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A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977)

Founder of the Hare Krishna Movement (ISKCON)

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AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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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 Cicero."

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 Krishna as the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. 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 (endless 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

Ex-Beatle George Harrison, 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).
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