His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada came to New York in 1965 and in twelve short years made the chanting of ‘Hare Krishna’ known throughout the world.
He started a spiritual revolution wherein devotion, simplicity and compassion became the direction for living. Coming from a lineage of self-realised teachers, Srila Prabhupada gave a fearless exposition of devotional wisdom which had been kept locked within India for centuries.
Acharya: The teacher of teachers
The word ‘guru’, a trendy marketing term in the West for someone whose expertise has garnered them some followers, actually derives from the ancient Sanskrit language meaning ‘teacher’.
In the original Vedic culture the teacher was a saintly person, whose role was indispensable in guiding the spiritual progress and development of the disciples or students by instructing them in particular ceremonies, rites of passage and enlightening them about material and spiritual realities, and their real purpose of life.
Srila Prabhupada is one of the world’s greatest gurus in a succession of gurus. His profound ability to impart a traditional spiritual culture on foreign land is testament to his efficacy as a guru. His expertise is visible in making ancient wisdom relevant to modern man and demystifying spiritual truths with insightful explanations and analogies. His capacity to understand the innate nature of his students and those who encountered him left deep impressions on the psyche of people of all ages and from every country across the globe. Thousands of people from all over the world became his followers and students. However Srila Prabhupada was no ordinary teacher, his role and mission had been predicted by ancient sages and thus he is recognised as an acharya – ‘teacher of teachers’. The acharya is also recognised because he implants a change in consciousness of society and starts a worldwide movement, which Srila Prabhupada did.
As an astute scholar of ancient Vedic wisdom, he translated more than 70 books into English, and these books are now available in over 75 languages with more than 450 million distributed to date. He was honoured by many Eastern and Western scholars for his philosophical astuteness and scholarly presentations, especially his translation of the philosophical treatises like Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. An acclaimed literary giant, his depth of knowledge was incomparable.
Despite managing a worldwide movement, Srila Prabhupada still expressed personal care for his disciples who describe him as a benevolent father, an affectionate friend, and a deeply compassionate master. He often signed-off his correspondence with the words, “Your Ever-well-wisher”, indicative of the unconditional love a teacher has for his student’s progress.
Srila Prabhupada was one of the world’s greatest teachers because he embodied the knowledge that he conveyed. He taught by example. Thus every moment in his presence was a personal lesson. The genuine spiritual teacher does not attract followers by promises of cheap material rewards or shows of mystic power. He gives them the ultimate knowledge that liberates them from the material world. Therefore his greatness is recognized in the awarding of the honorific title – Prabhupada – ‘Prabhu’ meaning ‘master’ and ‘Pada’ meaning ‘feet’ – translated as ‘one at whose feet all the other masters sit’.