A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) is the Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and the world’s foremost teacher of Krishna Bhakti in the 20th century.
Born in India as Abhay Charan De, Abhay received a classical European education from Calcutta’s prestigious Scottish Church College. However, as a political activist and early follower of Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement, he rejected his diploma in protest of British rule in India. Several years later, after a life-changing encounter with Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, a prominent scholar and spiritual teacher who explained that the practice of Krishna Bhakti is too important to wait for political reform, Abhay redirected his attention from politics towards the cultivation of spiritual life and community.
Bhaktisiddhanta represented the ancient tradition of Krishna Bhakti, the yoga of devotion, based on the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita. Upon their first meeting, Bhaktisiddhanta asked Abhay to bring the teachings of Bhagavad-gita and the practice of Krishna Bhakti to the West. Inspired by the depth of Bhaktisiddhanta’s devotional wisdom, Abhay became his lifelong student.
After four decades of learning and practice, while simultaneously running his own business and supporting his family, Abhay took formal vows of sannyasa, or celibate priesthood. In preparation of his journey to the West, Abhay settled in the holy city of Vrindavan, India and began translating the Sanskrit verses of the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-bhagavatam into English and writing elaborate commentaries explaining each verse. During this time, Abhay was given the title Bhaktivedanta in recognition of his advanced scholarship and spiritual realization.