I have been going to Bhaktivedanta Manor in London for years, but never learnt about Srila Prabhupada. As a result, I made the decision to expand my knowledge by reading up on his life and speaking to others about him. Since doing this, I have been amazed hearing the stories of Srila Prabhupada’s life – he is truly an inspiration.
In the United Kingdom, thousands of people are followers of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). This faith-based organisation has become known as the Hare Krishna Movement because of the teachings Srila Prabhupada has spread. Srila Prabhupada taught many Hindus and non-Hindus the power of bhakti yoga and devotion to Shree Krishna Bhagwan. “Bhakti” is from the Sanskrit word “bhaj”, which means – loving service. In one of the Hindu Scriptures, The Bhagavad Gita, Shree Krishna describes “bhakti yoga” to mean having dedication and love for God. This was the teaching that Srila Prabhupada brought to the western world.
Srila Prabhupada was born in 1896 in Calcutta, India. He first met his spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, in Calcutta in 1922. He became a master of Vedic knowledge and believed he should dedicate his life to spreading the teaching to the western world. In 1965, a few days before his 69th birthday, he sailed to America to spread the message of Shree Krishna. He believed everything he was doing was the Lord’s work. He arrived in New York with just forty rupees, and an Indian steel trunk full of Srimad Bhagavatam-s (Hindu scripture), but that didn’t matter to Srila Prabhupada as he knew the reason he was there was to create a movement that would have the effect of changing the world in so many ways. Even though Srila Prabhupada did not know where to go, where to turn or who to speak to, he sat and meditated on Shree Krishna to guide him.
Srila Prabhupada started kirtan (chanting) in the Tompkins Square Park, New York, which people were intrigued by. He started spreading messages of peace and unity to all and people stepped forward to hear him speak. Eventually, Srila Prabhupada established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in July 1966. He spent his life serving others by promoting vegetarianism and distributing The Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam-s. He spoke to other religious leaders about vegetarianism and how we should see God in everyone.
So after reading about Srila Prabhupada, what can we take from him as students? Srila Prabhupada teaches us to be ambitious in life. He travelled to America not knowing anyone and still created a movement. He shows us that life is about living in service of others and we should be proud to spread our faith. He didn’t change himself to fit in; he just remained true to himself. He didn’t go to America to find success. Often, as students, we think going to countries like America means we can be successful as that’s where the jobs are, however, even though it is important in this day and age to have a career, we should not forget God and the importance of serving others. He didn’t come to receive from the western world, but he had come to give to the western world. For this reason, he is seen as a Guru to many Hindus and non-Hindus across the world. May we remember his teachings and his pure love and devotion.
— Jaimal Patel
Vice-President & Sabbatical Officer