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“I will give you
all of the instructions
required to run the
Institute. You simply
follow them.”

Srila Prabhupada

lotus flower

drop cap After completing his Ph.D. in July 1974, Maharaja went to Vrindavan, India to see Srila Prabhupada. In Vrindavan, Srila Prabhupada and Maharaja would take a walk every morning. During those walks Srila Prabhupada would speak to Maharaja about presenting the science and philosophy of Krishna consciousness to the world’s intellectuals. One day after a morning walk, Srila Prabhupada called Maharaja to his room and expressed his desire to start an academic wing of ISKCON. He asked Maharaja to become the director of that academic wing, to which Maharaja humbly replied, “Srila Prabhupada, I have neither the experience nor the knowledge of how to run such an institute. I am completely unqualified.” However, Srila Prabhupada responded by saying, “I will give you all of the instructions required to run the Institute. You simply follow them.” Over the following months Srila Prabhupada and Maharaja worked on the details of forming the Institute. Maharaja suggested the name, “Bhaktivedanta Institute” and Srila Prabhupada agreed to it. Maharaja showed Srila Prabhupada the logo of the Bhaktivedanta Institute that he had designed. Srila Prabhupada liked it very much and instructed Maharaja to add the words athato brahma jijnasa, the first verse of the Vedanta Sutra, to the top of the logo. In 1975, Srila Prabhupada visited Atlanta on Maharaja’s request and gave extensive instructions to Maharaja and his colleagues about the purpose and functions of the Bhaktivedanta Institute. It was at that time that the Bhaktivedanta Institute was officially registered. In 1976, Srila Prabhupada also appointed Maharaja as ‘ISKCON Minister for Higher Education’.

Srila Prabhupada proceeded to give Maharaja many specific instructions through conversations and letters on how to organize and operate the Institute.

Some of these instructions were of a private nature and some of them were not. He sometimes used strong words like ‘fools’ and ‘rascals’ to emphasize the urgent need to save humanity from the materialistic concepts of life propounded by most contemporary scientists. However, he repeatedly stressed that all of the activities of the Institute should be carried out with great skill and politeness and that those engaged in this work should be exemplary in their dealings with scholars. A Vaishnava is very compassionate, as are his activities. Therefore the task set forth by Srila Prabhupada of introducing the Bhagavata Paradigm to the scientists was to be done with the utmost respect for their free will. In this regard, Srila Prabhupada frequently emphasized the need for the world’s scientists, intellectuals and leaders to bring a God-centered approach to their research and activities. He felt that if they would do this it would create an immense benefit for the entire society. This understanding given by Srila Prabhupada is emphasized in Bhagavad-gita, verse 3.21:

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate

“Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.”

Maharaja was able to lay the foundation of the Bhaktivedanta Institute under Srila Prabhupada’s guidance. He organized a conference in Vrindavan, India, produced literature and delivered lectures at various institutions. During the initial period of the Institute, Maharaja was working as a research scientist at Emory University and

“…there is an
important need
to bring in the
paradigm of
spirituality in
scientific study.”

Sripada Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja