A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was the founder of the International
Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON
popularly known as the 'Hare Krishna Movement'. He was born on September 1,
1896 in Kolkata and received his education at the city's Scottish Church College.
Prabhupada's real name was Abhay Charan De before he became the disciple of
the Krishna devotee Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj who lived
in the beginning of the 20th century. Prabhupada was married and had children
prior to renunciating his life to 'sannyasa
and emerging as one of Hinduism's most successful exponents.
Prabhupada's American Sojourn
At the age of 69, Prabhupada left India for the US to proselytize,
and founded ISKCON in 1965 in New York. The organization's financial support
mostly came from the sale of incense sticks and Prabhupada's writings on Krishna
published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Prabhupada appointed eleven commissioners
for the extension and propagation of the organization throughout the world.
In the following twelve years, Prabhupada traveled extensively across the six
continents in order to spread Krishna's message of love and peace.
The Simplicity of Prabhupada
Swami Prabhupada, is the "Baden Powell - the founder of the
Boy Scout movement - of the Indian mystics, as the noted author Aubrey Menen
calls him. "He has devised a faith of childlike simplicity. The first steps
along the path to self-realization are always difficult. Swami Prabhupada has
turned them into a toddle", he says. Menen who is usually very critical
of Indian 'saints' writes, "There are no hidden depths in Prabhupada. His
simplicity has deep roots. He is teaching first steps, like the Latin master
who tells us that if we get 'Balbus built a wall' correct, we will one day read
The Hare Krishna Movement
The ISKCON is a worldwide confederation of 10,000 temple devotees and 250,000 congregational devotees worldwide, with its head quarters in Los Angeles. It is a monotheistic faith group, which regards
as the eighth incarnation of Lord
. Unlike mainline Hinduism, ISKCON regards Krishna as the supreme
Lord over all deities. The symbol of the Hare Krishna faith consists of two
stripes representing Krishan's feet, and a tulsi
or basil leaf in the center. The followers "believe — 'We are not
this body, but spirit souls who are temporarily trapped in a material body and
worldly woes, the ultimate goal being to break away from samsara
births) and return to the abode of God." Today there are numerous ISCKON
temples dedicated to Krishna and Prabhupada around the world — from West
Bengal to West Virginia, New Delhi to New York.
Guru of Pop Musicians
, who is a prominent member of the ISKCON has great faith in chanting
the name of the Lord. He says: "I always felt at home with Krishna. I think
it's something that's been with me from my previous birth…Once I chanted
the Hare Krishna mantra all the way from France to Portugal, nonstop. I drove
for about twenty-three hours and chanted all the way. It gets you feeling a
bit invincible…I couldn't speak French, Spanish, or Portuguese. But none
of that seemed to matter. You know, once you get chanting, then things start
to happen transcendentally." The Hare Krishna movement has always been
a favorite religion of pop musicians, including Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder.
The latter had put the Hare Krishna chant in one of his songs 'Pastimes Paradise.'
The other ex-Beatle John Lennon was also an ardent follower of the Krishna Consciousness.
Harbinger of Peace
Prabhupda said: "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." John Lennon and Yoko Ono, along
with a chorus of Krishna devotees recorded the hit song "Give Peace a Chance"
in their room at Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel, which helped identify ISKCON
as the harbinger of world peace, and promoter of a joyful way of life. But in
recent times, the ISKCON has been tormented by regrettable incidents of sexual
and child abuse that have put a question mark after the six-letter word! However,
its good deeds far outnumber the sporadic scandals.
Prabhupada's Literary Works
Swami Prabhupada died on November 14, 1977, and left behind a
body of valuable spiritual works. Prominent among over eighty books that he
authored on Vedantic philosophy, religion, literature and culture, are The
Song of God
or Bhagavad Gita As-It-Is
, The History of God and
His Devotees (Bhagavata Purana),
and The Life and Teachings of Chaitanya
Mahaprabhu (Chaitanya Charitamrita).