This first of two volumes begins with the story of the events leading up to Srila Prabhupada's meeting his guru, an encounter that ignited in Srila Prabhupada a slowburning flame of desire to take Krishna consciousness to the Western world. His early life was a period of patient and transcendent determination as he prepared for a mission that would later be crowned with astounding success.
In August and September of 1965 Srila Prabhupada traveled alone aboard a steamship from India to New York City, with no more than the equivalent of eight dollars in his pocket and no institutional backing, but with unshakable faith in Lord Krishna and the instructions of his spiritual master. It is the 1960s, an era in which the children of those who fought World War II were leading a sweeping revolt against a society losing its soul to godless mass consumerism. Into this milieu Srila Prabhupada brought a vision for a new kind of society, a society born of a radical transformation of human consciousness from materialism to the loftiest spiritual and ethical idealism.
By 1967 he had arrived in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, America's counter-culture capital, where he continued his work of calling America's youth to live up to their higher spiritual ideals and distributing the holy name of Krishna indiscriminately. By the end of the volume, we have seen Srila Prabhupada in England (meeting the Beatles), Holland, Japan, Africa, and finally back in India, where he triumphantly returned with his "dancing white elephants" – a group of his mostly Caucasian Western followers.
The research team assembled by the author traveled throughout the world to gather thousands of hours of interviews with hundreds of people who knew Srila Prabhupada; diaries and memoirs from his students; and more than seven thousand of Srila Prabhupada's letters. Then the author and his team distilled this voluminous firsthand source material into a rich composite view of Srila Prabhupada, a dazzling and colorful picture of one of the most remarkable lives of our times.
This second volume begins in 1971. In the West, Srila Prabhupada had firmly established the Krsna consciousness movement, which his disciples were expanding in his absence. This volume chronicles Srila Prabhupada's triumphant return to India and his plans for constructing temples in three crucial locations: Bombay, the center of India's wealth and business; Vrindavana, the sacred village where Lord Krsna lived and sported; and Mayapur, the holy birth site of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who had inaugurated the Hare Krsna movement some five hundred years earlier.
These are vigorous years spent building a spiritual society in India and establishing centers around the world where people could contact the ancient, orthodox faith of India in their own cities. In this volume, Srila Prabhupada circles the globe repeatedly, speaking out on timely issues and defending his budding religious society against "brainwashing" charges in America and shady business practices in India.
Srila Prabhupada wanted to unite two worlds, the "lame man" of India and the "blind man" of America. "A blind man can carry a lame man," he said, "and together they can walk. Similarly, the combination of Indian spirituality and American technology can benefit the whole world." His principal means of accomplishing this feat was to publish his books – annotated translations of India's spiritual classics. Under his guidance, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust was organized, and by 1977 it had produced and distributed more than sixty million volumes of Srila Prabhupada's writings.
A final tour of India in 1977 took Srila Prabhupada, eighty-one and in failing health, to the colossal Kumbha-mela religious festival, to Hrsikesha, and finally back to his beloved Vrindavana. The time for his passing had come, he said. As his anguished disciples flooded Vrindavana from all corners of the world, Srila Prabhupada presented them with the greatest challenge – and the greatest lesson – of their young spiritual lives.
“Readers, be of good cheer. To those of you who have surveyed in confusion the trackless path of Indian philosophy, this volume offers hope and respite. You are holding in your hands a reasonable and highly readable account of the particulars of Vedic thought. … Read and find enlightenment.”
Professor Jerry Clack
Department of Classics, Duquesne University
“I am impressed by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s presentation. His initial chapter is one of the best statements available on the importance of the guru in transmitting spiritual knowledge.”
Dr. Thomas J. Hopkins
Department of Religious Studies, Franklin & Marshall College