His Unparalleled Achievement
A Summary of Srila Prabhupada’s Miraculous Accomplishments
from 1965 to 1977
by Paratrikananda dasa
In reading many of the profiles of Srila Prabhupada, I’m saddened that a number of his important projects, programs and achievements are never mentioned. In the following summary I’ve tried to compile a more comprehensive list of his credits. Although this list is also incomplete, I hope it presents a fuller picture of Srila Prabhupada’s greatness.
In 1965, at seventy years of age, he ventured outside India for the first time to fulfill the order of his spiritual master. During his voyage at sea, he suffered two severe heart attacks. He reached the shores of America with the equivalent of seven dollars to his name.
He founded the International Society for Krsna Consciousness with a small group of disciples, after a year of struggling alone in New York City. This marked the only time in history that a Krsna devotee successfully trained non-Indians in the strict disciplines of Vaisnavism. Amazingly, this was achieved during the blossoming of America’s hedonistic counterculture movement.
He sent his followers, chanting the names of God, into the streets of cities and towns everywhere and Hare Krsna became famous in every corner of the earth.
He sent his disciples to London, where they recorded the single, “Hare Krsna Mantra”, with George Harrison, in 1969. It became the fastest selling of all the Apple Corporation’s releases, including those of the Beatles. The record reached #3 in Czechoslovakia, #9 in Britain, and made the top ten in Germany, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Yugoslavia, and many other countries.
He formally initiated approximately five thousand disciples. These initiates represented a sweeping diversity of nationalities, races, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds.
He established 108 Krsna temples on six continents, installed the deity of Krsna in each center and trained his disciples in the process of deity worship. Thirty-two new temples (almost three a month) were opened in a single year, between 1970 and 1971.
He inaugurated the Rathayatra Festival of Lord Jaganatha in major cities around the globe, in effect, bringing the temple to the people.
He instituted the brahmacarini asram, something previously unheard of in Vedic culture, to give shelter to single women wishing to practice Krsna consciousness.
He instructed his disciples in 1967 to start an incense business to provide financial support for the temples. Within four years the business, Spiritual Sky Incense, generated an annual revenue of one million dollars (equivalent to $4,600,000 in 2004).
He introduced the “Sunday Love Feast” and other prasadam (sanctified food) distribution programs that provided millions of free meals to the public.
He created the world’s first chain of vegetarian restaurants.
He spoke daily on the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, delivering thousands of formal lectures. Over 2,200 were recorded and archived.
He conducted many hundreds of informal conversations on the science of Krsna consciousness with disciples, guests and friends. Over 1,300 were recorded and archived.
He had scores of interviews and philosophical discussions with news reporters, scientists, religious leaders and politicians, as well as meetings with world-renowned dignitaries and celebrities like Indira Gandhi, Allen Ginsberg, Ravi Shankar, Alice Coltrane, John Lennon and George Harrison.
He recorded more than twenty albums of devotional music.
He published the monthly magazine, Back to Godhead, which he called the backbone of his movement. At the height of its circulation in the mid seventies, over a million copies per issue were sold.
He launched the ISKCON Life Membership Program that enrolled tens of thousands of members.
He built major temples in Bombay and Vrndavana, and founded a spiritual city at Mayapur. All became international sites of pilgrimage.
He established primary schools to provide education in the principles of devotional service.
He founded the Bhaktivedanta Institute to advance Krsna consciousness within the scientific community, engaging serious academics in the consideration of the science of self-realization.
He formed the Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust to unearth and renovate the holy places of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes.
He set up farm communities to teach “simple living and high thinking”, emphasizing cow protection and dependence on God and nature.
He commissioned his artist disciples to produce hundreds of illustrations of Krsna’s pastimes based on his meticulous instructions and the descriptions in his books.
He directed some of his followers to learn the Indian art of “doll making” to present Vedic philosophy through dioramas. This project became the FATE Museums.
He counseled his disciples on complex managerial, philosophical and personal issues in more than 6,000 archived letters.
He was the subject of more than 30,000 archival photos and more than seventy hours of documentary film footage.
He wrote approximately seventy books on the science of Krsna consciousness, sleeping only a few hours per day. Dozens of prominent scholars and educators from leading universities praised his work. The Encyclopaedia Britannica proclaimed that his voluminous translations from the original Sanskrit and his lucid commentaries “have astounded literary and academic communities worldwide.” This feat is even more astonishing considering the translations and commentaries were in English, which was a second language to the author.
He founded the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) in 1972, to produce his books. By 1976, over 55,000,000 literatures had been published in twenty-five languages and distributed in almost every country, making the BBT the world’s largest publisher of Indian religious and philosophical texts. One printing alone of Bhagavad-gita As It Is required seventy-six train cars to ship the paper needed to print it.
He completed the entire Caitanya-caritamrta manuscript (seventeen volumes) in eighteen months.
He ordered and supervised the BBT in publishing seventeen volumes of his books in only two months time, in 1974.
He circled the globe fourteen times, visiting twenty-four countries, preaching, inspiring his followers and making countless public appearances before multitudes of people.
He skillfully managed his international society simply through letters and personal meetings, virtually without the use of a telephone.
In accomplishing all the above, he also fulfilled the following:
idam sthanam parityajya videsam gamyate maya
I will leave this place [Vrndavana] and travel to foreign lands...
Bhakti Devi speaking to Narada,
Srimad Bhagavata Mahatmyam
translated by Sri Satyanarayana Dasa
[The Srimad Bhagavata Mahatmyam (The Glories of Srimad Bhagavatam) is a section of the Padmapurana. It tells the story of how Bhakti can be revived in Kali yuga through recital of Srimad Bhagavatam. When Srila Prabhupada left Vrndavana and came to America, it is significant that his only possession was a trunk containing the first volumes of his Srimad Bhagavatam, which he considered his most important work. It is also significant that he instituted daily recitation of the Bhagavatam as the foundation of the temple program, and that Srimad Bhagavatam (in the form of Krsna Book) was the first of Srila Prabhupada’s books to be distributed in large quantities. Until Srila Prabhupada came west, devotional service (Bhakti) had never been successfully introduced in foreign lands.]
kalau nasta-drsam esa
This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purana.
Srimad Bhagavatam 1.3.43
(Lord Caitanya speaking of the reasons for His descent):
ebe nama sankirtana tikshna khadaga laiya
antara asura jivera phelibe katiya
Taking the sharp sword of the congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, (nama-sankirtana) I will root out & destroy the demoniac mentality in the hearts of all the conditioned souls.
yadi papi chadi dharma dure dese yaya
mora senapati-bhakta yaibe tathaya
If some sinful people escape and giving up religious principles go to far off countries, then my Senapati Bhakta will come at that time to give them Krsna consciousness. (senapati -- a military field commander, bhakta -- a devotee. Lord Caitanya will empower His own devotee to spread Krsna Consciousness around the world.)
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
Sri Caitanya Mangala, Sutra-Khanda
by Locana das Thakura
prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama
sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama
In every town and village, the chanting of My name will be heard.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
Caitanya-bhagavata, Antya 4.126
Very soon the unparalleled path of hari-nama sankirtana will be propagated all over the world…Oh, for that day when the fortunate English, French, Russian, German, and American people will take up banners, mrdangas, and karatalas and raise kirtana through their streets and towns! When will that day come?
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
Sajjana Tosani 4.3, 'Nityadharma Suryodoy'
Prabhupada: Just like Thakura Bhaktivinoda. In 1896 he sent the Caitanya Mahaprabhu's message to McGill University. That book you have seen. The letter was there. And these are coincidence. Now, after so many years, a servant of that disciplic succession has come here again to preach. So these things are significant.
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 7.149-171
San Francisco, March 18, 1967
Prabhupada: ...in 1896. Bhaktivinoda Thakura was the first origin of this movement. But he simply thought of it. And he was expecting some others that willing to take up the work. Well, somebody says that I am the same man. And I was born in 1896.
Room Conversation with Canadian Ambassador to Iran
Iran, March 13, 1975
Anyway please try to save temple of Jiva Goswami because in very near future many people from all parts of the world will come to see the Temple and Samadhi of Jiva Goswami and Rupa Goswami.
Letter to Nripen Babu
San Francisco, March 18, 1967
8. & 9.
Prabhupada: And in my horoscope there was written there, "After seventieth year this man will go outside India and establish so many temples."
Prabhupada: I could not understand. "What is this, that I have to go outside India? That is not..." And Guru Maharaja foretold. He told my Godbrothers, Sridhara Maharaja and others, that "He'll do the needful when time comes. Nobody requires to help him." He told in 1935. And after all, this was true. Guru Maharaja told. And in the beginning, first sight, he told, "You have to do this."
Vrndavana, June 17, 1977
He (Srila Prabhupada) seemed to know that he would have temples filled up with devotees. He would look out and say, "I am not a poor man, I am rich. There are temples and books, they are existing, they are there, but the time is separating us from them."
subway conductor who met Prabhupada in 1965
Fulfillment of these prophecies was also confirmed by Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers:
This return back to homeland of Srila Prabhupada, is particularly significant, because this time he comes back with a host of his western disciples. This signifies to me the meeting of the East and the West, or at least the beginning of such a meeting. This signifies the victory of spiritualism over materialism, of good over evil. This is really a rare moment in history, for the first time in the history of the world, for the first time at least living memory, Vaisnavism, the message of Vaisnavism, the message of Mahaprabhu, the message of devotion and of pure devotion has been carried to the west and carried so successfully. I am sure that historians of the future will have a lot to say about Prabhupada and his movement, and they will be even envious of us for living in a time when this movement was begun and for participating in it.
Introduction Speech By Dr. O.B.L. Kapoor
Vrndavana, October 15, 1972
And what about the qualities he had? All devotional qualities he possess. And that we can know him that he is great only by preaching. Less than 10 years. There is no history, no recording anywhere. Preaching in 10 years he has established this divine name everywhere. As is told in Mahaprabhu’s future [prediction].
His Holiness B.V. Puri Maharaj
ITV, Memories of Srila Prabhupada
Sripada Sridhara Maharaja also appreciated my service. He said that Caitanya Mahaprabhu's prediction: prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama/ sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama, would remain a dream only, but he congratulated me that I have done it practically.
Srila Prabhupada letter to Bon Maharaja
Evanston, Illinois, July 7, 1975
Any one of the feats mentioned above would be a significant feather in anyone’s cap-even if it were the only thing a person accomplished in a lifetime. That Srila Prabhupada did all these things in just twelve years, and fulfilled so many predictions of sastra, great devotees, acaryas and astrologers, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, is patent validation of his inimitable role in Vaisnava history. By his efforts, uncountable millions have read about Krsna, honored Krsna prasadam, and heard and chanted the maha mantra. Through his teachings, he continues to relieve humanity from the maladies spawned by doctrines of monism and voidism, while holding open the door of Krsna bhakti for many generations to come. Let us recognize and remember his unprecedented contributions and strive to bring him honor throughout the world.
Devotee: Prabhupada, they said that if Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted Krsna consciousness in the Western countries, why didn't He go there Himself? That's what they told us. Prabhupada: So He left the credit for me. (laughter)
Nellore, January 4, 1976
All glories to
Om Visnu-pada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacarya Astotarra-sata
His Divine Grace
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada!