A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: Founder-Acharya of the Golden Age
Definition and Activities of a Great Founder-Acharya
The Founder-Acharya is distinguished from all other acharyas and his qualities and activites are outlined in the sastras:
dina abhaya pradanartham visadikrtya bhutale’
“Among all acharyas, certainly he who is the deliverer of all people, who appears in this world for the purpose of removing the fears of the fallen souls (dina-abhaya) is the most perfect.”
‘gitacaryokta tatvartha caramartha prakasanam
rishiproktapramananam krtva vyakhyanamuttamam’
‘divyaprabandhan lokebhya sarakopadibhi paryantam
arthopadesa paryantam vardhayaitva ca sasvatah’
‘natharyadi gurunam ca satakopadi yoginam – ahrtya vyasa sutranam artham lokahitaya ca
sribhasyadi mahagrantham vidhaya karunarnaya – nirjitya sarvasamayan vadena sataso’subhan’
‘ityadibhir yatisresta karye lokahite rata
nathadidesike tebhya pradhano bhavati dhruvam’
Srila Prabhupada – Founder-Acharya of the Golden Age
The Founder-Acharya has a special position for all time to come within the organised mission. In the Vaishnava line the previous acharyas selected and severly tested the earnestness and qualifications of their disciples. But among the special characteristics of the Founder-Acharya is his infinite compassion. He accepts all those who come and commands his disciples to do the same.
Harinama is the dharma of the Golden Age – ‘kali kaler dharma nama sankirtana’, and one who preaches that dharma all over the world is the empowered Acharya – ‘krsna sakti vina nahi tara pravatana’.
Srila Prabhupada exercised the basic principle of Krishna consciousness, as envisioned by Srila Rupa Goswami (somehow or other), to engage everyone in the Hare Krishna movement. The extent of his efforts are unprecidented in the history of vaisnavism. Thus he is the Founder-Acharya who has accomplished the objectives of the ‘visva vaishnava rajya sabha’, following in the footsteps of Srila Rupa Goswami.
In the Sri Chaitanya Mangal by Locana das Thakur, Lord Chaitanya speaks of a ‘senapati’ (great general), who will come after Him to accomplish His mission. It is clear that Lord Chaitanya’s teachings were a preparation made by Himself for the use of another preacher, personally empowered by Him, who would launch His Sankirtana Movement on a global scale.
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur yearned to see the day when fortunate non-Indian vaisnavas would perform Harinama Sankirtan in different cities of the world (Sajjana tosani 4\3,’nityadharma suryodoy’). In this article he announced that Mahaprabhu’s prediction would shortly be fulfilled. He foresaw that all the vaishnava sampradayas will be unified. “In a short time, there will be only one sampradaya and that will be the Brahma sampradaya. All other sampradayas will find there conclusions in this sampradaya”.
“All smaller dharmas will enter like rivers into the ocean of Hari Nama and there will be only one religion – chanting the Holy Name of Krishna”; (Vani Vaibhava Ch.6).
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur spoke of the arising of a self-effulgent acharya from among his disciples who would demonstrate his prominence by preaching in a grand style. It is obvious from the predictions of the previous acharyas mentioned above that Om Vishnupada Paramahamsa Praivrajakacharya astottara sata Sri Srimad Abhaya Caranaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is that self-effulgent Founder-Acharya.
“If one saw the personal characteristics and activities of Sri Chaitanya mahaprabhu, one would certainly be convinced that He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One can ascertain this by following in the footsteps of the sastric injunctions. This sincere study and appreciation of Sri Chaitanya mahaprabhu is also applicable to His authorized devotees, and it is clearly stated in the Chaitanya-cariamrta (Antya-lila 7.11):
kali-kalera dharma – krsna-nama-sankirtana
krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana
In this age of Kali, real religious propaganda should induce people to chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. This is possible for someone who is especially empowered by Krishna. No one can do this without being especially favored by Krishna. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura comments in this regard in his Anubhasya, wherein he quotes a verse from Narayana-samhita:
dvapariyair janair visnuh – pancaratrais tu kevalaih
kalau tu nama-matrena – pujyate bhagavan harih
“In Dvapara-yuga, devotees of Lord Vishnu and Krishna rendered devotional service according to the principles of pancaratrika. In this age of Kali, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is worshiped simply by the chanting of His holy names.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura then comments: “Without being empowered by the direct potency of Lord Krishna to fulfill His desire and without being specifically favored by the Lord, no human being can become the spiritual master of the whole world. He certainly cannot succeed by mental concoction, which is not meant for devotees or religious people. Only an empowered personality can distribute the holy name of the Lord and enjoin all the fallen souls to worship Krishna. By distributing the holy name of the Lord, he cleanses the hearts of the most fallen people; therefore he extinguishes the blazing fire of the material world. Not only that, he broadcasts the shining brightness of Krishna’s effulgence throughout the world. Such an acharya, or spiritual master, should be considered nondifferent from Krishna – that is, he should be considered the incarnation of Lord Krishna’s potency. Such a personality is krsnalingita-vigraha – that is, he is always embraced by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. Such a person is above the considerations of the varnasrama institution. He is guru or spiritual master for the entire world, a devotee of the topmost platform, the maha-bhagavata stage, and a paramahamsa-thakura, a spiritual form only fit to be addressed as paramahamsa or thakura.”
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “A first-class Vaishnava is he whose very presence makes others chant the holy name of Krishna.”
“Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura says that if an observer immediately remembers the holy name of Krishna upon seeing a Vaisnava, that Vaishnava should be considered a maha-bhagavata, first-class devotee. Such a Vaishnava is always aware of his Krishna conscious duty, and he is enlightened in self-realization.He is always in love with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, and this love is without adulteration. Because of this love, he is always awake to transcendental realization. Because he knows that Krishna consciousness is the basis of knowledge and action, he sees everything connected with Krishna. Such a person is able to chant the holy name of Krishna perfectly. Such a maha-bhagavata Vaishnava has the transcendental eyes to see who is sleeping under the spell of maya, and he engages himself in awakening sleeping conditioned beings by spreading the knowledge of Krishna consciousness. He opens eyes that are closed by forgetfulness of Krishna. Thus the living entity is liberated from the dullness of material energy and is engaged fully in the service of the Lord. The madhyama-adhikari Vaishnava can awaken others to Krishna consciousness and engage them in duties whereby they can advance. It is therefore said in Chaitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila 6.279):
lohake yavat sparsi hema nahi kare
tavat sparsa-mani keha cinite na pare
“One cannot understand the value of touchstone until it turns iron into gold.”
One should judge by action, not by promises. A maha- bhagavata can turn a living entity from abominable material life to the Lord’s service. This is the test of a maha-bhagavata. Although preaching is not meant for a maha-bhagavata, a maha- bhagavata can descend to the platform of a madhyama- bhagavata just to convert others to Vaisnavism. Actually a maha-bhagavata is fit to spread Krishna consciousness, but he does not distinguish where Krishna consciousness should be spread from where it should not. He thinks that everyone is competent to accept Krishna consciousness if the chance is provided. A neophyte and intermediate devotee should always be anxious to hear the maha-bhagavata and serve him in every respect. The neophyte and intermediate devotees can gradually rise to the platform of uttama-adhikari and become first-class devotees. Symptoms of a first-class devotee are given in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.45).
When teaching Sanatana Goswami, the Lord further said:
sastra-yuktye sunipuna, drdha-sraddha yanra
‘uttama-adhikari’se taraye samsara
“If one is expert in Vedic literature and has full faith in the Supreme Lord, then he is an uttama-adhikari, a first-class Vaishnava who can deliver the whole world and turn everyone to Krishna consciousness.” -Chaitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila 22.65
With great love and affection, the maha-bhagavata observes the supreme Personality of Godhead, devotional service and the devotee. He observes nothing beyond Krishna, Krishna consciousness and Krishna’s devotees. the maha-bhagavata knows that everyone is engaged in the Lord’s service in different ways. He therefore descends to the middle platform to elevate everyone to the Krishna conscious position.” (Cc. Madhya 16.74)
“Everyone was engaged in material enjoyment, whether sinfully or virtuously. No one was interested in the transcendental service of the Lord, which can give total relief from the repetition of birth and death.”
“Seeing the activities of the world, the Acharya felt compassion and began to ponder how he could act for the people’s benefit.” (Cc. Adi-lila Ch 3 97-98)
This sort of serious interest in the welfare of the public makes one a bonafide acharya. An acharya is a confidential servitor of the Lord, his heart always full of compassion for humanity in its suffering. He knows that all suffering is due to the absence of devotional service to the Lord, and therefore he always tries to find ways to change peoples activities, making them favorable for the attainment of devotion. This endeavour makes him a very dear devotee of the Lord, who says clearly in the Bhagavad-gita that no-one in human society is dearer to Him than a devotee who constantly engages in His service by finding ways to preach the message of Godhead for the real benefit of the world.” (purport C.C. Adi 3.98)
“Here is an important point. Lord Chaitanya wanted to invent a way to capture the Mayavadis and others who did not take interest in the Krishna Consciousness movement. This is the symptom of an acharya. an acharya who comes for the service of the Lord cannot be expected to conform to a stereotype, for he must find the ways and means by which Krishna consciousness may be spread. Sometimes jealous persons criticize the Krishna consciousness movement because it engages equally both boys and girls in distributing love of Godhead. Not knowing that boys and girls in countries like Europe and America mix very freely, these fools and rascals criticize the boys and girls in Krishna consciousness for intermingling. But these rascals should consider that one cannot suddenly change a community’s social customs. However, since both the boys and girls are being trained to become preachers, those girls are not ordinary girls but are as good as their brothers who are preaching Krishna consciousness. Therefore, to engage both boys and girls in fully transcendental activities is a policy intended to spread the Krishna consciousness movement. these jealous fools who criticize the intermingling of boys and girls will simply have to be satisfied with their own foolishness because they cannot think of how to spread Krishna consciousness by adopting ways and means which are favorable for this purpose. Their stereotyped methods will never help spread Krishna consciousness. Therefore, what we are doing is perfect by the grace of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, for it is He who proposed to invent a way to capture those who strayed from Krishna consciousness.” (purport C.C Adi 7.31-32)
yena tena prakarena manah krsne nivesayet
sarve vidhi-nisedha syur etayor eva kinkarah
– Sri Rupa Goswami
“An acharya should devise a means by which people may somehow or other come to Krishna consciousness. First they should become Krishna conscious, and all the prescribed rules and regulations may later be introduced. In our Krishna consciousness movement we follow this policy of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. For example, since boys and girls in the western countries freely intermingle, special concessions regarding their customs and habits are necessary to bring them to Krishna consciousness. The acharya must devise a means to bring them to devotional service. Therefore, although I am a sannyasi I sometimes take part in getting boys and girls married, although in the history of sannyasa no sannyasi has personally taken part in marrying his disciples.” (purport C.C Adi 7.37)
“The complete path of bhakti-yoga is based upon the process of becoming humble and submissive…….We are propogating the Krishna consciousness movement simply by following in the footsteps of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. We may not be very well versed in the Vedanta-sutra codes and may not understand their meaning, but we follow in the footsteps of the acharyas, and because of our strictly and obediently following in the footsteps of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, it is to be understood that we know everything regarding Vedanta-sutra.” (ext, purport Adi 7.148)
“A pure devotee who has firm faith in the words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is to be considered a most learned scholar, the topmost aristocrat and the richest man in the whole world. All godly qualities automatically exist in such a devotee. In the preaching work of the Krishna consciousness movement, we, as the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, fully believe in the words of Krishna and His servants, the disciplic succession. In this way we are presenting the words of Krishna throughout the world. Even though we are neither a rich man nor a very learned scholar, and even though we do not belong to any aristocracy, this movement is still being welcomed and is very easily spreading all over the world. Although we are very poor and have no professional source of income, Krishna supplies money whenever we need it. Whenever we need some men, Krishna supplies them. Thus it is stated in Bhagavad-gita (6.22): yam labdhva caparam labham manyate nadhikam tatah.
Actually, if we can attain the favor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, we do not need anything else. We certainly do not need those things which a mundane person considers to be material assets.” (purport Cc. Madhya, 5.76)
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked Ramananda Raya, “Out of all glorious activities, which is the most glorious?” Ramananda Raya replied, “That person who is reputed to be a devotee of Lord Krishna’s enjoys the utmost fame and glory.” (Cc. Madhya‚ 8.246)
“In this age of Kali, the fame of one who is known as a great devotee is very rare. However, such a position is superior to that of the great demigods like Brahma and Mahadeva. This is the opinion of all spiritual masters.”
“It is said that out of thousands of brahmanas, one is qualified to perform sacrifices, and out of thousands of such qualified brahmanas expert in sacrificial offerings, one learned brahmana may have passed beyond all Vedic acknowledge. He is considered the best of all these brahmanas. And yet, out of thousands of such brahmanas who have surpassed Vedic knowledge, one person may be a visnu-bhakta, and he is most famous. Out of many thousands of such Vaisnavas, one who is completely fixed in the service of Lord Krishna is most famous. Indeed, a person who is completely devoted to the service of the Lord certainly returns home, back to Godhead.” (Garuda Purana)
“If one is true to Gaura-Nitai’s service in the disciplic succession, he can even excel Nityananda Prabhu’s service. This is the process of disciplic succession. Nityananda Prabhu delivered Jagai and Madhai, but a servant of Nityananda Prabhu, by His grace, can deliver many thousands of Jagai’s and Madhai’s. That is the special benediction of the disciplic succession. One who is situated in the disciplic succession can be understood by the result of his activities. This is always true as far as the activities of the Lord and His devotees are concerned.
By the grace of Lord Vishnu, a Vaishnava can render better service than Vishnu; that is the special prerogative of a Vaisnava.” (purport C.C. Mad 16.65)
“When someone heard the chanting of the holy name from the mouth of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and someone else heard this chanting from that second person, and someone again heard this chanting from the third person, everyone in all countries became a Vaishnava through such disciplic succession. Thus everyone chanted the holy name of Krishna and Hari, and they danced, cried and smiled.”
“………If one is a pure devotee, hundreds and thousands of men can be purified by this vibration. When a pure devotee chants offenselessly, another person will become a Vaisnava, and from him another Vaishnava will emerge. This is the parampara system.” (Cc. Madhya, 17.48-49)
“For Ten Thousand Years My Books Will Guide the World”
Srila Prabhupada is not just an acharya; not just the founder of a society; he is the Founder-Acharya of the Krishna Consciousness Movement, which is a dynamic spiritual reality – the Yuga Dharma. Therefore, Srila Prabhupada is to be appreciated not merely as the acharya of a few intimate servants or even the acharya of a single generation of disciples. Rather, as the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON, he established the standard of Krishna consciousness to be practiced by all sincere followers for ten thousand years to come.
The scriptures predict that although the present age is continually becoming more inauspicious, unfortunate and degraded, a ‘Golden Age’ of Krishna consciousness will appear for a period of ten thousand years, following the advent of Sri Chaitanya, despite the force of Kali Yuga.
Srila Prabhupada should not be limited by describing him as a founder within the drama or the one who started or only started the ISKCON. He was empowered by Krishna to do what no other spiritual master has ever done, or would ever do in the future – ‘na ca bhuto na bhavisyati sa ca pujyo Prabhupada: He is the Founder-Acharya for spreading Lord Chaitanya’s sankirtana movement worldwide, for ten thousand years within the midst of Kali.
It is important to note that Srila Prabhupada himself, repeatedly emphasised that he was Founder-Acharya. It is noted in the Lilamrta (IV-p93), that he became deeply annoyed when an ISKCON publication described him as “acharya of ISKCON”, even though at that time there was no question at all of the existence of another acharya.
There have been many acharyas and there will be many more after him, but His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada is the sole Founder-Acharya of the Golden Age, known synonymously as ISKCON.
In his discussion with historian Arnold Toynbee, in London, Srila Prabhupada said; “I have started this Krishna Conscious Movement among the Indians and Americans and for the next ten thousand years it will increase. Then there will be a gloomy picture of Kali-Yuga. Ten thousand years is not a short time. It is our duty on behalf of Krishna.” (Lilamrta Vol. V Ch. 6 p161).
Anyone who wants shelter from the evil effects of the present Godless age may have it by taking to devotional service under the guidance of Lord Chaitanya’s teachings, as given by Srila Prabhupada in his books. The dynamic preaching and realisations of Srila Prabhupada reveal the sublime teachings of Lord Chaitanya, which otherwise have been neglected, misused or kept secret within the confines of India. Srila Prabhupada prepared his translations and Bhaktivedanta purports on the essential Vaishnava scriptures – Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Chaitanya-caritamrta and Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu – with the plan for forming the foundation of the Krishna Consciousness Movement for the next ten thousand years; (Books Are The Basis).
He says in the Chaitanya-caritamrta; “In our Krishna Conscious Movement we have limited our study of Vedic literatures to Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Chaitanya-caritamrta and Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. These four works are sufficient for all preaching purposes. They are adequate for understanding the philosophy and spreading the missionary activities all over the world. That is the principle.”
Krishna Has Taken Shelter in the Womb of ISKCON.
“Krishna has taken birth or shelter in the womb of the Krishna Consciousness Movement!” – (SB 10.2.20).
When Srila Prabhupada met C. Rajagopal Acharya (known as Rajaji), who was the first Governor General of ‘free India’ and famous as a religious politician and friend of Gandhi, in Madras. Rajaji expressed his only doubt: “Srila Prabhupada has created such a huge institution that now his disciples might identify with ISKCON rather than Krishna. If that were to happen, then by identifying with ISKCON they would fall into the same type of materialism or false identification as before.”
Srila Prabhupada replied, “Because Krishna is absolute, Krishna and ISKCON are non-different. To identify with Krishna’s ISKCON was to identify with Krishna directly.” Rajaji was satisfied; – (Lilamrta Vol. V Ch.2).
ISKCON – the Golden Age: Predictions Revealed in the Sastras
In the Pratisarga part of the Bhavisya Purana, Chapter 20 verses 71-73; we find the following prediction:
“Lord Jagannath, the Supreme Lord Sri Hari Himself, spoke these attractive words for the welfare of all: The mlecchas who are born from mixed countries ruled by descendants of Kashyapa (demons) and the shudras will become brahmanas by initiation. They will wear shikhas and brahmana threads and will become well versed in the uncontaminated fruit of the Vedas (Srimad Bhagavatam). They will worship Me by the Yajna prescribed by the Lord of Lords, the protector of Sachi (Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu).”
Forty-six years before the beginning of Kali-yuga, Vishnuchittha, one of the twelve great Vaishnava saints of the Sri Sampradaya predicted: “There will come a race which will tread the Earth with raised hands and vertical tilaka on their foreheads, who will chant the names of Hari; this will destroy the influence of Kali.” (Divyaprabhanda 1:10).
Sripada Ramanuja predicted: “The pure devotion to Sri Hari devoid of karma and jnana will grow and grow like a banyan tree covering the whole world, teaching everyone who takes shelter.” (Prapannamrta tarpana – last chapter).
It is interesting to note in this connection how Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON is preaching ‘jnana karmady anavrtam’ to ‘jare dekho tare’ in every town and village!
Sripada Madhvacharya predicted: “The real knowledge of the difference between jiva and Sri Hari and the service of Sri Hari will spread all over the world very shortly.” (Anu madhva vijaya – last chapter).
Srila Prabhupada roared, “I am not God! You are not God! We are all servants of God, Krishna!”
Srila Prabhupada’s System for the Golden Age
“If the conditioned soul becomes Krishna conscious by the mercy of saintly persons, who voluntarily preach scriptual injunctions and help him become Krishna conscious, he becomes liberated from the clutches of Maya, who voluntarily gives him up.” (Cc. Madhya, 20-120)
“This is the test by which one can tell whether he is advancing in devotional service. One must be detached from material enjoyment. Such detachment means that Maya has actually given the conditioned soul liberation from illusory enjoyment.” (SB 11.2.42 quoted in TLC)
We ordinarily understand ‘maya’ as illusion, but the spiritual master reveals its more confidential meaning as also ‘mercy’. (SB 1.13.25).
Thus Srila Prabhupada gave shelter to those who joined by establishing –
1) Sambandha – their relationship as servants of Krishna;
2) Abidheya – their materially conditioned senses engaged in pure devotional service;
3) Prayojana – the resultant transformation of material consciousness into Krishna consciousness, leading them back home back to Godhead.
The actual essence of all the esoteric knowledge of the vast body of Vedic literature has been rendered in a simple term by Srila Rupa Goswami as ‘yukta vairagya’. Srila Prabhupada’s system is strictly in that line – ‘Utility is the Principle’. His books teach this as follows:
Bhagavad-gita As It Is – yukta vairagya in Upanisadic form.
Srimad Bhagavatam – yukta vairagya in Puranic and Vedantic form.
Nectar of Devotion – yukta vairagya in Pancaratric form (rules).
Chaitanya Caritamrta – yukta vairagya in Final Perfection (prema).
Sri Chaitanya gives paramount importance to five out of sixty-four principles of devotional service:
a) Associating with devotees – sadhu sanga;
b) Chanting the Holy Names – nama kirtana;
c) Hearing Srimad Bhagavatam – bhagavad sravana;
d) Living in a Holy Place – mathura vasa;
e) Worshiping the Deity – sri murtira sraddhaya sevana.