Krishna.com Spring Fundraising Drive: Krishna.com is a non-profit organization that depends on your donations to operate. It takes (only) $6,500 each month to run Krishna.com's web department, with a dedicated staff of 5 people and dozens of volunteers, reaching more than 7 million households in 194 countries. Please join our family of supporters and give a donation to support this important project.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna Movement)

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

0
Reading Complexity: 
Info

ISKCON logo

ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna consciousness, also known as the "Hare Krishna movement," was founded by Srila Prabhupada and his followers in 1966. Srila Prabhupada's aim was to create a global association of Krishna devotees based on the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam on the nature of the self and our relationship with the Supreme Person.

ISKCON has since grown into a worldwide organization of individuals, communities, temples, farm projects, schools, and restaurants, each centered on the ideal of devotional service to the Supreme Person, who is known by unlimited names but whom the Vedas refer to as Krishna, "the all-attractive one." ISKCON is an extension of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's sankirtan movement for spreading the chanting of the names of God, specifically the Hare Krishna mantra, as widely as possible.

Read More

The comprehensive theological teachings of the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Chaitanya Charitamrita are the basis of ISKCON's philosophy. These books describe in great detail the eternality of the self, our relationship with the Supreme Person, the Supreme Person's actual identity, and the activities by which anyone can enhance their innate spiritual consciousness. ISKCON is essentially a spiritual educational institution; systematically teaching the books of Srila Prabhupada and his followers and making such literature available to the general public.

Membership in ISKCON can be formal or informal. Anyone respectful of ISKCON's principles may consider themselves part of the greater ISKCON community. Those who are willing and able to devote themselves to regulated spiritual practice—such as observing spiritual regulative principles and committing to daily chanting a minimum quota of the Hare Krishna mantra—may take formal vows of initiation, enabling them to perform services such as worship of the temple Deity, giving classes, and other duties within the institution.

To manage ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada appointed some of his most mature and responsible leaders to act as a Governing Body Commission for maintaining spiritual standards within the society and preserving ISKCON as a unified movement.

Is ISKCON part of "Hinduism?"

Complexity: 
Easy


Formerly, Muslims living in the regions of Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and Persia called the Sindhu (Indus) River “Hindu” and the people living in and beyond the river valley “Hindus.”

From its founding in 1966 the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has been invigorated by the participation of the Indian community, both in India and the West, and by the endorsements of Hindu organizations around the world. Many of ISKCON’s Indian members, some of whom have leading roles in the Krishna consciousness movement, have worshiped Lord Krishna from their childhood and have followed all their lives, as part of their family or cultural traditions, the basic principles followed by all ISKCON members—total abstinence from non-vegetarian foods, and from intoxication, illicit sex, and gambling.

The Indians’ support of ISKCON never fails to impress me and to encourage me in my own practice of Krishna consciousness. In the West especially, people tend to look at ISKCON devotees as something new, strange, and threatening, but the large-scale participation of the Hindu community helps me to remember, and to convince others, that in joining ISKCON I have joined an age-old religious and cultural tradition that currently has hundreds of millions of followers.

I must honestly confess, however, that despite my growing appreciation of Hindu culture, I wince whenever I hear someone refer to Lord Krishna as “a Hindu god,” to the Krishna consciousness movement as “a sect of Hinduism,” or to the Bhagavad-gita, which ISKCON has published in more than thirty languages, as “the Hindu bible.” By convention, or common understanding, it may be OK to call us Hindu, but a closer look shows that the designation is not wholly appropriate.

Neither in the Gita nor in any of India’s Vedic literature will you once find the word hindu. Hindu comes from the Sanskrit sindhu, which means “river,” and which was specifically a name for the river that rises in the Tibetan Himalayas and flows nearly two thousand miles to the Arabian Sea, passing through present-day Jammu, Kashmir, and Pakistan—the river we today call the Indus.

Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON’s founder-acharya, explained that Muslims living in the regions of Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and Persia, through a singularity of their native pronunciation, called the Sindhu River the Hindu and the people living in and beyond the river valley Hindus. Over the centuries, as Greek, Hun, Tartar, and Mogul armies marched across the Indus to conquer the subcontinent to the south, they brought the name Hindu with them and made it stick. Hindu, Hindustan, Hinduism, Hindi, and even the name India itself, all derive from a term coined by India’s conquerors. Today still, for what little is understood of Indian culture, you might as well broadly define a Hindu as a person living beyond the Indus River, and Hinduism, tautologically, as what Hindus do.

But what do the “people beyond the Indus” do? What were they doing before the repeated conquest of their land, during its occupation, and now after independence? What is that complex body of religion, philosophy, and culture—situated within a crumbling social structure known as the caste system—that we call Hinduism?

Srila Prabhupada answered that India’s actual culture is described in brief in the Bhagavad-gita, where Lord Krishna explains that He has created human society with four natural social classes, or varnas. These are (1) an intellectual class, (2) an administrative class, (3) a mercantile class, and (4) a laborer class. These classes, or occupational divisions, are recognized by the qualifications and activities of the individual, and they are present throughout the world, not just in India.

In addition to social classes there are four spiritual orders, or ashramas, which correspond to stages in each individual’s life. The spiritual orders are (1) student life, (2) married life, (3) retired life, and (4) renounced life. These spiritual orders too are visible to some extent in every human society. The first part of life is for education, after which one gets married and finds a job. Later, at the age of fifty-five or sixty, there is retirement. The renounced order is not so prominent worldwide, although in some religions men and women do renounce married life altogether to become priests, ministers, or nuns.

The entire system of social and spiritual orders is called varnashrama-dharma (dharma meaning, very loosely, duty or religion), and the Vedic literatures prescribe detailed duties for an individual according to his or her position in a particular social and spiritual division. Although this varnashrama-dharma system does indeed constitute a complex body of religion and culture, the aim of all prescribed duties is unified—to serve and please the Supreme Lord. Service to the Supreme is called sanatana-dharma, or the eternal religion. Sanatana-dharma is the common function or duty of every living entity, the thread that unites all world religions, and the essence of the varnashrama system. The Srimad-Bhagavatam ( 1.2.13) states:

"The highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one’s own occupation according to social divisions and spiritual orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead."

In the Gita also, the Personality of Godhead Himself explains that the purpose of all the Vedic literatures is to know Him. So the Vedic varnashrama system, though superficially complex, is essentially simple. To simplify further, Lord Chaitanya has taught that since in this age the Vedic prescribed duties are nearly impossible to follow in their exact details, the members of all social divisions should instead please the Lord by regularly chanting His holy names and by offering the fruits of their work to Him.

The Indian caste system is a perversion of varnashrama-dharma because caste is decided by birth, not by aptitudes and activities. Caste by birth is not supported by any Vedic text; nor is it a very practical idea. Can a judge’s son automatically be allowed to preside in court? Does the child of every IBM executive have natural business talents? Of course not.

Another important difference between the original varnashrama system and Hinduism that has developed over time is that Hinduism recognizes no ultimate goal or conclusion. Hinduism embraces worship of both the original Personality of Godhead and the subordinate demigods, and recognizes the practice of many yoga disciplines, the performance of an array of austerities, and the execution of assorted rituals—all without ever acknowledging that the original purpose of these varied activities is to bring the widest possible variety of individuals to the transcendental platform of exclusive devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

So is ISKCON a part of Hinduism? Well, yes and no. You decide.

What’s clear, though, is that the word Hinduism is an outsider’s term for what’s going on beyond the Indus. What’s going on there is a misunderstood, misapplied version of the Vedic varnashrama system, a system that ISKCON—with invaluable participation and leadership from the Hindu community—is working to establish everywhere. To establish, in other words, on both sides of the Indus.

Coming to Krishna Consciousness-Clara Capriario de Tarres

Complexity: 
Easy

An lnformed Opinion

When her son joined the Hare Krishna movement, she didn't make any judgments without finding out for herself what it was all about.


NOTE: Mrs. Caprario de Tarres, of Uruguay, originally wrote the following article to counter attacks by anticult groups against the Hare Krishna devotees in that country. Her letter helped calm the criticism and enabled the devotees to freely practice Krishna consciousness.

My son Enrique is twenty-three years old. About three years ago, in search of new opportunities, Enrique moved from Uruguay to the United States, to my brother's home in Texas. Once settled there, Enrique had no difficulty finding a job. Indeed, he was able to change jobs whenever he found another offering better pay and better opportunity, and so, from a material point of view, he was very satisfied. But still he found something lacking in himself.

One day he called me to tell me he had joined the Krishna consciousness movement, that he now lived in a temple in Dallas, and that he felt very happy being with the devotees. Enrique begged me not to form any opinions or make any judgments without first being informed of what the Hare Krishna movement really was. He suggested that I get in touch with the devotees in Montevideo, and he sent me their address.

Immediately I wrote to the devotees, and in a few days a young man from the temple came to my house. During a very profound and mature conversation, he explained in depth the basic precepts of Krishna consciousness. From that day I tried to read everything I could on Krishna consciousness and began regularly visiting the temple in Montevideo, where I witnessed the life of austerity and service the devotees led. For the first time in my life I saw people who tried in every possible way to obey the divine laws—to not only recognize what is sinful, but also avoid sinning.

The devotees treated me with great respect. I always felt very comfortable in the atmosphere of peace and sincerity I found in the temple. I believe my feeling of well-being stemmed, above all, from the fact that every time I asked a question—for example, at the end of a class on Krishna consciousness philosophy—they would always answer with clarity and coherence. Up to now, I can say that nothing in their answers seemed to me illogical or unbelievable. It's wonderful to receive consistent answers to everything, to find that there are no mysteries, and to have the deepest questions of my soul satisfied. I believe that affords the greatest peace of mind, the greatest interior satisfaction to any person.

Last year I went to the United States to be present at Enrique's initiation ceremony at the Hare Krishna temple in Los Angeles, where he now lives. The experience was a marvelous and unforgettable one, both for the initiation itself, as well as for the days I spent in the company of the devotees, who accepted me and treated me like an old friend.

During my stay I spoke with many young devotees who told me about their former lives, when many of them lived as hippies and drug addicts and angry punks, something I found hard to believe, looking at them as they were now—calm, serene souls dedicated to Krishna conscious spiritual life.

Some of them told me about their coming to Krishna consciousness, and of the ill will in some cases from parents whose minds were closed to everything that didn't fit their ideas or ambitions for their children. I learned that some parents attacked everything without any understanding, without even bothering to visit the temple and see what went on there see how their son or daughter now lived. Some parents of devotees never even visited the temple or stayed some days with their children, although they were invited to do so.

This particular reaction of some parents to their children's becoming Krishna devotees was probably the only thing that clouded the happiness of these young people. Like my son, they had found satisfaction in living in a devotional way, a way of service, and they were happy with it. Naturally they want their parents to appreciate that and share their happiness, even if their parents don't take to Krishna consciousness.

I had many talks with my son, who now went by the spiritual name he had received at initiation, Caitanya Nrsimha dasa. We took long walks together in the neighborhood, and sometimes we dined at Govinda's, the devotees' vegetarian restaurant. Sometimes we sat in the temple gardens and talked at length. At all times there was a good sense of communication between us. In our family in general, we've always been close to each other, but it wasn't always that way with Enrique, perhaps because of his temperament.

But in Los Angeles everything was different; it was much better. We had no misunderstandings like before. I found him a clear-headed human being, dedicated to spiritual growth, with a grand tolerance and understanding toward everyone. I was able to ask about whatever doubts I had and about the things I didn't understand relative to his faith. His replies were all thoughtful and convincing. It proved to me the seriousness with which he studied the path he's taken.

The trip was certainly a valuable experience for me. The impression I received from talking with my son and with the devotees is that theirs is a serious undertaking, that they have deep knowledge about the life they preach, and that if a person tries to hear them out, to see them as they really are, see beyond their unconventional manners and ways, it will not be very difficult to understand and appreciate them and simply recognize that they carry the message of God.

“Hindus”

Complexity: 
Easy

Formerly, Muslims living in the regions of Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and Persia called the Sindhu (Indus) River “Hindu” and the people living in and beyond the river valley “Hindus.”

From its founding in 1966 the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has been invigorated by the participation of the Indian community, both in India and the West, and by the endorsements of Hindu organizations around the world. Many of ISKCON’s Indian members, some of whom have leading roles in the Krishna consciousness movement, have worshiped Lord Krishna from their childhood and have followed all their lives, as part of their family or cultural traditions, the basic principles followed by all ISKCON members—total abstinence from non-vegetarian foods, and from intoxication, illicit sex, and gambling.

The Indians’ support of ISKCON never fails to impress me and to encourage me in my own practice of Krishna consciousness. In the West especially, people tend to look at ISKCON devotees as something new, strange, and threatening, but the largescale participation of the Hindu community helps me to remember, and to convince others, that in joining ISKCON I have joined an age-old religious and cultural tradition that currently has hundreds of millions of followers.

I must honestly confess, however, that despite my growing appreciation of Hindu culture, I wince whenever I hear someone refer to Lord Krishna as “a Hindu god,” to the Krishna consciousness movement as “a sect of Hinduism,” or to the Bhagavad-gita, which ISKCON has published in more than thirty languages, as “the Hindu bible.” By convention, or common understanding, it may be OK to call us Hindu, but a closer look shows that the designation is not wholly appropriate.

Neither in the Gita nor in any of India’s Vedic literatures will you once find the word hindu. Hindu comes from the Sanskrit sindhu, which means “river,” and which was specifically a name for the river that rises in the Tibetan Himalayas and flows nearly two thousand miles to the Arabian Sea, passing through present-day Jammu, Kashmir, and Pakistan—the river we today call the Indus.

Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON’s founder-acarya, explained that Muslims living in the regions of Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and Persia, through a singularity of their native pronunciation, called the Sindhu River the Hindu and the people living in and beyond the river valley Hindus. Over the centuries, as Greek, Hun, Tartar, and Mogul armies marched across the Indus to conquer the subcontinent to the south, they brought the name Hindu with them and made it stick. Hindu, Hindustan, Hinduism, Hindi, and even the name India itself, all derive from a term coined by India’s conquerors. Today still, for what little is understood of Indian culture, you might as well broadly define a Hindu as a person living beyond the Indus river, and Hinduism, tautologically, as what Hindus do.

But what do the “people beyond the Indus” do? What were they doing before the repeated conquest of their land, during its occupation, and now after independence? What is that complex body of religion, philosophy, and culture—situated within a crumbling social structure known as the caste system—that we call Hinduism?

Srila Prabhupada answered that India’s actual culture is described in brief in the Bhagavad-gita, where Lord Krishna explains that He has created human society with four natural social classes, or varnas. These are (1) an intellectual class, (2) an administrative class, (3) a mercantile class, and (4) a laborer class. These classes, or occupational divisions, are recognized by the qualifications and activities of the individual, and they are present throughout the world, not just in India.

In addition to social classes there are four spiritual orders, or ashramas,which correspond to stages in each individual’s life. The spiritual orders are (1) student life, (2) married life, (3) retired life, and (4) renounced life. These spiritual orders too are visible to some extent in every human society. The first part of life is for education, after which one gets married and finds a job. Later, at the age of fifty-five or sixty, there is retirement. The renounced order is not so prominent worldwide, although in some religions men and women do renounce married life altogether to become priests, ministers, or nuns.

The entire system of social and spiritual orders is called varnashrama-dharma (dharma meaning, very loosely, duty or religion), and the Vedic literatures prescribe detailed duties for an individual according to his or her position in a particular social and spiritual division. Although this varnashrama-dharma system does indeed constitute a complex body of religion and culture, the aim of all prescribed duties is unified—to serve and please the Supreme Lord. Service to the Supreme is called sanatana- dharma, or the eternal religion. Sanatana-dharma is the common function or duty of every living entity, the thread that unites all world religions, and the essence of the varnashrama system. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.13) states:

The highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one’s own occupation according to social divisions and spiritual orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead.

In the Gita also, the Personality of Godhead Himself explains that the purpose of all the Vedic literatures is to know Him. So the Vedic varnashrama system, though superficially complex, is essentially simple. To simplify further, Lord Caitanya has taught that since in this age the Vedic prescribed duties are nearly impossible to follow in their exact details, the members of all social divisions should instead please the Lord by regularly chanting His holy names and by offering the fruits of their work to Him.

The Indian caste system is a perversion of varnashrama- dharma because caste is decided by birth, not by aptitudes and activities. Caste by birth is not supported by any Vedic text; nor is it a very practical idea. Can a judge’s son automatically be allowed to preside in court? Does the child of every IBM executive have natural business talents? Of course not.

Another important difference between the original varnashrama system and Hinduism that has developed over time is that Hinduism recognizes no ultimate goal or conclusion. Hinduism embraces worship of both the original Personality of Godhead and the subordinate demigods, and recognizes the practice of many yoga disciplines, the performance of an array of austerities, and the execution of assorted rituals—all without ever acknowledging that the original purpose of these varied activities is to bring the widest possible variety of individuals to the transcendental platform of exclusive devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

So is ISKCON a part of Hinduism? Well, yes and no. You decide.

What’s clear, though, is that the word hinduism is an outsider’s term for what’s going on beyond the Indus. What’s going on there is a misunderstood, misapplied version of the Vedic varnashrama system, a system that ISKCON—with invaluable participation and leadership from the Hindu community—is working to establish everywhere. To establish, in other words, on both sides of the Indus.

We Shall Call Our Society ISKCON

Complexity: 
Easy

from Back To Godhead Magazine #15-05, 1980 — a brief history of the incorporation of ISKCON

July 11, 1966. 26 Second Avenue, New York City: A few sympathetic, interested people gather in a small downtown storefront to help an Indian swami's mission by adding their signature to a legal document.

Today, ISKCON has branches all over the world. Millions of lives have been transformed by the Hare Krishna mantra and the philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita—thanks to the vision of Srila Prabhupada and the efforts of his sincere followers.

But in 1966, no one (except Prabhupada himself) could foresee how this society could ever manifest on such a scale.

Here's an excerpt from Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita, a detailed biography of Srila Prabhupada, describing the humble yet momentous event of ISKCON's incorporation.

1966: The Lower East Side, New York.
The building was humble, the membership small,
yet Srila Prabhupada's vision encompassed the whole world.

by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami

Amid the cacophony of a storefront at 26 Second Avenue in New York, Srila Prabhupada had begun teaching the science of Krsna consciousness to a motley congregation drawn from the local community. Then, in his characteristically farseeing way, he founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

"We shall call our society 'ISKCON.' " Prabhupada laughed playfully when he first coined the acronym.

He had initiated the legal work of incorporation that spring, while still living on the Bowery. But even before its legal beginning, Prabhupada had been talking about his "International Society for Krishna Consciousness," and so it had appeared in letters to India and in The Village Voice.

A friend had suggested a title that would sound more familiar to Westerners, "International Society for God Consciousness," but Prabhupada had insisted: "Krishna Consciousness."

"God" was a vague term, whereas "Krishna" was exact and scientific; "God consciousness" was spiritually weaker, less personal. And if Westerners didn't know that Krsna was God, then the International Society for Krishna Consciousness would tell them, by spreading His glories "in every town and village."

"Krsna consciousness" was Prabhupada's own rendering of a phrase from Srila Rupa Goswami's Padyavali, written in the sixteenth century. Krsna-bhakti-rasa-bhavita. "to be absorbed in the mellow taste of executing devotional service to Krsna."

But to register ISKCON legally as a nonprofit, tax-exempt religion required money and a lawyer.

Carl Yeargens had already had some experience in forming a religious organization, and when he had met Prabhupada on the Bowery he had agreed to help. He had contacted his lawyer, a young Jewish man named Stephen Goldsmith.

Stephen Goldsmith had a wife and two children and an office on Park Avenue, yet he maintained an interest in spirituality. When Carl told him about Prabhupada's plans, he was immediately fascinated by the idea of setting up a religious corporation for an Indian swami.

He visited Prabhupada at 26 Second Avenue, and they discussed incorporation, tax exemption, Prabhupada's immigration status—and Krsna consciousness. Mr. Goldsmith visited Prabhupada several times. Once he brought his children, who liked the "soup" Prabhupada cooked.

He began attending the evening lectures, where he was often the only non-hippie member of the congregation. One evening, having completed all the legal groundwork and being ready to complete the procedures for incorporation, Mr. Goldsmith came to Prabhupada's lecture and kirtana to get signatures from the trustees for the new society.

July 11. Prabhupada is lecturing.

Mr. Goldsmith, wearing slacks and a shirt and tie, sits on the floor near the door, listening earnestly to the lecture, despite the distracting noises from the neighborhood.

Prabhupada has been explaining how scholars mislead innocent people with nondevotional interpretations of the Bhagavad-gita. Now, in recognition of the attorney's respectable presence, and as if to catch up Mr. Goldsmith's attention better, Prabhupada introduces him into the subject of the talk:

"I will give you a practical example of how things are misinterpreted. Just like our president, Mr. Goldsmith, he knows that expert lawyers, by interpretation, can do so many things.

When I was in Calcutta, there was a rent tax passed by the government, and some expert lawyer changed the whole thing by his interpretation. The government had to reenact a whole law, because their purpose was foiled by the interpretation of this lawyer.

So we are not out for foiling the purpose of Krsna, for which the Bhagavad-gita was spoken. But unauthorized persons are trying to foil the purpose of Krsna. Therefore, that is unauthorized.

All right, Mr. Goldsmith, you can ask anything."

Mr. Goldsmith stands, and to the surprise of the people gathered, he makes a short announcement asking for signers on an incorporation document for the Swami's new religious movement.

Prabhupada: They are present here. You can take the addresses now.

Mr. Goldsmith: I can take them now, yes.

Prabhupada: Yes, you can. Bill, you can give your address. And Raphael, you can give yours. And Don.... Raymond. ... Mr. Greene.

As the meeting breaks up, those called to sign as trustees come forward, standing around in the little storefront, waiting to leaf passively through the pages the lawyer has produced from his thin attache, and to sign as he directs.

Yet not a soul among them is committed to Krsna consciousness.

The lawyer meets his quota of signers, but they're merely a handful of sympathizers who feel enough reverence toward the Swami to want to help him.

The first trustees, who will hold office for a year, "until the first annual meeting of the corporation," are Michael Grant (who puts down his name and address without reading the document), Mike's girlfriend Jan, and James Greene. No one seriously intends to undertake any formal duties as trustee of the religious society, but they are happy to help the Swami by signing his fledgling society into legal existence.

According to law, a second group of trustees will assume office for the second year. They are Paul Gardiner, Roy, and Don. The trustees for the third year of office are Carl Yeargens, Bill Epstein, and Raphael.

No one knows exactly what the half-dozen legal-sized typed pages mean, except that "Swamiji is forming a society." Why?

For tax exemption, in case someone gives a big donation, and for other benefits an official religious society might receive.
But these purposes hardly seem urgent or even relevant to the present situation in the little storefront. Who's going to make donations? Except maybe for Mr. Goldsmith, who has any money?

But Prabhupada is planning for the future, and he's planning for much more than just tax exemptions. He is trying to serve his spiritual predecessors and fulfill the scriptural prediction of a spiritual movement that is to flourish for ten thousand years in the midst of the Age of Kali.

Within the vast Kali Age (a period that is to last 432,000 years), the 1960s are an insignificant moment.

The Vedas describe that the time of the universe revolves through a cycle of four "seasons," or yugas, and Kali-yuga is the worst of times, in which all spiritual qualities of men diminish, until humanity is finally reduced to a bestial civilization devoid of human decency.

Yet for ten thousand years after the advent of Lord Caitanya there is the possibility of a Golden Age of spiritual life, an eddy that runs against the current of Kali-yuga.

With a vision that soars off to the end of the millennium and far beyond, and yet with his two feet planted solidly on Second Avenue, Srila Prabhupada has begun an International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

He has many practical responsibilities: he has to pay the rent, and he has to incorporate his society and pave the way for a thriving worldwide congregation of devotees.

Somehow, he doesn't see his extremely reduced present situation as a deterrent from the greater scope of his divine mission. He knows that everything depends on Krsna, so whether he succeeds or fails is all up to the Supreme. He has only to try.

The purposes stated within ISKCON's articles of incorporation reveal Prabhupada's thinking. They are seven points; similar to those given in the Prospectus for the League of Devotees he had formed in Jhansi, India, in 1953. That attempt had been unsuccessful, yet his purposes remained unchanged.

Seven Purposes of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness:

1. To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all peoples in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.

2. To propagate a consciousness of Krishna, as it is revealed in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.

3. To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krsna, the prime entity, and thus to develop the idea within the members and humanity at large that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of Godhead (Krsna).

4. To teach and encourage the sankirtana movement, congregational chanting of the holy name of God as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

5. To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the Personality of Krsna.

6. To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler and more natural way of life.

7. With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines, books and other writings.

Regardless of how ISKCON's charter members regarded the Society's purposes, Srila Prabhupada saw them as imminent realities.

As Mr. Ruben, the subway conductor who had met Prabhupada on a Manhattan park bench in 1965, remembers, "He seemed to know that he would have temples filled up with devotees. 'There are temples and books,' he said. 'They are existing, they are there, but the time is separating us from them.' "

The first purpose mentioned in the charter was propagation. "Preaching" was the word Prabhupada most often used. For him, preaching had a much broader significance than mere sermonizing. Preaching meant glorious, selfless adventures on behalf of the Supreme Lord.

Lord Caitanya had preached by walking all over southern India and inducing thousands of people to chant and dance with Him in ecstasy. Lord Krsna had preached the Bhagavad-gita while standing with Arjuna in his chariot on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. Lord Buddha had preached, Lord Jesus had preached, and all other pure devotees preached.

ISKCON's preaching would achieve what the League of Nations and the United Nations had failed to achieve—"real unity and peace in the world." ISKCON workers would bring peace to a world deeply afflicted by materialism and strife.

They would "systematically propagate spiritual knowledge," knowledge of the nonsectarian science of God. It was not that a new religion was being born in July of 1966; rather, the eternal preaching of Godhead, known as sankirtana, was being transported from East to West.

And this new consciousness in the West would come about through the teachings of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.

The Society's members would come together, and by hearing the philosophy of Krsna consciousness and chanting the Hare Krsna mantra in mutual association they would realize that each was a spirit soul, eternally related to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They would then preach these realizations to "humanity at large," especially through sankirtana, the chanting of the holy name of God.

ISKCON would also erect "a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the Personality of Krsna." Was this something beyond the storefront? Yes, certainly. He never thought small: "He seemed to know that he would have temples filled up with devotees."

He wanted ISKCON to demonstrate "a simple, more natural way of life." Such a life (Prabhupada thought of the villages of India, where people lived just as Krsna had lived) was most conducive to developing Krsna consciousness.

And all six of these purposes would be achieved by the seventh: ISKCON would publish and distribute literature. This was the special instruction given to Srila Prabhupada by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who had specifically told him one day in 1935 at Radha-kunda in Vrndavana, "If you ever get any money, publish books."

Certainly none of the signers saw any immediate shape to Prabhupada's dream, yet these seven purposes were not simply theistic rhetoric invented to convince a few New York State government officials. He literally meant to enact every item in the charter.

Of course, he was now working in extremely limited circumstances. The sole headquarters for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness was "the principal place of worship, located at 26 Second Avenue in the city, county, and state of New York." Yet Prabhupada insisted that he was not living at 26 Second Avenue, New York City.

His vision was different.

His Guru Maharaja had gone out from the traditional holy places of spiritual meditation to preach in cities like Calcutta, Bombay, and New Delhi. And yet Prabhupada would say that his spiritual master had not really been living in any of those cities, but was always in Vaikuntha, the spiritual world, because of his absorption in devotional service.

Similarly, the place of worship, 26 Second Avenue, was not a New York storefront, a former curiosity shop. It was a small place, but it had now been spiritualized. The storefront and the apartment were now a transcendental haven.

"Society at large" could come here; the whole world could take shelter here, regardless of race or religion.

Plain, small, and impoverished as it was, Prabhupada regarded the storefront as "a holy place of transcendental pastimes, dedicated to the Personality of Krsna:" It was a world headquarters, a publishing house. a sacred place of pilgrimage, and a center from which an army of devotees could issue forth and chant the holy names of God in all the streets in the world.

The entire universe could receive Krsna consciousness from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which was beginning here.

If you'd like to read the rest of the story, send us an email. We expect to receive a shipment of Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita this month.

ISKCON In Relation To People Of Faith In God

Complexity: 
Easy


This document serves as the first official statement by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) concerning the Society’s relationship with other people of faith in God. It has been developed by the ISKCON Interfaith Commission and authorized by the GBC Executive Committee. The process of development included broad consultation with many respected devotees, eminent scholars and religious representatives.*

For ISKCON this statement represents an important step in the path of social integration and maturation. As ISKCON grows it is broadening its membership base and its influence, and therefore it must also accept a more global responsibility. ISKCON is the first global Vaishnava movement and as such feels that it has a need and a responsibility to address its relationship with other faith communities. This statement will serve ISKCON’s members by providing clear principles, guidelines and perspectives for relationships with members of other faiths. For non-ISKCON members it provides a declaration of purpose and a significant basis for relationship.

Our specific reference to ‘people of faith in God’ is based on recognition that everyone, whether adhering to spiritual or materialistic philosophies of life, leads a life of faith. In this statement, however, we direct our concern specifically to those who have faith in a personal divinity, by whatever name.

  • In ISKCON we consider love of a Supreme personal God to be the highest form of religious expression, and we recognize and respect this expression in other theistic traditions. We respect the spiritual worth of paths of genuine self-realization and search for the Absolute Truth in which the concept of a personal Deity is not explicit. Other communities and organizations advocating humanitarian, ethical and moral standards are also valued as being beneficial to society.
  • ISKCON views dialogue between its members and people of other faiths as an opportunity to listen to others, to develop mutual understanding and mutual trust, and to share our commitment and faith with others, while respecting their commitment to their own faith.
  • ISKCON recognizes that no one religion holds a monopoly on the truth, the revelation of God or our relationship with God.
  • ISKCON’s members are encouraged to be respectful to people of faith from other traditions and to see the need for people of different faiths to work together for the benefit of society as a whole and for the glorification of God.
  • ISKCON affirms the responsibility of each individual to develop his or her relationship with the Supreme Lord.

*Some of the consultants involved included: Prof. Frank Clooney, Prof. Kenneth Cracknell, Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, Mukunda Goswami, Tamala Krishna Goswami, Prof. Klaus Klostermaier, Dr. Julius Lipner, Shaunaka Rishi Dasa , Prof. John Saliba, Prof. Larry Shinn and Ravindra Svarupa Dasa.

(The rose photo alludes to a line from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In other words, the essence of a thing is more important than its name. Similarly, whether we call the Supreme Person "God," "Krishna," "Jehovah," or "Allah," we're talking about the same supremely wonderful, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent person.)

What is Hare Krishna?

Complexity: 
Easy

What Is Hare Krishna?

What is Hare Krishna? Depending on the context in which the term is used, "Hare Krishna" could mean a number of things, including (but not limited to):

Hare Krishna is the beginning of the Hare Krishna mantra, a prayer for reviving our relationship with the Supreme Person:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

Often translated as, "O Lord, O Energy of the Lord, please engage me in your service," it is a nonsectarian call to God in the Sanskrit language that can be chanted by anyone for spiritual benefit.
More about the Hare Krishna mantra

Hare Krishna can also refer to the Hare Krishna movement, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. ISKCON was formed in 1966 to promote the spiritual wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, which explain the original identity of every conscious being, the identity of the Supreme Person, and the means of reconnecting with that person through bhakti-yoga, also known as Krishna consciousness. Since members of the Hare Krishna movement practice widespread public sankirtan—chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra—they are often known as "Hare Krishnas."
More about the Hare Krishna movement

Hare Krishna also denotes the teachings of Krishna consciousness, which recommend devotional service to God as the goal of life and the most direct path to genuine spiritual happiness. All souls have a permanent relationship with the supreme soul, and the Hare Krishna teachings are meant to provide a framework for understanding and acting in that relationship.
More about Krishna consciousness

Hare Krishna also literally means "everything that exists." Krishna is a name for the Supreme Person, who is the ultimate source of all energies. "Hare" is a way of addressing Krishna's divine energy, also known as Srimati Radharani, the feminine aspect of the Absolute Truth. Everything that exists is either Krishna Himself of Krishna's energy. So, when you say, "Hare Krishna," you've literally said it all.
More about Srimati Radharani

Hare Krishna is also widely used by Krishna devotees as a greeting (similar to Hawaiians' use of "aloha" as "hello" and "goodbye"), as an all-purpose exclamation expressing either joy or grief (with the same sense as the Yiddish 'oy vey' or the English 'whoopee'), as a means of attracting attention (replacing 'hey, you!'), or even as a condolence. These are merely a few examples of the term's universality. Since "Hare Krishna" (as mentioned above) means literally everything that exists, there's no limit to how many ways it can be used. All other phrases have limited use, whereas "Hare Krishna" can mean anything at any time, at least to Hare Krishnas.
More about Krishna Himself

ISKCON Tirupati: Bringing Goloka to Vaikuntha

Complexity: 
Medium

Tirupati, in Andhra Pradesh, is home to the world's richest temple, where thousands visit daily to take darshana of the deity of Krishna known as Sri Vyenkateshvara or, more simply, Balaji. In 1974 the government of Andhra Pradesh invited Srila Prabhupada to visit Tirupati. For two days he stayed on the Tirumala Hills, where the famous temple is situated, and went three or four times daily to see the Balaji deity. Whenever he went, the priests would allow Prabhupada a private darshana for as long as he liked.

The efficient management of the temple impressed Prabhupada, but his heart contemplated a much grander plan to please the Lord; by spreading His message. During a discussion with the state endowments minister, Srila Prabhupada said that since T.T.D. (the management committee of the Balaji temple) had the basic infrastructure, it should take assistance from the devotees of ISKCON to conduct vigorous preaching for the benefit of all.

For his followers Srila Prabhupada had another message: Build attractive temples like Balaji's, with excellent arrangements for hosting pilgrims.

The Beginning

In 1982, T.T.D. provided ISKCON a large, beautiful piece of land at the foot of the Tirumala Hills, which are the incarnation of Ananta Sesha. In 1984, inspired by His Holiness Bhakti-svarupa Damodara Swami, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, the devotees installed deities of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda and inaugurated a small temple.

Nothing developed until 1996, when His Holiness Jayapataka Swami, ISKCON's governing body commissioner for Tirupati, revived the project. He appointed Revati Ramana Dasa temple president and asked him to wholeheartedly pursue the project's development. Revati Ramana was willing, but progress didn't come easy.

"We began with a handful of devotees and meager finances," said Revati Ramana, "but by the mercy of the Lord we carried on, and in 1999 we held the ground-blessing ceremony for a magnificent new temple. Gradually more devotees came. With the help of a group of dedicated brahmacharis and the blessings of the Vaishnavas, things really got going."

Building with Books

To raise money for the temple, Revati Ramana employed a strategy that hadn't been tested in India: the sale of books on Krishna consciousness. Tirupati is purely a pilgrimage place, without much business or industry; the major source of livelihood for the local people is visitors.

"We decided to develop a program for book sales," said Revati Ramana. "Every day nearly fifty thousand people visit this holy place, not just from India but from around the world."

The T.T.D. granted ISKCON an unheard-of concession: permission to sell Srila Prabhupada's books in the temples under T.T.D. jurisdiction. Many other religious groups have tried unsuccessfully to get space in T.T.D temples.

"The T.T.D people like us," said Revati Ramana, "because we are preaching the same age-old sanatana-dharma that they follow."

Each day the devotees set up six book tables: two in the Tirumala Hills, one each at the Govindaraja and Padmavati temples in Tirupati, and two at the ISKCON temple. Tens of thousands of people see the devotees and interact with them, and the devotees sell thousands of books every day. Book sales raised nearly sixty percent of the cost of building the temple.

The Temple

The first thing that strikes a visitor to Tirupati is the sheer number of colorful signs, billboards, and invitations that line the streets, boldly promoting Bhagavad-gita As It Is and describing the worldwide activities of ISKCON and Srila Prabhupada. About a dozen billboards near the temple show beautiful pictures of Srila Prabhupada and proclaim the wonderful gifts he gave the world.

At the base of the welcome tower, on the eastern side of the temple, slow running water bathes visitors' feet. From there one steps into the temple compound and beholds the marvelous temple, with its light blue color and gold-plated domes. The temple is a beautiful synthesis of traditional South Indian temple architecture and modern facilities.

The temple domes display sculptures of Krishna, Rama, Vishnu, and Nrisimha. The temple has one svagata-gopuram (welcome tower, representing the Lord's feet), one raja-gopuram (grand tower, representing the Lord's navel), one vimana-gopuram (tower above the deities' chamber, representing the Lord's head), and four corner domes representing the four yugas, or Vedic ages.

Marble steps lead visitors to the carved front doors and a first-floor veranda that encircles the auditorium. Two staircases in this front entry carry people upstairs to the temple hall, which fills the whole second floor.

The temple hall is a masterpiece of decoration. The ceiling, with five circular Thanjavur-style paintings, first attracts the eyes. A golden crisscross design stands out on its red background. The largest, central painting is of the divine couple Sri Radha-Krishna, dressed and posed in South Indian style and surrounded by dancing associates. Gold embossing decorates their garments.

Huge chandeliers hang in the center of the room, while delicate ones, which slowly rotate, light the two long aisles of the hall. Along these two side aisles are also pillars, with four-sided sections containing bas-reliefs. The bas-reliefs on one side of the hall portray the Lord's pastimes in various incarnations; on the other side they depict His pastimes in various holy places in India.

Along the walls, huge bas-reliefs in carved wooden frames depict pastimes of the Lord. And tall three-piece windows boast colored, etched floral designs, along with images of Balaji, His consort Padmavati, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda and Their lotus feet with all the auspicious markings, and the lotus feet of Radha-Krishna. The shiny Egyptian marble floor and the painted decorations on the walls are no less intricate, their designs matching in craftsmanship the artwork all around.

The visual tour culminates in the sight of the forty-foot-long, gold-highlighted altar, from which preside Sri Radha-Govinda, Ashta Sakhi (the eight principal gopis), Lord Chaitanya, and Giriraja (Lord Krishna in the form of a stone from Govardhana Hill). The absence of columns in front of the altar (achieved by using L-shaped iron supports sunk deep at the back of the altar) allows an unimpeded view of the deities. This is the first temple in South India where Radha-Krishna are worshiped with Their eight principal gopis.

The temple is designed to impart spiritual training and education. Thus the first floor houses a multimedia theater and auditorium with seating for three hundred, and the veranda around it contains book tables and displays. The ground floor contains both a hall that can seat one thousand and dioramas along the walls that depict scriptural truths and pastimes. There is also a well-furnished five-story guesthouse with conference rooms and a Govinda's Restaurant beside the temple.

Goloka in Vaikuntha

Tirupati is one of the holiest places of pilgrimage for the Sri Vaishnavas, who worship the Lord in the awe and reverence, or the Vaikuntha mood. Now by making this temple of Radha-Krishna, the Ashta Sakhis, and Lord Chaitanya, ISKCON has brought the intimate loving mood of Vrindavana to Tirupati. Thus not only has Srila Prabhupada's cherished desire been fulfilled, but the doors of Goloka have been opened for the residents of Vaikuntha.