Who is Śrīla Prabhupāda

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) is widely regarded as the foremost Vedic scholar, saint, translator and teacher of the modern era. He is especially respected as the world’s foremost contemporary authority on bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead-Sri Krishna, as taught in the ancient Vedic scriptures of India. He is also the founder and Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

Srila Prabhupada, as he is called by his devotees, translated and annotated more than eighty volumes of the most important sacred bhakti texts of the Vedas. These include the Bhagavad-gita as it is – the main work and summary of the Vedic scriptures for the understanding, purpose and goal of human life. And also the multi-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam – an epic biography of Krishna, his avatars and his many devotees throughout the history of the universe, also called the ripe fruit on the Vedic tree, translated and annotated by Srila Prabhupada.

Śrīla Prabhupāda

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, affectionately called Śrīla Prabhupāda by his disciples, was born in Calcutta on 1 September 1896. He attended university there and after graduating in philosophy, English and economics in 1920, he joined Gandhi’s independence movement.

In 1922, he met his spiritual master Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī, who commissioned him to spread the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness through the English language at their very first meeting.

Nine years later, he received formal initiation in Allahabad from Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī, a great scholar and the founder of sixty-four Gauḍīya Maṭhas (Vedic Institutes).

In the following years, Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gītā, supported the Gauḍīya Maṭha in her work and in 1944, without outside help, began to regularly publish the magazine “Back to Godhead” in English. He edited it himself, typed the manuscripts and checked the proofs. He generously distributed the individual copies himself and made great efforts to keep the publication going. By the mid-seventies, the monthly circulation was over one million copies, which were translated into the world’s most important languages.

In recognition of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s philosophical erudition and devotion, the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Society honoured him with the title “Bhaktivedanta” in 1947.

In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Śrīla Prabhupāda retired from family life, and four years later he entered the vānaprastha state (life in seclusion) in order to devote more time to his studies and writing.

Śrīla Prabhupāda travelled to the holy city of Vṛndāvana, where he lived in the historic medieval temple of Rādhā-Dāmodara in very modest circumstances.

In 1959, he entered the state of renunciation (sannyāsa). In the Rādhā-Dāmodara temple, Śrīla Prabhupāda then began work on his life’s work – a multi-volume translation with commentary of the eighteen thousand verse Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (Bhāgavata Purāṇa). The book Easy Journey to Other Planets was also written there.

In 1962, he published the first volume of the over 5,000-year-old Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, a first translation into English, which was soon followed by two more volumes.

After the publication of three volumes of the Bhāgavatam, Śrīla Prabhupāda travelled to the United States of America in 1965 to fulfil his spiritual master’s mission of spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the Western world.

When Śrīla Prabhupāda arrived in New York harbour on the cargo ship Jaladūta in September 1965, he brought only approx. seven dollars and a pair of hand cymbals in addition to his books. After a year of great difficulties, he then founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in July 1966, which has since developed into the largest spiritual movement of the present day.

Since that time, Śrīla Prabhupāda has translated and published 30 more major books and about 10 paperbacks, making him recognised by all Sanskrit scholars as the most important Sanskrit scholar of the present day.

Despite his advanced age, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda still translated several hours a day from the Vedic scriptures, many of which already serve as textbooks at universities. As Śrī Lal Bahadur Shastri, the former Prime Minister of India, stated, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami is doing valuable work; his books are significant contributions to the liberation of humanity.

Highly respected in academic circles for their authenticity, depth and clarity, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books are used as teaching aids at numerous colleges and universities. By March 1977, Śrīla Prabhupāda had travelled around the world fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to five continents. Despite such a busy schedule, he continued to produce books that form a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.

By the time of his physical passing away on 14 November 1977 in Vṛndāvana, India, Śrīla Prabhupāda had written more than 80 volumes of authoritative translations, commentaries and synoptic studies of Indian Vedic literature. For his disciples, Śrīla Prabhupāda lives on in his books and instructions.

Most of his books were written or dictated by Śrīla Prabhupāda in English. They were translated into practically all the more or less important languages of the world.

Śrīla Prabhupā’s main works are:

Bhagavad-gītā As it Is,
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (12 volumes),
Caitanya-caritāmṛta (11 volumes),
Kṛṣṇa – The Supreme Personal God (3 volumes),
The teachings of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya,
Śrī Īṣopaniṣad,
The nectar of devotion,
The nectar of instruction,
Easy journey to other planets,
Life comes from life,
Christ, Krishto, Kṛṣṇa,
as well as many other smaller books.

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