His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appeared in this world in 1896 in Calcutta, India. He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent religious scholar and the founder of sixty-four Gaudiya Mathas (Vedic institutes), liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge. Srila Prabhupada became his student and, eleven years later (1933), in Allahabad, became his initiated disciple.
At their first meeting, in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura requested Srila Prabhupada to broadcast Vedic knowledge through the English language. In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, assisted the Gaudiya Matha in its work and, in 1944, started Back to Godhead magazine. Maintaining the publication was a struggle. Single-handedly, Srila Prabhupada wrote the material, edited it, typed the manuscripts, checked the galley proofs, and even distributed the individual copies. The magazine is now being continued by his followers and is published in over thirty languages.
Recognizing Srila Prabhupada's philosophical learning and devotion, the society of Gaudiya Vaisnavas honored him in 1947 with the title "Bhaktivedanta." In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Srila Prabhupada retired from family life, adopting the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to study, writing and preaching. Srila Prabhupada moved to the holy city of Vrndavana, where he lived in humble circumstances in the historic medieval temple of Radha-Damodara. There he spent several years in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959. At Radha-Damodara, Srila Prabhupada began work on his life's masterpiece: a multivolume annotated translation of the eighteen-thousand-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). He also wrote Easy Journey to Other Planets.
After publishing three volumes of the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada journeyed to the United States, arriving in September of 1965 to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. With him he brought no foreign exchange, but he did bring sets of his books. After almost a year of difficulty he established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in July of 1966. Subsequently, His Divine Grace went on to write more than sixty volumes of authoritative, annotated translations and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India. Before passing away on November 14, 1977, Srila Prabhupada guided his Society to a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes and farm communities.
In 1968 Srila Prabhupada created New Vrindaban, an experimental Vedic community in the hills of West Virginia, which became a thriving rural community of more than two thousand acres. Several similar communities were established in the United States and in other countries.
In 1972 His Divine Grace introduced the Vedic system of primary and secondary education in the West by founding the Gurukula school in Dallas, Texas. Since then, his disciples have established schools throughout the United States and the rest of the world, with the principal educational centers located in Vrndavana and Mayapur, India. On the level of higher education, Srila Prabhupada formed the Bhaktivedanta Institute, a center for advanced study and research into the nature of consciousness and the self. The Institute is comprised of a body of scientists and scholars who have recognized the unique value of the teachings brought to the West by His Divine Grace.
Srila Prabhupada also oversaw the construction of several large international cultural centers in India. The center at Sridhama Mayapur in West Bengal is the site for a future spiritual city. In Vrndavana are the magnificent Krsna-Balarama Temple and International Guesthouse and the Srila Prabhupada Memorial and Museum. There is also a major cultural and educational center in Bombay.
Srila Prabhupada's most significant contributions, however, are his books. Highly respected by the academic community for their authority, depth and clarity, they are used as standard textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into over fifty languages. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 to present the works of His Divine Grace, has become the world's largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.
In just twelve years, in spite of his advanced age, .Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents, where he daily enlightened audiences with classes and discussions on the Vedic literature. Over two thousand of these lectures are available on recordings. Initiating over ten thousand disciples and enlisting further tens of thousands of Life Member supporters, he guided his followers and enquirers with valuable instructions and counselling both personally and through some seven thousand letters.
In spite of such a vigorous regimen, Srila Prabhupada continued to write prolifically. His works constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.
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