His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness with the purpose to teach and propagate the transcendental science of bhakti-yoga (pure love of God) by spiritual sound and personal example.
Srila Prabhupada (as he is affectionately called by his followers), was born Abhay Charan De in 1896 in Calcutta, India, into a Vaisnava family. From the very beginning of his childhood, he was educated in a devotional way of life and learned how to see everything in relation to the Supreme Lord. He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, in 1922, and became his initiated disciple eleven years later, receiving his new name, Abhay Charanaravinda.
At their first meeting, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta requested Abhay Charan to broadcast Vedic knowledge through the English language. Thus, in the years that followed, his disciple wrote an English commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, and in 1944, without assistance, started a fortnightly magazine, Back to Godhead.
Recognizing his philosophical learning and devotion, the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society honored him in 1947 with the title "Bhaktivedanta." In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, A. C. Bhaktivedanta retired from married life and four years later adopted the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. He traveled to the holy city of Vrindavana, where he lived in very humble circumstances in the historic medieval temple of Radha-Damodara. There he engaged for several years in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) and the title “Swami” in 1959. At Radha-Damodara, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami began work on his life's masterpiece: a multivolume translation and commentary on the 18,000-verse, 12-canto Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana).
After publishing the First Canto in three volumes, Srila Prabhupada came to the United States, in 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. After almost a year of great difficulty he established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in July of 1966 in New York. Under his careful guidance, the Society grew within a decade to a worldwide confederation of almost one hundred ashrams, schools, temples, institutes and farm communities.
Srila Prabhupada also inspired the construction of a large international center at Mayapur in West Bengal, India, which is the site of “The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium”. A similar project is the magnificent Krishna-Balaram Temple and International Guest House in Vrindavana, India. These are centers where Westerners can live to gain firsthand experience of Vedic culture.
Prabhupada's most significant contribution, however, is his books. Highly respected by the academic community for their authoritativeness, depth and clarity, they are used as standard textbooks in numerous universities. His writings have been translated into over eighty languages. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 to publish the works of His Divine Grace, has thus become the world's largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.
In the last ten years of his life (1967-1977), in spite of his advanced age, Prabhupada circled the globe twelve times on lecture tours that took him to six continents. In spite of such a vigorous schedule, he continued to write prolifically. The writings of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.