ISKCON - The Facts.
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>
misrael@csi.UOttawa.CA "Mark Israel" writes:
> In article <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org (Anne
> Haycock) writes:
> > I have a quick question for whoever may be reading right now and can help
> > me out. What exactly does the Hare Krishna cult believe?
> They believe in the Hindu gods. Krishna is their primary deity, the
> Bhagavad Gita is their primary scripture, and Srila Praphupada (who died
> recently) was considered the only authorized interpreter.
Mark - hold on a sec here. What you have replied here is not quite correct.
Anne - there is more to the story than this....
The Hare Krishna movement is a branch of Gaudiya (i.e. Bengali) Vaishnavism.
Vaishnavism is one of the three main strands of Hinduism, the other two of
which are called Shaivism or Shaktism. Vaishnavas believe that there is only
one God, and that the many 'devas' or 'demigods' are 'departmental heads' in
the running of Universal affairs. The movement follows the teachings of
Chaitanya, understood to be Krishna Himself, appearing in the form of His
devotee. Chaitanya appeared in 1486, and began a massive movement of Bhakti,
or devotion, all over the sub-continent. The main scriptures of the movement
are those of Gaudiya Vaishnavas, namely, Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam
(Bhagavat Purana) and Chaitanya Charitamrta (The life of Chaitanya). Gaudiya
Vaisnavism is a very scholarly tradition, and there are many books written by
gurus in the line of disciplic succession, which present day members study.
Srila Prabhupada, who passed away in 1977 was asked by his guru in the 1920's
to bring the message of Lord Krishna to the West. He spent a lifetime in
preparation for this mission, and landed in Boston, in late 1965. He began a
worldwide preaching mission, ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna
> They have to chant mantras some very high number of times per day,
> they forgo hair for the sake of asceticism, Western members forgo their
> Western names and take on Indian names, they're vegetarians, they believe
> in reincarnation, and they have to wash after every bowel movement.
Initiated student members of the movement study the scriptures and practice
Japa, or the chanting of the names of the Lord on beads. This is a standard
spiritual practice in the Vaishnava tradition. (Indeed within other
traditions too). Male temple members generally have the shaven head, in
common with priests and Brahmins in most Hindu traditions. At initiation,
devotees recieve a new 'spiritual name', which is the name of one of the
associates of Lord Krishna. Each persons name is suffixed with 'das', which
means servant. The goal of a devotee is to satisfy the Lord through sincere
service to Him. Hare Krishna devotees are lacto-vegetarians, again according
to the Vaishnava culture. We follow four regulative principles.
1) No Intoxication (Including Tea and Coffee)
2) No Gambling
3) No sex outside of marriage
4) No meat eating.
We follow the Vaishnava philosophy, which includes the concept of
re-incarnation. We do not aspire to be re-incarnated however. Our goal is to
re-establish our lost relationship with Lord Krishna, and to leave this body
with the desire to serve him in the spiritual world. We believe that
cleanliness is next to Godliness.......
> Mainstream Hindus tend have a low regard for the movement. I've heard
> they regard the members as untouchables, and don't allow them in the
_Some_ Hindus think that one is born a Hindu, very much as one is born a Jew.
This is not supported by scripture. In fact the name 'Hindu' does not appear
anywhere in the scriptures, as it was a name given by invading Parsees for
all those living beyond the Indus. In India, there are three massively
popular Hare Krishna mandirs, which receive attendance from Hindus numbering
in the tens of millions annually. They are in Vrndavana, Uttar Pradesh, Lord
Krishna's birthplace, in Mayapur, Bengal, the birthplace of Chaitanya, and in
Juhu, Bombay. A new temple complex is coming up in New Delhi. The Hare
Krishna movement has an intimate relationship with Hindus in the diaspora
throughout the world. In Britain, Bhaktivedanta Manor is place of pilgrimage
for the UK's 300,000 plus Hindus. Other important Hare Krishna temples are in
Durban, South Africa, in Nairobi, Kenya, in Fiji and in Hong Kong. In a very
few Hindu temples in India, Western members of the movement are not allowed.
I am British, and found a very warm welcome recently, from the Shri Vaisnavas
in Tirupati and Sri Rangam, two of the largest Vaishnava temples in the
sub-continent. The movement also has a good relationship with the Madhva
temple in Udupi.
> > From my biased, Christian teaching it is a cult, but I'd like to know what
> > criteria it fulfills to be called such.
> Well, you must have some definition of "cult" in mind. I won't try to
The Hare Krishna movement is missionary. Chaitanya himself predicted that one
day, his name would be sung in every town and village throughout the world.
Being a missionary group has meant that we have come up against the interests
of other religious groups thoughout the globe. Our goal is not a sectarian
one, but primarily to make the knowledge of the Vaishnava teachings available
to all, which was Chaitanya's main goal too. In _some_ parts of the world,
the movement has met with opposition from 'anti-cult' groups. Some of these
are of a born-again Christian nature, and see in the movement a satanic,
pagan threat. A movie 'Gods of the New Age' circulates among such groups.
This is produced in England, and portrays Hinduism as the work of the devil.
Other anti-cultists follow the work of several Psychiatrists in the US,
Margeret Singer being one. These people claim that there is a deliberate
attempt on the part of the movement to capture people from society and turn
them into brainless zombies through the chanting and the lifestyle. This is a
kind of cultural zenophobia.
It has to be admitted that the movement has made mistakes in the past,
generally by giving authority and responsibility to persons who were not
qualified. I think we have learned some important lessons, however, and more
checks and balances are now built in to the legal, managerial and
eclesiastical structure of what is a very large organisation.
> A couple of things that might be worth noting: Missionaries sometimes
> identify themselves in what I would regard as a cryptic fashion. One asked
> me for a donation to what he seemed to imply was a secular charity, and
> showed me a form with "ISKCON" printed on it. If I hadn't recognised the
> abbreviation ("International Society for Krishna Consciousness"), I might
> have donated.
> I've heard that members have to donate 50% of their income to the
The main goal of the movement is to spread the idea, within society, that it
is perfectly possible to live a satisfied and God-centred life, within
'normal' society. Most members of the movement now are householders, with
jobs and responsibilities in society. Srila Prabhupada saw that the global
aim of the movement was to establish a common, spiritual platform for all
mankind. He wanted to see the 're-spiritualisation' of society. He questioned
many of the assumptions of Western science and thought, which have been
current since the rennaisance in Europe. Of course, in the 'Post-Modern'
world of today, many people are questioning these same assumptions.
I am sorry to hear of the 'cryptic' solicitation for donations. In most parts
of the world, in accordance with the movements aims, you will find members
distributing books of spiritual knowledge. In fact, the Bhaktivedanta Book
Trust is the world's largest publishers of Vaishnava literature. Of course,
in some areas, you will find that people are not at all interested in
spiritual life, so devotees develop a range of strategies to at least get a
book into their hands. The aim is that of 'saving souls' rather than
financial. The strategy of the movement worlwide is to fund temples through
covenants and donations from the congregation and membership.
Other spiritual activities include the mass distribution of 'prasadam' or
sanctified vegetarian food, (In London, three hundred homeless people each
day), and 'Harinam', or the public group singing of the names of Krishna,
with drums and cartals (small cymbals).
> Some of my info may be wrong. Stay tuned...
> > Reason for asking? Another one of our English friends from Sri Lanka has
> > appeared in Boston,(imagine my sister's aghast surprise when her best friend
> > from Sri opened the door of the House--Geeg was looking for her twin
> > brother...we knew about him and his older brother...but their sister
> > too?!), seeming to be very much a part of the Hare community here. This
> > makes 3 of the 5 kids we know from this family. I have my hypotheses why
> > this "way of life" fulfills a need for them, but that's a different issue.
> > Thankx for replies,
Where are you Anne? If there is any specific problem in relation to your
friends, perhaps I can help. I am in touch with most of our temples and
temple presidents worldwide, we have our own network.
Please ask any specific questions you may have.
Bhagavat Dharma das
ISKCON Communications UK.