Srila Prabhupada is the affectionate spiritual title of  Abhaya Caranaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

Prabhupada appeared in this world under a jackfruit tree in Tollygunge, Calcutta, on Nandotsava in 1896.  Nandotsava follows the most celebrated date on the Indian religious calendar, Sri Krishna Janmasthami.  An astrologer pronounced at the time of Abhay’s birth that he would be a great devotee of Lord Krishna.  He also predicted the child would later cross the seas and open 108 temples dedicated to the worship of Lord Krishna.

Gour Mohan De named his son Abhay Charan, which means ‘fearless at the lotus feet of Krishna.’  Gour Mohan and his wife, Radharani, lovingly nurtured Abhay’s natural devotion.  Govinda Bhavan, the Temple of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, was the central focus of their lives.  Abhay’s idyllic devotional upbringing was supplemented by a happy schooling, at Scottish Church College, near to the family home.  Abhay became an enthusiastic follower of Mahatma Gandhi during his student days.  He subscribed to Gandhi’s svaraj movement and wore khadi (a kind of homespun cotton cloth).  Some time after this, Abhay began his working life at a family friend’s pharmaceutical business.

In 1922, a friend introduced Abhay to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur at 1 Ultadanga Junction Road, the headquarters of the Gaudiya Math.  The sadhu’s purity and dedication impressed him. Abhay argued with the sadhu, ‘Surely it would be better to spread Krishna consciousness once India becomes Independent from Britain?’  But Bhaktisiddhanta replied, ‘Krishna consciousness cannot wait.  There are always ups and downs in the material world, but Krishna consciousness cannot wait.  You are educated young men.  You should spread Krishna Consciousness in the English-speaking world.’  Abhay was left with a strong impression of the teacher.  He also had a purpose in life.

Abhay became involved in Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s mission, the Gaudiya Math.  Ten years after his fateful meeting he took initiation.  He was given the name Abhaya Caranaravinda das.  He was well-liked and welcomed sannyasis into his home, giving donations to the Temple or discussing the topics of Bhagavata-dharma.  Abhay was an accomplished kirtaneer and was also well-known for his thoughtful classes.  He was not a prominent member of the Gaudiya Math.  Bhaktisiddhanta, however, singled him out on several occasions, hinting at the important role he would play later on in the spreading of Krishna consciousness.

Abhay was a dutiful husband and a loving father.  His family life, however, was unhappy because his  wife and children were not very enthusiastic about spiritual life.  He often thought of his spiritual master’s instructions to spread Krishna consciousness in the English language, particularly in the form of books.  The collapse of his business added to his discontents. During this time, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati appeared to Abhay in a dream.  He was urging him to take sannyasa, the renounced order of life.  Soon after this Abhay discovered, much to his dismay, that his wife had sold his Srimad Bhagavatam for biscuits.  He remonstrated with her, ‘What do you want? Tea or me?’  She frivolously replied, ‘Tea.’  That night Abhay left home.


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