His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder and Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was born in 1896 in Calcutta, India. 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 (Vedic institutes), liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge in the Western world. Srila Prabhupada became Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's student, and in 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 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) 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. From original Sanskrit or Bengali texts, he would write word-for-word and complete translations for each verse and comment on the text in his famous Bhaktivedanta purports. He presented the vast science of spiritual knowledge in such a manner that even any slightly intelligent person could understand the truth: "As living spiritual souls, we are all originally Krishna conscious entities, eternal part and parcels of God." 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 also inspired the construction of a large international center at Sridhama Mayapur in West Bengal, India, which is also the site for a planned Institute of Vedic Studies. A similar project is the magnificent Krishna-Balarama Temple and International Guest House in Vrindavana, India. These are centers where Westerners can live to gain firsthand experience of Vedic culture.
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 writings have been translated into eleven languages. Srila Prabhupada's works include: Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad Bhagavatam (12 Cantos), Caitanya-caritamrta (17 volumes), The Nectar of Devotion, Krishna - the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, The Teachings of Lord Kapila, The Teaching of Queen Kunti, Sri Isopanisad, The Nectar of Instruction, and dozens of other smaller books.
Srila Prabhupada slept only 3 hours a day and ate only a handful of food. The early morning hours, between 1:30 and 4:30 a.m., he would spend writing, and later in the day he would preach to all classes of people in public and in private. In the last ten years of his life, in spite of his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe twelve 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.