His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is respectfully called “Srila Prabhupada”, or “spiritual master at whose feet all others bow down”. Who was he really? What did he accomplish?
Five thousand years ago, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna, descended to re-establish the principles of religion. At that time, Vedic culture was dying all around the world, being ruled by demonic kings. After Krishna left this world, a rapid decline in the principles of Varnashrama Dharma ensued.
Before the appearance of Srila Prabhupada, Vedic culture existed only in very small pockets in India. We must truly understand what Srila Prabhupada actually achieved in the span of about 10 years. He took THE highest spiritual culture, THE highest philosophy and THE highest science of self-realization, and successfully brought it to the West, which had no spiritual culture, no philosophy and no science of the soul. He started a worldwide revolution in religion by humbly teaching tens of thousands of fallen, sinful, lusty and degraded persons the essence of Vedic culture: pure love of God.
Just as Christopher Columbus set a landmark, a milestone in world history by discovering North America; just as Albert Einstein revolutionized the world of physics and cosmology with his theory of relativity; just as Henry Ford set a milestone achievement in the history of automobiles by introducing the assembly line and mass production; and just as Steven Jobs and Bill Gates have similarly revolutionized the world of computers with the Macintosh and Windows operating systems—Srila Prabhupada has set into motion a global spiritual tidal wave of Krishna consciousness. His influence continues to this day to awaken sleeping souls to the goal of human life, and it will continue through his books and sincere followers of his books (not through fanatic, dogmatic institutions created in his name*, but by simply following his sincere devotees and reading his books).
By his personal example, he set the standard for devotional service to the Lord. Srila Prabhupada is a pure devotee of Krishna, a transparent, via-medium to the spiritual world. He is therefore to be acknowledged as THE Acharya, THE Spiritual Master who teaches by his every thought, word and deed. There is no difference between WHO Srila Prabhupada is and WHAT he taught. THEY ARE ONE AND THE SAME. He said, “Everything I wanted to say is in my books.” As Krishna is absolute, everything about Lord Krishna is identical with His name. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada’s teachings are also transcendental, spiritual and absolute. There is no difference between Srila Prabhupada the personality and the spiritual teachings found in Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Srila Prabhupada said: “The movement may fail, the temples may fail, the devotees may fail, but my books will live forever.” [Spoken to Hansadutta das on the occasion of his appointment as lifetime BBT trustee, London, September, 1974.]
Through his pure devotion and full surrender to Lord Sri Krishna, Srila Prabhupada successfully revived Vedic culture in a godless, materialistic landscape. In retrospect, his influence has even historically eclipsed Lord Krishna’s, insofar as Vedic culture continued to decline after Krishna’s disappearance. We have seen now that Srila Prabhupada’s mission is reversing the decline of this age of Kali, because his movement continues to grow to this day.
This achievement is revolutionary. It is unprecedented in world religious history. No one has ever accomplished what Srila Prabhupada did in the short span of about 10 years. He single-handed gave birth to, spawned and revived the Vedic culture on every level, in all languages, and on every continent of this planet by establishing working models of Vedic communities and temples. He set into motion a global spiritual renaissance. He re-established Vedic culture in a total spiritual vacuum, where no one had even heard of Bhagavad-gita, Krishna or Vedic culture.
He reversed the direction of this rapidly declining Age of Kali. In Srila Prabhupada’s own words from his introduction in Srimad-Bhagavatam: “It is a cultural presentation for the re-spiritualization of the entire human society“. We must never allow ourselves to lump Srila Prabhupada and his mission in with all those so-called gurus, swamis and yogis who advertise themselves as some “feel-good” yoga masters promising easy bliss and enlightenment. Srila Prabhupada never charged anyone any money. But most importantly, he never said, “You should do this because of me.” He said, “You should do it, and I do it, for Krishna.” And if we ever feel inclined to position ourselves as teachers, preachers or gurus, then we must always defer to the stature of Srila Prabhupada. We must always remember that all are eternally his servants. If we take Srila Prabhupada out of the equation, we are all lost to oblivion. Period. We exist on his causeless mercy alone. We ourselves have no good qualities or attributes. To paraphrase Srila Prabhupada on this point: “Krishna is all good, and we are all bad. Anything we do for Krishna is good, and anything we do not for Krishna is bad.”