His 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 Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent religious scholar and the founder of 64 Gaudiya Mathas (Vedic Institutes), liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicated his life to teaching Vedic knowledge. Srila Prabhupada became his student, and eleven years later (1933) at Allahabad he became his formally initated 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, without assistance, strarted Back to Godhead, an English fortnightly magazine, edited it, typed the manuscripts and checked the gally proofs. He even distributed the individual copies and struggled to maintain the publication. Once begun, the magazine never stopped; it is now being continued by his disciples in the West and is published in over thirty languages.
Recognizing Srila Prabhupada’s philosophical learning and devotion, the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society honored him in 1947 with the title “Bhaktivedanta.” In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Srila Prabupada retired from married life, adopting the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. Srila Prabhupada traveled to the holy city of Vrndavana, where he lived in very humble circumstances in the historic medieval temple of Radha-Damodara. There he engaged for several years in deep studying 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 translation and commentary on the 18,000-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). He also wrote Easy Journey to Other Planets.
In 1965, he crossed the ocean with great difficulty arriving at Boston Harbor. Later he want to New York City, where after almost a year of considerable hardship he established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in July of 1966.
In 1968, Srila Prabhupada created New Vrindavana, an experimental Vedic community in the hills of West Virginia. Inspired by the success of New Vrindavana, now a thriving farm community of more than one thousand acres, his students have since founded several similar communities in the United States and abroad.
In 1972, His Divine Grace established the Vedic system of primary and secondary education in the West by founding the Gurukula school in Dallas Texas. Since then, under his supervision, his disciples have established children’s schools throughout the United States and the rest of the world.
Srila Prabhupada also inspired the construction of several large international cultural centers in India. The center in Sridhama Mayapur, inWest Bengal is the site for a planned spiritual city, an ambious project for which construction will extend over the next decades. In Vrindavana India is the magnificent Krishna Balarama Temple and International Guesthouse. There is also a major cultural and educational center in Bombay.
Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contribution, however, is his books. Highly respected by the academic community for their authoritativeness, depth and clarity, they are used as standard textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into more than thrity languages. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 exclusively to publish the works of His Divine Grace, has thus become the worlds largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.
In just twelve years, in spite of his advance age, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents. In spite of such a vigorous schedule, Srila Prabhupada continued to write prolifically. His writings constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.
Before his passing away on November 14, 1977, he had guided the society and saw it grow to a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes, and farm communities.
Additional Reading: Srila Prabhupada – The Founder-Acharya of ISKCON