We offer our respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness who delivered the Light of the Bhagavata to the whole world.
Of all Srila Prabhupada's writings, this work is perhaps unique. It was written in response to an invitation to attend the Congress for Cultivating the Human Spirit, an international religious conference held in Japan in 1961. At the time Srila Prabhupada was residing in Vrndavan, the abode of Lord Krsna's eternal pastimes. He saw this as his first major opportunity to fulfill the desire of his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, that he preach the message of Krsna consciousness worldwide to the English speaking public. Therefore, Srila Prabhupada deeply considered presenting in essence the timeless teachings of Krsna consciousness which are embodied in the Srimad Bhagavatam, the ripened fruit of the tree of Vedic literature. Srila Prabhupada chose to present the Tenth Canto, Twentieth Chapter of this 'Beautiful Story of the Personality of Godhead', Srimad Bhagavatam.
Srila Prabhupada knew that the Oriental people were very fond of hearing descriptions of nature and that the time of the autumn season is particularly auspicious to them. The Twentieth Chapter comprises the descriptions of Vrndavan, Lord Krsna's eternal abode, during the autumn season. Concealed within those descriptions is the light that dispels our ignorance. As the Srimad Bhagavatam itself reveals.
"This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna to His own abode, accompanied by Lord Krsna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purana.
With every description of Vrndavana during the autumn season, a parallel understanding is revealed. To cite an instance, the dark cloudy evening of the rainy autumn season when no stars are visible is identified with the present materialistic, godless civilization when the bright stars of the Bhagavata's wisdom-the devotees and scriptures-are temporarily obscured.
Srila Prabhupada's plan was that the organizers of the conferences should find a qualified Oriental artist to illustrate each verse according the directions given by him. The verses illustrated by the paintings would make an interesting display for the visitors to the conference. He also wished that a book be published containing the text along with the illustrations.
Due to unfortunate circumstances, Srila Prabhupada was unable to attend the conference and the whole project of Light of the Bhagavata was postponed. Later, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust took up the task of publishing the Light of the Bhagavata as a book along with the illustrations. It commissioned the renowned artist Madame Yun-sheng Li to paint the illustrations and the full-color book was finally published in 1984. Her traditional Gongbi style of painting together with Srila Prabhupada's poetic descriptions which appear alongside make for a unique blending of the world's two oldest cultural traditions-Indian and Chinese. Thus the beautifully effulgent Light of the Bhagavata shone upon the world.
We are pleased to present for Srila Prabhupada's pleasure this economical edition for widely distributing the Light of the Bhagavata. We sincerely hope that the readers will appreciate the simplicity and clarity with which Srila Prabhupada dispels the dense darkness of this age of quarrel and hypocrisy through the Light of the Bhagavata.
This material world is but a reflection of the pure spiritual world from which the Light of the Bhagavata emanates. Nature itself, as well as the whole cosmic creation, has its original counterpart in the spiritual world. The order and patterns which we see set about in nature are intentionally designed to illustrate spiritual truths. Indeed, the very existence of nature and its intricate balance is proof for any honest man of the existence of the Supreme Being, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appeared in this world in 1896 in Calcutta, India. He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, in Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was a prominent religious scholar and the founder of Gaudiya Matha (a Vaisnava movement with sixty-four centres) in India. He liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge. Srila Prabhupada became his student and, in 1933, received initiation as his disciple.
At their first meeting, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati requested Srila Prabhupada to broadcast Vedic knowledge in English. In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita and assisted the Gaudiya Matha in its work. In 1944, he started Back to Godhead, a fortnightly magazine in English. Single-handedly, Srila Prabhupada edited it, typed the manuscripts, checked the galley proofs, and even distributed the individual copies. The magazine now continues to be published by his disciples throughout the world in different languages.
In 1950, Srila Prabhupada retired from domestic life to devote more time to his studies and writing. He traveled to the holy town of Vrndavana, where he lived in humble circumstances in the historic temple of Radha-Damodara. There, for several years, he engaged in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959. It was at the Radha-Damodara temple that Srila Prabhupada began work on his life's master piece: a multivolume translation of the eighteen thousand-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) with full commentary. After publishing three volumes of the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada traveled by freighter to New York City. He was practically penniless, but he had faith that the mission of his spiritual master could be successful. On the day he landed in America and saw the grey mists hanging over the towering skyscrapers, he penned these words in his diary: 'My dear Lord Krsna, I am sure that when this transcendental message penetrates their heatrs, they will certainly feel gladdened and thus become liberated from all unhappy conditions of life.' He was sixty-nine years old, alone and with few resources, but the wealth of spiritual knowledge and devotion he possessed was an unwavering source of strength and inspiration.
'At a very advanced age, when most people would be resting on their laurels', writes Harvey Cox, Harvard University theologian and author, 'Srila Prabhupada harkened to the mandate of his own spiritual teacher and set out on the difficult and demanding voyage to America, Srila Prabhupada is, of course, only one of the thousands of teachers. But in another sense, he is one in a thousand, maybe one in a million.'
In 1966, Srila Prabhupada founded the International society for Krishna Consciousness, which became the formal name for the Hare Krsna Movement.
In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada gradually attracted tens of thousands of followers, started more than a hundred temples and asramas, and published scores of books. His achievment is remarkable in that he transplanted India's ancient spiritual culture to the twentieth-century Western world.
In 1968, Srila Prabhupada sent three devotee couples to bring Krsna consciousness to U.K. At first, these devotees were cared for by Hindu families who appreciated their mission, but soon they became well known in London for the public cahnting in Oxford Street. A headline in the Times announced, 'Krsna Chant Startles London'. But the maha-mantra soon became popular. Former Beatle George Harrison, who had known Srila Prabhupada and the chanting before the devotees came to England, wanted to help. He arranged to produce a recording the mantra on the Beatles' Apple label. It reached the Top Ten in Britain and number one in some other countries.
When Srila Prabhupada arrived in England, he was the guest of John Lennon at his estate in Tittenhurst, while work was progressing on the temple in Bloomsbury, near the British Museum. In November 1969, Srila Prabhupada opened the temple-the first Radha-Krsna temple in Europe. The movement grew from strength to strength. Once again, George Harrison offered to help by donating a beautiful mock-Tudor manor house and estate in Hertfordshire. Now named Bhaktivedanta Manor, it is the Society's main training center in Britain.
New devotees of Krsna soon became highly visible in all the major cities around the world by their public chanting and their distribution of Srila Prabhupada's books of Vedic knowledge. They began staging joyous cultural festivals throughout the year and serving millions of plates of delicious food offered to Krsna (known as prasadam) throughout the world. As a result, ISKCON has significantly influenced the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The late A. L. Basham, one of the world's leading authorities on Indian history and culture, wrote, 'The Hare Krsna movement arose out of next to nothing in less than twenty years and has become known all over the West. This is an important fact in the history of the Western world.
In just twelve years, despite his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents. Yet this vigorous schedule did not slow his prolific literary output. His writings constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature, and culture.
Indeed, Srila Prabhupada's most significant contribution is his books. Highly respected by academics for their authority, depth, and clarity, they are used as textbooks in numerous university courses.
Garry Gelade, a professor at Oxford University's Department of Philosophy, wrote of them: 'These texts are to be treasured. No one of whatever faith or philosophical persuasion who reads these books with an open mind can fail to be moved and impressed.' And Dr. Larry Shinn, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Bucknell University, wrote, 'Prabhupada's personal piety gave him real authority. He exhibited complete command of the scriptures, an unusual depth of realization and an outstanding personal example, because he actually lived what he taught.'
His writings have been translated into over 80 languages. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 to publish the works of His Divine Grace, has thus become the world's largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy. By the end of 1991, 450 million copies had been sold.
Before he passed away on the 14th of November 1977, Srila Prabhupada had guided ISKCON and seen it grow to a world-wide confederation of more than one hundred asramas, schools, temples, and farm communities.
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