Who Was Srila Prabhupada?
Those familiar with the Judeo-Christian concepts are familiar with Biblical stories of God’s promise to send a servant who would deliver His chosen people. Some are convinced that that person came two thousand years ago and fulfilled the promise. Others remain unconvinced and still look for the coming of their savior. The religions of the East offer similar promises which give hope to every man and woman who labors with the burdens of life. According to the large body of spiritual wisdom known in India as the Vedas, the Lord regularly arranges for religious principles to be presented to the people at large, and either incarnates in this world Himself for this purpose, or He empowers a uniquely qualified soul for the task. The Vedas describe that His purpose in doing so is to attract the souls of this world to join Him in the spiritual realm once again in loving union, and that this is the very highest goal of human life.
Such work of The Almighty was entrusted to the man born as Abhay Charan De, later to be honored by the title “Bhaktivedanta” by his peers for his unparalleled qualities of both love (bhakti) and spiritual wisdom (vedanta). He is affectionately known as Srila Prabhupada (Shreela Pra-bhoo-pad) by his followers.
How do we know that Srila Prabhupada was in fact such an ambassador from the spiritual world? Like The Christ, his appearance and activities are foretold in scripture.
In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana, one of the scriptures of ancient India, the Supreme Lord foretold that 5,000 years into Kali Yuga, His mantra upasaka, the devotee who worships His Holy Names, will appear in this world and spread the chanting of Krishna’s name all over the planet. The appearance of this great personality is also predicted in a later holy text, The Shree Chaitanya Mangala, written by Srila Locana Dasa Thakura in 1537. Therein Lord Chaitanya foretells of an empowered personality who would take the chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord everywhere in the world. Lord Chaitanya stated: “I want to flood the whole world with the chanting of the holy names. I will personally preach and flood India with the chanting of the holy names. And my senapati bhakta (great devotee commander) will come, preach in different countries and flood the world with the chanting of Hare Krishna.”
These predictions were fulfilled at the predicted time only by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and it is he who has brought this advanced knowledge of our relationship with the Supreme Lord to all the world.
Who is God, what is the nature of our relationship to Him, and how can we actually love Him? These are the teachings of Bhaktivedanta Swami. But this was not simply his concoction of some spiritual pabulum which makes us feel good but has no tangible substance. His message was not about pondering the sound of one hand clapping or other mental gymnastics, but was a scholarly as well as devotional presentation of advanced spiritual truths in straightforward language that every person can understand.
His work included the translation of the Bhagavad-gita (the “Bible of the East”), the Shrimad Bhagavatam (accepted as the fifth Veda, or the essence of all Vedic knowledge), in 32 volumes, the Chaitanya-Charitamrita, in 18 volumes, and other important works. Translating up until just days before his departure from this world he left a legacy of some 80 volumes which have since been translated into more than 60 languages, and distributed around the world by a following which became a household word due to their proselytizing efforts.
After ten years of preparation, Bhaktivedanta Swami, arrived in New York City in 1965, with a mere seven dollars in his pocket, and a trunk full of his translations. By his single-handed persistent effort he presented his truths to the disaffected youth of the day, and with their help began a spiritual movement. Some youth were calling for revolution, but Srila Prabhupada redirected them to participate in a spiritual revolution, an effort designed to alter the values of a misdirected civilization. While other spiritual groups of the day were named after their leaders, his group was different. His followers became known as the “Hare Krishnas,” Krishna being one of the names of God, and “Hare Krishna” being a part of the mantra which they chanted in public in every major city in the world. His society was incorporated as the more formal “International Society for Krishna Consciousness” (ISKCON).
Prabhupada was a personality of the highest character and demanded no less from his followers. Yet despite the fact that he strictly prohibited his followers from indulging in the order of the day—drugs, illicit sex, eating meat, and gambling—his spiritual movement quickly spread all over the globe. His followers will tell you they readily agreed to these conditions because it was very obvious to them, that at a time when their government was lying to them, when their parents may have been lying to them, and when society was certainly lying to them, he gave them the truth, and did not cheat them by telling them one thing while his behavior spoke of something else. He was the embodiment of his teachings and a powerful example of what we could all become—true lovers of God.
He was a renunciate to be sure, but he made use of every possible technology to spread his gospel, including automobiles, and most of all jet airplanes, which formerly had been shunned by orthodox swamis. Over the course of twelve years he circled the globe fourteen times and developed a following of hundreds of thousands, today numbering in the millions due to the promulgation of his teachings.. He was followed and promoted by many stars, and an inspired George Harrison sung of Lord Krishna in his famous song My Sweet Lord. Such a following gave him power and grandeur, but in his humility he used these not for his aggrandizement or personal pleasure, but to further distribute his message as far as possible. Seeing the results of the preaching work gave him great energy and he worked so hard and fast that it was difficult for his disciples just a third of his age to keep up with him.
A great deal of information can be found about Srila Prabhupada online.
Read his most important books Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam online, and downloaded.
Some of his other books can be found here, here and here.
You can hear some of his lectures with the following links, and more can be downloaded from here.
Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita and his pure teachings of devotional service to Lord Krishna (God) form the basis of Spiritual Economics. Those desiring to thoroughly understand the concepts of Spiritual Economics must study his “Bhagavad-gita As It Is”.