Swami Bhaktived Prabhupad | Sri Swami Bhaktived Prabhupad & ISKON


Sri Swami Bhaktived Prabhupad

Hari Om tat Sat

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Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appeared on this planet on the 1st September 1896, the day after Janmastami, one of the most important Vaishnava holidays, in a humble house in the Tollygunge suburb of Calcutta, he was named Abhay Charan – “one who is fearless, having taken shelter at Lord Krishna’s feet.” Since he appeared on the day of Nandotsava (“the celebration of Nanda,” Lord Krishna’s father, a traditional festival in honour of Lord Krishna’s birth) he was also called Nandulal. Srila Prabhupad’s parents, Sriman Gour Mohan De and Srimati Rajani De, were devout Vaishnavas (devotees of Lord Vishnu). In accordance with Bengali tradition, his mother had gone to the home of her parents for the delivery, and only a few days later Abhay returned with parents to his home at 151 Harrison Road in Calcutta, where he was brought up and educated. Before adopting the life of a pious renunciant (vanaprastha) in 1950, he was married with children and owned a small pharmaceutical business. In 1959 he took a vow of renunciation (sannyasa) and started writing commentaries on Vaishnava scriptures. In his later years, as a travelling Vaishnava monk, he became an influential communicator of Gaudiya Vaishnava theology to India and specifically to the West through his leadership of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), founded in 1966. As the founder of ISKCON, he “emerged as a major figure of the Western counter-culture, initiating thousands of young Americans.” Despite attacks from anti-cult groups, he received a favourable welcome from many religious scholars, such as J. Stillson Judah, Harvey Cox, Larry Shinn and Thomas Hopkins, who praised Prabhupada’s translations and defended the group against distorted media images and misinterpretations. In respect to his achievements, religious leaders from other Gaudiya Vaishnava movements have also given him credit. He received a European led education in the Scottish Church College, Calcutta. This school was well reputed among Bengalis; many Vaishnava families sent their sons there. The professors, most of whom were Europeans, were known as sober, moral men, and it is believed that the students should receive a good education. The college was located in north Calcutta, not far from Harrison Road where Abhay’s family lived. During his years in the college, Srila Prabhupada was a member of the English Society as well as that of the Sanskrit Society, and it has been suggested that his education provided him a foundation for his future leadership. He graduated in 1920 with majors in English, philosophy and economics. However he refused to accept his diploma, being a devout follower of Mahatma Gandhi at the time. His refusal to accept the diploma he had earned was in protest of the British. He also wore the homespun cotton cloth the followers of Gandhi wore in protest of British clothes.

In 1922, when Srila Prabhupada first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Goswami Maharaja, he was requested to spread the message of Shree Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the English language. Later in 1932 Srila Prabhupada became a formally initiated disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. In 1944, (from his front room at Sita Kanta Banerjee, Calcutta), Srila Prabhupada started the publication called Back to Godhead, for which he acted as designer, publisher, editor, copy editor and distributor. He personally designed the logo, an effulgent figure of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the upper left corner, with the motto: “Godhead is Light, Nescience is darkness” greeting the readers. In his first magazine Srila Prabhupada wrote: “Under the circumstances since 1936 up to now, I was simply speculating whether I shall venture this difficult task and that without any means and capacity; but as none have discouraged me, I have now taken courage to take up the work.” — A.C.Bhakivedanta Swami, Back to Godhead magazine(Vol.1, 1-4, 1944) In 1947, the Gaudiya Vaishnava Society recognised Prabhupada’s scholarship with the title Bhaktivedanta, (bhakti-ved?nta) meaning “one who has realised that devotional service to the Supreme Lord is the end of all knowledge”

" (with the words Bhakti, indicating devotion and Vedanta indicating conclusive knowledge). His later well known name, Prabhupada, is a Sanskrit title, literally meaning “he who has taken the position of the Lord” where prabhu denotes “Lord”, and pada means “position.” Also, “at whose feet masters sit”. This name was used as a respectful form of address by his disciples from late 1967 early to 1968 onwards. Previous to this, as with his early disciples, followers used to call him “Swamiji”. From 1950 onwards, Srila Prabhupada lived at the medieval Radha-Damodar mandir in Vrindavan, India where he began his commentary and translation work of the Sanskrit work Srimad Bhagavatam Maha Purana. Of all Vrindavana’s notable temples, the Radha-Damodara Mandir had at the time the largest collection of various copies of the original writings of the Six (Sat) Gosvamis and their followers – more than two thousand separate manuscripts, many of them three hundred, some even four hundred years old. His guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja, had always encouraged Srila Prabhupada that “If you ever get money, print books”, referring to the need of literary presentation of the Vaishnava culture. Keshavaji Gaudiya Matha was the place where Srila Prabhupada used to live, he had written and studied in the library of this building, here he edited the Gaudiya Patrika magazine and this is the place where he donated the murti of Lord Chaitanya who stands on the altar beside the Deities of Radha Krishna (named Sri Sri Radha Vinodavihariji). During his visit in September 1959 he entered the doors of this Math dressed in white, as Abhay Babu, but would be leaving dressed in saffron, a swami. In this Math, in Mathura Vrindavana, Prabhupada took Vaishnava renunciate vows, sannyasa, from his friend and godbrother Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Goswami Maharaja, and following this he single-handedly published the first three volumes covering seventeen chapters of the first book of Bhagavata Purana, filling three volumes of four hundred pages each with a detailed commentary. The introduction to the first volume was a biographical sketch of Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He then left India, obtaining free passage on a freight ship called the Jaladuta, with the aim and a hope of fulfilling his spiritual master’s instruction to spread the message of Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu around the world. In his possession were a suitcase, an umbrella, a supply of dry cereal, about eight dollars worth of Indian currency, and several boxes of books. Srila Prabhupada sailed to the USA in 1965. His trip to the United States was not sponsored by any religious organization, nor was he met upon arrival by a group of loyal followers. As he neared his destination on the ship, the Indian freighter Jaladuta, the enormity of his intended task weighed on him. On September 13 Srila Prabhupada wrote in his diary, “Today I have disclosed my mind to my companion, Lord Shree Krishna.” On this occasion and on a number of others, Srila Prabhupada, called on Lord Krishna for help in his native Bengali. Examining these compositions, academics regard them as “intimate records of his prayerful preparation for what lay ahead” and a view on “how Bhaktivedanta Swami understood his own identity and mission.”

“ I do not know why You have brought me here.

" Now You can do whatever You like with me. But I guess You have some business here, otherwise why would You bring me to this terrible place?

" How will I make them understand this message of Krishna consciousness? I am very unfortunate, unqualified and most fallen. Therefore I am seeking Your benediction so that I can convince them, for I am powerless to do so on my own.” By journeying to America, he was attempting to fulfil the wish of his guru by the grace of Lord Krishna. It was in July 1966 that “global missionary Vaishnavism” was brought to the West by Srila Prabhupada, “the soul agent”, founding the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in New York City. Srila Prabhupada spent much of the last decade of his life setting up the institution of ISKCON. Since he was the Society’s leader, his personality and management were responsible for much of ISKCON’S growth and the reach of his mission. When it was suggested to Bhaktivedanta Swami at the time of founding the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in 1966 that a broader term “God Consciousness” would be preferable to “Krishna Consciousness” in the title, he rejected this recommendation, suggesting that name Krishna includes all other forms and concepts of God. After a group of devotees and a temple had been established in New York another centre was started in San Francisco in 1967.

"From here Prabhupada travelled throughout America with his disciples, popularizing the movement through street chanting (sankirtana), book distribution and public speeches.

Once ISKCON was more established in America, a small number of devotees from the San Francisco temple were sent to London, England. After a short time of being in London they came into contact with The Beatles, of whom George Harrison took the greatest interest, spending a significant time speaking with Srila Prabhupada and producing a record with members of the later London Radha Krsna Temple. Over the following years Srila Prabhupada’s continuing leadership role took him around the world some several times setting up temples and communities in all of the major continents. By the time of his death (disappearance) in Vrindavan eleven years later in 1977, ISKCON became a widely known expression of Vaishnavism on an international basis. Srila Prabhupada’s “last breathing” was glorious, not because of any last minute mystical demonstration, but because Srila Prabhupada remained in perfect Krsna consciousness. Like grandfather Bhishmadeva, he remained completely collected and noble and grave, teaching until the end. He was preaching that life comes from life, not from matter, and he was showing that one should preach with every breath he has. The many devotees who crowded the large room bore witness that up to the very end, Srila Prabhupada remained exactly the same. There was nothing suddenly in congruous with what he had previously shown and taught them. At the time of his departure, therefore, he was teaching how to die, by always depending on Lord Krsna. Srila Prabhupada’s passing away was peaceful. During the evening of November 14, the kaviraja (ayurvedic doctor) asked him, “Is there anything you want?” and Prabhupada replied faintly, kuch iccha nahin: “I have no desire.” His passing away was in the perfect situation: in Vrndavana, with devotees. A few months previously, a young girl, the daughter of one of Prabhupada’s disciples, had passed away in Vrndavana, and when Srila Prabhupada had been asked if she went back to Godhead to personally associate with Krsna, he had said, “Yes, anyone who leaves his/her body in Vrndavana is liberated.” Srila Prabhupada’s life had been dedicated to spreading the holy name to every town and village, and for a month he had been surrounding himself with the holy name.

" For his passing away, he especially wanted to fill the room with devotees chanting Hare Krsna, and Lord Krsna fulfilled that wish. Srila Prabhupada, therefore, departed under the most favourable circumstances possible-in the most sacred place, Vrndavana, surrounded by Vaishnavas chanting the holy name. An ideal spiritual teacher (Acharya) always acts in such a way that others may follow his example. As the Srimad Bhagavatam states, these great souls who cross over the ocean of birth and death by taking shelter of the “boat” of the lotus feet of Lord Krsna miraculously leave the boat on this side for others to use. And Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, by its perfect example, affords all conditioned souls the means for meeting the greatest of all dangers. An auspicious death is not merely a matter of psychological adjustment, so that one may die without regret or without becoming unduly upset. The real point is that at the time of death the soul must leave the body and take his next birth. While there was nothing lamentable for Srila Prabhupada in his departing from the world and going back to Godhead, it was certainly lamentable for his followers and for the people of the whole world, who became bereft of the presence of their greatest well-wisher and benefactor. Srila Prabhupada had written in a Srimad Bhagavatam purport, “When the mortal body of the spiritual master expires, the disciple should cry exactly like the queen cries when the king leaves his body.” At the departure of his own spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada had written, “On that day, O my Master, I made a cry of grief; I was not able to tolerate the absence of you, my guru.” And so on November 14, 1977, as the powerful news spread around the world, those who knew and loved Srila Prabhupada were gripped by a fearful, unrestricted grief. They saw everything around them in the overwhelming atmosphere of separation from Srila Prabhupada. They turned for solace to Srila Prabhupada’s books. Bhaktivedanta Swami considered Moses, Jesus, and Mohamed to be empowered representatives of God, describing them within his writings as pioneers of the same essential message of dedication to God with love and devotion . “

"Actually, it doesn't matter – Krishna or Christ – the name is the same. The main point is to follow the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures that recommend chanting the name of God in this age. ” Other typical expression presents a different perspective, where Bhaktivedanta Swami would point out that "today I may be a Hindu, but tomorrow I may become a Christian or Muslim. In this way faiths can be changed, but dharma" is a natural sequence, a natural occupation or a connection and it can not be changed, because it is permanent, according to him. While ISKCON theology of personal god is close to Christian theology, both personal and monotheistic, being a preacher of bhakti and a missionary he sometimes would add, that "already many Christians have tasted the nectar of divine love of the holy name and are dancing with karatalas (hand-cymbals) and mridangas (drums)." Bhaktivedanta Swami's approach to modern knowledge is also seen in sectarian Orthodox Judaism, where the skills and technical knowledge of modernity are encouraged, but the values rejected. Bhaktivedanta Swami stated "devotees should not be lazy, idle...we are not afraid to work. Whatever our engagement is, by offering the result to Krishna we become Krishna conscious".[

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