For millennia the teachings and the rich culture of bhakti-yoga, or Krishna Consciousness, had been hidden within the borders of India. Today, millions around the globe express their gratitude to Srila Prabhupada for revealing the timeless wisdom of bhakti to a world.
Born as Abhay Charan De on September 1, 1896, in Calcutta, as a young man he joined Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement. In 1922, a meeting with the prominent scholar and spiritual leader, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, proved to be most influential on young Abhay’s future calling.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was a leader in the Gaudiya Vaishnava community, a monotheistic tradition within the broader Hindu culture. At their very first meeting, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta asked Abhay to bring the teachings of Lord Krishna to the English-speaking world. Deeply moved by his devotion and wisdom, Abhay became a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta in 1933, and resolved to carry out his mentor’s request. Abhay, later known by the honorific A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, spent the next 32 years preparing for his journey west.
In 1965, at the age of sixty-nine, Srila Prabhupada begged a free passage and boarded a cargo ship, the Jaladhuta, to New York. The journey proved to be treacherous and he suffered two heart attacks aboard. After 35 days at sea, he first arrived at a lonely Brooklyn pier with just seven dollars in Indian rupees and a crate of his translations of sacred Sanskrit texts.
In New York, he faced great hardships and began his mission humbly by giving classes on the Bhagavad-gita in lofts on the Bowery and leading kirtan (traditional devotional chants) in Tompkins Square Park. His message of peace and goodwill resonated with many young people, some of whom came forward to become serious students of the Krishna-bhakti tradition. With the help of these students, Bhaktivedanta Swami rented a small storefront on New York’s Lower East Side to use as a temple.
In July of 1966, Bhaktivedanta Swami established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) for the purpose he stated of “checking the imbalance of values in the world and working for real unity and peace”.
In the eleven years that followed, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe 14 times on lecture tours spreading the teachings of Lord Krishna. Men and women from all backgrounds and walks of life came forward to accept his message. With their help, Srila Prabhupada established temples, farm communities, a publishing house, and educational institutions around the world. And, he began what has now become the world’s largest vegetarian food relief program, Hare Krishna Food for Life.
With the desire to nourish the roots of Krishna consciousness in its home, Srila Prabhupada returned to India several times, where he sparked a revival in the Vaishnava tradition. In India, he opened dozens of temples, including large centers in the holy towns of Vrindavana and Mayapura.
Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contributions, perhaps, are his books. He authored over 70 volumes on the Krishna tradition, which are highly respected by scholars for their authority, depth, fidelity to the tradition, and clarity. Several of his works are used as textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into 76 languages. His most prominent works include: Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the 30-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the 17-volume Sri Caitanya-caritamrita.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada passed away on November 14, 1977, in the holy town of Vrindavana, surrounded by his loving disciples who carry on his mission today.
There are three altars in the Temple – Gauranitai, Radha and Krishna, and Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra.
The Vadodara temple of Krishna consciousness is a fairly large building. Three large and impressive altars decorated with traditional black and white marble floor, the interior is distinguished by a large dome with paintings, large windows that allow an abundance of light to penetrate the sun, as well as a beautiful carved altar and vyasasana.
The temple includes brahmacaris’ ashram , as well as rooms for elder guests.
On the territory of the Temple there is a beautiful farm with about 60 cows.
A feature of the Vadodara community is the development of deep and caring relations between devotees. This has become the main focus of efforts since 1999, with the introduction of a system of mentors.
The atmosphere in our Temple is favorable for spiritual practice. The temple is clean and well maintained and we have morning and evening services every day.
Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is an historical person who appeared on this earth in India 5,000 years ago. He stayed on this earth for 125 years and played exactly like a human being, but His activities were unparalleled.
In these Western countries, when someone sees the cover of a book like Krsna, he immediately asks, “Who is Krishna? Who is the girl with Krishna?” etc.
The immediate answer is that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. How is that? Because He conforms in exact detail to descriptions of the Supreme Being, the Godhead. In other words, Krishna is the Godhead because He is all-attractive. Outside the principle of all-attraction, there is no meaning to the word Godhead. How is it one can be all-attractive? First of all, if one is very wealthy, if he has great riches, he becomes attractive to the people in general. Similarly, if someone is very powerful, he also becomes attractive, and if someone is very famous, he also becomes attractive, and if someone is very beautiful or wise or unattached to all kinds of possessions, he also becomes attractive. So from practical experience we can observe that one is attractive due to 1) wealth, 2) power, 3) fame, 4) beauty, 5) wisdom, and 6) renunciation. One who is in possession of all six of these opulences at the same time, who possesses them to an unlimited degree, is understood to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. These opulences of the Godhead are delineated by Parasara Muni, a great Vedic authority.
We have seen many rich persons, many powerful persons, many famous persons, many beautiful persons, many learned and scholarly persons, and persons in the renounced order of life unattached to material possessions. But we have never seen any one person who is unlimitedly and simultaneously wealthy, powerful, famous, beautiful, wise and unattached, like Krishna, in the history of humanity. Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is an historical person who appeared on this earth 5,000 years ago. He stayed on this earth for 125 years and played exactly like a human being, but His activities were unparalleled. From the very moment of His appearance to the moment of His disappearance, every one of His activities is unparalleled in the history of the world, and therefore anyone who knows what we mean by Godhead will accept Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. No one is equal to the Godhead, and no one is greater than Him. That is the import of the familiar saying, “God is great.”
There are various classes of men in the world who speak of God in different ways, but according to Vedic literatures and according to the great acaryas, the authorized persons versed in the knowledge of God, in all ages, like acaryas Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Visnusvami, Lord Caitanya and all their followers by disciplic succession, all unanimously agree that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As far as we, the followers of Vedic civilization, are concerned, we accept the Vedic history of the whole universe, which consists of different planetary systems called Svargalokas, or the higher planetary system, Martyalokas, or the intermediary planetary system, and Patalalokas, or the lower planetary system. The modern historians of this earth cannot supply historical evidences of events that occurred before 5,000 years ago, and the anthropologists say that 40,000 years ago Homo sapiens had not appeared on this planet because evolution had not reached that point. But the Vedic histories, the Puranas and Mahabharata, relate human histories which extend millions and billions of years into the past.
For example, from these literatures we are given the histories of Krishna’s appearances and disappearances millions and billions of years ago. In the Fourth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita Krishna tells Arjuna that both He and Arjuna had had many births before and that He (Krishna) could remember all of them and that Arjuna could not. This illustrates the difference between the knowledge of Krishna and that of Arjuna. Arjuna might have been a very great warrior, a well-cultured member of the Kuru dynasty, but after all, he was an ordinary human being, whereas Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the possessor of unlimited knowledge. Because He possesses unlimited knowledge, Krishna has a memory that is boundless.
Krishna’s knowledge is so perfect that He remembers all the incidents of His appearances some millions and billions of years in the past, but Arjuna’s memory and knowledge are limited by time and space, for he is an ordinary human being. In the Fourth Chapter Krishna states that He can remember instructing the lessons of the Bhagavad-gitasome millions of years ago to the sun-god, Vivasvan.
Nowadays it is the fashion of the atheistic class of men to try to become God by following some mystic process. Generally the atheists claim to be God by dint of their imagination or their meditational prowess. Krishna is not that kind of God. He does not become God by manufacturing some mystic process of meditation, nor does He become God by undergoing the severe austerities of the mystic yogic exercises. Properly speaking, He never becomes God because He is the Godhead in all circumstances.
Within the prison of His maternal uncle Kamsa, where His father and mother were confined, Krishna appeared outside His mother’s body as the four-handed Visnu-Narayana. Then He turned Himself into a baby and told His father to carry Him to the house of Nanda Maharaja and his wife Yasoda. When Krishna was just a small baby the gigantic demoness Putana attempted to kill Him, but when He sucked her breast He pulled out her life. That is the difference between the real Godhead and a God manufactured in the mystic factory. Krishna had no chance to practice the mystic yoga process, yet He manifested Himself as the Supreme Personality of Godhead at every step, from infancy to childhood, from childhood to boyhood, and from boyhood to young manhood. In the book Krsna, all of His activities as a human being are described. Although Krishna plays like a human being, He always maintains His identity as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Since Krishna is all-attractive, one should know that all his desires should be focused on Krishna. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that the individual person is the proprietor or master of the body but Krishna, who is the Supersoul present in everyone’s heart, is the supreme proprietor and supreme master of each and every individual body. As such, if we concentrate our loving propensities upon Krishna only, then immediately universal love, unity and tranquillity will be automatically realized. When one waters the root of a tree, he automatically waters the branches, twigs, leaves and flowers; when one supplies food to the stomach through the mouth, he satisfies all the various parts of the body.
The art of focusing one’s attention on the Supreme and giving one’s love to Him is called Krishna consciousness. We have inaugurated the Krishna consciousness movement so that everyone can satisfy his propensity for loving others simply by directing his love towards Krishna. The whole world is very much anxious to satisfy the dormant propensity of love for others, but the inventions of various methods like socialism, communism, altruism, humanitarianism, nationalism, and whatever else may be manufactured for the peace and prosperity of the world, are all useless and frustrating because of our gross ignorance of the art of loving Krishna. Generally people think that by advancing the cause of moral principles and religious rites, they will be happy. Others may think that happiness can be achieved by economic development, and yet others think that simply by sense gratification they will be happy. But the real fact is that people can only be happy by loving Krishna.
Krishna can perfectly reciprocate one’s loving propensities in different relationships called mellows or rasas. Basically there are twelve loving relationships. One can love Krishna as the supreme unknown, as the supreme master, the supreme friend, the supreme child, the supreme lover. These are the five basic love rasas. One can also love Krishna indirectly in seven different relationships, which are apparently different from the five primary relationships. All in all, however, if one simply reposes his dormant loving propensity in Krishna, then his life becomes successful. This is not a fiction but is a fact that can be realized by practical application. One can directly perceive the effects that love for Krishna has on his life.
In the Ninth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita this science of Krishna consciousness is called the king of all knowledge, the king of all confidential things, and the supreme science of transcendental realization. Yet we can directly experience the results of this science of Krishna consciousness because it is very easy to practice and is very pleasurable. Whatever percentage of Krishna consciousness we can perform will become an eternal asset to our life, for it is imperishable in all circumstances. It has now been actually proved that today’s confused and frustrated younger generation in the Western countries can directly perceive the results of channeling the loving propensity toward Krishna alone.
It is said that although one executes severe austerities, penances and sacrifices in his life, if he fails to awaken his dormant love for Krishna, then all his penances are to be considered useless. On the other hand, if one has awakened his dormant love for Krishna, then what is the use in executing austerities and penances unnecessarily?
The Krishna consciousness movement is the unique gift of Lord Caitanya to the fallen souls of this age. It is a very simple method which has actually been carried out during the last four years in the Western countries, and there is no doubt that this movement can satisfy the dormant loving propensities of humanity. The book Krsna is another presentation to help the Krishna consciousness movement in the Western world. This transcendental literature is published in two parts with profuse illustrations. People love to read various kinds of fiction to spend their time and energy. Now this tendency can be directed to Krishna. The result will be the imperishable satisfaction of the soul, both individually and collectively.
It is said in the Bhagavad-gita that even a little effort expended on the path of Krishna consciousness can save one from the greatest danger. Hundreds of thousands of examples can be cited of people who have escaped the greatest dangers of life due to a slight advancement in Krishna consciousness. We therefore request everyone to take advantage of this great transcendental literature. One will find that by reading one page after another, an immense treasure of knowledge in art, science, literature, philosophy and religion will be revealed, and ultimately, by reading this one book, Krsna, love of Godhead will fructify.
My grateful acknowledgment is due to Sriman George Harrison, now chanting Hare Krishna, for his liberal contribution of $19,000 to meet the entire cost of printing Krsna Book.. May Krishna bestow upon this nice boy further advancement in Krishna consciousness.
And at last my ever-willing blessings are bestowed upon Sriman Syamasundara dasa Adhikari, Sriman Brahmananda dasa Brahmacari, Sriman Hayagriva dasa Adhikari, Sriman Satsvarupa Adhikari, Srimati Devahuti-devi, Srimati Jadurani dasi, Sriman Muralidhara dasa Brahmacari, Sriman Bharadvaja dasa Adhikari and Sriman Pradyumna dasa Adhikari, etc., for their hard labor in different ways to make this publication a great success.
Srila Prabhupada inherited the mission to distribute books on Krishna consciousness from his spiritual master, and passed it on to his disciples.
“I felt disillusioned with performing the Catholic rituals I grew up with,” explains Christina Camacho. “I abandoned them and went looking at various Eastern doctrines. I finished my master’s degree in counseling and took a trip to Japan to study Buddhism, but it didn’t touch my heart.”
In 1976, Christina, now known as Pavaka Dasi, bought a copy of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is from a devotee at the Los Angeles airport. She read it and was inspired to order the rest of Prabhupada’s books, one after another, through the mail.
“Only through Srila Prabhupada’s books,” Pavaka says, “was I able to become centered on myself as the soul and take up the process of devotional service. For ten years I didn’t spend much time at a temple, but Prabhupada became my guru through the purports in his books.”
Now Pavaka acts as coordinator for the life membership program at the ISKCON temple in Los Angeles. She got that first book because a devotee of Krishna went to a public place and sifted through hundreds of passersby to find a person who showed interest. Those who embrace the uplifting concepts found in Srila Prabhupada’s books often like to share his books with others.
Formerly the Sanskrit literature was not easily available, even in India. Some well-to-do people had copies in their homes, but the books were more or less the treasure of the brahmanas, the priestly class, and often kept within the temple. Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, had a more liberal attitude and encouraged his disciples to print and distribute the Vaishnava scriptures generously. Srila Prabhupada carefully translated and wrote commentary on these transcendental scriptures and took up the task of distributing them on a grand scale.
Srila Prabhupada gave his full blessings to disciples who accepted the mission to distribute the books he translated.
Bhrigupati Dasa, a full-time distributor of Srila Prabhupada’s books for thirty-five years, explains, “On more than one occasion, Srila Prabhupada told us that preachers are very quickly recognized by Krishna. That’s our objective, so why not take shelter of a particularly effective way to achieve it? I very much like the experience of Krishna’s using me as His instrument to engage the people I meet in devotional service.”
Srila Prabhupada Initiates Book Distribution
With powerful determination, Srila Prabhupada acted on his guru’s ideas for printing and distributing books. Before departing for America in 1965, with little financial support he began translating and publishing the Srimad-Bhagavatam, a monumental work about God and His devotees. He carried a trunkload of the first three volumes with him as he crossed the Atlantic on an ocean freighter to America. Alone in his early days in the West, he was not shy about selling the three-volume set to anyone who showed genuine interest.
In 1972, the Macmillan Company published Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is. It received acclaim from scholars at many leading universities and quickly gained popularity. It can now be read in over one hundred languages.
Soon after, Krishna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead was printed in Tokyo. Known in ISKCON as “the Krishna book,” it is Prabhupada’s summary study of the Tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which describes Krishna’s activities on this planet fifty centuries ago. When Prabhupada was presented the first carton of the Krishna book, one book was missing—the disciple delivering the books from Japan had sold one to a businessman on the plane.
“Ah, this is very auspicious,” Prabhupada said. “The first book has already been distributed.”
He told his disciples to sell the rest of the books, not even keeping one for himself.
But his disciples were unsure how to sell the books. Then one day two devotees got the idea to trade a book for a tank of gasoline. The station attendant readily agreed, and they became convinced that the books could be sold in other ways.
Devotees tried selling the books at concerts and found interested customers. It was exciting for them to share Krishna in this way. They sold the book by talking about the philosophy it contained and felt deeply connected to their spiritual master by doing so. News spread from temple to temple that distributing books was a great way to please Srila Prabhupada. The excitement grew. Many locations for book distribution were attempted—shopping malls, parking lots, fairs, airports, and so on.
There were few vegetarians then, and terms such as yoga, karma, and guru were new. Americans were pledging themselves to rapid material advancement through science and technology. Yet Srila Prabhupada’s books, which denounce the godless life of materialistic sense gratification, poured forth like a sudden flood from an unlimited ocean.
Though Srila Prabhupada departed from this world in 1977, the distribution of his books has increased, especially in the former Soviet Union and more recently in India. By some estimates, nearly one billion books have been sold.
For the last thirty years, Nidra Dasi has served Srila Prabhupada by distributing his books in Denver.
“If a field has been well-seeded and is cultivated, watered, and so on,” she explains, “it is a better field, and that is my experience now. People of all age groups are more receptive than in previous years; it is a better field for distributing Krishna consciousness.”
Because many books are “out there,” whether up in attics or shelved in libraries, they continue to act on the consciousness of people who come in contact with them. Prabhupada said that just by keeping Lord Krishna’s literature in one’s home, one becomes purified.
Peter Antonakos was a small child when his father showed him an old copy of Srimad-Bhagavatam from the household bookshelf.
“When I was sixteen,” he says, “I got a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is from a distributor. Srila Prabhupada’s words cut through my illusions and material desires. His insight really impressed me. Recently, at age nineteen, I found the Chaitanya-charitamrita in a used-book store. The dazzling effulgence of the golden covers left me awestruck. The images are so captivating. I read it from beginning to end.”
On his college campus, Peter met Prabhupada’s disciple Ganapati Swami and has since taken up a life of service at the Denver temple. Several younger members of the Denver temple found old copies of Prabhupada’s books in stores or libraries and were inspired to take up the full-time practice of Krishna consciousness.
In 1999, Bhanu Nanduri was at the St. Louis airport when he saw a man wearing a white dhoti and kurta standing at a table covered with books.
“I was surprised to see this in the Midwest,” he says. “I came to America to get my master’s in electrical engineering, not for this. It was surreal. I took a paperback Bhagavad-gita As It Is from him and gave a donation. I had read several versions of the Gita from India, but they didn’t make sense to me. But when I read Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is, right away it really got me thinking about the value of my life. I thought, ‘I should be reading more of his books.’”
Eventually Bhanu ordered all of Srila Prabhupada’s books through Krishna.com. At the Honolulu temple he learned to chant on beads and helped prepare for the festival of Rama Navami with the devotees there.
“Now my whole family is very involved with the ISKCON center in San Jose, California, where we live,” says Bhanu. “I used to suffer a lot of stress and insomnia because of my job, but I’m no longer much affected by the stress of my work because I have changed my priorities. Now I attach the most importance to chanting and associating with devotees.”
Book Distribution Today
Bhanu and his family, along with the rest of the devotees from the Silicon Valley congregation, are enthusiastic to be “deployed” by their temple as “Weekend Warriors.” As many as two hundred members set up tables outside stores in the area, with permits from the store managers. They make attractive displays, with signs that say “Yoga and Meditation.” Their tables unfurl a full display of Vaishnava books, as well as cookbooks, packaged cookies, and “kiddie packs,” or gifts for kids who toddle up to the tables with their parents. They also take books and kiddie packs door to door in residential neighborhoods.
They like to show people the interesting illustrations in the books, such as “Changing Bodies,” “The Modes of Material Nature,” and “Chariot of the Mind and Senses.” These paintings leave a deep impression on those who have questions about life in this world and are looking for answers. The Silicon Valley distributors have a special program for cultivating people they meet to help them get involved right away. They call the program NETAD, for nurture, enlist, tutor, and deploy for service.
Vaisheshika Dasa, Silicon Valley book-distribution strategist, explains, “When people have the experience of going out on book distribution themselves, when they are deployed, then they see for themselves how the modes of material nature work, and they also see the mercy of Lord Chaitanya. These books are so extraordinary. We can see that by how they affect people’s lives.”
Six brahmacharis (celibate male students) who follow a string of concerts throughout North America and Canada have dedicated themselves to putting books in the hands of thousands of young concertgoers. In the summer of 2009, at forty-eight concerts they distributed an average of seven hundred books each day. They often bring large batches of prasadam cookies to the managers of the events, who appreciate Srila Prabhupada’s books and like to aid the devotees’ efforts.
“This type of book distribution is wonderful,” says Omkara Dasa, who traveled with the tour. “The kids we meet at the concerts are young, friendly, and open-minded.”
Omkara recalls an incident in which he approached a young girl who clearly wanted the book he offered to her. But her father resisted.
“I thought, ‘Here I am, a missionary, offering this innocent-looking girl a book about God and spiritual knowledge, and there is her father, bringing her into a concert where meat, drugs, and alcohol are sold and consumed. What wrong can I be doing?’ So I humbly pleaded with the girl’s father. Eventually he relented and let her buy the book.”
Another favorite form of book distribution is called Sastra Dana, “giving scripture.” Sastra Dana devotees go from business to business (or beauty salon to tattoo parlor to doctor’s office to auto shop) and request the owner to keep a small selection of Prabhupada’s books on display in their waiting area. In this way the people who frequent the place get instant exposure to the books and can take one if it appeals to them. Sastra Dana provides a bookrack that devotees tend throughout the month by stocking it regularly and collecting money dropped into the slotted box fixed to the rack.
Volunteers of the Pancajanya Project (www.MotelGita.org) are dedicated to placing at least one million copies of Bhagavad-gita As It Is in hotel rooms across the U.S. and Canada. Putting this classic in a traditional setting such as a motel room has made Krishna’s message available to myriad travelers who might not otherwise buy or examine them.
The Pancajanya Project started when Dilip Patel, owner of Sea Breeze Motel in Pacifica, California, began placing Prabhupada’s Gita in his own rooms.
“I was surprised at the favorable reaction and comments I got from my non-Hindu guests,” says Dilip, a faithful devotee of Bhagavad-gita and its universal message.
Students Searching for Real Knowledge
Book distribution at colleges is welcomed by the students and professors alike. Vijaya Dasa sets up a book table for two days at a variety of universities across America.
“Book distribution is such an adventure,” says Vijaya. “You never know what’s going to happen. You always meet nice people who are interested and searching for guidance. A student came by, saw my display—I have a display of karma, the cycle of life, etc.—and exclaimed, ‘I never walk this direction, but something pulled me. This is it! I’m totally into everything you have here.’ He was so excited to see me on campus. He received some books, I got his email address, and he recently visited the temple for the first time.
“On another occasion, I had distributed a Bhagavad-gita to a student who came back to me and said, ‘I had the book on my desk during class. My professor saw it, and he came over and opened it up. He bent down and whispered to me, “Have you seen the amazing pictures in this book?” Then he started showing them to me, and explaining each one.’”
Vijaya has collected seven hundred email addresses from select students. He sends them a weekly Krishna conscious newsletter, invites them to their local temples, and exchanges correspondence with them.
Prabhupada said that college students are at the best age for inquiring about the purpose of life. So it was with Steve Reynolds, an only child whose parents had treated him to every imaginable electronic toy and gadget, as well as trips overseas.
“We used to move often,” Steve explains. “I remember how packing up all my stuff made me feel empty inside.”
When Steve’s parents divorced and his mother became very ill, he began to study different spiritual teachings. But he felt unsure about how to apply any of it. One day at the University of Arizona a friend showed Steve a copy of Prabhupada’s Path of Perfection. Steve and his friend took off together to find the devotee who had given his friend the little book. They saw him driving a van out of the parking lot. Though nearly run over by it, twenty-year-old Steve chased the van down and bought a Bhagavad-gita As It Is from the man inside, who read him one verse: “I was born in the darkness of ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torchlight of knowledge.”
“I love this,” Steve told the book distributor. “I want to be like you. I want to be a monk. I want to do this.”
Steve has since become a full-time member of the San Diego Hare Krishna temple. One of his many services there is giving people the transcendental gift of Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (or “Lord Chaitanya”) is an incarnation of Krishna who appeared in Nadia, West Bengal, India in the 15th century A.D.
When Krishna spoke Bhagavad-gita to his devotee-disciple-friend, the military commander Arjuna, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra around 3,000 B.C., He exhibited all the power and majesty of God Himself. His final instruction to Arjuna was that surrendering to Him is superior to all other religious duties.
Fast-forward to late fifteenth century West Bengal, India. The world has had forty-five hundred years to ponder (and mostly forget or ignore) Krishna’s appearance and instructions. Krishna’s advice (“surrender to Me”) still stands, but few know how to put it into practice.
The “Renaissance” in Europe (regarded by Shakespeare as the “second fall” of mankind) heralds the beginnings of a new, secular age. Traditional religion increasingly goes out of favor, and a new generation of intellectuals is on the rise. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu then appeared, as predicted in the Bhagavad-gita itself:
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religiosity, and a preeminent rise in irreligion, at that time I descend Myself.”
In His youth, Chaitanya was known as Nimai Pandit. He gained early fame as the world’s preeminent scholar of the Vedas, able to defeat by logic and argument any philosophical opposition.
The next phase of His mission was to popularize the public chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
According to many references in the sacred teachings of the Vedas, chanting this simple mantra is the most highly recommended means of achieving spiritual perfection available in the modern age.
Essentially, Lord Chaitanya is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, appearing as His own devotee, teaching how to best practice Krishna consciousness by His own most authorized example.
He debated with some of the most respected Vedic scholars of His day—Kesava Kashmiri, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, and Prakashananda Sarasvati. Caitanya was able to convince each one of them that the worship of the Personality of God is superior to any other philosophical system.
He also challenged the religious establishment by emphasizing spiritual equality of all living beings, insisting that anyone can become a devotee of Krishna—and even a spiritual master—regardless of social position, caste, or even species.
His unique position as Krishna appearing as His own devotee has another component, which is that He wished to experience the most sublime spiritual emotions of Srimati Radharani—Krishna’s own internal potency and greatest devotee. As a result of experiencing such uncommon spiritual ecstasy, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu often manifested extreme bodily symptoms that are almost unbelievable.
Thanks to the extensive notes taken by Lord Chaitanya’s chief associates during His brief (forty-eight year) lifetime, the devotee-author Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami was able to compile a biography of Lord Chaitanya’s later years and teachings, entitled Chaitanya Charitamrita. This epic, multi-volume work explains the most advanced teachings of God consciousness, or Krishna consciousness.
The largest-selling edition of the Gita in the Western world, Bhagavad-gita As It Is is more than a book. It is alive with knowledge and devotion; thus it has the power to change your life for the better.
Bhagavad-gita is knowledge of five basic truths and the relationship of each truth to the other: These five truths are Krishna, or God, the individual soul, the material world, action in this world, and time. The Gita lucidly explains the nature of consciousness, the self, and the universe. It is the essence of India’s spiritual wisdom, the answers to questions posed by philosophers for centuries.
In translating the Gita, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has remained loyal to the intended meaning of Krishna’s words, and thus he has unlocked all the secrets of the ancient knowledge of the Gita and placed them before us as an exciting opportunity for self-improvement and spiritual fulfillment.
The Gita is a conversation between Krishna and His dear friend Arjuna. At the last moment before entering a battle between brothers and friends, the great warrior Arjuna begins to wonder: Why should he fight? What is the meaning of his life? Where is he going after death?
In response, Krishna brings His friend from perplexity to spiritual enlightenment, and each one of us is invited to walk the same path.