VAST draws its inspiration from the life and teachings of
His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
( 1896 - 1977 ), one of the most eminent Vedic scholars of
modern times and a distinguished disciple of Srila
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami in the chain of disciplic
succession from Lord Krishna.
His spiritual master instructed him in 1922 to broadcast the
principles of the timeless Vedic wisdom throughout the world.
In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada, relentlessly
pursued his mission of bringing about real peace and happiness
in the world.
Starting for America in 1965 at an age of 69, with merely forty rupees, he single-handedly set up the International Society for Krishna Consciousness ( ISKCON ) - a global spiritual organization comprising of over 100 ashrams, schools, temples, institutes and farm communities. In twelve years, he circled the globe fourteen times, across six continents, disseminating Vedic knowledge.
Working eighteen to twenty hours a day, he inspired and motivated thousands of disciples.
His greatest contribution
His books - working in very humble circumstances, he compiled over sixty volumes of Vedic literature. His works have merited highest accord in the academic circles for their authoritativeness, clarity and depth and are used as standard text - books in numerous colleges and universities across the globe. His writings have been translated into over fifty languages and more than 400 million copies have been distributed.
His legacy lives
Three decades after his passing away, his followers in pursuance of his vision to build a house in which the whole world can live - have expanded ISKCON to more than 400 centers in 95 countries and a cross - cultural, world - wide congregation. Srila Prabhupada continues to be the prime source of inspiration for his followers who are carrying on his mission - his ISKCON is ever expanding.
"One of the most constantly striking themes that emerged for me was Srila Prabhupada's strong, unwavering private victory.
He had spent the time to develop and live by a set of values that in
my mind are wholly aligned with principles that came from Krishna. For example, he demonstrated humility, faithfulness, devotion to Krishna, love, integrity, work ethic, sincerity, maturity: capability to balance courage and consideration, growth, patience, a desire to become and nurture others to become interdependent, proactivity, vision, living by what was important to him, a value of others' thoughts and capabilities, believing in the potential of people, morality, mutual benefit and empathy. He committed himself to lead a principle-centered life and encouraged others to do the same. He worked tirelessly very long hours (about 18/20 hours a day) to nurture and establish ISKCON; its BBT books, institutions worldwide, etc.
Srila Prabhupada appeared to have tremendous integrity to his value system. When faced with difficult situations like losing potential followers due to his strict moral code, he remained true to his value system and insisted that his followers practise the same high levels of morals. He exercised his proactivity consistently.
Srila Prabhupada was first and foremost a role model of his teachings. If a person wanted to understand his belief system, the only thing they needed to do was watch him. His actions laid the ground work or the foundation for his words. His preachings were rooted in the actions of his own life. This is, in my mind, the most powerful way to influence. It also strikes at the root of what it means to have integrity to one's value system. This role modeling was probably essential to his ability to grow his movement. He remained a role model until he took his last breath: committed to preaching,
publishing, simple living and high thinking according to Lord Krishna's principles as enunciated in the Bhagavad-gita.
Another important factor to growing Krishna consciousness was his desire to create independent and eventually interdependent followers. He seemed to believe in the potential of his devotees and encouraged them to continue the work of publishing and sharing his message, when he was away. He seemed to recognise that one of the things that was in his circle of influence was each devotee. In fact, each devotee had a circle of influence. If he could get them all working for a common vision, ISKCON would grow at a much greater rate. He seemed to realise this and remain humble. He seemed to see himself as a servant to bring others closer to Krishna, but spreading Krishna consciousness was the ultimate goal. He never lost sight of this. This is especially powerful at the end of his life. He continually reminded his devotees that he has taught them everything they need to know to continue to follow Krishna after he is gone. The power is in Krishna; he was merely His servant.
Probably the most striking principle he lived by was his complete devotion to his mission or vision : of creating a Krishna consciousness Society. Srila Prabhupada's ability to stay focussed on his
vision of creating Krishna consciousness all over the world is remarkable and unique. Even when he was faced with financial struggles while trying to publish his translations, challenges in getting the finances to go to America, health difficulties on the
passage way or troubles when he first arrived in America, he remained true to his goal. Not only did he have a vision, he lived it. He knew what was most important to him and he spent his time there. He put first things first.
Consequently this became more challenging as ISKCON grew and with it the administrative responsibilities. Srila Prabhupada
continually remained focussed on spending his time in the most effective ways possible : preaching, translating, modelling and training his disciples.
While Srila Prabhupada's vision remained the same, his ways or vehicles to achieve that vision progressed. In the early years of the movement, the way of creating Krishna consciousness was to stimulate interest and attract devotees from all over the world by preaching. As that was being established, Srila Prabhupada added building temples as an additional focus. Finally, in the early 1970's, he instructed his disciples that their top priority should be book distribution. These goals and ways of achieving the vision were always clearly communicated and explained. Srila Prabhupada's way was to involve as many disciples as possible in these projects. He continually strived to create an interdependent society.
Srila Prabhupada's personal commitment to the "ways" of achieving Krishna consciousness was unwavering. His unwavering belief in his vision based on evam parampara and his ways of achieving the vision played a superior role in ISKCON's ability to achieve what they did.
In Stephen Covey's language, Srila Prabhupada's strong private victory enabled him to be effective in his interactions with other
people. While working with others, you see his attitude of mutual trust and benefit, of empathy, of tapping with the individuals he is working with and synergising. Alignment with these principles helped him to keep disciple as devotees. Overall, in my mind, Srila Prabhupada's life was full of examples of principle-centered living. He embodied as well as taught principles.
He had fully internalised the seven habits of highly effective people as brought to us by Stephen Covey, especially the private victory. He recognised his own personal power to make a difference. He understood and responded to life on the basis of his value system. He consistently looked in his circle of influence and encouraged others to do the same. He was a father figure in the lives of many of his disciples, encouraging them to make a break from unhealthy habits and practices and commit their lives totally to Krishna. He had an unbelievable mission, based on principles, which he remained true to, despite adverse circumstances. He lived out of that vision."
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was incorporated on 27th July,1966 in New York by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Better known as the Hare Krishna movement, ISKCON is comprised of more than 400 centres spread across 95 countries and 572 cities.
The mission of this nonsectarian, monotheistic movement is to promote the well-being of society by teaching the science of Krishna consciousness according to the Bhagavad-gita and other ancient Vedic scriptures.