The Books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


The Books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Originally published in Back to Godhead No. 52
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust 1973
By Brahmananda Swami ISKCON East Africa

Part 3

Back to Godhead contained timely articles, essays, book reviews and selections from full-length works in progress such as the Sri Isopanisad. It should be noted that this paper was entirely the effort of Srila Prabhupada. He wrote all the material, edited it, typed it for the printer and checked the galley proofs. Then he sold the copies. Each fortnight he would take batches of Back to Godhead into Delhi. To save a few cents bus fare he sometimes had to walk for miles, and often he would sit in tea parlors until late at night, himself not even taking a glass of water there, preaching and distributing his paper and collecting one cent per copy.

At this time Srila Prabhupada also wrote outlines of his dream. It was a worldwide association of God conscious devotees who actively preached the eternal religion of love of God in all fields of society at large and who used all the modern means at their disposal. The League of Devotees, the forerunner of the now worldwide ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was thus formally registered. From international sankirtana parties, to gosalas (cow protection reserves), to authorized teaching of Sanskrit, to a printing press solely for flooding the marketplace with Krsna conscious literature, ISKCON is today the reality of that dream.

The most important work Srila Prabhupada wrote while in Vrndavana was his translation, with purports, of the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam (“The Beautiful Story of the Personality of Godhead”). This work was published by the League of Devotees, but, as with Back to Godhead, it was solely by the effort of Srila Prabhupada. It appeared in three volumes—the first in 1962, the second in 1964, and the third in 1965—all in preparation for the trip to the United States of America which Srila Prabhupada had conceived as the crucial factor in fulfilling his spiritual master’s sacred mission.

Srimad-Bhagavatam is said to be the postgraduate study of Bhagavad-gita. Of course, in the West Bhagavad-gita is well known. Each year finds several new editions on the American market. Every college graduate knows the Gita’s influence on Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Albert Einstein also was a regular student of the Gita, and I am told that Robert Oppenheimer, the atomic physicist, quoted a verse from the Eleventh Chapter upon seeing the first test explosion of the atomic bomb in 1945. Yet there have been no English editions of Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is more advanced than Bhagavad-gita.

Bhagavad-gita is spoken by Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to His disciple Arjuna, and there unfolds the entire Vedic philosophy of Krsna consciousness. But who is Krsna? A prophet? A philosopher? An incarnation of God? Srimad-Bhagavatam answers this question. Like Bhagavad-gita, it was written 5,000 years ago by Srila Vyasadeva, a literary incarnation of Krsna. In twelve cantos containing 18,000 verses, Srimad-Bhagavatam presents complete information about the Lord, how His energies work, the nature of the living entities or spirit souls, our relationship with God and how to develop love for Him. When one has grasped Srimad-Bhagavatam, then he can fully understand Krsna’s ultimate instruction of Bhagavad-gita: “Just give up everything and surrender unto Me.”

In virtually every one of the hundreds of available editions of Bhagavad-gita, Lord Sri Krsna, the speaker of the Gita, is obscured. Either He is relegated to the position of a historical personage, a mere literary device, or He is conceived as an impersonal ever-existing state of being. This allows the commentator himself to replace Krsna as the speaker of the Gita, and he is then free to present his own interpretations and mental speculations instead of Krsna consciousness.

To be continued…

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