His Divine Grace
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Abhay Charan De
1 September 1896
|Died||14 November 1977 (aged 81)|
|Resting place||Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi Mandir, ISKCON Vrindavan|
|Notable work(s)||Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (translation), Caitanya Caritāmṛta (trans.)|
|Alma mater||Scottish Church College, University of Calcutta|
|Monastic name||Abhaya Caraṇāravinda Bhakti-vedānta Svāmī|
|Temple||Gaudiya Math, ISKCON|
|Period in office||1966–1977|
|Initiation||Diksha, 1933 (by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati)|
Sannyasa, 1959 (by Bhakti Prajnan Keshava)
|Post||Founder-Acharya of ISKCON|
Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (IAST: Abhaya Caraṇāravinda Bhakti-vedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda; 1 September 1896 – 14 November 1977) was the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), commonly known as the "Hare Krishna movement". Followers of ISKCON view Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as a representative and messenger of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) to a Suvarna Banik family, he was educated at the Scottish Church College. While working at a small pharmaceutical business, he met and became a follower of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. In 1959, after his retirement, he left his family to become a sannyasi and started writing commentaries on Vaishnava scriptures. As a travelling Vaishnava monk, he became an influential communicator of Gaudiya Vaishnavite theology across India and the Western world through his leadership of ISKCON, founded in 1966. He was well regarded by a number of American religious scholars but was criticised by anti-cult groups.
He has been subject to criticism over his racist views against black people, discrimination against lower castes, anti-Semitism, negative views on women, and advocacy of crimes of Adolf Hitler.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was born as Abhay Charan De on 1 September 1896 in Calcutta, India. He was also called Nandulāl. His father was Gour Mohan De, who worked as a cloth merchant, and his mother was Rajani De. Consistent with Bengali traditions, Abhay Charan's parents invited an astrologer to predict his horoscope. The astrologer professed to De's family that later in his life, Abhay would become "a great exponent of religion." Abhay grew up in a Vaishnav home and his father was devote in his spiritual practices. Gaur Mohan regularly took Abhay to the Radha-Govinda temple as a child. Later in life, Prabhupad fondly remembers the murtis of that temple.
Abhay Charan studied at the Scottish Church College. During his first year, his family arranged for him to be married to Radharani Datta. Until completing his fourth year in college, Abhay lived with his family and Radharani lived with hers. In 1920, Abhay chose not to accept his graduation diploma after completing his fourth year, in support of the national movement occurring in India at the time. The national movement advocated for national schools and self government (as opposed to British rule of India).
After completing his education, Abhay started working at Bose's Laboratory as a department manager in Calcutta, India.
In 1922, Abhay Charan met Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati (1874-1937) in Kolkata. In 1933, in Allahabad, he took initiation into the faith from Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and was named Abhay Charan Aravinda.
In 1944, he started the publication called Back to Godhead, for which he was writer, designer, publisher, editor, copy editor and distributor. He was asked to spread the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the English language. In 1947, the Gaudiya Vaishnava Society gave him the title Bhaktivedanta, (bhakti-vedānta). In the 1960s, after founding ISKCON, became known by the honorific Prabhupāda.
From 1950 onwards, he lived at the medieval Radha-Damodar mandir in the holy town of Vrindavan, where he began his commentary and translation work of the Sanskrit work Bhagavata Purana. His guru, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, had always encouraged him to publish books, referring to the need for the literary presentation of the Vaishnava culture.
Swami also lived at Gaudiya Matha at Mathura, where he wrote and edited the Gauḍīya Patrikā magazine. While there he donated the statue of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu which stands on the altar beside those of Radha Krishna (named Śrī Śrī Rādhā Vinodavihārījī). In September 1959, he was initiated as a sannyasi by his friend Bhakti Prajnana Keshava and was given the name Swami. He published the first book of Bhagavata Purana.
Mission to the West
Swami was the first Hindu preacher to take advantage of the removal of national quotas by the 1965 Immigration Act of the United States. In July 1966, he founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in New York City. He defended the name, arguing that Krishna included all other forms and concepts of God. In 1967, a centre was started in San Francisco. He travelled throughout America with his disciples, popularising the movement through street chanting (sankirtana), book distribution and public speeches. George Harrison of The Beatles produced a recording with some of the devotees in London and helped establish the Radha Krisna Temple in that city.
Over the following years, his role as preacher and leader of the Krishna consciousness movement took him around the world several times setting up temples and communities in other countries. By the time of his death in Vrindavan in 1977, ISKCON had become an internationally known expression of Vaishnavism.
Through his mission, he followed and preached the teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and introduced bhakti yoga to an international audience. Within Gaudiya Vaishnavism this was viewed as the fulfilment of a long time mission to introduce Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teachings to the world.
Beginning his public preaching mission in India, he founded the League of Devotees in Jhansi in 1953. On his return to India in 1971, he oversaw the construction of temples in Mumbai, Mayapur and Vrindavan. He started a chain of ISKCON schools.
Swami said that black people should remain in bondage.
The blacks were slaves. They were under control. And since you have given them equal rights they are disturbing, most disturbing, always creating a fearful situation, uncultured and drunkards. What training they have got? They have got equal rights? It is best, to keep them under control as slaves but give them sufficient food, sufficient cloth, not more than that. Then they will be satisfied.
A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has been criticized for statements he has made in relation to a person's caste. He has commented extensively on shudras, saying, "shudras have no brain." Nevertheless, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has also provided reason to respect shudras, stating, "anyone who knows the science of Krishna should be accepted as spiritual master, regardless of any material so-called qualifications, such as rich or poor, man or woman, or brahmana or shudra."
Swami mentioned Hitler to provide an example of a notorious villain, comparing him to Vedic demons, and using the term "hero" to describe one who has many gifts but squanders them for evil purposes:
Sometimes he becomes a great hero -- just like Hiranyakashipu and Kamsa or, in the modern age, Napoleon or Hitler. The activities of such men are certainly very great, but as soon as their bodies are finished, everything else is finished.
A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was known to be "kind and accommodating" to his female disciples, but much of his literary work, conversations, and lectures contradict his actions. Prabhupada has made negative remarks about women, addressing topics such as adulteration, prostitution, women's lesser intelligence, and women's need for dependance on men. Prabhupada has said that "women in general should not be trusted" and "women are generally not very intelligent.", among other statements. After studying Prabhupada's life, some scholars have argued that balancing religious beliefs and traditions at a given time and place can result in mixed interpretations of events. Although he has received negative attention for his statements about women, he has also received admiration for making the philosophy and practice of the Hare Krishna movement available to women and men equally, which was not commonly seen prior.
Darwin's theory stating that no human beings existed from the beginning but that humans evolved after many, many years is simply nonsensical.
Actually, it doesn't matter – Krishna or Christ – the name is the same. The main point is to follow the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures that recommend chanting the name of God in this age.
Other typical expressions present a different perspective, where he pointed out that "today I may be a Hindu, but tomorrow I may become a Christian or Muslim. In this way faiths can be changed, but dharma is a natural sequence, a natural occupation or a connection and it can not be changed, because it is permanent, according to him". While the ISKCON theology of personal god is close to Christian theology, both personal and monotheistic, being a preacher of bhakti and a missionary he sometimes would add that "already many Christians have tasted the nectar of divine love of the holy name and are dancing with karatalas (hand-cymbals) and mridangas (drums)".
His approach to modern knowledge was similar to that of sectarian Orthodox Judaism, where the skills and technical knowledge of modernity are encouraged, but the values rejected. "Whatever our engagement is, by offering the result to Krishna we become Krishna conscious". Similar to many traditional religions, he considered sexuality and spirituality as conflicting opposites.
A number of samadhis or shrines to Prabhupada were constructed by the members of ISKCON, with those in Mayapur and Vrindavan in India being notable. Prabhupada's Palace of Gold, built by the New Vrindavan community in 1979, was intended to be a residence for Prabhupada, but has now developed into a tourist attraction.
In 2023, Scottish Church College and The Bhaktivedanta Research Center has established an academic award in honor of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Memorial Award to keep alive the memory of Prabhupada's college life.
Books and publishing
Srila Prabhupada's books are considered to be among his most significant contributions. During the final twelve years of his life, Prabhupada translated over sixty volumes of classic Hindu scriptures (e.g. Bhagavad Gita, Chaitanya Charitamrita and Srimad Bhagavatam) into the English language. His Bhagavad-gītā As It Is was published by Macmillan Publishers in 1968 with an unabridged edition in 1972. It is now available in over sixty languages around the world with some of his other books available in over eighty different languages.
In February 2014, ISKCON's news agency reported reaching a milestone of distributing over half a billion books authored by Swami since 1965.
- Gītār Gān (in Bengali). c. 1973.
- Vairāgya-vidyā (in Bengali). 1977.
- A collection of his early Bengali essays, which were originally printed in a monthly magazine that he edited called Gauḍīya Patrika. Starting in 1976, Bhakti Charu Swami reprinted these essays in Bengali language booklets called Bhagavāner Kathā (Knowledge of the Supreme) [from 1948 & 1949 issues], Bhakti Kathā (The Science of Devotion), Jñāna Kathā (Topics of Spiritual Science), Muni-gānera Mati-bhrama (The Deluded Thinkers), and Buddhi-yoga (The Highest Use of Intelligence), which he later combined into Vairāgya-vidyā. In 1992, an English translation was published called Renunciation Through Wisdom.
- Buddhi-yoga (in Bengali).
- Bhakti-ratna-boli (in Bengali).
Translations with commentary
- Srimad Bhagwatam. Vol. 3 vols. Delhi: League of Devotees. 1962–1965. LCCN sa64001457. OCLC 64215631.
- Bhagavad-gītā As It Is (in Sanskrit and English), New York: Macmillan, 1968, LCCN 68008322, Wikidata Q854700
- Śrī Īśopaniṣad. Boston, Mass.: ISKCON Books. 1969. ISBN 0-89213-138-1. LCCN 78102853. OCLC 70457388. OL 1145820M. Wikidata Q108771214.
- Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Vol. 30 vols. New York: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 1972–1977. LCCN 73169353.
- Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, vol. 17 vols., New York: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1973–1975, LCCN 74193363, Wikidata Q108771289
- The Nectar of Instruction. New York: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 1975. LCCN 75039755.
- Teachings of Lord Kapila, the Son of Devahūtī. New York: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 1977. LCCN 77011077.
|Part of a series on|
- Teachings of Lord Caitanya, a treatise on factual spiritual life. New York: International Society for Krishna Consciousness. 1968. LCCN 68029320.
- Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, vol. 2 vols., Boston, Mass.: ISKCON Press, 1970, LCCN 74118081, Wikidata Q4205088
- The Nectar of Devotion: The Complete Science of Bhakti-yoga. New York: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 1970. LCCN 78118082.
- Krishna Consciousness (12 in. LP record). New York, NY: Happening Records. 1966. OCLC 11402285. CA2210.
- Govinda (12 in. LP record). Los Angeles, CA: Golden Avatar Productions. 1973. LCCN 94748438. OCLC 12622399. GOPI-108.
- Kṛṣṇa Meditation (2 x 12 in. LP records). Germany: Radha Krsna Productions. 1974. OCLC 17247069. RKP-1005.
- Back to Godhead (magazine). 1944–1966. LCCN 45002240.
- Easy Journey to Other Planets (by practice of Supreme Yoga). Vrindaban, U.P. (India): The League of Devotees. 1960. ISBN 91-7149-699-8. LCCN 70118080. Wikidata Q108770844.
- Kṛṣṇa Consciousness: The Topmost Yoga System, Boston: ISKCON Press, 1970, LCCN 77127182, Wikidata Q108772725
- Kṛṣṇa, the Reservoir of Pleasure. Boston, Mass.: ISKCON Press. 1970. ISBN 0-89213-149-7. OCLC 1086768968.
- Beyond Birth and Death. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 1972. ISBN 0-912776-41-2. OCLC 1181333746. Wikidata Q108770415.
- The Perfection of Yoga, New York: ISKCON Press, 1972, LCCN 72076302, Wikidata Q108770991
- Elevation to Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. New York: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 1973. LCCN 73076635.
- On the Way to Kṛṣṇa. New York: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 1973. LCCN 72084842.
- Rāja-vidyā: The King of Knowledge. New York: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 1973. LCCN 72084845.
- Kṛṣṇa Consciousness: The Matchless Gift. New York: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 1974. LCCN 73076634.
- Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers. New York: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 1977. LCCN 74027525.
- The Science of Self-Realization. New York: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. 1977. ISBN 978-1-84599-039-8. LCCN 77095065. OCLC 819932403. OL 32140029M. Wikidata Q108772906.
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