The International Society For Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also religiously known as the Hare Krishna Movement or Hare Krishnas is a spiritual society that was founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in July 1966 in New York.
ISKCON follows a Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya, a religious tradition, being followed by the Vedics and the Hindus.
Mainly, ISKCON believes in the teaching of Lord Krishna.
Presently, ISKCON comprises of nearly five hundred temples and rural communities, thousands of community groups, over one hundred vegetarian restaurants, and millions of ISKCON devotees.
ISKCON was formed to spread the practice of the Bhagavad-Gita and the Bhagavad Purana, or Shrimad Bhagawatam, which teaches us living beings to practice the love of God or Lord Krishna, the “all-attractive one”.
Around 525 years ago, Lord Krishna, himself in the form of a devotee, subsided on Earth to teach us humans of Kaliyuga how to become a devotee and preachify Holy names. The devotee form was none other than the Divine Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who descended in the combined form of Lord Krishna and Lord Radha. Therefore, it continues the chanting of the sacred mantra “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare”.
History Of ISKCON
In 1966, the Great Srila Prabhupada, left Vrindavan to spread the word of Lord Krishna in the western countries. He eventually entered Boston with a lot of Krishna books and just Rs.40 in his hands. He started spreading the word of Krishna there. He started by preaching and chanting in public parks and attracted a lot of youth in the process. Lots of people joined him during the chanting, while many considered his mission a serious concern.
His mission was known as the “Lord Krishna Movement” back then.
He resided in New York until the year 1966. Started giving lectures on the Bhagavad Gita weekly. And eventually, in the year 1966, established ISKCON in New York City successfully.
From 1966-to 1968, a lot of new followers joined his sacred mission. As a result, they were able to establish temples in cities like New Mexico, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Montreal.
The first Rath-Yatra festival was initiated in San Francisco. Today, Rath-Yatra is one of the most important and major religious festivals celebrated in India. The Rath-Yatra festival is also celebrated in many different parts of the world, by the great devotees of the ISKCON.
When it grew even larger and spread to England, it gained publicity and financial support from the Beatles’ George Harrison. He recorded several tracks in the name of Lord Krishnas. He also included Mahamantra in his hit track “The Sweet Lord”.
The first Hare Krishna community, New Vrindavan in West Virginia, was established by Prabhupada in 1968.
ISKCON describes Lord Krishna as all the avatars of God. Thus, ISKCON devotees worship Krishna as the highest form of God, Swayam Bhagavan.
- One of the most prominent and popular practices celebrated by the ISKCON is Kirtan. It’s the celebration and singing of the Lord Krishna Mantra. Kirtan is a way to attract new devotees into the ISKCON movement as well as, to express piety towards Lord Krishna. Thousands of ISKCON devotees gather in streets and parks to chant and sing the mantra and to celebrate the practice.
- Another prominent religious practice followed by the ISKCON is japa. Worshipers chant through the name Krishna on a set of worshiping beads, also known as Rosary. It is known to chant sixteen rounds of the rosary a day. It is considered a salvation for the young youth nowadays.
3. Offering Aarti
A very important practice followed at the ISKCON temple is offering Aarti. It is observed the ISKCON has a very specific and on-time schedule for the Aarti.
It is considered that the worshipper considers himself unworthy to directly offer anything to Lord Krishna. Everything is first handed over to the Guru, the Guru then hands everything over to his Guru, and eventually, everything is offered to Krishna.
Each item should be offered by making 7 rounds around the Deity.
4. Deity Workship:-
Deities are not just any ordinary statues placed on the altar of the temple. They are considered to be non-different from Lord Krishna himself.
Lords can manifest themselves in any form. They appear in different incarnations and in many different forms. Lord Krishna might appear in the form of his deity. So a deity established in a temple is non-different from the Lord himself.
5. Sunday Feast:
- ISKCON devotees meet for a practice every Sunday known as the Sunday Feast that includes worshiping the Gods, practicing in kirtan and Japa, listening to the prayers by the ISKCON devotees, and enjoying the offered food by the temple.
Four Major Principles
1. No Intoxication:-
People are well aware of the harmful effects of intoxicants. Intoxicants include alcohol, drugs, and caffeine. No intoxicants principle is based on the pillar of austerity.
- ISKCON completely forbids the consumption of alcohol or any other intoxication. The endpoint of human life is to constantly meditate and serve the divine couple.
2. No Meat-eating:-
- Any flesh-eating or killing animals is strictly prohibited at the ISKCON. Thousands of case studies have proven that animal flesh is not meant to be consumed by humans as the human intestines cannot digest or absorb the animal flesh by any means.
3. No Gambling:-
- Gambling is considered an immoral activity at ISKCON. Gambling and other sinful activities drift you away from truthfulness and spiritual practice.
4. No Illicit Sex:-
Any sexual relationship with anybody except a wedded wife and that too, for the procreation of Krishna-conscious children.
- These are the strict standards followed by the Vedic culture.
Kirtan And Music Influence
The practice of Kirtan and the music practices is considered very important in the ISKCON movement. Kirtan festivals are held around the world in many different countries like Texas, Belgium, Durbuy, etc.
The Hare Krishna mantra has been sung on some very famous hits such as “The Sweet Lord”.
Only George Harrison has shown involvement and embraced the Krishna consciousness out of the four Beatles. He has also provided financial support to the ISKCON in the UK.
Prabhupada has always shown great warmth and inspiration towards Harrison’s songs and they have enjoyed a great friendship with each other.
In the 1980s, the band Cro-Mags included the ISKCON members and devotees and helped spread awareness about the Krishna Consciousness. In the year 2020, Willow Smith and Jahnavi Harrison got together for the song “Surrender” and the album “Rise” which were Indian songs written in Sanskrit lyrics.
On August 16, 2006, a bomb attack on ISKCON was reported that killed five people and many were left injured. The blast took place at the ISKCON temple in Imphal, Manipur on a day of a major Hindu festival.
In 2007, the Kazakhstan Government authorities destroyed down 25 homes that were owned by ISKCON members.
In 2009, an orphanage owned by the ISKCON was attacked by unknown men. The furniture and a statue in the orphanage were destroyed and the devotees were beaten. They also tried taking authority over the orphanage.
In 2016, the ISKCON temple in Bangladesh was attacked by Muslims and around ten people were wounded during the attack.
In 2018, the gate of ISKCON temple in Brazil was attacked and a Lord Krishna painting with his mother Yashoda was vandalized.
In a Rath-Yatra organized in Bangladesh, a group of people attacked during the celebration, and nearly 6 devotees were left wounded.
In 2020, an Ansar-Al Aslam group planned an attack on the ISKCON temple but the police seized the group.
On 15 October 2021, an ISCKON temple in Bangladesh was attacked and 2 devotees lost their life.
1. ISKCON Tribal Care Trust:-
- ISKCON Tribal Care Trust, an initiative by ISKCON, is a public charitable trust organization established for the tribal communities in India. It has set up schools, water resources, and food relief facilities in the tribal areas.
2. International Society For Cow Protection:-
- ISCOWP’s concern is to provide major alternatives to dairy and dietary practices that harm innocent animals, especially cows.
3. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust:-
- Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, an initiative by ISKCON founded in 1972 by the great A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, provides religious books to ISKCON and also to the book trade in general. It’s the world’s largest publisher of religious and spiritual books.
4. Pandava Sena:-
- Pandava Sena is an organization that helps make the Vedic culture and knowledge much more ordinary and relevant for us people. It is a huge global network of spiritual friends. Pandava Sena also organizes festivals, music festivals, conferences, and presentations for us youth to carry a spiritual message.
Notable People Of ISKCON
1. George Harrison:-
- The former Beatle member, George Harrison enjoyed a very warm friendship with Swami Prabhupada. He paid for the publication of the first edition of the, Krishna book, gave financial support to the ISKCON temple in the US, and recorded for the song “The Sweet Lord”.
2. Russell Brand:-
Russell Brand is known to have turned down his drug addiction through the Hare Krishna consciousness. He says that he has been sober for 16 years now It’s known that Russell Brand says “Hare Krishna” at the end of his show.
- He met the famous Hare Krishna devotee, Radhanath Swami and called him “a beautiful fellow”. He is known to marry the singer Katy Perry in India in a Hare Krishna ceremony.
3. Steve Jobs:-
- As a young man, Steve Jobs used to attend the Sunday feasts regularly. After dropping out of Reed College, he still continued taking some classes there, while delivering the commencement address at Stanford University in 2005, he said “I did not have a dorm room so I slept in a friend’s room on the floor”. He also said that “I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it”. The whole speech was very heart touching and inspiring for the devotees of ISKCON.
4. Allen Ginsber:-
- Allen Ginsber met Swami Prabhupada and experienced he was a really gentle and sweet person. Allen Ginsber used to be a poet then, the author of Howl. Allen Ginsber brought the Hare Krishna Consciousness to the U.S. in 1965, even before Swami Prabhupada came up there. Usually, all the gurus lived in the rich part of New York and were sponsored by the rich, but Prabhupada moved to the Lower East Side where the hippies, acid-heads, freaks, amphetamine-heads, and the meth monsters were, it was a stroke of brilliant social judgment on his part.” said Allen Ginsber.
5. Don Foose:-
- Don Foose is a Hare Krishna devotee and a punk rocker and has been a part of some very famous Krishnacore bands like the Shelter, 108, etc.
6. Trisha Paytas:-
Trisha Paytas is an American singer and a very famous Youtuber.
Trisha also claims to be a huge devotee of the great Hare Krishna Movement or the ISKCON. Their recent fixation has been seen through TikTok videos meditating, chanting, and singing to the Krishna Mantras. Trisha also made a vlog to the ISKCON temple and blessed her audience with it. The vlog was named as “Visiting The Hare Krishna Temple for the First Time + TEMPLE HAUL!”.
7. Poly Styrene:-
- Poly Styrene is an English musician and a singer. She has also been a lead vocalist for the punk rock band X-Ray Spex. Poly Styrene has been a full-time devotee of the Hare Krishna Movement and the ISKCON.
Top 13 Interesting Facts About ISKCON
1. There are more than 700 ISKCON temples and centres all around the world:
The great Sri Srila Prabhupada took off on a 60 day trip to America to spread awareness and teach people more about the Krishna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada spent a total of 11 years in building and establishing all of the ISKCON temples and centres in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Australia, Hong Kong, India, Russia, Scotland and so many more.
2. The World’s Biggest ISKCON temple is in Mayapur, West Bengal:
Temple of the Vedic Planetarium, West Bengal is the world’s biggest temple and also is the Headquarters of ISKCON. The construction of the temple started in 2010, and it was supposed to be completed in 2022, but due to the covid pandemic and the lockdown, the opening has been pushed to the late 2023.
3. More than 50 crore people have read the Bhagavad Gita till date:
It is estimated that more than 50 crore people have read the Bhagavad Gita including the foreigners. It is said that the ISKCON centres planned on disturbing out the Bhagavad Gita to each and every house to spread more and more awareness about it.
4. Bhakti Vedanta Book Trust:
The Bhakti Vedanta Book Trust, a great initiative by the ISKCON founded in 1972, is the world’s largest publisher of ancient and classic books. It is also a book trade in general.
5. Srila Prabhupada said “ I will build a house where we all can live”:
ISKCON is a community where no matter which religion, caste, or race you are from, ISKCON always welcomes you to practice in bhajans, kirtans and to follow the Krishna Consciousness.
It just follows four major principles, i.e. no intoxication, no gambling, no animal earing, and no illicit sex.
6. There are more than 100 cowsheds established abroad:
In countries like America, etc where people consume beef. Srila Prabhupada has established cowsheds to protect the cows from slaughtering and provided a shelter to those cows. Now, there are so many people who have started switching into a vegan diet and have stopped consuming animal flesh.
7. World’s Biggest Bhagavad Gita:
The world’s largest Bhagavad Gita is in New Delhi’s ISKCON temple.
It weighs about 800 kgs and it has waterproof sheets.
8. ISKCON serves 8 million people worldwide each day:
ISKCON’s “Food For Life”, the world’s largest vegetarian food distribution program, serves millions of meals daily.
Even during the difficult times in the pandemic and the lockdown, ISKCON provided nearly 30 million meals to the needy people.
9. Till date, there have been 32 spiritual masters in ISKCON:
There are only 32 spiritual masters in ISKCON till date. A spiritual master is the one that has realised the their oneness with the Supreme, the Krishna Consciousness.
10. People from all religions from all over the world visit ISKCON:
ISKCON is open for everybody. It is open for people of any caste or religion, and it welcomes people to participate in their spiritual practices, no matter which religion they are from.
11. There are millions of ISKCON devotees worldwide:
ISKCON claims to have around one million devotees all over the world. The Hare Krishna Consciousness has grown rapidly and there are millions of worshippers today.
12. ISKCON promotes Krishna Consciousness:
It’s core beliefs are based on the Vedic and the Hindu culture, particularly the Bhagavad Gita and the Bhagavata Purana. ISKCON temples aim at spreading and teaching Krishna Consciousness all over the world.
13. ISKCON follows holy scripts of Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagwat:
ISKCON was formed to spread the practice of Bhagavad-Gita and the Bhagavad Purana, or Shrimad Bhagawatam, which teaches us living beings to practice the love of God or Lord Krishna, the “all attractive one”.