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Appendix 6: Srila Prabhupada - The Ambassador of The Kingdom of God
Srila Prabhupada. the founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), was instrumental in distributing the priceless treasure of Vedic knowledge to the whole world in the modern times. A brief description of his life and activities is given here.Srila Prabhupada appeared in this world in Calcutta in 1896 on Nandotsav day, the day following Janmasthtami. In his youth in 1922, he met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, who convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge, especially In the English language.
In 1944, he started Back to Godhead, an English fortnightly magazine - single-handedly writing the articles, editing them, typing the manuscripts, proof-reading the galley proofs and even distributing the individual copies. The magazine continues even today in over thirty languages. Though practically penniless, his faith in the order of his spiritual master took him to New York in 1965 at the advanced age of 70. After a year of intense struggle, in July 1965. he established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) with its first center in New York. During the next eleven years, before his passing away on November 14, 1977, he undertook vigorous preaching tours that took him round the globe fourteen times. Under his guidance, he saw the society grow to over 108 centers, ISKCON continues to expand even now with over 600 centers all over the world.In 1968, Srila Prabhupada created New Vrindavana, an experimental Vedic community in the hills of West Virginia. Inspired by its success, his students have founded several similar communities in different parts of the world. In 1972 His Divine Grace introduced the Vedic system of education in the West by founding a gurukula in Dallas, Texas. ISKCON now has children's schools worldwide with the principal educational center in Vrindavana, India.
Srila Prabhupada was also the inspiring spirit in the establishment of a forum of leading God conscious scientists. The Bhaktivedanta Institute, which has done pioneering work in presenting the Vedic philosophy in a rational manner to the scientists of the world. Srila Prabhupada was the greatest cultural ambassador of India to the world. Srila Prabhupada's vision was a global East-West synthesis. Just as the lame man, if carried by the blind man, can guide the latter, he felt that if the materially wealthy but spiritually blind West, especially the United states and the spiritually wealthy but materially lame India joined forces, the combination together would usher in an era of real peace and prosperity all over the world, He therefore trained thousands of disciples from varying backgrounds in the Vedic way of life He also took India's cultural and religious festivals to the West, especially the Ratha-Yatra festival, which has now become a major
event in over 64 cities worldwide. The international cultural centers in Sridhama Mayapur, Vrindavana, Bombay and other places are also a manifestation of this principle.
Over and above all his other activities, Srila Prabhupada's most significant contribution is his books. He authored 70 volumes of authoritative translations, commentaries and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India . His Bhagavad-Gita As It Is' is the most widely read edition of the Bhagavad-Gita in the English language. His life's masterpiece is, however, a multi-volume commentated translation of the eighteen thousand verse Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Highly respected by the academic community for their authority, depth and clarity, his books are used as standard textbooks in numerous college courses. They have been translated in over fifty languages and constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion literature and culture.
But Srila Prabhupada was not just a great scholar he was a pure devotee of Lord Krishna, motivated by no desire other than to please his spiritual master. He saw that people in general in Kali Yuga were absorbed in bodily, animalistic activities. Led by similarly blind leaders, the whole world was on the path of self-destruction, with no hope of any genuine solution. And it was the selfless saintly compassion aroused within him by this hopeless situation that propelled him to preach all over the world to wake up the souls sleeping in illusion with the sound of the Holy Name.
This is what Srila Prabhupada will always be remembered for — in the darkness of materialism, he gave the light of genuine spiritualism; in the nescience of Kali Yuga, he gave the supreme knowledge of the Bhagavata-dharma. Thus he build a house in which the whole world can live.