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Interview with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada - September 24, 1968, Seattle

Interviewer: Would you tell me something of your own background? That is, where you were educated, how you became a disciple of Krishna.

Prabhupada: I was born and educated in Calcutta. Calcutta is my home place. I was born in 1896, and I was my father's pet child, so my education began a little late, and still, I was educated in higher secondary, high school for eight years. In primary school four years, higher secondary school, eight years, in college, four years.

Then I joined Gandhi's movement, national movement. But by good chance I met my Guru Maharaja, my spiritual master, in 1922. And since then, I was attracted in this line, and gradually I gave up my household life. I was married in 1918 when I was still a third year student. I was doing business. I retired from my family life in 1954. For four years I was alone, without any family. I took to the renounced order of life in 1959. Then I devoted myself in writing books. My first publication was in 1962, and when there were three books, I started for your country and I reached here in September, 1965. Since then, I am trying to preach this Krishna consciousness in America, Canada, in European countries. And gradually the centers are developing. The disciples are also increasing. Let me see what is going to be done.

Brief Life Sketch

His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appeared in this world in 1896 in Calcutta, India. He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, in Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent religious scholar and the founder of sixty-four Gaudiya Mathas (Vedic institutes), liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge. Srila Prabhupada became his student, and eleven years later (1933) at Allahabad he became his formally initiated disciple. At their first meeting, in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura requested Srila Prabhupada to broadcast Vedic knowledge through the English language. In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, assisted the Gaudiya Matha in its work and, in 1944, started Back to Godhead, an English fortnightly magazine. Maintaining the publication was a struggle. Single-handedly, Srila Prabhupada edited it, typed the manuscripts, checked the galley proofs, and even distributed the individual copies. Once begun, the magazine never stopped; it is now being continued by his disciples in the West and is published in over thirty languages. Recognizing Srila Prabhupada's philosophical learning and devotion, the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society honor him in 1947 with the title "Bhaktivedanta". In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, adopting the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. Srila Prabhupada traveled to the holy city of Vrndavana, where he lived in very humble circumstances in the historic medieval temple of Radha-Damodara. There he engaged for several years in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959. At Radha-Damodara, Srila Prabhupada began work on his life's masterpiece: a multivolume annotated translation of the eighteen-thousand-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). He also wrote Easy Journey to Other Planets. After publishing three volumes of the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada came to the United States, in September 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. Subsequently, His Divine Grace wrote more than sixty volumes of authoritative annotated translations and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India. When he first arrived by freighter in New York City, Srila Prabhupada was practically penniless. Only after almost a year of great difficulty did he establish the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in July of 1966. Before his passing away on November 14, 1977, he guided the Society and saw it grow to a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes and farm communities. In 1968, Srila Prabhupada created New Vrindaban, an experimental Vedic community in the hills of West Virginia. Inspired by the success of New Vrindaban, which became a thriving farm community of more than two thousand acres, his students have since founded several similar communities in the United States and abroad. In 1972, His Divine Grace introduced the Vedic system of primary and secondary education in the West by founding the Gurukula school in Dallas, Texas. Since then, under his supervision, his disciples have established children's schools throughout the United States and the rest of the world, with the principal educational center now located in Vrndavana, India. Srila Prabhupada also inspired the construction of several large international cultural centers in India. The center at Sridhama Mayapur in West Bengal is the site for a planned spiritual city, an ambitious project for which construction will extend over many years to come. In Vrndavana, India, are the magnificent Krsna-Balarama Temple and International Guesthouse, and Srila Prabhupada Memorial and Museum. There is also a major cultural and educational center in Bombay. Other centers are planned in a dozen important locations on the Indian subcontinent. Srila Prabhupada's most significant contribution, however, is his books. Highly respected by the academic community for their authority, depth and clarity, they are used as standard textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into over fifty languages. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 to publish the works of His Divine Grace, has thus become the world's largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy. In just twelve years, in spite of his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents. In spite of such a vigorous schedule, Srila Prabhupada continued to write prolifically. His writings constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.

Milestones

  • 1896 Srila Prabhupada appeared in Calcutta. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura sends the first book on genuine Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy to the West.
  • 1901 Srila Prabhupada began Rathayatra festivals
  • 1902 Srila Prabhupada began worshiping Radha-Krishna
  • 1916 Student of Philosophy at Scottish Churches' College
  • 1918 Entered married life (grhastha ashrama)
  • 1920 Appeared in BA exam
  • 1921 Appointed assistant manager of Bose Laboratory. Joined Gandhi's movement
  • 1922 Met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who ordered him to preach in English in the West
  • 1925 Visited Vrndavana for the first time
  • 1928 Assisted in establishing Allahabad center of Gaudiya Matta
  • 1932 Initiated by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
  • 1934 Helped establish Gowalia Tank center of Gaudiya Matta
  • 1935 Instructed by his spiritual master on publishing books and constructing temples
  • 1936 Final order from his spiritual master to preach in the West
  • 1939 Honored with the title "Bhaktivedanta" by society of Gaudiya Vaishnavas
  • 1944 Started the Back to Godhead Magazine
  • 1953 Started League of Devotees in Jhansi. Initiated his first disciple, Acarya Prabhakar
  • 1954 Retired from family life, adopting vanaprastha (retired) order of life
  • 1959 accepted renounced order of life (sannyasa)
  • 1960 Published first book, Easy Journey to Other Planets
  • 1962 Published Volume 1 of First Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam
  • 1965 Journeyed to USA in order to fulfill the order of his spiritual master
  • 1966 Established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
  • 1967 Completed translation and commentary of Bhagavad-gita As It Is
  • 1968 Bhagavad-gita As It Is published by Macmillan Company
  • 1972 Established the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust for publishing his books
  • 1975 Completed translation of and published Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita in 17 volumes
  • 1976 Established the Bhaktivedanta Institute for scientific preaching
  • 1977 Disappearance from this mortal world.