The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), otherwise known as the Hare Krishna movement, includes five hundred major centers, temples and rural communities, nearly one hundred affilated vegetarian restaurants, thousands of namahattas or local meeting groups, a wide variety of community projects, and millions of congregational members worldwide. Although less than fifty years on the global stage, ISKCON has expanded widely since its founding by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda in New York City in 1966.
ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiya-Vaishnava sampradāya, a monotheistic tradition within the Vedic or Hindu culture. Philosophically it is based on the Sanskrit texts Bhagavad-gītā and the Bhagavat Purana, or Srimad Bhagavatam. These are the historic texts of the devotional bhakti yoga tradition, which teaches that the ultimate goal for all living beings is to reawaken their love for God, or Lord Krishna, the “all-attractive one”.
God is known across the world by many names including Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Rama, etc. ISKCON devotees chant God’s names in the form of the maha-mantra, or the great prayer for deliverance: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Many leading academics have highlighted ISKCON’s authenticity. Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University, describes the movement as “a tradition that commands a respected place in the religious life of humankind.” In the 1980s Dr. A. L. Basham, one of the world’s authorities on Indian history and culture, wrote of ISKCON that, “It arose out of next to nothing in less than twenty years and has become known all over the West. This, I feel, is a sign of the times and an important fact in the history of the Western world.”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, or Srila Prabhupada, is the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). On the order of his guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, Srila Prabhupada left India at the age of 69 to teach the timeless message of bhakti-yoga, or connecting to God through devotion. Prabhupada founded ISKCON in 1966 in New York City, and in the eleven years before his passing away in November, 1977 traveled the world to establish over 100 ISKCON temples. He also translated, with elaborate commentary, several dozen books on the Vaishnava tradition, or Krishna Consciousness, which are highly esteemed by scholars and have been translated into more than 70 languages.
ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiaya Vaishnava sampradaya (denomination or tradition), a monotheistic tradition within Vedic or Hindu culture.
The word “Hindu” is not found in the ancient texts of India. The word originated as a designation for the people living in the vast regions east of the Sindhu River. Today,Hinduism has evolved into an umbrella term that refers to the “family of religions” based on the Vedic writings, including the major traditions Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism. Together, they make up the world’s third largest religion—today called Hinduism.
This question has preoccupied both philosophers and academics alike for millennia. The ancient scriptural wisdom of India explains that the bodies we see with our eyes – white, black, Indian, European, Greek, Chinese – are temporary, external designations. The real person, the spirit soul, dwells within. It is not that we should claim “I have a soul”. In fact you are the soul. The real understanding is, “I am a soul and I have a body”. When the body dies, the soul continues to live and moves onto another destination.
Srila Prabhupada said the goal of life is to enjoy. Our real, spiritual nature is to seek enjoyment. That’s what everybody does. But the problem is that we find our enjoyment in material world, which temporary and short-lived. Real happiness can be found in serving the reservoir of all pleasure, Krishna.
The answer is Karma. Western science and philosophy explain that the law of causality governs all actions and events in the universe. Actions and events have corresponding reactions on the material platform. The Vedic texts, call this principle of action and reaction ‘karma’. The spirit soul, which is entrapped in the material nature, acts in particular ways which can cause it either further bondage or liberation from the laws of nature. An individual’s actions bring about his or her transmigration from one body to another. One cannot become free from karma simply by refraining from action. One has to learn the art of working without accruing karma, which is the process of bhakti yoga. or devotion to God.
Yoga is more than just a physical exercise. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanksrit root Yuj which means to link up with, or combine. Yoga was systematized in medieval India by Patanjali. He explained the the methodical process whereby one can learn to control the body and mind, with the ultimate goal of using these practices to connect with Supreme. In the West the physical fitness part of it has become an end in itself. But traditional yoga system , this is merely the first step in path of God realization. However with the complexities of modern life, these processes are fraught with difficulties and it could take hundreds of years to perfect them. The recommended practice is Bhakti Yoga -linking oneself to the Supreme with devotion.