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Founder of ISKCON

Srila Prabhupada (1896–1977) is the founder acarya of ISKCON.

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Srila Prabhupada was born in Calcutta, India in 1896. He went to British colonial schools and later went to study chemistry at Calcutta University. In his college years, he became a supporter of Gandhi’s independence movement. To show his support for this movement, he wore only white handwoven fabric (woven in India) and declined to accept his college degree. At the age of 22 he founded a pharmaceutical company to support his wife and children. He met his spiritual master (Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati) in Calcutta in 1922, and in 1932 Prabhupada received initiation from him.

Mission

In 1936, Srila Prabhupada wrote to Bhaktisiddhanta asking if there was anything in particular he could do for him. The answer Srila Prabhupada received to this was, “Spread Krishna consciousness all over the English-speaking world.” This was the last instruction he received from his spiritual master, as Bhaktisiddhanta died shortly after. This instruction made a deep impression on Srila Prabhupada and shaped his life.

Srila Prabhupada then wrote an English commentary on the Bhagavad-gita and assisted Bhaktisiddhanta’s mission (the Gaudiya Matha). In 1944, during World War II, Srila Prabhupada started the English-language magazine Back to Godhead. He did everything himself: writing, editing, layout and sales.

In 1950 Srila Prabhupada retired to spend more time studying the scriptures and his writing.

In 1959 he accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) and started his masterpiece – an English translation of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, with commentary. Here he also did everything alone: he bought the paper, took care of the finances and arranged the publication. Within a few years, he had published the first of the twelve cantos of the Srimad Bhagavatam in three volumes. He sold the books himself through representatives in the larger Indian cities.

 

 ISKCON founded

In 1965, Srila Prabhupada left for America by boat at age 69, where he began teaching people about the Vaishnava tradition. Between 1966 and 1968, he set up temples in several American cities. He also organized a Ratha Yatra festival outside of India for the first time in San Francisco in 1967.

From 1971 to 1977, Srila Prabhupada and his students developed ISKCON into a global organization. Temples, restaurants and farm communities were established all over the world, as well as the Bhaktivedanta Institute and the Food for Life program.

Between 1966 and 1977, Srila Prabhupada traveled around the world no less than fourteen times. Despite his intense schedule, he has continuous writing. His books are now a true reference work for Vedic philosophy, religion and culture. His work has been translated into more than 55 languages, and his publishing house, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, is the world’s largest publishing house on Indian religion and philosophy.