There is no point in discussing when the movement started as there is no question of Ancient or Modern in Krishna Consciousness as the teachings are eternal where it is impossible to trace its origin or estimate the date of the ending. There was never a time where the Krishna Consciousness did not exist, no point in discussing when it came in to being from not being. Therefore it has to be established that Krishna Consciousness is beginningless as the teachings were passed down through disciplic succession from Sun God to Vivasvan to till date Acharya’s. However there was a major milestone in this age of Kaliyuga where a pure devotee of the Lord had spread the teachings to the far and wide west about Krishna, as already predicted by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (this Hari Nama will be spread all over the world). Lord Chaitanya travelled throughout India teaching the chanting of the holy names of the Lord.
In the latter half of the 19th century, Srila Bhakti Vinoda Thakur, a great devotee in Brahma-sampradaya, began the work of making this knowledge available to the English-speaking world. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami, the son of Srila Bhakti Vinoda Thakur, continued the work of making this knowledge available to the English-speaking world. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami upon his instructions went to the United States in 1965 to continue the work of his spiritual master. As a result of it, In 1966 the International Society for Krishna Consciousness was established in New York City. As of May 1970, there are thirty centers around the world.
The teachings being propagated in America and Europe by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his disciples is exactly the same as that given by Lord Krishna to Vivasvaan, Arjuna and Brahma. The relevance of Krishna consciousness is eternal and perfect for all people, regardless of culture, place or time. The advice given by Sri Krishna to Arjuna five thousand years ago in India is accepted without modification by modern Americans and Europeans. The teachings of Krishna consciousness are based on true eternal knowledge rather than belief system as eternal knowledge and blissful nature of God is a fact regardless of belief or disbelief of anyone.
Krishna consciousness is the revival of the original consciousness of the living being—the conscious awareness that one is eternally related to God, or Krishna. The true self or soul of the individual is eternal, ever- existent; however due to ignorance of material contamination, one forgets his real relationship with Krishna and this movement focuses on reviving the relationship with Krishna through transcendental loving service called Bhakti, which is the goal of every religion or philosophy or for that matter goal of real life.
The prime instruction one receives here, is that one must revive his dormant love for Krishna. In the present age, known as the Kali-yuga, or the age of quarrel, the recommended method for reviving this dormant love for Krishna is the process of constantly chanting the holy names of Krishna which was revealed by Sri Krishna Chaitanya (the avatar of Krishna) who said that in this age the easiest means of spiritual realisation is the chanting of the holy names. And so, The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is dedicated to spreading the chanting of these holy names. By the mercy of Lord Chaitanya, these holy names have been given to us in an easily learned and repeated form known as the Mahamantra or great chanting:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
Hare (pronounced Ha-ray) is the supreme pleasure potency of the Lord. Krishna is the original name of the Lord meaning the all-attractive. Rama is another name of the Lord meaning the enjoyer(reservoir of pleasure) because Krishna is the supreme enjoyer; the function of the living being is to be enjoyed by Krishna.
Krishna consciousness is experienced as a process of self-purification. Its means and ends are an open secret, and there is no financial charge for learning Krishna consciousness or receiving initiation into the chanting of Hare Krishna. Therefore, sankirtana, or the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra in the city streets for the benefit of all citizens, is one of the more important activities of ISKCON. Sankirtana parties are frequently seen celebrating the holy name of Krishna with dancing and melodious singing, accompanied with mridanga drums and pairs of kartals. The devotees experience that this joyous singing of the names of Krishna produces immediate feelings of ecstasy. The effect is, clearing away of the dirt from the mind engrossed in the gloom of material existence. The name Krishna is non-different from Himself. Therefore chanter of Krishna experience the nectar of association with Him.
The Society is as famous for its Sunday feasts and festivals as for its chanting in the streets. Every Sunday, in each of the ISKCON centers, a grand feast of from ten to fifteen courses of Indian vegetarian food is prepared and distributed to the guests. The feasts are arranged around festival days celebrating the pastimes of Sri Krishna during His appearance on the earth 5,000 years ago. Plays, puppet shows and chanting are regular items which invite guests to participate in the transcendental glorification of the supreme Lord Krishna.
Krishna consciousness is not a dry philosophy. For instance, Residents of San Francisco appreciated the yearly Ratha Yatra festival in which the large cart bearing the Jagannatha Deity is wheeled to the sea. During the Ratha Yatra celebration of 1969, more than 15,000 people followed the regal 8,000 pound cart, and thousands were fed full plates of prasadam at the seaside. In London, a similar procession is led to Trafalgar Square. The important aim of the festivals, chanting and philosophizing is to engage people in the service of the Krishna so they can feel His soothing contact. All miseries are caused by the forgetfulness of God. ISKCON, according to Bhagavad-Gita, is performing the greatest service and highest welfare work for suffering humanity by reviving the lost memory of the Supreme Lord in the minds of the people. Moreover, it is performed in this sublime and easy way, by feasting, dancing, singing and philosophizing.
In addition to chanting the holy names, one should study the scriptures thoroughly. The purpose of Krishna consciousness is to spread love of God to all people. Anyone can practice Krishna consciousness by the process of chanting the holy names, but in order to teach and spread this knowledge it is necessary to have a thorough understanding of the scriptures. The basic scripture of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is the Bhagavad-Gita, which was spoken by Krishna to the great devotee Arjuna. Because it was spoken to a great devotee, the Bhagavad-Gita contains information which is not found in other scriptures. Apart from these, other scriptures include Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Brahma Samhita, Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Nectar of Instruction(for preachers), Nectar of Devotion (for devotees). The texts that are studied are originally written in Sanskrit and Bengali and are translated by the spiritual master and founder of the Society His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. The scriptures must be thoroughly learned and understood without any personally motivated interpretation.
In order to teach Krishna Consciousness, one must live in exact accordance with the scriptural injunctions without the slightest deviation. In order to facilitate teaching, ISKCON is engaged in training qualified teachers. One who wishes to study Krishna consciousness and teach others must be completely dedicated without any outside interest whatsoever.The students of the ISKCON lead completely regulated lives following four regulative principles according to the injunctions of the scriptures.
All living beings are already accepting love from Krishna in the form of their food and all material comforts, and, in fact, life itself. Krishna consciousness movement is the process of becoming aware that whatever is provided in the material world is a gift of Krishna and living accordingly. Therefore all facilities and abilities at our disposal should be used in service to Krishna. In this way, one’s consciousness will be raised to the transcendental platform because he will be thinking of Krishna and there by all the senses and faculties can be engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. It is not necessary to wait for death to enter into the Kingdom of God, because one who is engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord is living in the Kingdom of God even before death. He may still be on this earth, but because he is constantly serving Krishna by the grace of Krishna, he is constantly aware of Krishna everywhere. No one can reach God by guesswork or by his own devices. In order to know Krishna, one must follow the instructions of Krishna that are given in the scriptures.