Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Prabhupada was a Gaudīya Vaisnava Spiritual Master, Acharya, and founder of Chaitanya Math and Gaudiya Maths worldwide.
The mission initiated by Bhaktivinoda Thakur and developed by Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupāda emerged as “the most powerful reformist movement” of Vaishnavism in Bengal of the 19th and early 20th century. He preached convincingly against philosophical deviations from Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Srila Sarasvati Thakura excavated Lord Chaitanya’s appearance place at the Yogapitha in Sridhama Mayapur, despite heavy opposition from the money-hungry caste Goswamis of Navadwipa, he built a beautiful Gaudiya Math temple there.
Birth and Early Life
Srila Sarasvati Prabhupada appeared in Sri Ksetra Dhama (Jagannatha Puri) on 6 February 1874 on panchami as the seventh son of Sri Kedarnath Dutta, who was also known as Srila Sachidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his later part of life. His mother, Srimati Bhagavati Devi was very pious, disciplined and a great devotee. His parents kept his name Vimala Prasad Dutta. His father Sri Kedar Nath Dutta was posted as the Magistrate of Puri at that time.
Sri Kedarnath Dutta’s house was located near Sri Jagannath Temple besides the Grand Road in Puri. Every year during the Chariot Festival or Sri Rath Yatra, Sri Jagannath Ji’s Rath travels on this road. Once during the Chariot Festival, when Vimala Prasad was just 6 months old, and when the Rath was passing Sri Kedarnath Dutta’s house, it suddenly stopped Sri Vimala Prasad was on the lap of His mother. The Rath of Sri Jagannath Dev stopped and did not move at all even after a lot of effort was made to move it. The mother of Vimala Prasad took this opportunity and got up on the Rath for Darshan of the Deity with her son. The baby Vimala Prasad was then kept on the holy feet of Sri Jagannathji and the baby was blessed as a garland of flowers fell down on the baby from the Deity. After this incident the Rath began to move and everyone present there could understand that the child, Vimala Prasad was divine.
Inspired by his devotee father, Vimala Prasad lived a strict, pious and religious life. One of the incident in his early life can substantiate how strict he was in following principles he believed in. Srila Kedar Nath Dutta, as an ideal Grihastha, used to worship Sree Sree Radha Govinda Vigraha at his house. One day he purchased some mangoes for the deity. The child Vimala Prasad ate up the mangoes without the knowledge of His father before offering to their deities. At this Sri Kedarnath Dutta rebuked him and warned him not to repeat the mistake in future. The child Vimala Prasad took up this matter very seriously and never ever had mangoes in his lifetime.
In his childhood he quickly mastered the Vedas, memorized the Bhagavad-gita, and relished his father’s philosophical works. Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura is an eternal associate of both Shri Krishna and Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He would always keep Bhakti-Rasamrita-Sindhu and Chaitanya-Charitamrita with him and explain them to his son.
When Srila Prabhupada was 7 to 8 years old, he began to worship a deity of Kurmadeva, and Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave him Harinaam. At the age of 18, the scholars of Bengal gave him the title “Sarasvati”. Bhaktivinoda Thakura took him to Puri where he began studying at Satasana Äshrama, which is where Svarupa Damodara and Raghunatha dasa Gosvami had lived. Vaishnavas used to regularly meet there. Prabhupada began giving discourse from Chaitanya-Charitamrita there. However, some Babajis became inimical to him when they heard Prabhupada’s explanations. Seeing this, Bhaktivinoda Thakura took him away from there and had him begin teaching the son of the King of Tripura.
Srila Prabhupada started his formal education at an English school at Ranaghat. In 1881 he was transferred to the Oriental Seminary of Calcutta.
In 1904, he travelled to South India, where he explored various branches of Hinduism, in particularly the ancient and vibrant Shri Vaishnava and Madhava sampradayas, collecting materials for a new Vaishnava encyclopedia. He finally settled in Mayapur, 130 km north of Kolkata.
Founding Sri Chaitanya Math and Gaudiya Maths
Starting from 1905, Srila Prabhupāda began to deliver public discourses on the philosophy and practice of Chaitanya Vaishnavism, attracting educated young Bengalis, some of whom became his disciples. While assisting Thakur Bhaktivinoda in his developing project in Mayapur, Srila Prabhupada vowed to recite one billion names of Hare Krishna Mahamantra – which took nearly ten years to complete.
On 27 March 1918, Srila Prabhupada resolved to become the first Tridandi Sannyasi in Gaudiya Vaishnava society, post Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu period, starting a new Gaudiya Vaishnava monastic order. He established Gaudiya Maths in different parts of India and world.
After locating the birthplace of Mahaprabhu, he installed deities of Gaura-sundar, Vishnupriya and Lakshmipriya, as well as Radha-Krishna. Prabhupada started Navadwipa-dhama Parikrama as described by Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur in his book. Srila Prabhupad relocated his Calcutta press to Mayapur and then to nearby Krishnanagar in the Nadia district. From there he continued publishing Bhaktivinoda’s Sajjana-Toshani, and completed the publication of Chaitanya Charitamrita. Srila Prabhupada published many magazines – daily, weekly, monthly – in the Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi, Oriya, English and Assamese languages, and very easily we have all inherited the fruit of his endeavor.
Within eleven years (1926–37), preaching activities spread far and wide. He established the Gaudiya line very strictly with great endeavor, and established at least 64 Maths and centers all over world.
On 1st January 1937, Srila Prabhupad disappeared from this material world.