WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8413

Date uploaded in London – – – 28 July 2020   

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BY R. Nanjappa


Prabhupada represented a specific tradition within the Hindu matrix. He carried the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to the West, and fulfilled his prophecy, made 500 years ago, that the name of Krishna would be celebrated in all countries of the world.  He established a firm basis for worship of Krishna not merely as one of the Avatars, but as the fountain source of all Avatars. This is not a mean achievement. He did not start something on his own, but based himself entirely on Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam as interpreted by his Acharyas.

Prabhupada criticised not only the modern civilization, but also the other philosophical systems of India, especially Mayavada and impersonalism. To those belonging to other traditions, this would appear to be an excess. But he was being true to his line.

The conflict among the various schools of Indian philosophy will never end, and it cannot be settled by logic. So we need not be disturbed by Prabhupada’s exuberance in representing his system. The point is, he offered his system and it has attracted and satisfied millions all over the world. 


 Prabhupada did establish one fact clearly. That is, the Bhagavad Gita is the supreme scripture of the Vedic tradition and it is amplified by Srimad Bhagavatam. The Gita establishes that Brahman came as Paramatma and Bhagavan. That Bhagavan is Krishna. Bhagavan has clearly spoken of “ananya bhakti” as the ultimate word (paramam vacha) in spiritual matters. This bhakti is to a Person- Bhagavan- and not to an ideal or concept. Prabhupada established this fact with force and clarity. This is unexceptionable.

By himself translating and encouraging others to do so, Prabhupada has left an enormous corpus of authentic philosophical and theistic literature of his tradition. These are brought out in excellent printed volumes. No other tradition in India has done this- none of the established Mutts has done this. This is a service worthy of emulation. This is perhaps the lasting contribution of Prabhupada. Printing and publishing authentic literature is more important than building temples. Not everyone can or may visit temples, but books can enter every home.

Prabhupada faced the world outside India on his own terms. He did not try to please or placate the West. He did not compromise. He did not flatter the West, but told their deficiencies face to face. But he did it without malice, with genuine compassion and concern for their welfare.  He has carried one strain of Hindu religion across the world. He has made Gaudiya Vaishnavism an international force. He thus put an end to Indian exclusivism, Indians turning to themselves.

Many countries in the world today celebrate Rath Yatra, while Indians themselves do not do it in most places! Most Hindu youths are brought up without any religious study or instruction in a systematic manner- while every person initiated into the Hare Krishna movement is instructed and trained. Many scholars have emerged from their ranks and enriched their tradition with outstanding contributions. And many of them are so advanced in sadhana as to become fit for initiating others. Even after witnessing this, our orthodox Mutts have done nothing much in a systematic way. It was only Swami Chinmayananda who could attract the youth with the message of the Upanishads and Gita in the 70s and 80s, packaging it in attractive modules. That was a wave, but it abated after him. Prabhupada has provided a valid model for all Hindus to follow.

Prabhupada’s role lasted just twelve years. He gave tremendous push to Hare Krishna chanting, construction of temples and centres, publication and distribution of books, initiation of new members and their training, farming and educational activities. Such constructive, concrete achievement on such a massive scale is unmatched by anyone in modern India.

Prabhupada struggled in India before he went to America. He correctly assessed that if he made an impact in the West, India would automatically imitate! This is indeed what happened!  The ISKCON centres at Mumbai, Vrindavan and Mayapur were raised mainly with contributions from book sales abroad!

Prabhupada towers above all our traditional acharyas. Whether it was Sankara, Ramanuja or Madhva, they spoke to a Hindu audience within India which was aware of the traditions. Their appeal was, and still continues to be, mainly to the elite. They did not talk to the masses or mlecchas. 

Prabhupada went to the land of mlecchas and spoke to them of Krishna. He presented the teaching without complications. He presented the teaching so they could follow- chanting, puja, prasad and holy discussion. He made Krishna a world celebrity- Krishna is  now known in every country! Krishna is celebrated in every country!



Prabhupada acquired tremendous  charisma. Though he did not project himself, he became extremely popular. He was venerated by his devotees for his religious fervour, sincerity, scholarship, fidelity to tradition, total dedication to Krishna,  and the standards of personal purity that he maintained. This was bound to create problems after his demise. As in any organisation with vast resources and global reach, personality and ego clashes were bound to happen. There are differing voices within the movement. But these are not unusual in any field, and need not unduly disturb us. No movement can carry on in the old spirit after the demise of its charismatic founder leader. That is why Gandhiji wanted that the Indian National Congress should be disbanded after Independence, but the Gandhicaps did not care.

Two features may be noted here.

1. Prabhupada went to America at a critical time, when it faced youth unrest. The youth there faced crises on many fronts. His message of Krishna Consciousness was timely, practical and filled a felt need, a psychological void. This is the hand of history. The world has changed on this account forever. It is ” a revolution to change the entire course of human history” as Prabhupada claimed.

2. Some people have attempted hypnotic regression and past life reading of some of the early entrants to the Hare Krishna movement in the West. They came to the conclusion that many of these had in fact been associated with India and its religion in past lives! If this is true, it is revealing:  It is a matter of tremendous importance. There may be many such souls taking birth abroad and they need to hear about authentic Hindu traditions. This is one more reason why Hinduism should spread abroad, but it should be of a genuine, authentic tradition, not a modern compromising outfit. The proponent should be a sincere, genuine representative of a valid tradition, and not a mere advocate of “show-bottle spiritualism” as Prabhupada called it.

Prabhupada’s life and work is a bright chapter in the history of modern Hinduism. Hinduism can survive and flourish only when it expands, breaks out beyond its self-imposed constraints and limitations. This is the practical message of Prabhupada, in a world  which has become a global village.

Prabhupada’s achievement is the wonder of complete dedication to a transcendental ideal, without deviation, as described in Bhagavad Gita: 

व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिरेकेह कुरुनन्दन।
बहुशाखा ह्यनन्ताश्च बुद्धयोऽव्यवसायिनाम्।। 2.41  

Vyavasaayaatmika buddhi: eka kurunandana

bahushaakha: anantaa: cha buddhaya: avyavasaayinaam

O Scion of Kurus, in this there is but a single one-pointed determination.

The purposes of the undecided are innumerable and many-branching.

Prabhupada was the exclusive advocate of Krishna Consciousness- ambassador of Krishna to the whole world. He has laid the foundations of world-wide Krishna Rajya!

All Glory to Srila Baktivedanta Swami Prabhupada!


Though group chanting and singing of Divine names has been in vogue in India, it did not assume the form and dimensions of a mass movement before Prabhupada. I will relate some developments here.

Sri Bodhendra, (1610-1692) 59th Pontiff (1638-1692) of Kanchi Sankara Mutt, initiated the Nama Sankirtana movement in the Tamil speaking areas. It caught on especially in the Tanjore area. He had got the idea of the greatness of Nama Siddhanta  from his own guru-the previous pontiff, on his visit to Kashi. The guru had seen the damages wrought by Muslim invasions in the North and the near impossibility of resorting to Vedic karma. He found an ideal solution in Nama Siddhanta and asked Bodhendra to visit Puri Jagannath on his way to Kanchi and collect an important manuscript on Nama Siddhanta. On his guru’s orders, he came to Puri Jagannath  and studied a manuscript- Bhagavan  Nama Kaumudi- written by one Lakshmidhara Kavi, on the greatness of Nama Siddhanta.. On his return, Bodhendra wrote some books on Bhakti, among them two manuals on  Nama Bhakti and its relevance for the times as the most effective religious sadhana. These are “Bhagavan Namamruta Rasodayam” and “Bhagavan Namamruta Rasayanam”. Of these, the former is an elaborate treatise on the nature and importance of singing/chanting the names of Bhagavan as the most effective and self-sufficient Sadhana for this Kali age. It is an all-inclusive exercise, which can be adopted without any caste, gender or other restrictions. It confers all the benefits of the orthodox Vedic practices, which are not suitable for this Kali age.  This he establishes authoritatively on the basis of our scriptures. He categorically declared:

Kali kalmasha chittaanaam, papa dravya jivinam

vidhi karma vihinaanaam gatir Govinda kirtanam.

In this Kali Age, people’s mind and intellect are polluted. They earn livelihood by engaging in sacrilegious acts. They perform karma without observing proper rules. Singing the names of Govinda is the only remedy for them.

Sri Bodhendra spread the Nama Sankirtana movement, visiting village after village and initiating people in Nama Japa. The movement caught on and acquired the status of Sampradaya bhajan. It flourished in the old Tanjore area  It did not focus exclusively on  Krishna/Vishnu and made no distinction between Vishnu and  Shiva for devotional purposes. It is quite likely that this owes its origin to the Sankirtana movement initiated by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the previous century, with Puri as an important center. But the Mutt itself did not adopt it as the main course, and it did not become a mass movement. It is confined to a few pockets and mainly to the Brahmin community.

We can now appreciate how momentous is the achievement of Prabhupada in having elevated Krishna Sankirtan as an international phenomenon, embracing even the mlechchas!

Some recent Books:

– Swami in a Strange Land: by Joshua M.Green. Indian edition by Jaico, 2018

– My Memories of Srila Prabhupada: by Bhakti Vikas Swami, 2012

– Love, Medicine and Music: by Roger Siegel,Tulsi Books, 2013

– Chasing Rhinos With The Swami-vol.1&2: by Shyamasundar Das

– Prabhupada- Messenger of The Supreme Lord by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, 2014

– Our Family Business by Vaisesika Dasa, 2016

– Bhagavan Nama Rasodayam: Sanskrit original with Tamil commentary : by Krishnapremi;

Bhagavan Nama Publications, Chennai-33, 2003.

For a fascinating and detailed study of the philosophy and practices of Krishna devotion according to Vaishnava traditions, please see:

Bhakti Yoga- Tales and Teachings from the Bhagavata Purana by Edwin F.Bryant, Macmillan, 2018.



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