From time to time, life and message of Lord Krishna has influenced many saints and scholars to attempt spiritual revolution in the society. In particular, Gopal Krishna of Vrindavana, Yogeshwar Krishna of the Gita, and Bhagawan Krishna of the Bhagavatam still inspire many a great soul to study, assimilate, and spread the message of Bhakti and Jnana embodied in that perennial philosophical heritage. Sri A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON, was such a soul.
Srila Prabhupada was born in the year 1896 in Calcutta, India. In the year 1922 he met his spiritual Guru Srimat Swami Srila Saraswati Goswami of Gaudiya Math tradition. The Guru detected qualities of true disciple in him and hence decided to confer on Srila Prabhupada spiritual knowledge of Veda and Vedanta. Srila Prabhupada took the Mantra-diksha in the year 1933 at Allahabad. The Guru advised his disciple to try and spread the Vedic knowledge in English and in the West also.
In 1944, Srila Prabhupada started to write his commentary on the Gita to help Gaudiya Math in its activities. He also started one English periodical, himself becoming its composer, proof reader, editor, and publisher. His followers continue to publish the magazine from USA.
The year 1947 marked an important event in the life of Srila Prabhupada when Gaudiya Vaishnava Samaj conferred on him the prestigious honour of Acharya Bhaktivedanta. In the year 1953 he took Vanaprasthasrama and took sannyasa diksha in 1958. In 1965, as if to fulfil his duty as per the instructions of Guru, he went to America to start his work there, and soon one year later was born the ISKCON - International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) adheres strictly to the principles of India's ancient Vedic culture, whose goal is the spiritual perfection of man. The Krishna consciousness movement is firmly based upon the conclusive truths found in Bhagavad-Gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Chaitanya-charitamrta, which contain the essence of Vedic knowledge.
These three major texts, translated into the English language by Acharya Prabhupada and replete with his erudite commentation, provide the philosophical and practical foundation for the Krishna consciousness movement.
Srila Prabhupada took Mahasamadhi at the Holy place of Vrindavana on 14th November 1977 at a ripe age of 81.
Basic Teachings, Projects and Activities of ISKCON
To propagate the essence of Vedic system of religion - Sri Krishna consciousness - all over the world. ISKCON 'is not a cult but a religious movement and a major branch of the 'Brahma-Madhava-Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya' which is one of the four theistic philosophical schools of thought recognized by scholars. Sri Prabhupada introduced theistic Hindu Vaishnavism to the West for the first time. ISKCON today has world wide has over 400 centres temples, ashrams and farming communities functioning under the authority of a Governing Body Commission.
Srila Prabhupada was convinced that the great spiritual Truths contained in the philosophy of Sri Krishna's life and message alone can save mankind from various injuring effects of scientific materialistic degradation. His immense writings, interviews with foreign delegates, and increasing followers soon made Srila Prabhupada well known all over the world. In the short span of ten years after he reached New York, ISKCON became an organization of more than one hundred ashrama, schools, Gurukula, spiritual farm retreats, and temples.
In the year 1968, on an experimental basis a New Vrindavana was created in the hills of West Virginia, USA. The establishment is alive with activities in an area of nearly one thousand acres. Other temples and establishments were built in India at Juhu --Mumbai, Mathura -- Vrindavana, Bangalore in South India and Mayapur in West Bengal. These centers have arrangements for gurukula for Vedic and spiritual schools and retreats, as well as guest houses for devotees. There is also a colony in one hundred acres of land at Kathawada near Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where cow-sheds and farm-houses are also developed.
The rules and regulations are based on the instructions given in the letters, writings and interviews by the preceptor, which are in turn based on Lord Krishna's teachings contained in the Gita, Bhagavatam, and Chaitanya Charitramrita. All devotees are expected to chant sixteen rounds of Hare Krishna Mantra, get up at four in the morning, and follow principles of no meat, no gambling, no intoxication, and no illicit sex. Sometimes members especially in western countries, are not able to follow these spiritual vows. Also those rare persons whose very presence inspires others to chant the Holy name of Krishna are welcome. Some people leave ESKCON due to uncontrollable material desires, economic needs, and occasionally due to disagreement on philosophical and managerial issues.