Life of the master
The founder of ISKCON, Abhaya Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, was born on 1st September 1896 in Calcutta, into a Bengali Kayastha family. Since he was born on the day of Nandotsava, next day after Janmashtami, he was named Abhay Charan De, also fondly called Nandulal.
His parents Gour Mohan De and Rajani De were both devout Vaishnavas and so Abhay also naturally was spiritual. At the age of 6, he organised a Jagannath ratha yatra himself near his house, with great devotion. He asked his father for his own krishna deity, which he worshipped daily since the age of 6.
He received traditional European style education, and graduated in arts in 1920 from Scottish Church College with majors in English, Philosophy and Economics.
With age and education he had grown more into a nationalist than a spiritualist. He rejected his diploma in accordance with Gandhi’s independence movement.
In 1922, he met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami (founder of sixty-four branches of Gaudiya Mathas) in Calcutta, on the persistence of a friend. By that time he owned a chemical factory, and having seen many fake babas, was skeptical of Bhaktisiddhanta.
When Bhaktisiddhanta saw them, he told “You are educated young men. Why don’t you preach Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s message throughout the whole world?”
Prabhupada was really impressed with the master and wanted to carry on with the request, but family duties distracted him.
His devotion for Krishna led him to Prayagraj in 1933, where he received Harinama and Brahmana deeksha by Bhaktisiddhanta.
Bhaktisiddhanta added the word aravinda to his name and he was henceforth known as Abhay Charanaravinda.
Before his passing away in 1936, Bhaktisiddhanta again requested Abhay to spread Chaitanya mahaprabhu’s message among the English.
In 1944 he began an English fortnightly magazine “Back to Godhead” for spreading mahaprabhu’s message.
He was the writer, designer, publisher, editor, copy editor and distributor of the magazine.
In 1947, he was awarded the title of “Bhaktivedanta” by the Gaudiya Vaishnava Society for his relentless work in developing the magazine.
In 1950 he left his home for Vrindavan after an incident with his wife when she had sold his copy of Bhagavatam for tea biscuits.
In September 1959, Abhay took sannyasa at a formal ceremony and was then known as Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami.
In July 1962 he went to Vrindavan and lived at the medieval Radha-Damodar mandir, where he began the English commentary and translation of Bhagavata Purana.
After publishing 3 volumes of his translation
Prabhupada came to the United States, in 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master.
Practically penniless in 1965, with great difficulty he established the ISKCON (International Society of Krishna Consciousness) in New York City, USA.
He was fondly called Prabhupada from 1968 onwards by his students.
He passed away in 1977 after a 12 year intense activity where he
: established the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust,
wrote more than 80 books,
oversaw the the growth of ISKCON to more than 108 temples, various institutions, farm communities.
Some of his most famous works are Bhagavat Gita as it is, Srimad Bhagavatam, Chaitanya charitamritam.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), known colloquially as the Hare Krishna movement or Hare Krishnas was founded by Prabhupada in 1966 in New York City, USA.
It witnessed a surprisingly tremendous growth in the US considering the fact that when Prabhupad reached New York in 1965, he had no money, and today it has more than 600 centres worldwide.
ISKCON is completely devoted to the worship of Krishna and related deities and considers him the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The most well known practices of ISKCONites are kirtan, and the japa of the hare krishna maha mantra. Each member of the ISKCON chants the hare krishna maha mantra 16 x 108 times a day, atleast.
Another well known practice of ISKCON members is public preaching and spreading the message of Krishna. Members stand in public places, chant kirtans and distribute their books and publications to motivate people to join them.
Like Krishna, ISKCON also has a plethora of multicoloured multidimensional activities. Starting from arts, drama, festivals to education, ecology, charity…there is nothing that ISKCON doesn’t do. In this small blog it is even impossible to describe it’s activities.
Currently it has more than 600 centers worldwide and has millions of followers.
ISKCON is currently building the world’s largest modern temple in Mayapur, West Bengal (birthplace of Chaitanya mahaprabhu), which is scheduled to complete by 2022. It’s unique feature is it will house a Vedic planetarium which will depict viewers about celestial realms and heavenly bodies as described in the 5th canto of the Srimad Bhagavata Purana.
ISKCON has a strong presence in social media and it has apps and multiple websites of its own where one can access their teachings.
Krsna app gives you updates of their activities as well as many resources like Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavata Purana for free.
Srila Prabhupada Lila app describes the life and challenges of ISKCON’s founder Srila Prabhupada.
- Prabhupada’s detailed biography – https://www.srilaprabhupadalila.org/srila-prabhupada-biography
- ISKCON https://www.iskcon.org/