A brief look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
ISKCON—Ten Years of Spreading Krishna Consciousness
July 6, 1976, marks the tenth anniversary of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. In only a decade, ISKCON has grown into a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes, and farm communities.
Early in 1966, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada rented a small storefront at 26 Second Avenue, in New York City. A few young students joined him, and with their help Srila Prabhupada formally incorporated ISKCON in July of that year. In this first Radha-Krishna temple in the United States, Srila Prabhupada lectured from the Bhagavad-gita, distributed prasada (food offered to Krishna), and led his tiny group of disciples in chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. After training these first disciples to maintain both the temple and the chanting, Srila Prabhupada flew from New York to San Francisco. There he again attracted a few serious followers and started his second temple. Soon the devotees started temples in Montreal, Boston, Buffalo, and other large cities throughout America and Canada.
In 1968 Srila Prabhupada sent three married couples to London. They chanted on the streets, in clubs, and in private homes, and soon they established a permanent center two blocks from the British Museum. Later they made a record of the Hare Krishna mantra that became the country’s number one song. Srila Prabhupada then sent other disciples to Germany and France, and before long the Hare Krishna movement was flourishing all over Europe. Today the movement extends to Africa, Australia, South America, Indonesia, and Japan as well.
Also in 1968, Srila Prabhupada founded New Vrindaban, an experimental Vedic community in the hills of West Virginia. Inspired by thriving New Vrindaban (now spread over more than one thousand acres), his students have since founded several similar communities in the United States and abroad.
In 1972 His Divine Grace introduced the Vedic system of primary and secondary education into the West by founding the Gurukula (school of the spiritual master) in Dallas, Texas. Though it began with three children in 1972, the Gurukula now has an enrollment of several hundred. In addition to the original school in Dallas, there are now teaching facilities in Vancouver, British Columbia; Los Angeles, California; Port Royal, Pennsylvania; Indre, France; and Sridhama Mayapur, India.
Also, Srila Prabhupada has seen to the construction of a large international center at Sridhama Mayapur, in West Bengal, India. (This is to be the nucleus of a Vedic village.) In 1975, Srila Prabhupada opened the magnificent Krishna-Balarama temple and international guest house in Vrndavana, India. At these centers Westerners can live comfortably and gain firsthand experience of Vedic culture.
Yet Srila Prabhupada considers his most significant contribution over the years to be his books on the science of Krishna consciousness. Since 1966, he has written more than fifty hard-bound and over a dozen soft-bound volumes. Highly regarded by the academic community for their authenticity, depth, and clarity, they have become standard textbooks in numerous college courses. Further, through translation, Srila Prabhupada’s writings now appear in eleven languages. As a result, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (established in 1972 to publish the works of His Divine Grace) has become the world’s largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.
Intellectual leaders have affirmed that Srila Prabhupada’s books are both authentic and appropriate for the modern world. Dr. John L. Mish, Chief of the New York Public Library’s Oriental Division, had this to say: “The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust editions of famous religious classics of India, with new translations and commentaries, are an important addition to our expanding knowledge of spiritual India. The new edition of the Srimad-Bhagavatam is particularly welcome.”
Dr. Samuel Atkins, Professor of Sanskrit at Princeton University, commented, “I am most impressed with A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s scholarly and authoritative edition of Bhagavad-gita. It is a most valuable work for the scholar as well as the layman and is of great utility as a reference book as well as a textbook. I promptly recommend this edition to my students. It is a beautifully done book.”