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Biography of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

 

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was born in Nandostava of 1896 in a Vaishnava family in Calcutta, India. He was named Abhay Charan De. At the time of his birth, it was foreshadowed by an astrologer that he'll cross the great ocean and preach the name throughout the world. The signs of the prophecy came true right from the start. Influenced by his father, he had lived a Vaishnava lifestyle worshipping Deities, observing festivals, particularly the Ratha Yatra, learning bhajans, and playing mridanga. When Abhay Charan entered college, he joined the movement of Mahatma Gandhi in his youth. With active involvement with Gandhi's movement, he refused to accept his diploma from his school, as it was a British school.

 

It wasn't until 1922, when he first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Initially, Abhay Charan was reluctant to meet him knowing how there are many false sadhus and swamis that exist. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was very impressed by the intelligent young Abhay. The meeting left an impression on Abhay Charan, and he immediately accepted Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura as his spiritual master. Later, he encouraged Abhay to preach the teachings of Lord Chaitanya in English to the Western world.

 

The guru-disciple relationship wasn't solidified until 1932, when Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura initiated Abhay Charan as his disciple. After receiving both diksa and brahmana initiation, Abhay Charan became "Abhayacharanaravinda Dasa" meaning "the servant who is fearless at surrendering to the Lotus feet of Lord Krsna. Even though Abhay came late, he accomplished much more. He regularly wrote for the magazine, "The Harmonist." Abhay truly had pure faith in Lord Caitanya's prophecy that chanting will take place in every town and village. As time passed, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja, the creator of nearly sixty four Gaudiya Matha Vedic institutions, started feeling displeased at how the matha is disintegrating. As there was "a fire in the matha", he desired for Abhay to print books and take the task to preach to Western nations about the message of Krsna Consciousness. Soon after imparting this final instruction, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja left this world.

 

Abhay started his work in fulfilling his spiritual master's desire. He, single-handedly, started writing, printing, publishing, and selling a magazine called "Back To Godhead" in 1944. Noticing how the message of the Bhagavad-gita was being distorted and misinterpreted, he wrote "Bhagavad-gita As It Is" presenting the Gita as how Lord Krsna spoke it, and how Arjuna understood it. He also had small ashrams that became successful. Despite his best efforts in trying to fulfill his spiritual master's dream, conflicts with household life and his pharmaceutical business took place. These, along with a dream from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, inspired him to retire from household life.

 

In 1959, from Srila Kesava Maharaja, Abhay received sannyasa initiation, and thus received the name, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. He spent his time in Vrndavana translating the Srimad Bhagavatam and writing more books. It wasn't until 1965, when he took a great, risky journey on the Jaladuta ship to America. Without any money, knowledge of the region, or any company, having Krsna on his side, he kept on chanting on the parks. Despite facing many struggles, he attracted a group of young men and women in New York City. They started to pick up the chanting of Hare Krsna. They found a store front on 26 Second Ave. where classes, bhajans, and kirtans are discussed. In 1966, this meeting place, constant chanting, discussing of love for Krsna, became an institution the world would recognize as ISKCON, the International Society for Krsna Consciousness. From then, the "swamiji" was fondly known as "Srila Prabhupada" amongst his disciples.

 

Within a decade, he traveled around the globe twelve times country to country, city to city, creating nearly 108 temples over the world. In addition to the temples, and installing Deities over the world, he instituted devotional communities, farms, restaurants, and schools around the world. He had thousands followers and disciples. While doing everything, he recorded bhajans and kirtans, gave many lectures and classes, wrote many articles, and created a great library of Vedic knowledge. This library of Vedic knowledge includes timeless classics like Bhagavad Gita, the first ten cantos of the Srimad Bhagavatam, and Caitanya Caritamrta, in short. Srila Prabhupada, fulfilling the dream of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and desire of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, left this world in November of 1977. In his honor, a great samadhi was created for him in Vrndavan. His physical presence is no longer on earth, but his words, his lectures, his books, his spirit in, within, and of ISKCON will remain eternally with us.

 

UPDATED: July 26, 2010