga practitioners, and his followers continue to spread that mission.