Srila Prabhupada-Lilamrta: A Biography of His divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (In Seven Volumes)

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Item Code: IDI672
Author: Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
Publisher: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
Edition: 2003
Pages: 1394 (B & W Illus: 62)
Cover: Hardcover
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Book Description

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 became 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 millennia before him that seems to be gathered and focused in his life and in his teaching. In one sense Srila Prabupada 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 Bhagavad-gita, 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 chains, 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 once 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 things 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 know 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 no3w to terminate this foreword and allow him or her to get on with the joy of reading.


This volume begins in Calcutta in 1896, with the birth of Abhay Charan De, and ends in 1965 with Abhay Charanaravinda 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; 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 traveled to America did it come to pass-that Westerners wholeheartedly took up the life of Vaisnavism.

Foreword ix
Introduction xvii
1Childhood 1
2College, Marriage, and Gandhi's Movement 21
3 "A Very Nice Saintly Person" 37
4 "How Shall I Serve You?" 61
5The War 95
6An Unknown Friend 123
7Jhansi: The League of Devotees 147
8New Delhi - "Crying Alone in the Wilderness" 171
9A Resident of Vrnadavana 197
10 "This Momentous Hour of Need" 233
11The Dream Come True 261-289
New York City
Foreword v
Introduction vii
1The Journey to America 1
2Butler, Pennsylvania: The First Testing Ground 9
3Struggling Alone 21
4 "It Will Not Be Possible to Assist You" 37
5Free to Preach 51
6On the Bowery 67
7Breaking Ground 105
8Planting the Seed 145
9 "Stay High Forever" 191
10Beyond the Lower East Side 237-272
San Francisco/ India
Foreword v
Introduction ix
1 "Swami Invites the Hippies" 1
2The Price Affair 51
3New Jagannatha Puri 63
4 "Our Master Has Not Finished His Word"121
5Swamiji's Departure 153
6India Revisited: Part I 175
7India Revisited: Part II 197-218
Around The World
Foreword v
Introduction ix
1Unlimited Opportunity, Limited Time 1
2London: A Dream Fulfilled 35
3A Threat Against ISKCON 79
4India: Dancing White Elephants 117
5 "A Lot of Ground to Be Covered" 147
6Jet-Age Parivrajakacarya 195
7 "This Remote corner of the World" 227
8In Every Town and Village251-270
India/ Around the World
Foreword v
Introduction vii
Chapter One1
Chapter Two 35
Chapter Three 71
Chapter Four 89
Chapter Five 121
Chapter Six 141
Chapter Seven 177
Chapter Eight 211-250
Around the World / Return to Vrndavana
Foreword v
Introduction vii
1 "Please Distribute Books" 1
2Preaching to America: Part 1 53
3Preaching to America: Part 2 105
4At Home in India 133
5India: Unifying ISKCON 155
6The Lame man and the Blind Man 185
7Chant Hare Krsna and Fight 211
8 "I Have Done My Part" 307
9At Home in Vrndavana 371
10Krsna's Great Soldier 389
11The Final Lesson 409-427
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