Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta: A Biography of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Founder Acarya of the International Society for Consciousness (Set of 7 Books)

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Item Code: IDL080
Author: Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
Publisher: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
Language: English
Edition: 2021
ISBN: 9788189574222
Pages: 2504 (124 Color and 120 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.00” X 6.00”
Weight 4.90 kg
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Book Description


The story you are about to read is, like many true stories, highly improbable. An elderly Indian swami comes to New York City in the mid-1960s on a vaguely defined mission. Charged by his teacher in India to bring his spiritual message to the West, he arrives in New York with no prior knowledge of America, no base of support, almost no money, and no clear plan of action. He moves about the city somewhat aimlessly, lives for a while in an artist's loft on the Bowery, and finally-with help from a few early followers-rents a storefront building in the area known as East Village, the heart of the 1960s’ drug and counterculture movement. There he begins to preach an unlikely message of sexual restraint, abstention from drugs, and purity of mind and body-and in behalf of devotion to the Hindu God Krsna.

What follows is a remarkable tale of faith, determination, and success beyond anyone’s expectation. The present volume gives only the beginnings of the story, but it tells us in fascinating detail how the first seeds of success were planted in what seemed such unpromising ground. It is a very human story, with a very human A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami at the center.

Religions are a composite of many factors, some of which are largely collective products such as social movements, institutions, and systems of belief and practice. The history of religions is often put in terms of these relatively objective factors, so that religious history becomes part of the more general history of various times and places. The story of Bhaktivedanta Swami reminds us forcefully that there are other factors, more personal and elusive, which also shape the history of world religion. Social and cultural factors make a difference, but so also do individuals: holy men, saints, religious leaders, and their often flawed but faithful followers. The value of this book is the way in which it brings together these two dimensions-social history and individuals- to describe the founding of a major religious movement.

The temporal setting of the story is important. The 1960s was a unique period in American history, a time when major changes were taking place in our society. The place is important also, since New York City in general and East Village in particular were on the leading edge of these changes. The author of this biography was very much a part of this time and place as one of Bhaktivedanta Swami’s earliest disciples in New York. From his own recollections, from recordings and writings of the time, and from extensive interviews with other participants, he has put together a series of striking vignettes of the 1960s that have independent historical value. Threading through these scenes, however, and binding the individuals together in collective effort, is the dominant figure of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Bhaktivedanta Swami seems curiously out of place in this setting. Born in the late nineteenth century, he had spent his whole career in India and for many years had lived the life of a celibate Hindu monk. What relevance could he have in the center of American youth culture, where “do your own thing” was the die for action, and “don’t trust anyone over thirty” was the watchword against authority? The answer to this can best be conveyed in the book which follows. Since spiritual power can never be precisely pinned down, this book will not give a complete answer-nor will all of the massive evidence on which it is based. It is to Bhaktivedanta's credit that he believed in keeping nothing secret, and it is to Satsvarupa's credit that he has presented the events of this critical period as objectively as possible. Seldom before have we had such an intimate and detailed account of a spiritual master bringing forth a new religious movement, and probably never has there been such a weather of contemporary date to back it up. Those of us who are historians of religion will be working this rich vein for years to come.

Some who read this book will simply enjoy an absorbing story. Others, perhaps more appropriately, will respond in faith or greater commitment to their own religious quest. Whatever your response, this first published volume of a great religions biography will be a rare treat.


As the present volume begins, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, age sixty-nine, is traveling aboard a steamship from Calcutta to New York City. He carries with him the Indian equivalent of eight dollars. He has no institutional backing, and no support awaits him. He is coming, on the order of his spiritual master, to teach Krsna consciousness to the English-speaking world. Planting the Seed is the story of Srila Prabhupada’s first year in America; it is the story of how an individual will, patiently persisting, overcame great obstacles; and it is the story of a time, the 1960s, when American youth underwent a revolution in consciousness. Planting the Seed tells how Srila Prabhupada carried the all-but-forgotten spiritual culture of Vedic India to New York's Lower East Side and planted it there in the heart of America's cultural turmoil of 1966.

The story of the sixty-nine years of Srila Prabhupada’s life before he boarded the steamship for America is presented in the first volume of this series, A Lifetime in Preparation. The present volume, however, is complete in itself, and the reader meets His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada exactly as did the first persons he confronted in America-where suddenly he appeared as an elderly, golden-skinned Bengali sddhu, very grave and philosophically inward, yet humorous and talkative, a stranger, wearing saffron robes and white, pointy shoes and carrying an umbrella. He was known simply as “the Swami,” and he lived a spiritually dedicated life previously unheard of in the West-translating the Vedic scriptures in his room, chanting Krsna’s name, teaching the Bhagavad-gita. When he walked in Manhattan, people would sometimes come up to him on the street and ask who he was and what he was doing; and he would tell them, from the Vedic scriptures, about Krsna consciousness. At first he lived in a tiny rented room, later in a Bowery loft, and finally in a Second Avenue storefront on the Lower East Side, where he drew an affectionate following from the local youth.

Srila Prabhupada did not regard his personal history as an important subject for study; his interest was to publish many volumes about Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But according to the spiritual science, a pure devotee of God is as important as God Himself, because he delivers the message of Godhead to a forgetful humanity. Srila Prabhupada’s life, therefore, is an important and absorbing subject, and it is a tangible proof of the existence of spiritual reality and love of God.

Preface XllI
Introduction xvii
1Childhood 1
2College, Marriage, and Gandhi's Movement 23
3"A Very Nice Saintly Person"41
4"How Shall I Serve You?"69
5The War 109
6An Unknown Friend 141
7Jhansi: The League of Devotees 171
8New Delhi- "Crying Alone in the Wilderness" 201
9A Resident of Vrindavana 231
10"This Momentous Hour of Need"273
11The Dream Come True 305
Significant Events in the Life of Srila Prabhupada.341
Srila Prabhupada's Writtings in India. 1936-1965.345
Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide 355
Glossary 357



In the course of doing research for my book on the Hare Krsna movement and afterwards-during the late sixties and seventies-I had the good fortune, on several occasions, to meet and speak with A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I feel honored, therefore, to write the Foreword to this volume.

This work by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami is an eloquent tribute to the memory of a man who played a central role in American religious history during the countercultural sixties and seventies. It will provide a mine of information to scholars and to anyone else interested in the movement Prabhupada brought to America from India, and in the counterculture itself, the social milieu in which the movement took root and flourished in its early years.

In this volume we encounter one of the most important periods in Srila Prabhupada’s life, as he courageously establishes and develops his movement in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, the counterculture capital of the West Coast. That he, an elderly foreigner with a thick Bengali accent and a relative stranger to Western (what to speak of countercultural) ways could minister so effectively to the hippies of the Haight-Ashbury-where sexual promiscuity and drug abuse were blended into a “do-your-own-thing” ethic and where bowing to any sort of authority was rejected on principle- gives some indication of his extraordinary ability and fortitude. The author presents a number of brief case histories of some of Srila Prabhupada’s early followers, personal accounts that illuminate the struggle of many youths to find meaning and an alternative way of life within a counterculture lacking cohesion and direction. Unable to identify with the religious institutions of the establishment, these young people found truth in the message of Srila Prabhupada and experiential validation of that truth in the chanting of the mahamantra, the divine names of Krsna. In reading these accounts, the reader will be struck with Srila Prabhupada’s personal qualities-his strength of purpose, his genuine humility, and his deep spirituality-by which he gently led his erring disciples from hedonism to Krsna, He was a practical man. He knew that not all who attended his sessions would become converts. But he believed that even a little contact with Krsna consciousness would bring them tangible spiritual benefit.

In this volume we have, in effect, a fascinating close-up study of the process of religious conversion, about which psychologists and sociologists are so intrigued. We witness how Srila Prabhupada’s disciples gradually changed their ways, accepting moral and spiritual discipline under his compassionate guidance, and we learn of backsliders whose conversions were insufficient to keep them from giving in to sensual temptations. For some of his followers, those with doubts and inner struggles, conversion was a slow or vascillating process. This compelling story reveals much of the process and degrees of conversion. The incidents themselves clearly contradict the loosely made claims of some uninformed critics that the Hare Krsna movement employs some kind of occult “mind-control.” These examples make it sufficiently clear that conversion to Krsna consciousness is a process that engages the full range of intellectual, emotional, and volitional faculties.

Although never compromising his lofty principles, Srila Prabhupada mobilized existing resources of the contemporary subculture to make the Vaisnava faith better known. Without endorsing the drug abuse of the hippies to whom he was ministering, he dared to have set up and then appear at a “Mantra-Rock Dance” featuring such attractions as Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead. What a contrast! Amid the intermingling of incense and marijuana smoke and pulsating strobe lights illuminating depictions of Krsna’s life, Srila Prabhupada delivered his timeless message of Krsna consciousness. Then, with the aid of poet Allen Ginsberg, he soon had the entire crowd dancing and swaying like grain in the wind as they chanted the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.


This third volume of the ongoing biography of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada covers the events of Srila Prabhupada’s life during 1967.

Volume 1, A Lifetime in Preparation, tells of Srila Prabhupada’s first sixty-nine years, all of them in India. From his earliest boyhood, in Calcutta, he learned from his Vaisnava father to worship Krsna. And when, as a young husband and a follower of Gandhi, he met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, the devotional practices of childhood took on a new significance. At their first meeting, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati advised Srila Prabhupada to spread the message of Krsna consciousness to the world. And Prabhupada was so impressed that he wanted to take up the mission.

Although responsibilities to family and business kept Srila Prabhupada from fully taking up the work of actively spreading Krsna consciousness, he gradually molded his life according to his spiritual master’s order. During World War II and the years of India’s struggle for independence, Srila Prabhupada wrote, printed, and distributed a spiritual journal, Back to Godhead, in which he applied spiritual solutions to the world’s crises. Retiring in his fifties from family and business, Prabhupada dedicated him-self to writing and to starting a worldwide organization, the League of Devotees, in Jhansi, India. Whereas formerly business and family had impeded his spiritual vocation, now he struggled against poverty and obscurity.

In 1956 he moved to Vrndavana, the place most sacred to Lord Krsna. Three years later, at the age of sixty-three, he accepted the renounced order, sannyasa, and began translating the Sanskrit Srimad- Bhagavatam and planning how to go to America. After publishing three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam, in 1965 he obtained free passage on a steamship to America.

Volume 2, Planting the Seed, begins with Srila Prabhupada’s two-month voyage to America. Surviving two heart attacks, he arrived in New York with no money and-no specific plan. Although by 1965 America had already seen many Indian swamis, Prabhupada was the first pure Vaisnava in America. He held the first kirtanas (congregational chanting of Hare Krsna)-in a Bowery loft, in a Lower East Side storefront, and in Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village. His chanting in Tompkins Square Park drew interest from the news media. The New York Times ran an article with the headline “Swami’s Flock Chants in Park to Find Ecstasy.”

The “flock” consisted of boys and girls who had rejected America’s materialism and, although looking for something more, had found themselves in the 1960s counterculture of protests, marijuana, and LSD. Prabhupada gave these young people their first spiritual food (prasadam) and accepted them as his disciples. He was their spiritual father, their guru, living with them and carefully nurturing their first months of spiritual life. Then, six months after beginning his International Society for Krishna Consciousness, he suddenly left to start a second center, in San Francisco.

The first half of Only He Could Lead Them tells of Srila Prabhupada’s bringing Krsna consciousness to a place even more strange than New York’s Lower East Side-to wide-open, wild- Western Haight-Ashbury, where hundreds of thousands of hippies had congregated for a “Summer of Love” and where the Swami and the chanting of Hare Krsna were warmly welcomed and celebrated.

The title of Volume 3 stresses that only Srila Prabhupada could continue the movement he had begun. His disciples in New York and San Francisco were following him, drawn by his purity, gravity, charm, tolerance, and humor, and they were hearing from him. He had started the Krsna consciousness movement, and he was maintaining it. Now that he had set a pattern, he could confidently repeat it in one city after another-but only by personally going to each place. Certainly Krsna consciousness could not be spread by a swami of the nondevotional schools of impersonal or physical yoga. And even among the Vaisnava followers of Lord Caitanya, Srila Prabhupada was the only one willing to come preach in America. The field was all his.

Preface xi
1The Journey to America 1
2Butler, Pennsylvania: The First Testing Ground11
3Struggling Alone 25
4"It Will Not Be Possible to Assist You"45
5Free to Preach 61
6On the Bowery 79
7Breaking Ground 125
8Planting the Seed 171
9"Stay High Forever"225
10Beyond the Lower East Side 277
"Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Krsna"321
"Markine Bhagavata-dharrna"325
Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide330
Glossary 331



Though I have been a student of the Krsna devotional traditions in India for fifteen years, in the late sixties I was influenced by the then common notion among academicians (not to mention the general public) that the movement begun by Bhaktivedanta Swami was simply another watered-down product of an Indian guru’s attempt to make Hindu teachings attractive to Western youth. The anticult campaigns of the mid-seventies highlighted ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) as one of the spurious “cults.” However, my research into the validity of such attitudes led me to conclude that the Krsna movement in America was more authentically Indian than I had first imagined. When the opportunity presented itself, in 1980, for me to live in Krsna temples in California for three weeks, I began an intensive study of ISKCON that has since taken me to fourteen temples throughout America and India. Through living in the temples and speaking at length with ISKCON leaders and devotees, I have come to regard many members of the movement as good friends and their guru, Bhaktivedanta Swami, as a man worthy of the attention and acclaim this biographical series affords.

In this volume of Bhaktivedanta Swami's biography, one of the cenitral lessons taught the astute reader is the complexity and depth of the guru-disciple relationship. Much of the criticism from parents and anticult groups centers on the authoritarian demand of “cult” leaders for absolute submission from their followers. It is assumed that the leader has personal motives (e.g. power or monetary gain) that drive him to control others, while the surrendered disciples are manipulated, in an unthinking state, by the capricious whim of the spiritual master. In this volume of the life of Bhaktivedanta Swami, we see the foolishness of such an analysis. What springs from page after page is the willing devotion of young men and women to a man whom they admire for his deep faith and humility, not his autocratic or forceful demands. Early in ISKCON’s life in America, the very fabric of this fledgling institution was threatened by schismatic teachings of newly ordained ascetics on the relative place of the guru in the life of faith and in the institution. Bhaktivedanta Swami had to state forcefully the Indian tradition that the guru’s position is absolute-that of the eternal spiritual father-not simply one of convenience, to be overshadowed by time.

Yet we can see why some of the young devotees were confused as Bhaktivedanta Swami prostrated himself before the images of Krsna and of his guru in the line of spiritual teachers before him. Such, however, is the character of parampard, or guru succession. One’s guru is the only channel through which one’s devotion is transmitted faithfully to God, and such is also the case for one’s guru (though some, like Bhaktivedanta Swami, seem also to have direct access as well). Thus to a mother who exclaims, “You know, these boys actually worship you!” Bhaktivedanta Swami responds, “Yes, that is our system. I am also worshiping my Guru Maharaja.” (p.230)

This volume of Bhaktivedanta Swami's biography reveals the religious dimensions of the guru-disciple relationship in the varied attempts this remarkable Vaisnava ascetic made to nurture the deepening faith of his new American children in a God and a spiritual tradition foreign to their native soil. From loosely performed rituals to standardized pujas (Deity worship) done according to classic Bengali texts, we see the old master encourage greater attention to the details of worship. From spontaneous but uninformed attempts to celebrate their guru's birthday to formal Vyasa-pujas set in traditional Bengali songs and prayer, Bhaktivedanta Swami's disciples are led into old Indian traditions of honoring one’s spiritual master as a part of the act of worshiping God. But what struck me as I read the pages that follow is the model of piety set by Bhaktivedanta Swami himself as he became deeply immersed in the praises of God while singing, or chanting, or dancing. It becomes quite clear that the lesson of the master is not merely what he says, but what he does. And it is also clear that followers of Bhaktivedanta Swami set.


In Srila Prabhupdda-lilamrta Volume 1, A Lifetime in Preparation, we saw Srila Prabhupada struggling alone to publish Back to Godhead magazine, personally typing, editing, visiting the printer, and then distributing the copies on the streets of New Delhi. Working alone in Jhansi, India, Prabhupada gathered a few part-time followers to create the League of Devotees, an early attempt to enact his vision of introducing people from all nations, races, and levels of society to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

In Volume 2, Planting the Seed, Srila Prabhupada was still alone as he arrived in America in 1965. But he was filled with faith in Krsna and determination to establish Krsna consciousness in the West and thus fulfill the desire of his spiritual master and the prediction of the scriptures and previous saints. Young men and women on New York’s Lower East Side joined, attracted not so much to Vedic culture as to “Swamiji” and his chanting of Hare Krsna, Thus, beginning from a small storefront, Srila Prabhupada introduced the Hare Krsna movement to America.

In Volume 3, Only He Could Lead Them, we followed Srila Prabhupada to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury during the hippie heyday of 1967, as he established his Krsna consciousness movement there, just as he had done in New York City. Then in May of’ 67 he appeared to suffer a heart attack and retired to India to recuperate. It became even clearer that the Krsna consciousness movement-its life and its growth-depended entirely upon him. Although a few dozen sincere workers were dedicated to his service, they felt helpless and incompetent to do any missionary work-or even to maintain their own spiritual vows to abstain from illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, and gambling-unless he were personally present to lead them. Only He Could Lead Them ends in December 1967 with Srila Prabhupada’s return to America and his young spiritual family.

As Srila Prabhupada would comment several years later, his movement didn’t really begin until this return to America in December 1967. His time was limited, he knew-the heart attack had proven that. Now, in whatever time was left, he had to accomplish his mission. And as his International Society for Krishna Consciousness began to grow, it gradually spread beyond its simple and sometimes humorous beginnings to become a spiritual institution considered noteworthy even among world religions.

In the present volume we follow Srila Prabhupada through the years of his greatest active participation in ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, as its sole leader. In 1968, as the present volume opens, Srila Prabhupada has approximately fifty disciples and six ISKCON centers. Although his followers have increased their numbers, most of them are no more than sincere neophytes. Prabhupada is personally available to each of his disciples, and he continues to manage and maintain each ISKCON center. Then in July of 1970 5rila Prabhupada forms his Governing Body Commission and begins to turn over ISKCON’s management to his board of G.B.C. secretaries. Yet even as the present volume ends, we find Prabhupada still actively guiding the activities of his society, expanded now to six hundred disciples and sixty-five centers.

Although the teachings of Krsna consciousness have existed since time immemorial within India’s Sanskrit Vedic literatures and are the origin and essence of all religious expression, until Srila Prabhupada began his preaching, Krsna consciousness in its original purity had never been widely spread. In the most popular and basic Vedic text, Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna teaches that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that real religion, real knowledge, and real endeavor can be understood only when one dedicates his life to the loving service of the Lord. Only full surrender to the Supreme can bring one freedom from the laws of karma and the cycle of repeated birth and death.

From childhood, Srila Prabhupada worshiped Lord Krsna, understanding Him to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the source of all existence. And beginning at age twenty-two, after his first meeting with his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada became more and more active in spreading the teachings of Lord Krsna. Srila Prabhupada was convinced that devotional service to Lord Krsna is life’s goal and that to engage others in devotional service is the highest welfare activity. And these convictions drove him in his traveling and preaching on behalf of his spiritual master and Krsna.

Preface xi
1"Swami Invites the Hippies" 1
2The Price Affair59
3New Jagannatha Puri 73
4"Our Master Has Not Finished His Work"141
5Swamiji" Departure 179
6India Revisited: Part I203
7India Revisited: Part II229
Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide257



Volume V of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta covers the time from March of 1971 to April of 1975. During this period, Swami Bhaktivedanta traveled extensively, overseeing the rapid expansion of ISKCON.

Although Swami Bhaktivedanta’s American and European disciples had already been introduced to Indian food and dress along with Vaisnava devotion, they had not yet learned how to live in India. This volume depicts the struggles of those devotees and of Swami Bhaktivedanta as he teaches them to live and do business and build temples in India, among Indians.

Events moved quickly. Devotees were thrust into positions of leadership for which they had little preparation. They were asked to negotiate land purchases while dealing with crafty businessmen, to build magnificent temples without being cheated, and to find their way through the Indian legal system. Sometimes they confronted open arms and sometimes suspicion, and they met with varying degrees of jealousy among the caste gosvamis in Vrndavana. Western devotees accustomed to a comfortable standard of living found themselves living on land infested with rats, mosiquitoes, and even snakes. They chanted and preached, but also protested and fought for their cause in as diplomatic a way as possible. Occasionally a devotee’s responsibility would be too great, and he would have to give it up. But by the end of this volume, due to the constant guidance of Swami Bhaktivedanta, ISKCON had become successful at the three sites so important to the Swami’s vision for ISKCON in India: Vrndavana, Bombay, and Mayapur.

Like the previous volumes, this is a human story. It is the story of a Vaisnava guru, as understood by his disciples. Events that might on the surface be subject to detrimental interpretation are not ignored but are presented along with their transcendental meaning. The story contains anger and frustration as well as joy and exhilaration.

The devotional understanding is important herein, as it was in the previous volumes. Frequently, those who associated with Swami Bhaktivedanta misunderstood his words and acts. But here the author offers us the more mature, interpretive meaning. As the author indicated in the Introduction to Volume III, “Although the activities of Srila Prabhupada may appear ordinary, they have an internal meaning.” It is this internal meaning which serves as the interpretive framework for the life of Swami Bhaktivedanta-in this volume and throughout the entire work. While that meaning is always present, to the ordinary biographer it is seldom self-evident.

Those readers who have been fascinated by the first four volumes of Swami Bhaktivedanta’s biography will be fascinated by this volume as well. Like the others, it provides rich data for understanding the growth of a religious movement new to Westerners. It provides documentation more extensive than that available for any other such movement. For the historian of religions, it offers more evidence for the significance of sacred time and sacred space as a motif in religious experience.

Of particular significance is that this volume shows ISKCON to be not merely a “new” religion concentrated on the two coasts of North America, but a movement deeply rooted in India while reaching throughout the world. It is an Indian religious movement in that it originated in India and continues to live and grow in modern India.


One day in June of 1977, Srila Prabhupada sat in his garden at the Krishna-Balaram Mandir in Vrndavana, India, conversing with a few devotees. Although for months he had been manifesting external sympitoms of ill health, he still enjoyed sitting here with his disciples, while aromatic jasmine blossoms scented the air and the fountain gently splashed. He had been discussing various topics, including how modern, godless civilization was a society of two-legged animals. Speaking of life in India as he had known it as a child, he described a simpler way of living, and he began recalling some of his childhood experiences.

At his birth, he said, an astrologer had predicted that at age seventy he would leave India and establish many temples. Prabhupada said he hadn’t understood this prediction for many years, but that by Krsna’s grace he had gone to America (at the age of seventy) to execute the order of his spiritual master. In America, the result of his preaching had given him great hope, and he had obtained permanent residency there, expecting not to return to India.

One of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples present, Tamala Krsna Goswami, spoke up. “Do you regret having come back to India?” “No,” Srila Prabhupada replied. “My plan was to stay in America, but Krsna's plan was different. Therefore when I was coming back I was speaking to Dvarakadhisa [the Krsna Deity in ISKCON’s Los Angeles temple]. I said to Dvarakadhisa, ‘I came here to preach. I don’t know why You are dragging me back.’ So I was unhappy to leave, but Krsna had His plan.”

Srila Prabhupada went on to say that by following Krsna’s plan of leaving Vrndavana and then, after preaching in America, coming back to Vrndavana, he had gained the most wonderful temple, the Krishna-Balaram temple in Vrndavana. “You always came out victorious,” Tamala Krsna said. “I have never seen you defeated. In Bombay, for example, it seemed to be an impossible situation.” “Yes, no one was interested,” said Srila Prabhupada, “Who could see that such a big project would come up?” “Only you could see that,” said Tamala Krsna. “You and Radha-Rasavihari [the Krsna Deity at ISKCON’s Bombay temple].”

“But still I was determined.”

“They should write a book about that,” said Tamala Krsna. “It is history,” Srila Prabhupada added. “That is worth writing about. Mayapur also.”

This present volume of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta is an attempt to fulfill Prabhupada’s desire that a book be written about the struggles undergone for establishing a wonderful temple for Krsna in Bombay, as well as in Mayapur and Vrndavana, It is a history worth writing about.

This history is worth telling not only to Srila Prabhupada’s intimate followers, but to the whole world. After all, it is for the benefit of people everywhere that Srila Prabhupada struggled against great obstacles to establish these three important ISKCON temples-in Bombay, in Vrndavana, and in Mayapur. For Srila Prabhupada, “temple” meant not only a building but a center of highest learning, an institution for teaching the science of God. He saw that people were mad after material progress with little interest in understanding their spiritual identity; they identified themselves with the material body. Centers of spiritual learning and culture, therefore, were of prime importance in liberating people from their bodily identification.


Preface xi
Introduction xv
1Unlimited Opportunity, Limited Time1
2London: A Dream Fulfilled 43
3A threat Against ISKCON95
4Indian: Dancing White Elephants 143
5"A Lot of Ground to be Covered"179
6Jet-Age Parivrajakacarya 237
7"This Remote Corner of the World"275
8In Every Town and Village 303
Significant Events in the Life of Srila Prabhupada329
Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide 337
Glossary 339



This volume in the life story of Srila Prabhupada reveals many major events and themes in his life. It tells of his distribution of spiritual knowledge through his writings, of his struggle to establish the Krsna consciousness movement in his native country, India, and of his averting a potential schism among his followers. Through all these events he emerges as an imaginative, resourceful teacher equipped with the deepest understanding of his tradition; and thus we see how this indomitable personality imparted stability and confidence to all who contacted him.

These pages tell the story of a visionary spiritual teacher who understood the chaos of the present-day civilization and who resuscitated spiritual values in the face of the materialistic values of consumerism and hedonism now dominating society. We meet in this volume a saint, indiscriminately inspiring the humanity that surrounds him with purpose of life, and offering them not a mere theory but a practical way of living. We also see how, even though physically indisposed in his last year, Srila Prabhupada nobly continued to offer his life as an inspiring example up until his last day on earth.

We all know that religion should be a way of life. But a religious way of life becomes easier to understand and to follow if there is a living reference. For thousands of people all over the world he was an ideal translated into a simple human being. Read his story and you will be convinced that his teachings and his example shed a calm, gentle light on the face of troubled humanity.

Prabhupada knew that the Western mind in its quest for empiricism displayed a naive, absolute faith in “realism,” a faith akin to that of a child’s attributing reality to fairy tales, quite forgetting that they are of his own making. Although this naivete is considered a strength in Western cultures, it has proved to be a most fertile ground for human error and misunderstanding. Prabhupada’s Western followers are most painfully aware of this naivete, and I believe that this awareness, fortified with Srila Prabhupada’s wisdom, has produced some of the truly great personalities of the Krsna consciousness movement in the West.

But in this volume we see that the great contribution of Srila Prabhupada was not just that he taught spiritual values, not just that he provided the answers to life’s inevitable and ultimate questions, but that he inspired persons with the consciousness to live those spiritual values and to discover those answers for themselves. Prabhupada’s stature is awe-inspiring, and a consciousness radiated from him, steering many minds from material concerns to spiritual, helping them develop the inner strength to see that the “self” could become a far more potent force than the body.

In many parts of the world today men and women are seeking the consciousness Srila Prabhupada inspired, and these followers believe that happiness and world peace can be achieved by the way of life Srila Prabhupada taught. For these Krsna conscious people, a new (though ancient) age is in the making. For them, a life of bliss, purity, responsibility, and civic service is no longer a dream belonging to an irreducible remote future, but is a vision almost within grasp.

Read the story of this simple and pure, almost godlike individual, and you will see how in certain hearts and minds a great spiritual vision is being actualized. These pages display the spiritual force that has changed the lives of thousands by making them reflect on their own inner behavior. Prabhupada was here in this world to show us how to live. His world and deeds, as narrated on these pages, have the ability to make our souls joyous and free.

Introduction The first chapter of this volume, spanning 1970 to 1975, is in itself a biographical synopsis of those years from the perspective of two major activities of Srila Prabhupada: book production and book distribution. Meanwhile, however, Srila Prabhupada was active in many other ways, and specifically he divided his time between America and India.

In America, where Srila Prabhupada had the most disciples, the most temples, and the major front for his book distribution campaign, he toured and preached. Because his spiritual master had ordered him specifically to preach to the English-speaking world, he had begun his movement in America, he wrote in English, and generally preferred to speak in English-even when in his own country before thousands of Indians.

Srila Prabhupada’s preaching throughout America, especially in these later years, was mostly for the benefit of his disciples; he wanted to put the Krsna consciousness movement into their hands now that his movement in the V.S. had strength and maturity. This is your country, he would tell his disciples, and you know best how to preach here. But just to guide them and inspire them, he was lecturing, talking with reporters and university professors, purchasing properties, and simply being with his disciples as their leader, field commander, and worshipable master.

In India Srila Prabhupada continued managing ISKCON on a practical, daily basis. Without his scrutiny in all manner of practical affairs-from financial to legal, from cleaning to cooking, from receiving guests to hiring construction workers-things would not be done properly, his disciples would be cheated, and ISKCON would not be appreciated as pure Vedic dharma. With great difficulty he had begun his three major ISKCON centers in India-Bombay, Vrndavana, and Mayapur-and he had laid a foundation of bold, ambitious plans. But that would not be sufficient. ISKCON in India had not yet developed to the point where Prabhupada could say, as he had said to his disciples in America, “Now it is in your hands.” Now it was in his hands. And to accomplish his goal, he assumed his feature of the exacting taskmaster, the relentlessly sharp-sighted temple manager.

That was his means. His end was to have his disciples actually take the management into their hands. But they would have to manage his way. As he would sometimes say to his leaders, “Do as I am doing.” That lesson, once learned, would establish an ISKCON that would flourish even if he relinquished the reins, an ISKCON that would survive even after his passing away.

But Prabhupada’s direct guidance was still required, and not only for showing his disciples how to manage ISKCON in India or how to preach in America, but also for protecting his Society from internal strife and schisms. And in this volume we see Srila Prabhupada expertly unify ISKCON during a trial of divisive party spirit.

Srila Prabhupada’s life followed rhythm: touring, preaching, and managing interspersed with periods of writing and translating. The two types of activities were not always compatible, however, since one was fast-paced and vigorously outgoing and the other intensely meditative. But both were necessary. In fact, one of Prabhupada’s goals in traveling throughout the world and painstakingly training his ISKCON leaders was to ultimately stop traveling, stop managing, and just sit in one place and write. But until such time, he was prepared to rise shortly after midnight wherever he was and write. Occasionally, however, he got a special opportunity, as in Hawaii in the summer of 1976, where for one month his ISKCON management stopped and his writing progressed at home than double the usual pace. But such quite periods were the exception. As Srila Prabhupada said, “not in this lifetime.


Foreword vii
Preface ix
Introduction xiii
1The Land is Yours 1
2No One Listens to a Poor Man 43
3I Will Build a Womnderful Temple for You87
4The Battle for Bombay 147
6Developing Mayapur 171
7Beginning the Temple of Krsna Balarama 215
8Let There be a Temple 309
Appendixes 339
Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide 325
Glossary 330



Prabhupada-lila consists of biographical accounts of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada that were not included in the authorized biography, Srita Prabhupada-lilamrta. Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta was six full volumes, so, at least literally, it cannot be considered an abridged version. Yet, inevitably, many interesting incidents in Srila Prabhupada’s life were omitted. This is, I think, justified. Srila Prabhupdda-lilamrta is intended as glorification of Lord Krsna’s pure devotee, but it is also for preaching. We want people all over the world to hear of Srila Prabhupada. His life’s activities, although virtually unknown at present, are the greatest of all welfare works. Therefore, while Srila Prabhupdda-lilamrta gives full account of Prabhupada’s life, it stresses readability even for the uninitiated. For the new readers, hearing in detail of Srila Prabhupada’s fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh visits to Los Angeles, or hearing of many, many wonderful but incidental things he did or said, might not be interesting. It is their misfortune that they do not want to go on endlessly drinking immortal nectar, but we have nevertheless given them a substantial and almost irresistible drink in books like A Lifetime in Preparation and Planting the Seed.

But many times when reading Prabhupada’s biography in the assembly of devotees, I have been asked if someday all the pastimes of Srila Prabhupada will be written and published. Until recently, I didn’t know what to say: I would usually reply that even Krsnadasa Kaviraja wrote that he would not fully narrate some of the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu for fear of too much increasing the volume of his book. But somehow the devotees weren’t satisfied, knowing that certain pastimes of Prabhupada weren’t being used in Prabhupada-lilamrta. A member of our biography staff who is well acquainted with the masses of available interviews, memoirs, and letters expressed disappointment to me in a note:

I have a rather growing anxiety that I’d like to try to express. In Volume IV of the biography, because I'm familiar with the interviews in such detail I can see that you’re leaving out things, summarizing some sections and skipping others. Volume III ends with Srila Prabhupada’s ecstatic arrival in San Francisco on December 14th, but Volume IV doesn't take me into the airport, let me see Srila Prabhupada giving gifts to his devotees, and so on. I felt really disappointed. Please don’t think I’m criticizing your presentation. It’s just that these incidents are so relishable I think I just want a steady diet of them. I guess my question is What will happen to these incidents? Will you ever use them? Perhaps in another form? Prabhupada's pastimes are so distinctly, transcendentally attractive, I feel a great loss if we can’t somehow make them all accessible to the receptive reader.

It was this note that made me consider presenting supplementary pastimes of Prabhupada without worrying about “readability” For the sincere devotee, all authentic accounts of the life of the pure devotee are inspiring, instructive, relishable, and eternal. The devotees know the secret as stated in Srimad- Bhdgavatam: “Drink deep this nectar, O men of piety, and you shall be taken from this mortal frame!” In a purport of Caitanya-caritdmrta, Prabhupada wrote.


The subtitle of Prabhupada-lila, “Additional Pastimes of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada” explains the nature of this work. Prabhupada-lila contains additional biographical descriptions of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada which were not included in the authoritative six-volume work, Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. In compiling Prabhupdda-lila, we employed the same methods of research and treatment which we used in compiling Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. But Prabhupada-lila mostly focuses on the early years of Prabhupada's preaching in America, from 1967 to 1969, with some additional chapters on his preaching in Europe and South America.

These Lila chapters were compiled at the same time Srila Prabhupdda-lilamrta was compiled after it became obvious that all the subject matter of Prabhupada’s life could not be contained within the scope of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. So it is an additional work, but very much a companion piece to Srila Prabhupdda-lilamrta. We may consider it as a supplementary “seventh volume” to the six-volume biography.

For the sincere devotee, all authentic accounts of the life of the pure devotee are inspiring, instructive, relishable, and eternal. By hearing the transcendental pastimes of Krsna’s pure devotee, one receives all the benefits that he would get by hearing the pastimes of the Lord Himself. The devotees thus know the secret of escaping the cycle of birth and death in the material world. As stated in the Srimad- Bhagavatam:

Living beings who are under the grip of Yamaraja should take advantage by hearing the deathless nectar in the form of this narration of the transcendental pastimes of the Lord.

Other accounts of the life of Srila Prabhupada may be found in the free verse synopsis, Remembering Srila Prabhupada, and in the Prabhupdda Nectar series of authentic anecdotes about Srila Prabhupada.

Although we have described Prabhupada in many ways, there is no end to it. Prabhupada’s life is so important that much more can and should be written about him, and I realize that this is just a little drop in the ocean of the activities of such a pure devotee. It is my hope that these books, as well as those of other disciples and followers of Prabhupada, will inspire the world to follow this great teacher, to relish his instructions, and to take up Krsna consciousness.


Forewprd vii
Preface xi
Introduction xv
1"Please Distribute Books" 1
2Preaching to America: Part I 67
3Preaching to America: Part II 131
4At Home in India 165
5India: Unifying ISKCON 191
6The Lame Man and the Blind Man 229
7Chant Hare Krsna and Fight 479
8"I Have Done My Par"t 503
9Krsna's Great Soldier
10At Home in Vrndavana 527
11The Final Lesson 529
Appenduxes 529
Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide 83
Glossary 107



It is a distinct and unusual honor for me to be asked to write a foreword to this eloquent and informative biography of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. To my great regret, I never met him during his sojourn here in America. But I feel that I have met him. The spiritual reality of a great teacher lives on in many ways, not the least in the lives of those he has touched. Since I have come to know many of Srila Prabhupada's disciples over the past years, as well as many devotees who were influenced by him without knowing him personally, I sense a certain acquaintanceship. To write this foreword seems, then, in some measure, like introducing a friend.

Although it is not true to say in all cases that a religious movement is the shadow of a great teacher, still there is some measure of truth even in that familiar statement. It will surely help readers of this book understand ISKCON better to know the man who founded it and to be aware of the soil from which he comes. The patience and care with which the author of this volume has reconstructed the long life Srila Prabhupada had already lived even before he set forth for America makes for absorbing and inspiring reading. I read it, I confess, not just because of my own interest in Srila Prabhupada but because the milieu the author recreates tells us so much more than a mere life story could. It reminds us of how very ensconced Srila Prabhupada was in one of the oldest religious traditions in the world. It recalls how very much went on in the generations, centuries, and even millenia before him that seems to be gathered and focused in his life and in his teaching. In one sense Srila Prabhupada was not at all "original," and reading the story of his life raises questions about our typical Western proclivity to attach such value to originality. What the book makes clear, on the contrary, is that Srila Prabhupada is a man who incarnates an ancient tradition. The opening verses of the fourth chapter of Bhagauad-gitd, the Indian text most precious to ISKCON, teach that the ageless science of bhakti-yoga (what Christians might call the "devotional path" to God) is always received by what the Indians call parampara, that is, it is passed from one teacher to the next in a living chain, from ancient times to the present. Srila Prabhupada is best understood, as this book presents him, as one particularly effective link in this chain.

Yet, it must be added, Srila Prabhupada was also a unique person. To say that the teachings of the ancient ones come to us through a series of teachers does not mean that the teachers themselves are interchangeable. If they were so faceless, there would be little point in writing a biography of any of them. But this life of Srila Prabhupada is pointed proof that one can be a transmitter of truth and still be a vital and singular person, even- in a sense I now feel safe to use-in some ways "original." Srila Prabhupada lived during a particularly critical period in Indian history, that of British colonial rule and its aftermath. He worked with and among dozens of people who befriended, opposed, supported, or ignored him. He initiated Back to Godhead magazine. At what almost anyone would consider a very advanced age, when most people would be resting on their laurels, he harkened to the mandate of his own spiritual teacher and set out on the difficult and demanding voyage to America. Srila Prabhupada is, of course, only one of thousands of teachers. But in another sense, he is one in a thousand, maybe one in a million.

As a Christian, it is very important and impressive to me that Srila Prabhupada took it upon himself to bring the teaching he so well represents to America. This sentence I am sure requires some explanation. First of all, as a Christian I come from a tradition in which God's sending of someone to bring a vital message to those who desperately need it is held in very high esteem. Throughout the Hebrew scriptures, Yahweh sends prophets to remind the people how far they have strayed from His will, to expose the way they have misused the poor and failed to defend the widow and the fatherless. In the New Testament, Jesus sends forth his disciples two by two, asking them to take along only the scantiest clothing and equipment, telling them to bear the message of peace and salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth. God Himself is depicted as sending His only son into the world on a mission that would ultimately cost him his life. Christians are taught to respect and admire those who are willing to pay the heavy price of leaving comfort and security behind to go somewhere else to carry a message of liberation.

Today, however, many Christians have become comfortable and complacent, not only unwilling themselves to engage in such hardship but often unable even to understand or appreciate those who do. It is a great loss. Even though some people claim it is a good thing that many Christians are no longer as interested in carrying their message to other parts of the world, that they have become less presumptuous or arrogant, I personally believe it has more to do with sloth and the satiety of consumer society than with humility. I have little patience with zealous proselytizing no matter who inflicts it on whom. I do believe, however, that any spiritual teaching worth following is also worth sharing. When I visited India, living in fact in the very place where Srila Prabhupada's tradition is centered, Vrndavana, I was thankfully received by everyone there, including the sages and holy men, and was asked to share my tradition with them. I spoke to them as a Christian about what Jesus Christ means to me and about what his teaching has to offer to the world. They listened attentively and gratefully. Their only complaint, as I recall, was that I had not spoken long enough! Indians, unlike Americans, seem in no hurry to rush off to something else if there is a serious spiritual discussion to be followed. Given the fact that I was so well received in Srila Prabhupada's own land, I am sorry that he and his students still often find it so difficult to be heard or to be taken seriously here in America.

I am grateful for this book for two additional reasons that its writer could not have known. First, the author uses, among other methods, the growingly important method we in the West call "oral history." He incorporates the fruits of many interviews with the people who knew Srila Prabhupada or who encountered him, who contribute some little bit of information, however tiny or fleeting, to make up the whole picture. In a few years all these people will have passed on. Those sources will be lost, at least to our mortal ears, forever. It is extremely important that the writer used this method and used it so very skillfully. I hope others will use it as effectively.

Also, perhaps without fully intending to, the author is giving us a portrait of an age the apex and the nadir of the passing epoch of which might be called "Western dominance." He shows us the devastation wreaked by “cultural imperialism” and demonstrates how stubbornly its destructive residues remain in the mental habits-and even in the eating patterns-of a previously colonized people long after the actual political rule of the outsider has been thrown off. Especially since this volume covers that period of Srila Prabhupada's life before he came to America, it is vital to see that he was also instrumental in leading a revival of traditional Indian spiritual and cultural values in India itself before he came to our shores. Since that selfsame phenomenon is now underway wherever the long arm of European dominance once reached, the book can also be read as an integral part of the growing literature of “Third World cultural renaissance.”

Obviously this volume can be appreciated in many ways. It can also be read, I should add, as the very fascinating story of a very fascinating man. In any case, however the present reader wishes to approach it, I am glad now to terminate this foreword and allow him or her to get on with the joy of reading.


After the disappearance of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada from this mortal world on November 14, 1977, many of his disciples saw a need for an authorized biography of Srila Prabhupada, The responsibility of commissioning such a work rested with the Governing Body Commission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. At their annual meeting in 1978, the GBC resolved that a biography of Srila Prabhupada should be written and that I would be the author.

According to the Vaisnava tradition, if one aspires to write transcendental literature, he must first take permission from his spiritual master and Krsna. A good example of this is Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, the author of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's authorized biography, Sri Caitanya-caritdmrta. As Krsnadasa Kaviraja has explained :

In Vrndavana there were also many other great devotees, all of whom desired to hear the last pastimes of Lord Caitanya.

By their mercy, all these devotees ordered me to write of the last pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Because of their order only, although I am shameless, I have attempted to write this Caitanya-caritdmrta.

Having received the order of the Vaisnavas, but being anxious within my heart, I went back to the temple of Madana- mohana in Vrndavana to ask His permission also.

This transcendental process IS further described by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada ill his commentary on the Caitanya-caritdmrta as follows :

To write about the transcendental pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is not an ordinary endeavor. Unless one is empowered by the higher authorities or advanced devotees. One cannot write transcendental literature, for all such literature must be above suspicion, or in other words, it must have none of the defects of conditioned souls, namely mistakes, illusions, cheating, and imperfect sense perception. The words of Krsna and the disciplic succession that carries the orders of Krsna are actually authoritative.... One must first become a pure devotee following the strict regulative principles and chanting sixteen rounds daily, and when one thinks he is actually on the Vaisnava platform, he must then take permission from the spiritual master, and that permission must also be confirmed by Krsna from within his heart.

So to say the Srila Prabhupdda-lilamrta is an authorized biography does not mean that it is a flattering portrait commissioned by an official body, but that it is an authorized literature presented by one who is serving the order of Krsna and guru through the disciplic succession. As such, Srila Prabhupada- lilamrta is not written from the mundane or speculative viewpoint, nor can ordinary biographers comprehend the significance and meaning of the life of a pure devotee of God. Were such persons to objectively study the life of Srila Prabhupada, the esoteric meanings would evade them. Were they to charitably try to praise Srila Prabhupada, they would not know how. But because Srila Prabhupdda-lilamrta is authorized through the transcendental process, it can transparently present the careful reader with a true picture of Srila Prabhupada.

Another important aspect of the authenticity of Srila Prabhupdda-lilamrta is the vast amount of carefully researched information that I am able to focus into each volume. The leading devotees of the Krsna consciousness movement, in addition to giving me permission to render this work, have also invited the world community of ISKCON devotees to help me in gathering detailed information about the life and person of Srila Prabhupada. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, Prabhupada's publishing house, has given me his collection of letters, totaling over seven thousand; and scores of Prabhupada's disciples have granted interviews and submitted diaries and memoirs of their association with Srila Prabhupada. Aside from his disciples, we have interviewed many persons in various walks of life who met Srila Prabhupada over the years. The result is that we have a rich, composite view of Srila Prabhupada, drawn from many persons who knew him in many different situations and stages of his life. The Acknowledgments section in this book lists the persons who are cooperating to bring about Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta.

Despite the authorized nature of this book and despite the support of my many well-wishers, I must confess that in attempting to describe the glories of our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I am like a small bird trying to empty the ocean by carrying drops of water to the land. The picture I have given of Srila Prabhupada is only a glimpse into his unlimited mercy, and that glimpse has only been possible by the grace of guru and Krsna.


This volume begins in Calcutta in 1896, with the birth of Abhay Charan De, and ends in 1965 with Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami* on his way to New York City aboard the steamship Jaladuta.

The worldwide fame of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, later known as Srila Prabhupada, was to come after 1965-after he arrived in America. Before leaving India he had written three books; in the next twelve years he was to write sixty. Before he left India he had initiated one disciple; in the next twelve years, he would initiate more than four thousand. Before he left India, hardly anyone had believed that he could fulfill his vision of a worldwide society of Krsna devotees, but in the next decade he would form and maintain the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and open more than a hundred centers. Before sailing for America he had never been outside India, but in the next twelve years he would travel many times around the world, propagating the Krsna consciousness movement. It had been predicted in the scriptures and envisioned by great saints. A few of Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers had even tried to make it happen; they had gone to England, only to return convinced that it was impossible. But not until Srila Prabhupada travelled to America did it come to pass-that Westerners wholeheartedly took up the life of Vaisnavism and became Krsna conscious devotees.

This story of Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual success is narrated in subsequent volumes of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta (“The Nectar of the Pastimes of Srila Prabhupada”), beginning with Volume 2, Planting the Seed: New York City, 1965-1966. Yet this present volume, which covers most of his lifetime, telling how he prepared himself for his late burst of revolutionary spiritual activity, is most important. These first sixty-nine years form a complete, dramatic life story and do not depend on anything he did later to explain them.

Abhay Charan’s father, Gour Mohan De, carefully prepared Abhay from childhood for the life of a pure Vaisnava. Gour Mohan taught him to worship Krsna and encouraged him, beginning when Abhay was only five, in his Lord Jagannatha cart parade through the streets of their Calcutta neighborhood-a small Ratha-yatra festival, the same festival Abhay was later to enact on a magnificent scale in many Western cities. Srila Prabhupada used to say in his later days that whatever principles he had established as leader of the Hare Krsna movement he had learned in his childhood, with but one important exception-book publication and distribution, which he had learned later, from his spiritual master.

It was his first meeting with his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, in 1922, that focused Srila Prabhupada’s future life into a meditation on how to carry out the mission of preaching Krsna consciousness in the West. After that first meeting, his entire life-his writing, his taking sannyasa, his publishing books, and finally his going to the West-became part of his dedication to carrying out the order of this higher authority.

Srila Prabhupada’s obligation to his wife and children and his attempts to develop a business career in the pharmaceutical industry may appear inconsistent with a single-minded determination to spread Krsna consciousness, yet his earnestness in pursuing these responsibilities, and the way Providence finally extricated him from them, proved important in his essential lifetime of preparation. After he left his family responsibilities in 1950, he met with obstacles of obscurity and poverty and an insecurity imposed by the tumultuous times in which he lived, but, again, his struggle to continue his mission was part of his preparation.

In the light of Srila Prabhupada’s unprecedented spiritual achievements in his later life, it seems inevitable that I should say something here about his being empowered by God. According to the Vedic scriptures, the lives of certain individuals are part of God’s mission on earth. In the West, Jesus Christ is the best-known example, a chosen son sent by God from the spiritual world, and in the East, the Vedic writings tell of various avataras of Lord Visnu, incarnations of the Supreme Lord, with specific names, characteristics, and activities. Thus, Lord Krsna some-times appears Himself, and He sometimes empowers a particular devotee to do His work. Srila Prabhupada, in his commentary on Caitanya-caritamrta, explains about souls empowered by Lord Krsna.

There are two kinds of living entities-nitya-siddha and nitya-baddha. The nitya-siddha never forgets his relationship with the Supreme Personality, whereas the nitya-baddha is always conditioned, even before the creation. He always forgets his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. By the order of the Supreme, the nitya-siddha remains within this material world like an ordinary man, but his only business is to broadcast the glories of the Lord. All nitya-siddhas within this material world may appear to toil like ordinary men, but they never forget their position as servants of the Lord.

In determining whether a person is empowered by God, the main consideration is the quality of his work. In Caitanya-caritdmrta the scholar Vallabha says to Lord Caitanya, “The fact that you have spread Krsna consciousness all over the world proves that you have krsna-sakti, transcendental power from Lord Krsna.” After Srila Prabhupada’s passing away in 1977, his senior Godbrother B. R. Sridhara Maharaja quoted this same krsna-sakti verse and applied it to Prabhupada: unless he had been empowered by Krsna, he could not have spread Krsna consciousness as he did.

When we consider Srila Prabhupada’s identity as Lord Krsna’s empowered representative, the years of struggle described in this volume take on a special sweetness. These years reveal little-known events in the life of a person who was always rapt in devotional remembrance of Krsna. Although he struggled through many hardships, his struggles were not those of an ordinary man, for he lived solely to carry out the will of guru and Krsna.

I invite the reader to enjoy the very real, human life story of Srila Prabhupada, who is known in this volume as Abhay Charan.

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