Srila Prabhupada (1896–1977) is the founder-acarya of ISKCON.
Srila Prabhupada was born in Calcutta, India. He studied in British schools under colonial rule and finally went to university in Calcutta where he studied English, Sanskrit, philosophy, and economics. At university, he became a supporter of Gandhi’s independence movement. As a measure of his support he dressed only in white handloom cloth (woven in India) and declined to accept his degree from the university. In 1918, to support his family, he began work at a large pharmaceutical company, then established his own business (the Prayag Pharmacy) in Allahabad. He met his spiritual master (Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati) in Calcutta in 1922 and took initiation from him in 1932.
In 1936 Srila Prabhupada wrote to Bhaktisiddhanta asking if there was anything in particular that he could do for him. Srila Prabhupada received the reply that he should ‘spread Krishna consciousness in the English speaking world’. This was the last instruction he received from his spiritual teacher, as Bhaktisiddhanta left this world soon after. This instruction made a great impression on Srila Prabhupada and formed the focus for the rest of his life.
Subsequently, Srila Prabhupada wrote an English commentary on Bhagavad-gita and assisted Bhaktisiddhanta’s mission (the Gaudiya Matha) in its work. In 1944, during WWII, Srila Prabhupada began a magazine called Back to Godhead. Single-handedly he wrote, edited, oversaw the layout, proofread, and sold copies of the magazine.
In 1950 Srila Prabhupada retired from business in order to devote himself full time to his studies and writing.
In 1959 he entered the renounced order of life (sannyasa) and began his masterpiece – an English translation and commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam. Working alone he bought paper, gathered funds, and arranged for the printing. Within a few years, he had completed the first of the 12 cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam in three volumes. He sold the books himself and through agents in the larger Indian cities.
In 1965, at the age of 69, Srila Prabhupada travelled by ship to America and, once there, began teaching people about the Vaishnava tradition. Between 1966 and 1968 temples were established in several American cities. The first Ratha-yatra, a traditional festival that Srila Prabhupada had copied as a child, was held in 1967 in San Francisco.
From 1971 to 1977, Srila Prabhupada and his students developed ISKCON into a worldwide organization. Temples, restaurants, and farm communities were established, along with the Bhaktivedanta Institute and Food for Life.
Between 1966 and 1977, Srila Prabhupada travelled around the world fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents. In spite of his rigorous schedule he wrote prolifically and his books form a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, and culture. His writings have been translated into over 50 languages and his publishing house (the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) became the world’s largest publisher in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.
More information on: www.founderacharya.com
Audio lectures: prabhupada.krishna.com/audio