Today is the 116th birth anniversary or Vyasa Puja of His Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
The broad way of Hinduism has been intellectually present in the West since the time of Paramahamsa Yogananda and the World Conference of Religions in Chicago of 1893. It was not, however, until the arrival of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in New York in 1965 that the distinct tradition of Vaishnavism became well-known in the western countries.
Srila Prabhupada was a visionary who taught a ‘Peace Formula’, based on reciting the names of God, through the maha-mantra – Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare; Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, dancing for the pleasure of the Lord and feasting on sanctified vegetarian foods; that is food which is first offered to Lord Krishna and is called prasadam.
Srila Prabhupada encouraged his disciples to distribute food to the needy and that no one within a radius of ten kms from an ISKCON temple should go hungry. He was prompted to say this when he was in Mayapur, Kolkata, on observing urchins fighting with dogs for leftovers of food from a garbage bin near the temple. He not only gave the idea but was also instrumental in implementing a programme called “Food For Life” (FFL) which distributes food to the needy all over the world.
ISKCON Bangalore, through its Akshaya Patra programme provides free mid-day meals to over thirteen lakh underprivileged school children across India on a daily basis. Akshaya Patra is an offshoot of Srila Prabhupada’s vision. In fact he envisioned a hunger-free world which is possible by proper distribution of food grains.
Between the years 1966 and 1977 Srila Prabhupada toured the world fourteen times and established over a hundred temples across the world, while attracting thousands of disciples towards the Vedic way of life. He has left behind a rich legacy in the form of books. His writings have been translated into 70 languages and over 500 million copies have been sold worldwide. Srila Prabhupada lectured extensively on the Bhagavad-gita and other scriptures in the Vaishnava tradition. He translated the Srimad Bhagavatam, a massive work describing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna from Sanskrit to English, for the first time.
Srila Prabhupada’s often stated aim was to demonstrate an attractive alternative spiritual lifestyle based on the teachings of Lord Krishna. He saw that materialism was polluting the planet and the consciousness of humankind. He was particularly sensitive about the savage exploitation of animals, who he would characterise as, ‘Our less intelligent brothers and sisters’. He stressed on a delicious and nutritious diet without meat, fish or eggs.
He was an expert cook, philosopher, communicator and guide. He was progressive, compassionate and always enthusiastic to speak about Lord Krishna. He passed away from this world in 1977.