A man with a vision

Amal Chatterjee
8 min readJul 22, 2020


Source : Google photo of the ISKCON temple in Delhi

Synopsis : A great spiritual movement of Krishna Consciousness was born in the United Sates when an old and humble monk arrived there in 1966 chanting his hymns in the Central Park of New York. It has now become a worldwide phenomenon the blog explains. The monk’s charisma and simple message endures long after his death.

International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), known colloquially as the Hare Krishna movement or Hare Krishnas, is a Gaudiya Vaishnava Hindu religious organisation. ISKCON was founded in 1966 in New York City by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Source : Google photo of Swami Vaktivedanta Prabhupada

In 1966 , a humble old man who had renounced his worldly life to become a wandering monk to spread the essence of Hinduism found in Geeta arrived in New York by ship that had given him a free passage with his few pathetic luggage and just a few dollars in his pocket. He had taken up a challenge that very few people would ever dare to accept but he had faith in himself to do the impossible. But at first he had doubts about his abilities and sought spiritual guidance from Krishna in the following words:

I do not know why You have brought me here. Now You can do whatever You like with me. But I guess You have some business here, otherwise why would You bring me to this terrible place? How will I make them understand this message of Krishna consciousness? I am very unfortunate, unqualified and most fallen. Therefore I am seeking Your benediction so that I can convince them, for I am powerless to do so on my own.

He used to sit in the Central Park in New York chanting religious hymns with his cymbals that attracted some attention from the passerby’s who were intrigued by this old man in saffron robe sitting alone and just chanting something they could not understand but felt an attraction to him and sat down to listen. They were young men and women , white and black who were called hippies in those days who were opposed to the war in Vietnam and looking for a guide who could deliver them from the morass of despair, hopelessness and directionless life.

They were young and were willing to listen to anyone who could lead them to a better life full of hope and aspirations. They were not at first interested in their spiritual upliftment because many were prone to atheism although raised as Christians . They were looking for an alternative to what they were doing living the life of hippies so at first they sat down to listen to the old man and his message.

The old man explained to them in good English the essence of Geeta and how it can impact anyone’s life if only one could accept the wise words of Krishna explained in Geeta. These kids had never heard of Krishna and Geeta let alone anything about India. So they came everyday to listen and sing along with the old man with his cymbals. They brought along others so a crowd developed around this man that kept on growing. They liked his message and started to take him seriously now.

They started collecting some money to feed the old man who taught them how to cook delicious simple vegetarian food that they all shared and enjoyed. Little by little , his followers increased in number until it spread to many countries that has not stopped.

This was the start of the Krishna Consciousness Movement that grew to be a major development in the whole world to bring the words of Krishna through Geeta to millions of followers that included the Fords, The Beatles and other celebrities later.

The growth of this movement in the short span of 12 years in the United States was nothing short of phenomenal. It was the first time an old monk in saffron robe was able to touch the heart of millions with his message since Swami Vivekananda . It was as if he brought water to their parched hearts that made them bloom into the green paradise.

He did it through his prolific writings that was one of his great achievements.

Bhaktivedanta Swami’s most significant contribution is considered to be his books.[58][59] During the final twelve years of his life, Bhaktivedanta Swami translated over sixty volumes of classic Vedic scriptures (such as the Bhagavad Gita, Chaitanya Charitamritaand the Srimad Bhagavatam) into the English language.[48]

For their authority, depth and clarity, his books have won praise from professors at colleges and universities like Harvard, Oxford, Cornell, Columbia, Syracuse, Oberlin, and Edinburgh,[60] and his Bhagavad-gītā As It Is was published by Macmillan Publishers in 1968 with an unabridged edition in 1972.[61][62][63]

The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust was established in 1972 to publish his works, and it has also published his multi-volume biography, Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, that according to Larry Shinn, will “certainly be one of the most complete records of the life and work of any modern religious figure”.[2][64] Prabhupada reminded his devotees before his death that he would live forever in his books, and through them would remain present as a spiritual master or guru.[65] Bhaktivedanta Swami had instilled in his followers an understanding of the importance of writing and publishing not only with regard to his works, but also their own initiatives. His early disciples felt Prabhupada had given them Back To Godhead for their own writings from the very start.[65]( Wikipedia)

You may have seen his followers in various airports in the United States and other countries selling the books published by the Vaktivedanta Book Trust and printed in Los Angeles. I have bought some myself in Miami once. It is now available in over sixty languages around the world and some other books by Bhaktivedanta Swami are available in over eighty different languages.[26][50] In February 2014, ISKCON’s news agency reported to have reached a milestone of distributing over half a billion books authored by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, since 1965.

The Prime Minsiter Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee said the following glowing words praising the Krishna Consciousness movement worldwide :

If today the Bhagavad Gita is printed in millions of copies in scores of Indian languages and distributed in all nooks and corners of the world, the credit for this great sacred service goes chiefly to ISKCON. … For this one accomplishment alone, Indians should be eternally grateful to the devoted spiritual army of Swami Prabhupada’s followers. The voyage of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to the United States in 1965 and the spectacular popularity his movement gained in a very short spell of twelve years must be regarded as one of the greatest spiritual events of the century.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee — 5 April 1998

Prime minister of India

Source : Wikipedia shows the effigy in the place of rest in Vrindavan of thne founder of ISKCON Shri Prabhupada

Source : Wikipedia shows his place of rest in Vrindavan, U.P. India

Over the following years his continuing leadership role took him around the world several times setting up temples and communities on other continents.[45] By the time of his death in Vrindavan in 1977, ISKCON had become an internationally known expression of Vaishnavism.[22]

In the twelve years from his arrival in New York until his final days, he:

  • circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents[45]
  • initiated many disciples, awarding sannyasa initiations[46]
  • introduced Vedic gurukul education to a Western audience[47]
  • directed the founding of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust,[48] which claims[49][50] to be the world’s largest publisher of ancient and classical Vaishnava religious texts
  • founded the religious colony New Vrindavan in West Virginia,[51]
  • authored more than eighty books (with many available online[52]) on Vedantic philosophy, religion, literature and culture (including four published originally in Bengali)[45][50]
  • introduced international celebrations such as Jagannatha processions[45]
  • watched ISKCON grow to more than 108 temples, various institutes, and farm communities. Later they would build more than 600 temples worldwide.

I have seen the phenomenal growth of the movement worldwide that continues to spread to more and more countries . You see them chanting and dancing in the streets of New York to Moscow and in major cities of the world where people watch them with curiosity . These followers are black, white and all other shades in between who find happiness and a purpose in their life for the first time when they join the movement.

They have built massive and very ornate temples in many countries starting in the United States and India that number in more than a hundred so far and have plans to build more in many more countries.

I have included some videos of their major temples in the USA and India here so that you can see how beautiful they are. The architecture and the concept is truly amazing that will impress anyone visiting them.

1.Krishna temple in Virginia, USA

Source : U tube video ISKCON temple in Virginia, USA

2 Krishna temple in Mayapur, India

Source : U tube video of ISKCON temple in Mayapur, Bengal, India

3. Krishna temple in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India

Source : U tube video of the ISKCON temple in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India

4. Planned ISKCON temple complex in Kanpur, India

Source : U tube video of the planned complex of ISKCON temple in Kanpur, India

Source : Wikipedia photo of the ISKCON temple in Tirupathi , India

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