HIS DIVINE GRACE A.C. BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMI PRABHUPADA
Srila Prabhupada was born Abhay Charan De on September 1, 1896 to a practicing Hindu family in Kolkata. As a youth growing up in British-controlled India, Abhay became involved with Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement to secure independence for his nation. A 1922 meeting with a prominent scholar and religious leader, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, proved most influential on Abhay’s future calling. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was a leader in the Gaudiya Vaishnava denomination, a monotheistic tradition within the broad Hindu culture. He asked Abhay to bring the teachings of Lord Krishna to the English-speaking world. Abhay became a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta in 1933 and resolved to carry out his mentor’s request. Abhay, who became known worldwide as A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and as Shrila Prabhupada, spent the next 32 years preparing for his journey to the Western world.
In 1965, at the age of 69, Shrila Prabhupada travelled to New York City aboard a cargo ship. The journey was treacherous, and the elderly spiritual teacher suffered 2 heart attacks aboard ship. Arriving in the United States with just 7 dollars in Indian rupees and his translations of sacred Sanskrit texts, he began to spread the teachings of Krishna consciousness. His spiritual message resonated with many young people, some of whom came forward to become serious students of the Krishna tradition. With the help of these students, Shrila Prabhupada rented a small storefront on New York’s Lower East Side to use as a temple. On July 11, 1966, he officially registered his organization in the state of New York, formally founding the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
In the 11 years that followed, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe 14 times on lecture tours, bringing the teachings of Lord Krishna to thousands of people on 6 continents. Men and women from all backgrounds and walks of life came forward to accept his message, and with their help, Shrila Prabhupada established ISKCON centers and projects throughout the world.
Under his inspiration, Krishna devotees established temples, rural communities, and educational institutions and started what would become the world’s largest vegetarian food relief program. With the desire to nourish the roots of Krishna consciousness in its home, Shrila 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 Mayapur.
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 univeersity courses. His writings have been translated into 76 languages. His most prominent works include: Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the multi-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam and the set of Sri Caitanya-caritamrita books.
December 26, 1971
'I am very pleased to hear that the African boys are becoming serious devotees. That is the proof of your preaching work, that it becomes touchstone and turns iron to gold'
September 4, 1975
'That is our mission. If we get African devotees, then we are successful. So already some are coming. Now keep them fixed, and they will bring others.'
'Everyone has dormant love for Krsna, and by culture and education that has to be awakened. That is the purpose of this Krsna consciousness movement.'
June 26, 1971
'Bhagavad-gītā is accepted by all ācāryas, or authorities in transcendental science, as the essence of all Vedic knowledge.'
LETTERS & QUOTES REGUARDING PREACHING IN AFRICA
‘So my request to you, those Indians here in Nairobi, please try to understand this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement seriously and take it, and you have got immense opportunity to spread among the Africans. Just like our student Śrīmān Brahmānanda was speaking. He went to preach on the street this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, and many hundreds of these Africans joined, and they chanted.
So, ceto-darpana-marjanam: if you want to live with the Africans very nicely, friendly, try to introduce this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement amongst them. They will be happy and you will be happy. Thank you very much. Hare Kṛṣṇa.’
'Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Here is one black American, a sannyāsī in the renounced order of life.
Prabhupāda: ...the bodily concept of life, he is no more African, no more American. He is spirit soul.' - May 16 , 1974 written in Bombay to brahmacaries in Nairobi.
Dear Brahmananda Maharaja,
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of January 24, 1974, which has only reached me now due to travelling.
I appreciate your spirit in wanting to retaliate against the Kenya government for their not allowing me to enter the country on Krsna's mission. I think, however, that the proposal of international demonstrations at the embassies of the Kenya government would be a waste of time. If it could not be done from there why waste our time in such demonstrations.
Rather let us answer this atrocity by converting all Africans to Krsna Consciousness. Please keep in the front of your attention my desire that you convert the Africans. I know you have some of them already now train them up, so that even if you are forced to leave, they will be able to carry on Krsna Consciousness on their own. That is your real work rather than promoting international demonstrations abroad. Better you work the poison at home, and make the Africans Krsna Conscious, then my mission will be served.
I will be glad to see you when we all meet at Mayapur.
Your ever well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami - May 16 , 1974 written in Bombay to brahmacaries in Nairobi.
You are fulfilling my great hope. Because you are native Africans, you are the best ones to convince other Africans to become Krishna Conscious. Unless they become Krishna Conscious they can never end their suffering. We can not expect every single African to take to it. But if only a small population can take it seriously it can do real good. Therefore you are the real leaders of the Kenya nation. Please take seriously what you have learned and help spread this happy life to everyone you meet in Africa.
Your ever well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami - May 16 , 1974 written in Bombay to brahmacaries in Nairobi.
May 25, 1974
'There is spirit soul within the body, and the material body is covering, just like shirt and coat, of the spirit soul'
'...one should understand his real position and cultivate knowledge by which to get free from bodily entanglement.'
March 11, 1966
'As the soul is within the body and the body is changing every moment, similarly, the last stage of change is called death.'
September 13, 1971
'The basic principle of spiritual understanding is to know the spirit soul first of all. What is that spirit soul? That spirit soul is within this body'
'Brahmānanda: Yes, twice a day, at noon and at evening. We've built a special pavilion on the side of the temple. See, we were making the mistake all along of trying to mix the Africans and the Asians together.
Prabhupāda: That is not good.
Brahmānanda: That was a bad policy. Now we have separate = the Asians on one side and the Africans on the other side, and both are happy.
Prabhupāda: That's nice.
Brahmānanda: Before they were both unhappy. Now they're both happy.
Prabhupāda: No, the Indians, they do not like to sit down...
Gargamuni: No. Indians don't like to mix, and Africans also, they like to be with their own. And we have a... The instruments we use... They make their own instruments out of different materials. They have these pieces of metal and wooden blocks. [laughs] They love it. They can make much noise... Actually the Asians like it very much when they see the Africans doing that. So both are very happy.' - Your ever well-wisher, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami ACBS/sdg
'Prabhupāda wasn’t satisfied preaching only to the Indians. He wanted to preach to the Africans. Indians and Africans were completely segregated. But since a Kṛṣṇa conscious person does not make distinctions based on the body, Prabhupāda said the Indians had a duty to share their spiritual culture with the Africans.
Prabhupāda impressed on Brahmānanda Swami that his first duty in Africa was to give Kṛṣṇa consciousness to the Africans. Because of bad experience in Turkey and Pakistan, Brahmānanda Swami had been reluctant to hold public kīrtanas in Nairobi. Besides, the Africans spoke mostly Swahili; they were culturally different and usually too poor to buy books, so Brahmānanda Swami didn’t know how to preach to them effectively. Going to the Indians had been easy and natural.
But Prabhupāda wanted the Africans. “It is an African country,” he said simply. “They are the proprietors. We should be preaching to them.”
As with everything else in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, Prabhupāda demonstrated how to do this also. He got the use of a Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa temple in a predominantly African downtown area. The temple had a hall with doors opening onto the busy street, and Prabhupāda instructed the devotees to hold kīrtana in the hall, keeping the doors open. The devotees did as he asked, and in five minutes the hall began filling up with people. It was a shabby area of town, and the people who entered were illiterate and dirty. But they were curious, and they happily joined in the kīrtana, smiling, clapping, and dancing.
Brahmānanda Swami left the hall and went to the nearby house where Prabhupāda was staying. “The place is filled with people,” Brahmānanda Swami said, “but it’s not necessary for you to come. We can carry on and do the program ourselves.”
“No,” Prabhupāda said, “I must go.”
Brahmānanda Swami tried to discourage him.
“No, I must go,” Prabhupāda repeated. “Are you going to take me?”
When Brahmānanda Swami arrived with Śrīla Prabhupāda, the hall was even more crowded than it had been a few minutes before. Prabhupāda, in his silken saffron robes, appeared effulgent as he entered the dingy, poorly lit auditorium. As he walked the crowd parted, leaving an aisle for him to pass among them, and they watched him curiously. Onstage Prabhupāda led a kīrtana and lectured. Although the Swahili-speaking audience was unable to understand Prabhupāda’s lecture, the people were respectful. And the kīrtana they loved.
Members of the Indian community had been apprehensive of Prabhupāda’s opening their hall to the Africans, and some of them had attended to see what would happen. Observing Prabhupāda’s compassionate program, however, the Indians were impressed. Such an apparently simple program had the spiritual potency to erase cultural boundaries.
This should be Brahmānanda Swami’s mission in Africa, Prabhupāda insisted – offering Kṛṣṇa consciousness to the Africans. And the program should be simple: distributing prasādam, distributing free books, and chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa with drums and karatālas. Kṛṣṇa consciousness should not be just another Nairobi Hindu religious society. The Hindus should take part by donating money, but Brahmānanda Swami’s preaching and recruiting should be among the Africans.
When several black American disciples joined Prabhupāda in Nairobi, Prabhupāda told them, “Four hundred years ago your ancestors were taken away from here as slaves. But ah, just see how you have returned as masters!” - Prabhupada lilamrta 1.36
May 25, 1974
'There is spirit soul within the body, and the material body is covering, just like shirt and coat, of the spirit soul.'
December 22, 1973
'The spirit soul is within this apartment body. So according to karma, according to payment, one has got American body, one has got African body, one has got Indian body...'
November 28, 1974
'Consciousness belongs to the soul, that is the symptom of presence of soul. At the present moment because the soul is in the body, if I pinch your body then you will feel...'
June 1, 1975
'The spirit will exist; matter will be finished. Now you have got this body. You have got this body. This body will be finished, everyone knows. But the spirit soul within the body, that will not finish.'
'The more you advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, you become purified from all this influence of māyā, because it is acting by māyayā bahu-rūpayā. And as soon as you come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, even if you have got a different form, a different bodily form, because you are aloof from that, your..., you are not affected by the influence of māyā.
Just like anyone who is coming to Kṛṣṇa consciousness in any country, they are forgetting their bodily consciousness. Just like in our Society we have got members from different parts of the world. Especially in Africa we have seen, there is very much distinction between white and black. But in our Society there is no such distinction. The Indians there, they hated with the...
Because the Africans are working as servant to Indians. So now this time they agreed to take prasādam, all in the same line. The Europeans, Americans, Indians, Africans, even brāhmaṇas, high caste, all. I also. We sat down to take prasādam. In our Māyāpur they are distributing prasādam. Perhaps it is for the first time that Hindus and Muslims are taking prasādam in the one line.' - SB 2.9.2
'Brahmānanda: When someone takes so spontaneously, like this African, without any preaching, but just spontaneously take...
Prabhupāda: Yes. They are not yet so advanced.
Brahmānanda: But it means in past life there must have been some connection if he immediately takes it so wholeheartedly, without any previous connection.
Indian man (4): The Indian peoples, when they see the Africans in the temple, singing and all that, they criticize, you know. They criticize us. They say, "Oh, you..." That boy, he told me. He read your Nectar of Devotion. Then he came to the conclusion... He read the story also of Mahārāja Ambarīṣa. So he used to go to the Hindu temple to clean the floor early in the morning before going to university. He told me that he went for one week and they never said anything. When he was going daily the temple, they told him, "Don't come here. Don't clean here. We don't want the African to come."
So then he told me that "What should I do? I want to follow the Prabhupāda instruction. So what should I do? Prabhupāda has said in his books that if one cannot do anything, simply he should go to the temple and clean the room." He was so serious. So then I told the pūjārī that "Why you are doing like that? He wants to serve the Lord. Why don't you let him serve? You want that to keep out the inside the temple and throw the pots and the cigarette in the temple?" So they criticize like that sometimes. [indistinct] They're simply imitating us.
Brahmānanda: There was a man yesterday at Dabji's house who was the brāhmaṇa who was officiating. He is a very much caste-conscious brāhmaṇa, and although he and Shah were the first ones to meet you at the Nairobi airport when you arrived in Nairobi, as soon as he heard your philosophy, he has never come. He came the first day only, when you first arrived, and since that day he has never come. And yesterday I think he must have just come because Shah has forced him. But he does not at all like our philosophy that brāhmaṇa by qualification. He is very staunch---"Brāhmaṇa by birth."
Devotee (5): They always say the Africans could never become Kṛṣṇa conscious.
Prabhupāda: How they are becoming?
Devotee (5): They don't believe.
Prabhupāda: Believe? You do not see even?
Devotee (5): But they say that "Oh, he will do it, and then, after one year, he will stop."
Prabhupāda: Well, that is another criticism. Somebody is eating nice yogurt. Everyone will say, "Oh, it is very nice. It is very nice, very nice." Another man says, "Yes, it is nice, but after three days it will be sour." [laughter] You rascal, you consider for the present. What "after three days"? Means he's a bad critic, so he could not find out any fault. Everyone says it is good. So "After three days it will be bad." This sort of criticism. So you have already become bad. You were doing service to others. What does he do, that priest?
Brahmānanda: Well, he's a businessman.
Prabhupāda: Business. "So is that...? The business is the occupation of brāhmaṇa? You are already fallen." How he can criticize others?' - MORNING WALK, NOV 2, 75- NAIROBI
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