Abhayacaranaravinda das was awarded sannyasa by His Holiness Bhakti Prajna-Keshava Maharaja in Vrindavan in 1959.  His godbrothers conferred two titles upon him:  Swami and Bhaktivedanta.  He was thus A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.  Swami means master of the senses; and Bhaktivedanta recognizes a devotee’s accomplishment in devotion (bhakti) and the philosophical conclusions of the Vedas (the vedanta).

Sannyasa afforded Bhaktivedanta Swami the opportunity of increasing his literary output.  He stayed in rooms at Radha-Damodara Temple in Vrindavan, the land of Lord Krishna.  Here he wrote and chanted in peace.  He only interrupted his Vrindavan bhajan,  or spiritual practice, with occasional visits to supporters and printers in Delhi.  Bhaktivedanta Swami produced three volumes of the Srimad Bhagavatam at Radha-Damodara Mandir.  In the meantime he also worked on his  translation and purports (spiritual commentaries) of the better-known Bhagavad-gita.  Moreover, he had received standing orders for his books in several Indian libraries.  His earlier struggles seemed a thing of the past.  But the Swami had other plans.

The spreading of Krishna consciousness through the medium of books was foremost on his mind.  This was the instruction of his spiritual master, Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura.  The Swami therefore approached Sumati Morarji, a shipping magnate, for passage to America.  The elderly widow admonished him saying, ‘You are old.  I cannot give you passage on one of my ships.  You will certainly die!’  He was persistent and, after some time, she gave way to his repeated requests.  Bhaktivedanta Swami embarked on his epic journey to America aboard the Jaladuta in 1965.  The bulk of his luggage comprised a trunk of his books.  He suffered a heart-attack during the voyage and was ill to the point of death.  Lord Krishna appeared to him in a dream and pulled the ship across the ocean.  The next day the  captain remarked that he had never seen the Atlantic so still.  A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami disembarked at Commonwealth Pier in Boston on the 1965.

The Swami’s first hosts in America were Gopal and Sally Agarwal. He moved to the Riverside Avenue apartment of Dr Misra, a yoga teacher,  on the Upper West Side of New York city.  Several weeks later, Dr Misra provided the Swami with a space of his own on 72nd West Street, around the corner from the Riverside apartment.  It was here that the Swami began to give cooking demonstrations and lectures on the Bhagavad-gita.  When his typewriter was stolen, however, he determined to move from the Upper West side.  At the request of one of his young American acquaintance, he moved into an Artist In Residence (AIR) loft in the Bowery, a rough part of New York city, rich in Bohemian culture.  In spite of his uncomfortable circumstances, he slowly began to attract the disenchanted youth of America to his message.

Swamiji, as he became known to the young Americans who came to his classes, was chased out of the loft apartment by his room-mate, during an LSD-induced psychosis.  He had nowhere to go.  After a few days in temporary lodgings, Swamiji’s newfound friends rented a storefront for him on the Lower East Side, on 26 2nd Avenue.   He took up residence in the rooms beyond a courtyard behind the storefront.  Swamiji and his young American friends turned the Matchless Gifts thrift shop into a Hare Krishna Temple, the first of its kind in the western world. Soon after the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was established in 1966.


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