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Teachers and Inspirations
 

 

Portrait of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


      Hindu - Gaudiya-Vaishnava | ISKCON, Los Angeles, California, USA

 

 

My very first introduction to the followers of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, more commonly known to Americans as the Hare Krishnas, was while I was a runaway in Hollywood, California, during the summer of 1981.  Most Friday and Saturday nights, you could find the devotees wearing saris and dotis, singing and chanting on Hollywood Boulevard just down the street from the famous Chinese Theatre.  I would watch them and occasionally join in the singing, but I never really discussed the philosophy and beliefs with the devotees.

In 1983, my "value conscious" landlord became the one responsible for my initial real introduction to the "International Society for Krishna Consciousness" (ISKCON).  We would go to different bars during Happy Hour because the pizza was good or they had an all-you-can-eat oyster bar or some such and on Sunday evenings we would go to the St. Louis Hare Krishna temple for the free vegetarian feast after the service.  The first few weeks, I was more fascinated with the visual feast one's eyes are treated to inside the temple.

Having been brought up as a Southern-Baptist, I was not only completely unfamiliar with Hinduism in general, but somewhat sure that these people were crazy.  After a few visits, I started to actually listen and talk with a few of the devotees, beginning to learn what their beliefs were and getting an understanding of the bare basics of the doctrines of reincarnation and spiritual evolution.  While it laid a foundation for my later involvement with the Hare Krishnas, I was not ready for it at that time.

Many years later, back in Los Angeles, I ran into a few devotees at LAX while going on my first vacation in years.  We had an interesting conversation, I gave them a donation and they gave me a couple of books; "The Journey of Self-Discovery" and "The Path of Yoga."  During my vacation, I did a lot of reading from both of the books and a few others that I had taken with me.  I found them interesting and also got the address of the Los Angeles temple.

Upon my return to Los Angeles, I went to the temple on a Sunday afternoon, spoke to several devotees, listened to the service and, of course, enjoyed the Sunday Feast.  I do not get to go to the temple as often as I would like but I do make it down as often as I can.  Even if I were not interested in the philosophy, the restaurant and the gift shop are great and well worth the trip.

 

While many people think of the Hare Krishna movement as a fairly recent "cult", the truth is that their movement was started in the 15th century by a great teacher named Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu of Bengal whose teachings are continued to this day in India by the "Gaudiya Math."  His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, at the request of his teacher Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, was asked to bring the message of Lord Caitanya to the west which he did during the mid 60's.

Arriving nearly penniless in New York City, in the next 6 months he would rent a storefront on the Lower East Side that would grow and be incorporated in 1966 as the "International Society for Krishna Consciousness" (ISKCON) which spread quickly throughout the western world.  Before passing away in 1977, Srila Prabhupada would open 108 centers worldwide, publish 51 volumes of text, travel around the world 8 times and also found the "Bhaktivedanta Book Trust" which is now the largest publisher of Vedic literature outside of India.

Srila Prabhupada's written works include translations and commentaries of the Bhagavad-gita, the Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta as well as many other scripture and spiritual texts of India.  Many colleges and universities use his books as text for their classes attesting to the scholarly level of his writings.

Coming from the Vaishnava tradition, Srila Prabhupada's writings are usually quite a literal translation and commentary.  I have been known to refer to this school of thought as the "fundamentalist Southern Baptists of the Hindu tradition."  This is not meant to be an aspersion but it is the closest reference that I have been able to come up with without a VERY long conversation.

Visit the International Society of Krishna Consciousness(ISKCON) Web Site

Visit the Los Angeles ISKCON Temple Web Site

Read "Bhagavad-gita As It Is" on-line or from the BBT site

Read "Srimad-Bhagavatam" on-line

Read "Sri Isopanisad" on-line

The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, BBT, online Bhaktivedanta VedaBase Network.

There seems to be a bit of a controversy as to if the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, BBT, the official publishing arm of ISKCON has been re-editing the writings of Srila Prabhupada. For more information, please see the BookChanges.com