Once upon a time, 50 years ago…

September 22, 2015

In 1965, fifty years ago today, an elderly Indian gentleman boarded a steamship in Calcutta. He was a saffron-robed sadhu – a holy man – bound for America, a place he had never visited before, and a place where he had no friends. Almost 70, he had spent the last eight years in the medieval town of Vrindavan, the home of Lord Krishna. In the last years of his life he wanted to give his spiritual message to the world, but at such an advanced age in a foreign country, and with no support, what could he do? How many would listen to him?

He sat under a tree in a park in New York City, played on some small hand cymbals, and sang the Hare Krishna mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Surprisingly, some young people walked over, sat down, and joined in with this strange chant. They listened with interest when he spoke of yoga and of how meditation could take them to a higher level of consciousness. Later, in a small shop front temple, they watched, fascinated, as he performed the traditional arati ceremony with incense, bells and lamps, and followed him as he showed them how to chant the mantra using wooden beads. He even cooked vegetarian meals for them, with delicious, exotic-sounding names: dahl, subji, chapatti, pakorah, samosa, halavah, laddhu and gulabjamon. The young people had never experienced anything like this before. Gradually he taught them how to live a good and simple life, free from bad habits and confusing ideas. The elderly sadhu’s name is now known to all: His Divine Grace Srila A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada; and his young followers became the Hare Krishna Movement.

By the time Srila Prabhupada passed away, there were more than 100 branches of his ‘International Society for Krishna Consciousness’ (ISKCON) in all the major cities of the world. That was in 1977, only 12 years after he first sat under a tree. Now there are more than 600 places where his followers gather to sing the Hare Krishna mantra, study his teachings, and conduct religious festivals. Even in Russia more than 10,000 honour Srila Prabhupada as their guru, just as they do in Africa, the Amazon, China, and even in the Arctic Circle. It is a remarkable achievement for one elderly sadhu and a few followers.

Srila Prabhupada was remarkably gifted. He was an expert Sanskrit scholar, an articulate speaker, a generous teacher and a compassionate and understanding spiritual preceptor. He had an unshakeable conviction in the reality of Krishna, the Supreme Godhead, and his communion with that same Krishna nourished and informed his every move. But he said that anyone could achieve the same success by introducing some simple spiritual practices into their daily life. As many thousands of his followers have found, by spiritualizing our life we can become peaceful, happy and contented, and by sharing what we know with others – just as Srila Prabhupada did – we can play our part in making the world a better place.

Post by Kripamoya das. You can visit his blog and read the full post HERE


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