When the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON, or the Hare Krishna movement, was founded in 1966, hardly did anyone believe that it would spread like wildfire, cover every country, and influence every existing religion on the planet, in just 50 years! This is by no means an overstatement if you look at the facts and figures.
Started single-handedly by a man of phenomenal self-confidence and God-gifted prowess, today ISKCON flaunts literally hundreds of thousands of committed followers from all walks of life. This includes the poor, the rich, the learned ones and those deprived of even basic worldly education, the influential ones and the so-called nobodies, the whites and the blacks, the tall and the dwarfs, the elites and the so-called ordinaries. They are Asians, Africans, Americans, Australians and the Europeans. They come from all faiths including Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists- you name it. When chanting, dancing and praying together, they make a perfect mix of skin colors and languages.
One wonders if this astounding achievement of ISKCON, inspired and led a single person, was humanly possible.
The answer is an unambiguous No.
What happened then? How come that elderly, charismatic gentleman changed thousands’ and continues to change not only millions’ lifestyle but their very thought process? So much so that the US government officials had to meet him to learn what he had at his command that purified the young Americans’ and Europeans’ hearts so quickly. The government wanted him to help tackle drug addiction in the country as those who joined ISKCON were effortlessly able to overcome that evil.
What makes ISKCON so special? Why is it able to attract people from all backgrounds, castes and creeds? What contribution has it given to the upliftment of humanity and the world at large? A tree is better understood by studying its seed; a garden is better appreciated if we know the gardener; a company is often trusted due to its owner. ISKCON and its almost magical influence over the world can be realized only by knowing its founder.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, the founder and acharya of ISKCON, who is lovingly called by his disciples and followers as Srila Prabhupada, embarked on his mission of changing the world when he was 69 years old! He did not spend his life in achieving those worldly things; he did it in preparation of the mission that he would carry beyond the Indian ocean, in 1966, as per the instruction of his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. His biography and today’s ISKCON, spread across 650+ active centers in all the six continents, and thousands of Namahatta and Bhakti vriksha centers, is an undeniable proof of his superhuman genius. After all, he was the same person whose appearance and mission was predicted by none other than Lord Chaitanya Himself more than 500 years ago.
Did you know that no human being has ever accomplished the mammoth task that Srila Prabhupada did in just around 10 years? It is said that without the empowerment from Lord Krishna, no one can preach His glories. The phenomenal success ISKCON saw during the time of Srila Prabhupada’s presence on the planet compels one to accept him as a direct representative of Lord Krishna Himself, as without His empowerment, what Srila Prabhupada accomplished in such short span of time was humanly impossible.
Take a look at the figures presented below and calculate how many years it would take to accomplish the same task, even to the most talented person in the world. The result only shows ISKCON was founded and directed by a direct representative of Lord Krishna from the spiritual world, who traversed planet Earth just in order to enlighten the mass and save humanity from imminent dangers looming over it in this iron age, Kali yuga.
You can imagine how long it would take to think, write, edit, proofread, illustrate, design, and print even a 100 page tiny book. Here we are talking of hundreds of books. Srila Prabhupada was not only writing, he was also translating.
- Srila Prabhupada translated from Sanskrit to English, and wrote extensive purports to some 15,000+ verses of Srimad-Bhagavatam. He produced the the first ten cantos of Srimad Bhagavatam in 30 volumes. Reading one verse with purport daily would take the reader a few decades to complete.
- He translated and wrote purports to 700 verses of Bhagavad-gita. Reading one verse and purport a day would take the reader approximately two years to complete.
- He translated and wrote purports to the 17 volumes of Chaitanya-charitamrita (2,170 pages, or 11,555 verses). Reading one verse with purport daily would take the reader 31.6 years to complete. Reading one page daily would take the reader 5.9 years to complete.
- He wrote Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Nectar of Devotion, Ishopanisad and many other books.
- He regularly wrote and published a monthly magazine, Back to Godhead, which at one point was distributed in excess of one million copies per month.
- Under his explicit direction and inspiration, thousands of artful illustrations were published in all the above-mentioned books.
- He wrote over 7,000 personal letters to his disciples, published in five volumes of books.
- He gave some 2000+ lectures and classes across the world on Srimad-Bhagavatam, compiled into 11 volumes of books, and on Bhagavad-gita, compiled into seven volumes of books.
- His 900+ philosophical conversations and verbal question-answers have been compiled into 42 volumes of books.
- Almost 500 morning walk conversatinos are audio/video recorded by his disciples
- He traveled around the Earth 14 times
- He established 108 temples (including Mayapur, Vrindavan, Bombay–with guest houses, Hyderabad temple, New Vrindavana and Gita Nagari farm communities in USA, and Bhaktivedanta Manor in U.K.).
- His published books total some 147. Reading one book a month would take 13 years, reading one book every two months would take 25 years of reading, about twice the time it took Prabhupada to write them.
- The list goes on…
The most significant and unique contribution of ISKCON is, when the world, being fooled by politicians, is fighting and killing over religions, ISKCON presents God in a scientific way. Srila Prabhupada repeatedly stressed that God does not belong to any group of people or country. The science of God is nonchangeable and noninterpretable. In fact, science is that which is constant, just as 1+1 always equals to 2. The ongoing propaganda in the name of science is nothing but a proof of prevailing ignorance.
Through its scientific wing, Bhaktivedanta Institute, ISKCON organizes seminars, lectures and conferences with internationally accredited mainstream scientists and spiritual leaders, and relentlessly tries to enlighten the modern science, which is predominantly based on atheism and thus remains perpetually baffled.
It is a wrong notion that ISKCON teaches Hinduism. As explained in detail here, Hinduism is a word coming from Arab countries. ISKCON teaches how to love God. Since God, His transcendental qualities, His inconceivable form, His activities, His abode, His entourage, His mission, His creation, and all such information about Him is best explained in Vedic scriptures, ISKCON bases its teachings on Vedic texts like Upanishads and Puranas, mainly Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, and Chaitanya Charitamrita . And since these scriptures unanimously declare Lord Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, all ISKCON temples and centers around the world worship Lord Krishna along with His eternal associates.
As predicted by Lord Chaitanya before 500 years, through its 17 ministries dedicated to various preaching, education, administration, and communication programs, ISKCON aims to reach every town and village of the world with the message of Lord Krishna. This message is not of any specific religion but of how to develop pure love for God. This is the reason people, regardless of their caste or creed, are able to embrace Lord Chaitanya’s teachings spread through ISKCON and other Gaudiya organizations.
Srila Prabhupada explains that Lord Krishna is not a Hindu God as understood by people in general. It is rather the other way around – the people who are now known as Hindus worship Krishna as God. Until before a 4000 years or so, there was no other religion except Vedic religion, also known as Sanatan dharma, and all used to know it well that God is only one and although He has unlimited number of names, His most celebrated name through out the Vedic scriptures is Krishna. Changing trends cannot change God’s position and so, regardless of other beliefs, God remains one as He always is.
As with any other organization, ISKCON also has faced challenges, but thanks to its constitution and devotees’ loyalty towards the founder-acharya, the society has been able to overcome various difficulties in the past and continues to progress towards its goal.
Humanity is at the verge of losing its remaining sanity due to atheistic propaganda in the name of scientific advancement and rampant speculations in the name of spirituality. When God personally teaches how to reach Him, it cannot be wrong. It is in the interest of all human beings to recognize and support the noble work being carried out by Lord Chaitanya’s devotees. Spreading His message is the need of the day and whoever does it contributes to a better life on Earth. It is rightly said that the history will thank ISKCON for saving the world. Hare Krishna. Jay Srila Prabhupad!