His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was born in 1896 in Calcutta, India, on September 1. He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, in Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent devotional scholar and the founder of sixty-four branches of Gaudiya Mathas, liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge in the Western world. Srila Prabhupada became his student, and eleven years later (1933) at Allahabad, he became his formally initiated disciple.
At their first meeting, in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura requested Srila Prabhupada to broadcast Vedic knowledge through the English language. In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita and in 1944, without assistance, started an English fortnightly magazine.
Recognizing Srila Prabhupada’s philosophical learning and devotion, the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society honored him in 1947 with the title Bhaktivedanta. In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, and four years later he adopted the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. Srila Prabhupada traveled to the holy city of Vrndavana, 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) in 1959. At Radha-Damodara, Srila Prabhupada began work on his life’s masterpiece: a multivolume translation and commentary on the 18,000-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). He also wrote Easy Journey to Other Planets.
After publishing three volumes of Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada came to the United States, in 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. Since that time, His Divine Grace has written over sixty volumes of authoritative translations, commentaries and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India.
In 1965, when he first arrived by freighter in New York City, Srila Prabhupada was practically penniless. It was after almost a year of great difficulty that he established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in July of 1966. Under his careful guidance, the Society has grew within a decade to a worldwide confederation of almost one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes and farm communities.
Srila 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 college courses. His works include Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the multi-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam, the multivolume Caitanya-caritamrta, The Nectar of Devotion, Krsna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Teachings of Lord Kapila, Teachings of Queen Kunti, Sri Isopanisad, The Nectar of Instruction, and dozens of small books.
His writings have been translated into over seventy five languages with more than 450 million books distributed to date. 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 twelve years of his life, in spite of his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that have took him to six continents. In spite of such a vigorous schedule, Srila Prabhupada continued to write prolifically. His writings constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.
In the short time he spent in the west, he preached continuously, established 108 temples, wrote more than sixty volumes of transcendental literature, initiated five thousand disciples, founded the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and many other trusts related to ISKCON.
Srila Prabhupada was an extraordinary author, teacher, and saint. He managed to spread Krishna Consciousness all over the world, through his writing and preaching. His writings comprise of many volumes and are the basis of Krishna consciousness not only for his disciples but for his grand-disciples, affiliated members of the disciplic succession, and for the public at large.
Srila Prabhupada departed this material world on November 14, 1977 at 7:25 pm, in Vrindavana, India at the age of 81.
Here is brief description by one of the initial BBT trustees, giving us an insight into the circumstances and speed with which Srila Prabhupada’s books were translated and published.
For the record, Srila Prabhupada finished 2nd Canto and started 3rd Canto [of Srimad Bhagavatam] in 1969. He then took a break to write the Krsna Books and Nectar of Devotion. Sometime in 1970 – 1971 he resumed 3rd Canto and oversaw the publication of the Bhagvad-gita As It Is by McMillan in 1972. By 1973 the 4th canto was finished and His Divine Grace next wrote the 17-volumes of Sri Caitanya-Caritamrita, which he completed in Nov 1974. He then began working on the 5th Canto that was completed in early 1975. His transcendental literary output, year after year, averaged one volume per month between 1970-1977 – which is by any standard a miracle in writing! Traveling the world, managing a growing worldwide revolutionary movement, writing dozens of letters a day, giving morning and evening class lectures, giving loans to buy and build temples throughout the world, meeting dignitaries, reporters, guests and of course meeting with his disciples – with all those distractions no author in the history of the world could have concentrated, let alone authored one volume every month (average) for years. He gave up his sleep for all those years; no, he gave his life to give the world these transcendental literatures. And his disciples were thus empowered and inspired by him to give up everything in their lives to distribute them to the masses of fallen embodied humans in non-stop marathons. He cannot be compared to others – no one had such worldwide preaching spirit that manifest is such tangible ways.