Biography of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) which is also famously called the “Hare Krishna Movement”. This article profiles the life and times of Swami Prabhupada.
His Early Life
Swami Prabhupada’s real name was Abhay Charan De. He was born in Calcutta and studied at the famous Scottish Churches College. He lead a typical householder’s life with wife and children. For a living, he ran a pharmaceutical business.
In 1959, Abhay became a sanyasi and became interested in elaborating on Vaishnava scriptures. Swami Prabhupada founded ISKCON in 1966. This organization became popular in Western counterculture. Thousands of Americans became ISKCON members.
ISKCON has received its share of bouquets and brickbats. Anti-cult groups criticized it, but many religious scholars have praised Prabhupada’s commentaries and supported the movement against misinterpretations and distorted media coverage.
Prabhupada’s charisma won many ISKCON devotees in India, Europe and the United States. He died in 1977, but ISKCON continues to be popular worldwide despite leadership squabbles. ISKCON believes in devotional worship of Krishna and Radha, and their subsequent divine incarnations. Devotees sing and chant Krishna and Radha’s holy names.
Prabhupada followed the tradition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. This tradition was established by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the 16th century. Vaishnavism means worshipping Vishnu. Its philosophy is based on scriptures such as the Bhagavata Purana, Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads like Kali Santarana Upanishad, Gopala Tapani Upanishad and Isha Upanishad.
Views on Other Religions
Prabhupada opined that Jesus was an incarnation of the supreme God. He said names such as Krsna, Krsta, and Christ are different ways of addressing the same God. Prabhupada also opined that Mohamed, Jesus and Moses were all God’s empowered representatives. He said that we can change faiths as we wish, but dharma cannot be changed, as it is eternal.