"All of You Become Just Like Me. . ."
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was founded by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (known to his followers as Srila Prabhupada) in New York City in the summer of 1966.
Prabhupada was born Abhay Charan De in 1896, into a family of Krishna devotees in Calcutta (Kolkata), India. In his early life, he worked as a sales representative for Bose Pharmaceuticals, raised a family, and was a supporter of Gandhi.
In 1922, he attended a public lecture by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur which would ultimately change the course of his life.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was a powerful speaker, distinguished scholar, and founder of the Gaudiya Math, an India-wide organization dedicated to propagating the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the fifteenth century avatar of Krishna who popularized the public chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra as the prime means for self-realization in the modern age.
At their first meeting, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta told Abhay Charan that he should spread the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu throughout the English-speaking world.
Abhay Charan De took the instruction to heart.
For the next thirty-seven years, he assisted the Gaudiya Math whenever possible. He became an initiated disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. He seriously pondered how he would someday fulfill his spiritual master’s instruction.
In 1959, he retired from his business and family life and began to dedicate his time to translating the epic Srimad Bhagavatam into English. In 1965, after completing thee volumes, he obtained free passage on a steamship bound for the United States. He was sixty-nine years old.
He arrived in Manhattan with the equivalent of $20 US. For over a year, he struggled in obscurity—living wherever he could, giving occasional classes on Bhagavad-gita. He often pondered returning to India, where he could at least live out the rest of his life on holy soil as a respected scholar and renounced gentleman (in hospitable weather).
Then, gradually, his classes began to gain notoriety among a new, growing sub-section of New York society.
These were young people—college age, generally—who had for the most part turned their backs on their middle-class family values and were looking for something else. Many had turned to drugs in an attempt to “transcend” their situation, and many were becoming interested in meditation, yoga, and anything “Eastern.”
By the middle of 1966, Srila Prabhupada had attracted a couple dozen such sincere followers. He had even incorporated his mission legally as “ISKCON,” the “International Society for Krishna Consciousness,” although at that point the “movement” hadn’t spread beyond a few blocks in Lower Manhattan.
Within three years, that would all change dramatically.
Encouraged by his young supporters, Prabhupada began to travel more. Wherever he went, it seemed, he found more and more people who eagerly embraced his teachings—which were actually Krishna’s teachings—to devote themselves to a God-conscious lifestyle, and encourage others to do the same.
"All of you become just like me," he once said, "and just see what will be accomplished."
By 1977, Srila Prabhupada had translated over eighty volumes of sacred Sanskrit texts, circled the globe fourteen times, initiated over five thousand disciples, established over one hundred centers for ISKCON, and made “Hare Krishna” a household word.
His books, due to his great attention to detail and complete grasp of the subject matter, gained the appreciation of many scholars worldwide, and his translations have become standard texts in many universities.
Many books have been written about Prabhupada. Without exception, history has shown him to be a highly cultured man of great integrity, unflinching principles, keen sense of humor, total compassion, deep knowledge and understanding, and chiefly as one of the greatest examples of pure devotion to Krishna the world has ever seen.