Published on July 19th, 2022 | by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Your Ever Well-Wisher — Srila Prabhupada Video Biography
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The movement he started is now known to millions around the world. Yet he himself remained in the background. Without personal ambition he worked humbly to spread Krishna consciousness, devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Yet his achievements and personal character did not go unnoticed. The worlds’ leading scholars and religionists praised his unique contribution. And thousands grew to love him as their dearmost friend and well-wisher.
In his memory his disciples erected a stunning memorial in the hills of West Virginia now visited by half a million people a year. In this and many other ways around the world Srila Prabhupada is offered expressions of love by those whose lives he most deeply touched.
Always remember Krishna, God, and never forget Him. This was the goal of the rich spiritual culture that flourished in India for thousands of years. Even today Lord Krishna is remembered and glorified through monumental achievements in architecture, art, drama, music, dance and philosophy.
Calcutta, 1896, the capital of India, the crown jewel of the British empire. An elegant city of wide avenues and spacious parks. It is here that Abhay Caranaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami is born. A pure devotee of Krishna from birth Abhay Charan is raised in a well-to-do mercantile family. From infancy he goes with his father to the Radha-Krishna Temple and at age four the child spontaneously begins worshipping similar Deities in his home.
When Abhay Charan hears of Ratha-yatra, a traditional festival in honour of Lord Krishna, it further inspires his natural devotion. With his fathers help every year he holds his own small celebration drawing the neighbourhood children into the festivities.
At age eight Abhay Charan enters the nearby Matti Laul Seel school. After graduation he attends Scottish Churches College, one of the most respected in Calcutta.
At the time Mahatma Gandhi is organizing his countrymen in a nationwide boycott of everything British. Gandhism is surging through India, uniting her in a massive non-cooperation movement. Sensitive to British subujation of India’s culture and people, Abhay Charan becomes an early supporter of Gandhi’s movement but 1922 marks a turning point in Abhay Charan’s life. He meets Srila Bhaktsiddhanta Saraswati Goswami, the greatest devotee of Krishna of his time. Srila Bhaktsiddhanta belongs to the disciplic successon of spiritual masters extending back to Lord Krishna Himself. He convinces Abhay Charan that Krishna’s spiritual message transcends India’s dependent position. Nothing is more important. He requests Abhay Charan to spread Krishna consciousness in the Western world. Abhay Charan hears and is deeply impressed.
By this time Abhay Charan has a growing family. He moves to Allhabhad and starts a successful pharmacy. All the while his spiritual master’s words remain implanted in his heart. In 1933 he becomes a disciple of Srila Bhaktsiddhanta who comments, “He will do everything in due time.” Three years later Srila Bhaktsiddhanta leaves this world, after again requesting Abhay Charan to preach in English.
Abhay Charan takes his words to heart and starts writing prodigiously.
In 1944 he single-handedly begins publishing and distributing “Back to Godhead,” a fortnightly. The first issue addresses the crisis of war. The second world war within twenty years is scourging the Earth. “Back to Godhead” points out that people throughout the world want an end to war but so often they want God’s kingdom without God, and they can not have it. “All our plans will be doomed to failure by our own selfishness unless we turn to God.”
After the war Abhay Charan moves to Jhansi and founds the “League of Devotees.” He prepares a charter for an international organization, its members dedicated to a peaceful, God-centred life. Aharaya Prabhaka, his first disciple remembers:
“He was always teaching Krishna consciousness and people came to him for knowledge. After hearing from him many wanted to become his disciple. He told them, “I can make you my disciple, but first you please chant the names of God and give up cigarettes, meat eating, illicit sex and gambling.” But few people would agree to give up these habits. Then he said: “Indians are imitating the Westerners. I will make disciples in the West. Then, when the Indian people see Westerners following religious principles , they will also follow.”
Following tradition, at age 58, Abhay Charan retires from family life and five years later accepts the renounced order. He is now known as “A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.” He lives alone in the historic medieval temple of Radha-Damodar in Vrindavana engaged in deep studies and writing. It was in Vrindavana that Lord Krishna revealed His pastimes fifty centuries ago and saintly persons throughout the ages have worshipped this land as the most sacred on Earth. Unlike other holy men who live there, Bhaktivedanta Swami is not thinking of retiring, for him Vrindavana is a source of inspiration, an ideal place to chant, worship and write. Here he begins work on his life’s masterpiece, translation and commentary on the monumental devotional classic, “Srimad-Bhagavatam.” Bhaktivedanta Swami calles it, “A cultural presentation for the respiritualization of the entire human society.
But often he leaves Vrindavana to print his magazine and books in nearby Delhi. Traveling takes time and tolerance but Bhaktivedanta Swami accepts it as part of his spiritual mission to broadcast devotional service to Lord Krishna. He writes, “Our leaders have carefully set aside the treasure-house of India’s spiritual asset and they are imitating the Western material way of life but people are more unhappy than ever before because of exclusion of the most important part of life–the spiritual aspect.”
In Delhi, Bhaktivedanta Swami personally distributes copies of “Back to Godhead” and with small donations struggles to maintain the publication. He regularly sees Surendra Kumar Jain, a printer: “It was somewhere in the month of February 1956 that I first met Prabhupada. He came to my press for getting the magazine printed, ‘Back to Godhead.’ I found that it was not very easy for him to collect money. He would come to the press practically every day and after the printing was done he would do everything himself. He was a very dedicated person. A very committed person and at the times when he was not in a position to pay the bills, I would ask him, ‘Why are you running this? Stop it.’ He would say, ‘No, it is my mission and one day Surrenra Kumar you will see that I will succeed in my mission.'”
By 1964 Bhaktivedanta Swami completes three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Prime Misister Laul Bhadar Sastri lauds his accomplishment and recommends his books for placement in India’s Public Libraries. Sumati Morarji, chairman of the Scindia steamship company gives contributions for printing Bhaktivedanta Swami’s books and arranges for his passage to America.
“And he used to come every evening. And one day he said that he would like to go to America. I was surprised. I said: ‘Swamiji, don’t go, there you are too old and it will be too cold for you.’ Still he insisted, so I said, ‘All right.’ So I made arrangement for him to go on Jaladuta. On the way while he was passing through Surat, that day was Lord Krishna’s birthday, and he gathered all the people on board the ship. All the crew members, officers and recited some sloka and then some prasad was distributed to them and all that.”
Bhaktivedanta Swami, a lone mendicant seventy years old, traveling half way across the world, his only resources the message he carries and his unflinching faith. The voyage on the Jaladuta proves a great trial. Bhaktivedanta Swami endures seasickness and then suffers severe chest pains. In two days he has two heart attacks. If another comes he thinks he would surely not survive but gradually he recovers. He writes: “I feel today better, but I am feeling separation from Vrindavana. I have no qualification but I have taken up the risk just to carry out the order of my spiritual master.”
September 17th. 1965. The Jaladuta arrives in Boston Harbour. Onboard Bhaktivedanta Swami writes: “My dear Lord Krishna you are so kind upon this useless soul but I do not know why you have brought me here. Most of the poulation here is absorbed in material life. How will I make them understand your message? I can simply repeat Your words and if You like You can make my power of speaking suitable for their understanding. I have no devotion, nor do I have any knowledge but I have strong faith in the holy name of Krishna.
I have been designated as Bhaktivedanta, “devotion with knowledge,” and now if You like You can fulfill the real purport of Bhaktivedanta. Signed, the most unfortunate, insignificant beggar, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.”
Bhaktivedanta Swami first stays in Butler, Pennsylvania in the home of a friends son, Gopal Agrawal and his wife Sally.
“The swami was a friend of my husband’s father, Mr. Agrawal in Agra, India and he asked me to sponsor the Swami, and that’s what I did and that’s why he came to our house in the middle of the night one night. He stayed with us for a month in Butler and I learned, over the time I learned to love him as I would a father inlaw. He was a very sensitive and kindly type of person. He was indeed one of the most unusual men I’ve ever met in my life. The swami came with so few possessions. He came with the clothes he had on his back, He had a typewriter and he had his books. And he had a bag of cereal. Imagine coming to a country on the other side of the world with so little. And yet he came with so much in himself.
“The Swami brought a pan with him in which he cooked his food and in fact cooked our lunch too. Our little boy was only six months old when he came and the Swami was there when Bridge first stood and he laughed and laughed to see him stand up. When he left he was just oceanic, oceanic. He just seemed to take in the entire universe when he left and he left a lot. I enjoyed my association for that one month with him about as much as I have enjoyed anything in my life.”
Although comfortable in Butler, Bhaktivedanta Swami thought, “The most important philosophy in the world, Krishna consciousness, should be spread in one of the most important cities in the world, New York.”
He moves to 100 West 72nd Street, three months later his typewriter and tape recorder for translating were stolen. Bhaktivedanta Swami later said: “I came to America risking my life. I was physically unfit and at the fag end of my days. Sometimes I did not know where to live, nor was I used to the severe cold. Seemingly I was alone for one year, but I never felt alone, I always felt the presence of my spiritual master. So I did not loose my enthusiasm despite all difficulties.”
Bhaktivedanta Swami arrived in America during a decade of discontent. There’s widespread dissatisfaction with America’s war in Vietnam and with what some consider her racist exploitative dealings at home. Disillusioned by the establishment the youth create a counter-culture of their own. Around the time Bhaktivedanta Swami came waves of Americans are breaking away from the status-quo, searching for an alternative.
For a short time Bhaktivedanta Swami lives in the Bowery in a loft given by a friend. Mukunda Goswami, who was attending his classes at this time, tells of their first meeting: “He wore very thick glasses and had a big Sanskrit book spread out before him. His voice was very deep and resonant. He spoke with great authority and the Sanskrit slokas he spoke very beautiful, very melodious. He was obviously a very distinguished scholar. I became very curious, almost astonished, as to how someone of his stature, he looked very much like an aristocrat, could be living in the Bowery, the skid-row of New York and afterwards I approached him to speak. I was standing and he was sitting on his small dais. So he was looking up at me. And he had the look of a very happy, innocent young child and I could see that he actually had all the time in the world for me. He wasn’t short of time. I asked questions, he would answer. Then after some time he moved to a somewhat better neighbourhood on Second Avenue. We helped him rent a small storefront there and he had an apartment in the back and within a few weeks time this little storefront on Second Avenue, on the lower-east side of New York, which was then populated by thousands of young hippies, had been transformed into a beautiful Krishna temple. Alan Ginsberg, I remember, began to come at that time.
Alan Ginsberg: “When he moved down the lower east side I thought that was a stroke of brilliant social judgement because traditionally swamis, yogis and masters all moved uptown to the rich and were sponsored and funded by the rich. And you would find Krishna Murti living in elegant apartments on the upper east side with drawing rooms and French furniture, and here was Bhaktivedanta like in the depths of Calcutta. Where the hippies were. Where the acid-heads were, the freaks and the amphetamine-heads and the meth-monsters. So it seemed some kind of ray of song and light to the right place. The lower depths where it was needed. And of course the lower east side was the intellectual center in certain respects, in art and in advanced spiritual vibrations, particularly in the sixties. So it seemed a historically just move on his part.”
Devotee: “A friend of mine told me about a love celebration at Tompkins Square Park which was last Thursday, the Thursday before last and I knew I had been seeking a guru for a while. So Krishna sent me there, and I was there and after meeting some of the initiates I knew that the swami really had to be into something.”
Srila Prabhupada: “I came here in America in the September 1965. I was wandering the street and some of the boys saw me. And gradually they came to me. My mission is to preach the philosophy of Lord Caitanya, chanting Hare Krishna:
Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
“This transcendental vibration will cleanse the dirty things of the mind. It doesn’t matter what he is. This transcendental vibration is equally appealing to everyone without any question of language, nationality, creed or caste because it is coming forth from the depth of the soul.”
“Krishna was all along preparing something”, Bhaktivedanta Swami later wrote, “and He brought me to you one by one. Sincere boys and girls to be trained in Krishna consciousness. Now I can see that it is a miracle. Otherwise one old man with only a few books to sell for barely getting food, how could he survive, what to speak of introducing a God conscious movement in a materialistic society?”
For Bhaktivedanta Swami these are happy days, singing and speaking with the vigor of a young man. He brings the Hare Krishna movement into the public eye, by chanting in the parks by distributing Back To Godhead magazine, by holding free Sunday love feasts many are attracted. His hopes for the future expand without limit. The Hare Krishna movement has taken root.
“Some time in the spring of 1967 people handed me clippings from New York newspapers saying that there was a swami in New York city. So I went to New York to look up this person and his movement. My first contact was with disciples apart from Bhaktivedanta Swami and I was frankly somewhat disappointed by the disciples. They seemed to be not very informed about what they were doing. They were a little unclear about the whole thing and yet they were terribly serious and terribly devoted to what they were about and I couldn’t put those two pieces together. You know, their confusion and uncertainty on the one hand and their commitment on the other until I met Bhaktivedanta Swami and as soon as I met him, which was after several visits to the temple, I realized that this was the person who really made the whole thing go. But the impressive thing about him was it was never himself in the center. He never said you should do this because of me, he always said you should do this, and I should do this, because of Krishna. When he gave them instructions to do what they thought were impossible things, like he told one of the early disciples, “go start a magazine.” The guy had never had any contact with a magazine before in his life, except to read one and he said: “How am I to do that?” And Bhaktivedanta Swami said: “Krishna will help you.” He was just astonishing in terms of the personal impact he had on people. The way that he was able to give them confidence in themselves but more importantly give them confidence that there was a guide who was leading them and would give them the strength they needed.”
Bhaktivedanta Swami does not belong to New York, he belongs to Krishna, so when a few of his followers invite him to San Francisco he goes and introduces the free-wheeling youth to Krishna, His ancient culture, His spiritual food, His eternal chant, the way to stay high forever. In the heart of the hippy movement, Height Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, and in the hearts of the hippies, the Hare Krishna mantra resounds with unimagined potency. As in New York Bhaktivedanta Swami gathers sincere followers, the Hare Krishna movement begins to grow. Bhaktivedanta Swami becomes respectfully known as “Prabhupada,” meaning “one at whose feet the masters sit.”
From Montreal Prabhupada sends six disciples to open a temple in London. Yamuna devi dasi remembers: “So we went to London that fall and although we had no permanent place of residence and we were completely dependent on Krishna, somehow or another by the enthusiasm that Srila Prabhupada had given us in Montreal we were able to make contact with George Harrison who was a member of the Beetles at the time and he was such a pleasant person to be with. He so much appreciated the Hare Krishna mantra that he immediately said, ‘Lets make a 45 record.’ So we cut a record and he was very pleased with it. He did a little background music on it and it was released and Apple organized tours for us. We went to Germany and France and had television coverage and in this way the London Times, the Sunday Times, wanted to do a feature on us and we were able to send the report back to Srila Prabhupada with the headlines, ‘Krishna consciousness startles London.'”
As people come to him convinced of the Krishna conscious philosophy Srila Prabhupada accepts them for initiation. Not on the basis of birth, as in the rigid Hindu caste system, but on the basis of qualification and sincerity. In the whole history of Indian spiritual life no one has ever attempted something as bold and seemingly impossible. To transform Westerners into full-fledged devotees of Lord Krishna but by his intense spiritual energy and compassion, Srila Prabhupada is successful beyond his own expectations.
Reporter: How old is the movement?
Srila Prabhupada: But from historical point of view it is about five thousand years old.
Reporter: Why has it just begun to really catch on in the Western world? I mean just recently, you know in recent years it has began to sweep the Western world. Why is this?
Srila Prabhupada: The Western world, younger generation were being frustrated, the hippie movement. So when they saw something tangible they accepted it.
Reporter: What things… if everyone in the United States believed in Krishna and to the extent that you do. What would happen to this country, how would it be transformed?
Srila Prabhupada: They would be very happy and peaceful. There will be no more hippies.
Reporter: What would you describe as a hippy? Someone who smokes…
Srila Prabhupada: You know better than me. Something extraordinary.
Hari Sauri: “The thing that really inspired me the most about Srila Prabhupada was his complete dedication to his devotees. The thing that Prabhupada liked the best was to be with his disciples. It wasn’t that he took on large amounts of disciples and then sat backed and then just pushed them to do this and that and the other for himself. He did more for us than we ever did for him and traveling with him personally I got to see what a tremendous sacrifice he made for us and even when he was ill he would still preach. He would still be concerned. He would still be asking after how things were going in the society that he created. How were individual disciples doing. He always had time also to look to our personal needs. He was very concerned. Prabhupada wasn’t aloof. All he really wanted was us to reciprocate the love that he gave to us and if we reciprocated he would give us more. So my personal experience with Srila Prabhupada was that I found in him a person that I could actually genuinely fully give myself to.”
In Srila Prabhupada’s eyes Krishna consciousness is not an armchair philosophy or a part-time religion. It is a way of life. A transcendental culture that can end mans political, economic and social problems. To realize his vision Srila Prabhupada circles the globe fourteen times in twelve years inspiring his followers and discussing Krishna consciousness with all interested persons, his door is open to everyone.
Srila Prabhupada: “Actually nothing is private property. Everything belongs to God, rather we have stolen God’s property and claiming, ‘my property.’ There is Australia, the English man came here, but is that the property of English man? It was there, America, it was there and when everything will be finished it will be there also. In the middle we come and claim, ‘It is my property,’ and fight.”
To revive the Krishna conscious tradition in its full richness Prabhupada envisions God-centered, self-sufficient farm communities based on the principle of plain living and high thinking. The first such community begins on 133 acres in the hills of West Virginia. Prabhupada calls it “New Vrindavana” after Krishna’s place of pastimes in India.
In 1972 Srila Prabhupada begins a Krishna conscious primary school system in Dallas, Texas. Srila Prabhupada very practically introduced a primary school system to teach children self-realization along with regular study.
Satsvarupa: “This means that the Gurukul system is unique in that the educators are themselves free of vices. We could hardly find an institution where the faculty members are free of loose sexual relationships, intoxication, smoking, although they may have good credentials academically. That would be rare to find but in Krishna consciousness the teacher must also be on the platform of pure devotional service because the children are very impressionable and they learn what their educators are actually doing, not just what they are saying. So these are some of the principles that Srila Prabhupada introduced in Gurukula.”
Srila Prabhupada gradually trains his disciples in the time-honored tradition of deity worship to help them advance spiritually. He explains, “I have introduced this system of deity worship among the non-belivers, the atheists. Krishna can not be understood with our present senses but by His kindness he agrees to personally appear as the Deity to accept our service. When we are attracted to the beautiful form of the Deity we will forget our attraction for material things and as we serve the Deity we will develop pure love of God then our lives will be successful.”
In Melbourne, Australia Srila Prabhupada worships Lord Caitanya, a divine incarnation of Krishna.
Srila Prabhupada: “By Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy we have installed the Deity here in your country. You are very fortunate that Caitanya Mahaprabhu has come to your country to teach you how you become free of all anxieties. This is Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission. Everyone is full of anxiety but everyone can be free from all anxieties if he follows the path chalked out by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. As people are fallen in this age, the method also has been offered-very simple. They have been recommended simply to chant the holy name of God, that’s all.”
For five years after first arriving in America, Srila Prabhupada presents Krishna consciousness primarily to Westerners. From housewives to hippies to heads of state. Then, in November 1971, after a world tour, he returns to Delhi with some of his followers. The Mayor receives him with the fanfare that greets a homecoming patriot. Prabhupada quotes Lord Caitanya: “It is the duty of those born in India to benefit others by spreading Krishna consciousness. This is India’s greatest glory. Her unique gift to the world.”
Thirty thousand Indians gather nightly at the Delhi fair grounds to see the Western devotees and hear Prabhupada speak.
Bhavananda: “To bring about this change in India, the revival of Krishna consciousness, Prabhupada’s plan was to bring his dancing white elephants, he told us that, ‘when I bring my Western disciples to India, they will all come to see my dancing white elephants,’ he said. So we were actually very fond of being Prabhupada’s dancing white elephants. We took that as the special mercy of Prabhupada on us, that we could be his dancing white elephants and help him in any way we could to preach Krishna consciousness in India.
“Prabhupada was told by an astrologer in Navadvipa, in West Bengal, when he saw a photo of Prabhupada’s face, he said that this man, he has the ability to make a house in which the whole world can live peacefully.
To make a house in which the whole world can live very peacefully. And when I told Prabhupada that, he said, ‘Yes, that is my mission, that within Krishna consciousness the whole world can live peacefully.'”
While the Hare Krishna movement spreads worldwide Srila Prabhupada wants to nurture its roots in India. He journeys to Maypur, West Bengal, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya. It was Lord Caitanya who inaugurated, five hundred years ago, the congregational chanting of God’s holy names.
In Mayapur devotees purchase a small tract of land and start constructing an international guest house. For a handful of devotees who know nothing about construction, this is not an easy task. Srila Prabhupada directs and encourages them. “For ourselves,” he says, “we are happy and satisfied living in a grass hut but if we simply have a hut, who will come here? The more we develop our land, the more people will be attracted.”
Prabhupada plans to build a temple of understanding to house the world’s largest planetarium and around it a spiritual city with schools, shops, farms and many temples for worshiping Lord Krishna.
Within the hearts of India’s people is a natural respect for the eternal Krishna conscious culture. Many come forward to take part in Srila Prabhupada’s movement and accept initiation from him.
“No one should go hungry within a ten mile radius of the temple,” Prabhupada instructs. In March 1972 devotees start the ISKCON food relief program, distributing prasad, vegetarian food offered to Lord Krishna.
As the Mayapur project develops Prabhupada invites his disciples from six continents to join together yearly on the anniversary of Lord Caitanya’s appearance. Prabhupada wants them to be purified and inspired by remembrance of the Lord in His holy land.
In Vrindavana Srila Prabhupada treats his followers to a guided tour of the holy places and personally relates Lord Krishna’s pastimes. The devotees relish a bath in the sacred waters of the Yamuna river.
Prabhupada acquires land in Bombay, India’s most cosmopolitan city. Although he has only a hut for a temple Prabhupada envisions an international cultural center. His ambition is to give as many people as possible access to the nectar of transcendental life, whether through philosophy, service or spiritual food so that everyone can become happy, hopeful and peaceful.
Doctor N.D. Deasi, a leading Bombay industrialist recalls: “From 1971 through 1977 I must have met Prabhupada many, many times and each time I met Prabhupada I would try to find fault with him and even I would try to make him angry, or I once even tried find out whether was greedy. I just couldn’t find any fault with him and in fact in matter of business life or daily life we do try to see the weekness of the other person and sometimes, as a businessman, we try to take advantage but here was a person who just wouldn’t become agitated. There was absolutely no lust in him, there was no greed in him. There was… I couldn’t see a spot of jealousy in him and then I realized, after six year of, that he was a very empowered, divine person.”
Gradually, Srila Prabhupada says, “I am seeing all my dreams being fulfilled.” In Bombay a spacious marble temple, a theatre, a restaurant, a library and a twin-towered seven story hotel, in Mayapur the planned spiritual city develops, in Vrindavana the popular Krishna Balarama temple and international guest house and a secondary school. Prabhupada sees his society grow into a world-wide confederation with more than one hundred temples, restraints, institutes, schools and farm communities.
Five hundred years ago Lord Caitanya predicted that one day the holy name of Krishna would be heard in every town and village of the world. By the mid seventies Hare Krishna becomes a household word.
“When I first met the first Hare Krishnas I can remember how surprised I was and really I wondered what this meant. The costumes and the chanting and the shaved heads appeared a little strange, a little bizarre to me but the more I came to know the movement, I came to find that there was a striking similarity in the essence of what they were teaching and saying and in my understanding of the original core of Christianity. That is living simply, not trying to accumulate worldly goods or profit, living with compassion toward all creatures, sharing, loving and living joyfully. I am impressed with how much the teaching of one man in the spiritual tradition that he brought has impacted itself into the lives of so many people. So in my own view his contribution is a very important one and will be a lasting one.”
As a child Srila Prabhupada celebrated Ratha-yatra near his home in Calcutta with his playmates, years later he is still celebrating the Ratha-yatra festival–but now on the main streets of twenty large cities around the world and with hundreds of thousands of disciples and guests.
Srila Prabhupada: “People follow, imitate Americans. I am traveling all over the world, everywhere I see they are trying to manufacture the skyscraper building, imitating your country. So, if you kindly become Krishna conscious and chant and dance in ecstasy, emotional love of God, the whole world will follow you and it will be Vaikuntha, there will be no more trouble. Thank you very much.”
Whether before huge crowds or a few disciples or alone, Srila Prabhupada’s mood of devotion prevails. Wherever in the world he happens to be Srila Prabhupada follows a regular daily schedule. In the quietude of the early mornings he goes out for lengthy strolls and shares intimate moments with a small group of students and guests. Rejecting superficial and dogmatic thinking he carefully guides his students to increased insight and understanding.
After his walk Srila Prabhupada greets the Deities of the Supreme Lord, offers obeisances and lectures on a verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Srila Prabhupada: “So you may have two million dollars, I may have ten dollars, you may have hundred dollars. Everyone has got some riches, that is admitted but nobody can say that I have got all the riches. That is not possible. If somebody can say that I have got all the riches, he is God. That is spoken by Krishna. Nobody has said in the history of the world. Krishna said, bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva loka mahesvaram, I am the enjoyer of everything. And I am the proprietor of all the universe, who can say that? That is God.”
In the afternoons Prabhupada meets with guests. Here in Los Angeles with scholars of religion.
Srila Prabhupada: Your pride, your property, your family, your bank balance, your skyscraper buildings, all taken away. Bas, finished, gone away. This is God. Now understand God? If you believe or do not believe God will come one day, will take you, will take your everything and get out. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, that those who are not believer in God, to them I come as death and take away everything, finished. That one has to believe. Yes. As sure as death. Then God is sure. So unless one is mad man, he cannot say there is no God. Anyone who denies the existence of God, he is a mad man.
Scholar: Prabhupada, wouldn’t it be better to say he is bind, he is stupid.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The same thing. Mad is the sum total of all stupidity.
Wherever Srila Prabhupada is he continues to write prolifically. Rising long before dawn he spends hours translating and commenting on original Sanskrit and Bengali texts.
Srila Prabhupada: (dictating) “Sometimes they wash their hands and feet before entering the temple.”
His most significant contribution is his books. Srila Prabhupada sees sixty million distributed in twenty-eight languages. Professors from dozens of major universities use them as standard texts and write appreciative reviews.
Professor: “He also did a very important work in introducing to the Western world for the first time, the devotional philosophy of Sri Krishna Caitanya. Not only did he introduce these texts but he introduced them in a way that was quite different from the other translations that had been made. I’ve read so many different translations for example of the Bhagavad-gita which had all been interpreted from the impersonalist type of philosophy of the Advaita school and here you might say for the first time was a truly devotional translation, a spiritual translation of the text which I felt really came much closer to the true meaning and the purpose of the Bhagavad-gita.
Established in 1972 the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust exclusively publishes Srila Prabhupada’s works. It becomes the world’s largest distributor of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.
For Srila Prabhupada the transcendental knowledge in these books forms the basis of the Hare Krishna movement, a movement prophesied to grow for the next ten thousand years.
In 1977, despite his failing health, Srila Prabhupada continues traveling and teaching. February, 1977, the world’s largest pilgrimage, Kumba Mela in Allahabad, India. Millions gathered to bathe in the holy Ganges. Although physically weak, Srila Prabhupada attends. His disciples perform kirtan and distribute books and “Back to Godhead” magazines.
Kirtanananda: “Practically from the very beginning Srila Prabhupada gave us notice that he would not always be with us. Of course it was only a few months after he opened the storefront on 26 2nd Avenue and he became very ill and he had that heart attack or whatever it was and it seemed even at that time that he might leave then and he warned us. He said, ‘I am an old man, I may leave at any moment.’ Notice is already given, three score and ten, that is already passed. So Prabhupada was never under any illusion that he would remain forever in this world with us but he said, ‘My instruction will remain’ and he trained us from the very beginning to follow his instruction and to use our individuality to execute his instructions for the glorification of Krishna.”
Although his illness steadily worsens, Srila Prabhupada speaks nightly at a program in Bombay. In May he journeys to Hrsikesa at the foot of the Himalayas to try to regain his health. There he continues to instruct his intimate disciples. Then in October Srila Prabhupada returns to his old home, Vrindavana, to spend his final days. Even though he is physically incapacitated, Srila Prabhupada’s intellect remains clear. He continues dictating translations and comments on his life’s work, Srimad-Bhagavatam until days before he departs from this world.
Srila Prabhupada: (dictating) “Everything is acting, moving,, by the supreme desire of Krishna. This consciousness is Krishna consciousness.”
November 14th, 1977, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada passes on. That divine personality who spoke on different subjects with thousands of meanings, who imparted knowledge in thousands of ways, and who inspired thousands of devotees has now returned to his Lord, Sri Krishna. Being kind to his devotees, Lord Krishna gave them the association of Srila Prabhupada, being independent in his desires, the Lord has now broken that association. Yet Srila Prabhupada remains. He lives forever in his teachings and he lives forever in the hearts of His followers as their ever well-wisher.