His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appeared in this world in 1896 in Calcutta, India. He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, in Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent religious scholar and the founder of the sixty-four-branch Gaudiya Matha, liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge. Srila Prabhupada, who at that time was known by his given name Abhay Charan, became his student, and eleven years later, in 1933, his initiated disciple.
At their first meeting Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati requested the young man to broadcast Vedic knowledge through the English language. In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, assisted the Gaudiya Matha in its work, and, in 1944, started Back to Godhead, an English fortnightly magazine. Single-handedly, he wrote the articles, typed and edited the manuscripts, checked the galley proofs, and even distributed the individual copies. Once begun, the magazine never stopped; it is still being published, now in over thirty languages.
Recognizing Srila Prabhupada’s philosophical learning and devotion, in 1947 the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society honored him with the title “Bhaktivedanta.” In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, adopting the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. He traveled to the holy city of Våndavana, where he lived humbly in the historic Radha-Damodara temple and for several years engaged in deep study and writing. After accepting the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959, he began work on his life’s masterpiece: a multivolume translation of and commentary on the eighteen-thousand-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam.
In 1965, at the age of seventy, after publishing three volumes of the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada came to the United States to fulfill his spiritual master’s mission, enduring a torturous two-month journey on a freighter and suffering two heart attacks on the way. When he arrived in New York City, he was practically penniless. Only after nearly a year of great difficulty—in July of 1966—did he manage to establish the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Before his passing away on November 14, 1977, he had guided the Society and seen it grow to a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred ashrams, schools, temples, institutes, and farm communities.
In the twelve years between his arrival in the U.S. and his departure from this world, with a vigorous schedule of translating, writing, and lecturing, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times and visited six continents. His books, highly respected by scholars for their clarity, depth, and authority, have been translated into over fifty languages, and the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 to publish his work, has become the world’s largest publisher in the field of Indian culture, religion, and philosophy.