Abhay Caran De was born September 1, 1896 in Calcutta, India, under very favorable circumstances. His father, Gour Mohan De, was a pure devotee of Lord Caitanya and therefore gave Abhay a healthy, religious upbringing with God in the center. After performing his own eight-day Ratha-yātrā festival at the age of five, Abhay proceeded on the path of devotion not only by learning how to play devotional instruments such as the mrdangga, but also by memorizing certain traditional Bengali songs for the glorification of the Lord.

In 1916 Abhay entered Scottish Churches' College, one of the most prestigious colleges in Calcutta. Here he spent four years studying English, Sanskrit, philosophy, psychology, and economics. Since Bible study also was compulsory, Abhay gathered every morning with his fellow students for prayers, hymns, and scripture readings. In 1920, after his final B.A. examinations, Abhay went on a well-deserved, but short, pilgrimage to Jagannātha Purī—the city where the original Ratha-yātrā festival has been annually held for more than two thousand years.

After meeting his spiritual mentor Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī in Calcutta in 1922, and formally taking initiation from him in 1933, Abhay's seriousness gradually increased. Abhay now intensified his study of Lord Caitanya's monotheistic bhedābheda philosophy. In 1939 the two prominent Godbrothers Bhaktisārangga Goswāmī and Šrīdhara Mahārāja officially acknowledged Abhay's extensive scriptural expertise by awarding him the title Bhaktivedanta.

The 1940s were a very productive period for Abhay, who now fixed his determination for the execution of the order of his spiritual master: to spread Lord Caitanya's teachings in the English language. Although Abhay still had household responsibilities throughout this period, he nevertheless managed to write a complete translation and commentary on the Bhagavad-gītā, which, unfortunately, mysteriously disappeared just before publication in 1948. In 1944 he also started Back to Godhead—a bi-weekly magazine that he single-handedly financed, composed, typed, edited, and distributed.

Abhay retired from family life in 1954. In September 1956 he moved to the Vamsī-gopālajī temple in Vrndāvana, where he rented a room on the roof at five rupees a month. From there he often commuted to Delhi, in spite of his meagre finances, to distribute copies of Back to Godhead and to preach. After accepting the sannyāsa order of life, awarded to him by his Godbrother Bhaktiprajńāna Kešava Mahārāja on September 17, 1959 in Mathurā's Kešavajī Gaudiya Math temple, Abhay again returned to the Vamsī-gopālajī temple. Later, in July 1962, he transferred himself to the Rādhā-Dāmodara temple, also in Vrndāvana, where he started one of his most ambitious projects: a multi-volume translation and commentary of Krsna Dvaipāyana Vyāsa's Šrīmad-Bhāgavatam—an eighteen-thousand-verse Sanskrit composition that elaborately explains an astounding amount of details about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Šrī Krsna.

At the age of sixty-nine, with hundreds of copies of the first three published volumes of Šrīmad-Bhāgavatam packed in big trunks, but with only forty rupees in cash, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda crossed the Atlantic Ocean onboard the Jaladuta—a Scindia Steam Navigation Company cargo carrier, equipped with a passenger cabin. After a remarkably calm crossing, the Jaladuta, under the command of Captain Arun Pandia, reached Boston's Commonwealth Pier on September 17, 1965, and, two days later, the Brooklyn Pier at Seventeenth Street, New York. The stage was set for a spiritual revolution in the Western world.

Prabhupāda's first year in New York was tremendeously difficult. Although he sometimes sold a copy or two of his Šrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Prabhupāda was virtually without resources. And even if Dr. Ramamurti Mishra initially gave him shelter in his own apartment at 33 Riverside Drive, and, later, in room 501 in his yoga studio at 100 West 72nd Street, Dr. Mishra only occasionally and somewhat unwillingly allowed Prabhupāda to talk about Krsna before his yoga students. To be able to freely and regularly (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 7-9 p.m.) speak about the Lord to a small but increasing audience, Prabhupāda would have to move: first to room 307, a small, unfurnished office two floors below the yoga studio; then to a loft at 94 Bowery; and, finally, to a storefront at 26 Second Avenue, which would become his first temple. Here, on July 11, 1966, with financial and practical assistance from a handful of supporters, Prabhupāda formally registered ISKCON—the International Society for Krishna Consciousness—as a nonprofit, tax-exempt religious corporation; and two months later, on September 9, Prabhupāda initiated his first eleven Western disciples during a smoky, but ecstatic, Vedic fire sacrifice.

In the eleven years to come—up until his departure from this world on November 14, 1977 in Vrndāvana—Prabhupāda would initiate thousands of disciples. With their help, he would open and maintain more than one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes, and farm communities, all over the world, while he himself tirelessly traveled fourteen times around the globe to preach the glories of the Lord to professors, scientists, authors, and students. In spite of his pressing schedule, however, Prabhupāda never stopped writing: apart from thousands of private letters to disciples and others, his main literary contribution would be a collection of more than sixty volumes of authoritative translations and commentaries on India's most sacred works, such as the Šrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the Caitanya-caritāmrta and the Bhagavad-gītā. Prabhupāda's publishing house, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, has since its inception in 1972 continuously been engaged in republishing these priceless works—so far with over five hundred millon copies printed in more than fifty languages.


NOTES

1. According to authoritative Vedic sources, Lord Caitanya is an incarnation of Šrī Krsna, God Himself. See the biography of Lord Caitanya.
 
2. Jaladuta appropriately means "The Water Messenger", after jala (Skt. "water") and duta (Skt. "messenger").


BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. ORIGINAL WORKS:

- Bhagavad-gītā As It Is
 
- Šrīmad-Bhāgavatam, cantos 1-10 (12 vols.)
 
- Šrī Caitanya-caritāmrta (17 vols.)
 
- Teachings of Lord Caitanya
 
- The Nectar of Devotion
 
- The Nectar of Instruction
 
- Šrī Īšopanisad
 
- Easy Journey to Other Planets
 
- Krsna Consciousness: The Topmost Yoga System
 
- Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead
 
- Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers
 
- Teachings of Lord Kapila, the Son of Devahūti
 
- Transcendental Teachings of Prahlāda Mahārāja
 
- Teachings of Lord Kapila, the Son of Devahūti
 
- Teachings of Queen Kuntī
 
- Krsna, the Reservoir of Pleasure
 
- The Science of Self-Realization
 
- The Path of Perfection
 
- Search for Liberation
 
- The Journey of Self-Discovery
 
- A Second Chance
 
- Laws of Nature
 
- Message of Godhead
 
- Civilization and Transcendence
 
- Life Comes From Life
 
- The Perfection of Yoga
 
- Beyond Birth and Death
 
- On the Way to Krsna
 
- Rāja-vidyā: The King of Knowledge
 
- Elevation to Krsna Consciousness
 
- Krsna Consciousness: The Matchless Gift
 
- Back to Godhead magazine (founder)
 
- Geetār-gan (Bengali)
 
- Vairāgya-vidyā (Bengali)
 
- Buddhi-yoga (Bengali)
 
- Bhakti-ratna-bolī (Bengali)


II. SECONDARY LITERATURE:

- Dāsa, Hari-šauri (n.d.) A Transcendental Diary, vol. 1-4. [Place: Publisher]
 
- Goswami, Satsvarūpa Dāsa (1979-1984) Šrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmrta, vol. 1-6. Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thanks to Bhakti-marga Swami, who kindly lent me his personal copy of Šrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmrta, vol. 1, while I was writing this biography. Thanks also to Dvija-Gaurāngga for editing this essay.


  Bhāva-sindhu dāsa
  (about the author)


For viewing | For printing




Suggestions? Complaints? Articles? Email us at eyesofscripture@yahoo.com.
Copyright (c) 2000-2001 Eyes of Scripture. All rights reserved. Terms of use.

Make your own free website on Tripod.com