Prabhupāda, (alternative spelling: Prabhupada, Prabhupad) (eng) প্রভুপাদ (ben) is a Bengali word originated from the language Sanskrit meaning, an honorary title or, a title used before or after the name of Vaishnava religious teachers. Since Medieval Bengali Literature period "prabhu-pāda" denotes lotus feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. It's figurative meaning, "one who has taken shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord" where prabhu literally means "Lord", and pāda means "taking shelter of." It also means, "he who sits at the master's feet". In the Vaishnava cultural tradition, devotees use the term “Lotus-Feet” to describe the feet of their Lord. "Prabhupada" can also mean the way the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's message is carried out.
Prabhupāda is a joined word by the words 'prabhu' and 'pāda', where the word prabhu literally means, master or, lord, God, saint, person with high spiritual esteem, leader and the word pāda literally means, feet or, leg, root.
- E.g. প্রভু (Prabhu) + পাদ (pāda) = প্রভুপাদ (Prabhupāda) = বৈষ্ণবদের ধর্মগুরুর নামের আগে ব্যবহৃত উপাধিবিশেষ (title used before the name of Vaishnava Religious Teachers), সম্মানসূচক উপাধিবিশেষ (honorary title);
The inner meaning of the word “Prabhupada” for Gaudiya Vaishnava devotees is the way the loving message of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is carried out.
Another meaning of “Prabhupada” refers to one who is fully surrendered to spreading the loving message of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with integrity. Devotees of Gaudiya Vaishnavism accept only those who carry the loving message of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as their spiritual masters. Therefore, the inmost branches of the devotee lineage add Prabhupada to the name of their spiritual masters.
In light of the meaning behind the title, it is true that all pure devotees who carry the loving message of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with integrity in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition are eligible to use the title “Prabhupada” with their names. However, according to the history of a branch of the Gaudiya Vaishnava lineage, the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya-Saraswata-Sampradaya, most members, out of humility and to offer respect for their Spiritual Master, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur Prabhupada, decide not to use the title Prabhupada with their own names.
One famous Vaishnava disciple is the Founder Acharya of ISKCON - International Society For Krishna Consciousness, His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj. Srila Bhaktivedanta’s disciples use the title Prabhupada for him, but this is an exceptional case.