His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
"He was a truly holy person with great integrity and compassion, and he had a powerful impact on those who met him. He never claimed authority and respect for himself; what he said and did was always in the name of Krishna."
- Dr. Thomas J. Hopkins
When His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada entered New York Harbor on September 17, 1965, few Americans learned of his arrival - but he was not just an immigrant. His mission was to integrate into America a very ancient religious tradition of bhakti preserved in India: devotion to Lord Krishna. For the next 12 years, Srila Prabhupada successfully spread this monotheistic tradition. His spiritual movement - under the insignia of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) - thus grew into a world confederation of more than 100 temples, ashrams and cultural centres.
Srila Prabhupada was born Abhay Charan De on September 1, 1896, into a pious Vaisnava family in Calcutta. Having grown up in India still under British control, Abhay became involved in Mahatma Gandhi's movement for civil disobedience, in order to obtain the independence of his nation. In 1922 he met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, an eminent scholar and religious leader of the great spiritual lineage of Gaudiya Vaishnava - a tradition of devotion from Lord Chaitanya (1486-1534). Thus this great saint turned out to be the most influential on the future of Abhay, because Srila Bhaktisiddhanta immediately asked him to bring the teachings of Lord Krishna to the English-speaking western world. Abhay - who became a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta in 1933 - dedicated himself to fulfilling the request of his great master. Later known as the honorary title A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, he spent the next 32 years preparing for his journey west.
At the age of 69, Srila Prabhupada - traveling to New York on a cargo ship - suffered two heart attacks. Our eminent spiritual ambassador arrived in the United States in September 1965 with only seven dollars in Indian rupees and his translations of sacred Sanskrit texts. But he persevered with great determination to share the timeless wisdom of Krishna consciousness. His message of peace and goodwill resonated with many young people, and some became serious students of the Krishna tradition. With the help of his first students, Srila Prabhupada rented a small store in New York on the Lower East Side and transformed it into a temple. On July 11, 1966, he officially registered his movement by founding the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Under his expert guidance, he gathered more than five thousand disciples who assisted him in spreading the Hare Krishna Movement to all corners of the globe. ISKCON has been able to grow at a phenomenal rate on a global scale, with more than 100 temples, restaurants, farms and cultural centers. In addition, he was able to translate from Sanskrit into English over fifty volumes of the most important devotional writings. His mission has therefore proven to be most fruitful.
Hundreds of thousands of people around the globe still continue to receive all the spiritual benefits that Srila Prabhupada has so abundantly bequeathed to all of humanity.