A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Srila Prabhupada under a painting of Krishna

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (September 1, 1896November 14, 1977) was born Abhay Charan De, in Calcutta, West Bengal. His birth name Abhay Charan means one who is fearless, having taken shelter of the feet of the Lord. He studied at the Scottish Church College, Calcutta, which was then administered by the British.

Prior to adopting the life of a vanaprastha, or pious renunciant in 1950, he was married with children, and ran a small pharmaceutical business. Prabhupada sailed to New York City in 1965. By July of 1966, he brought Hare Krishna to the West, founding the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in New York City. By the time of his death in Vrindavan eleven years later, ISKCON was a widely known expression of Hinduism in the West.

Upon Prabhupada's first meeting with his spiritual master in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, requested that he spread Vedic knowledge in the English language. In 1933 he became a formally initiated disciple. Starting in 1944 and without assistance he started Back to Godhead, an English language fortnightly for which he acted as publisher, editor and copy editor. In 1947 the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society recognised Prabhupada's scholarship with the honorific Bhaktivedanta (Sanskrit: One who has both devotion and knowledge. See Bhakti and Vedanta). Beginning in 1950 he lived at the medieval temple of Radha-Damodara in the holy city of Vrindavan. He took sannyasa vows in 1959 following which he singlehandedly published the first three volumes his thirty volume translation of the 18,000 verse Bhagavata Purana and the commentary on it. He then left India to fulfill his master's spiritual mission. In his possession were a suitcase, an umbrella, a supply of dry cereal, about seven dollars worth of Indian currency, and several boxes of books.

In the twelve years from his arrival in New York until his death he:

  • circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents.
  • introduced Vedic gurukul education to a Western audience.
  • directed the founding of The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, (http://www.krishna.com/main.php?id=37) the world's largest publisher in the field of Vedic religious texts and commentary.
  • founded New Vrindavan
  • authored sixty books (many available online here (http://www.vedabase.net)) on Vedantic philosophy, religion, literature and culture (including four in Bengali)
  • watched ISKCON grow to a confederation of more than 100 schools, temples, institutes, farm communities and ashrams.

Prabhupada followed the teachings of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and introduced bhakti yoga to a Western audience. He is the author of the Bhagavad Gita As It Is.

Issues Since Prabhupada's Death

Prabhupada spent much of the last decade of his life setting up the institution of ISKCON. As the charismatic leader, Prabhupada's personality and management were responsible for much of the growth of ISKCON and the reach of his mission.

Upon the death of Prabhupada on November 14, 1977, eleven of his disciples became initiating gurus for ISKCON. Those chosen were: Tamala Krishna Gosvami, Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami, Jayapataka Swami [1] (http://www.iskcon.net/perth/Biographys/ISKCON_Gurus/Jayapataka_Swami.html#Jaya), Hrdayananda Gosvami, Bhavananda Gosvami, Hamsaduta Swami, Ramesvara Swami, Harikesa Swami, Bhagavan dasa Adhikari, Kirtanananda Swami, and Jayatirtha dasa Adhikari. Of these eleven individuals, only the first four have stayed within ISKCON.

Presently ISKCON is managed by the Governing Body Commission. Srila Prabhupada created this body to handle affairs in his absence concerning the daily management and spiritual standards for the organization and its members. The authority and mission of this body has evolved since the time of Prabhupada's death in 1977.

Since the death of Prabhupada, ISKCON experienced a variety of what the organization describes as "heresies" over the next two decades. These heresies include: 1) The Guru is God Heresy 2) The Centralisation Heresy 3) The Zonal Acarya Heresy 4) The Proxy-Initiation Heresy 5) Heresies of Continuity 6) The Sannyasi-Householder Controversy 7) The Gopi-bhava Club Heresy 8) The Rasika-bhakti Heresy 9) The Origin of the Soul Heresy [2] (http://www.iskcon.com/icj/5_1/5_1perils.html) [3] (http://www.iskcon.com/icj/5_1/5_1perils2.html).

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