What is ISKCON?
The International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popularly known as the Hare Krishna Movement, was founded in 1966 by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. ISKCON is a worldwide association of devotees of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead; its members consist of 10,000 temple devotees and 250,000 congregational devotees. Over four decades ISKCON has grown to comprise of over 350 temples, 60 rural communities, 50 schools and 60 restaurants.
One of the main objectives of ISKCON is to promote the wellbeing of society by teaching the science of Krishna consciousness according to Bhagavad-Gita and other timeless Vedic scriptures.
The Vedic scriptures state that spiritual life begins when one inquires into the nature of the absolute truth, the Supreme Godhead. Hare Krishnas are monotheists and know the personality of Godhead as Krishna, the All-attractive. But it is also recognised that the Supreme has unlimited names such as Rama, Buddha, Vishnu, Jehovah, Allah, etc. The ultimate goal of the Hare Krishna movement is to develop a loving relationship with the Supreme Godhead.
The Vedas also tell us that the understanding of the self, as being non-material or spiritual by nature, is the preliminary stage of realisation of the absolute truth. To understand knowledge of self-realisation one must approach a genuine spiritual master, just as one learns the essence of any subject from a perfected practitioner.
Devotees may accept formal initiation into the chanting of the Holy Name vowing to abstain from intoxication, gambling, illicit sexual connections and the eating of meat, fish or eggs. ISKCON members believe indulgence in the aforementioned activities disrupts physical, mental and spiritual well-being, and increases anxiety and conflict in society. At the time of initiation devotees also agree to chant a prescribed number of mantras each day.
Krishna consciousness is more than another sectarian faith. It is a technical science of spiritual values that is fully described in the Vedic literature of ancient India. The aim of the Krishna consciousness movement is to acquaint all people of the world with these universal principles of God-realization so that they may derive the highest benefits of spiritual understanding, unity, and peace.
The Vedas recommend that in the present age the most effective means for achieving self-realization is to always hear about, glorify, and remember the all-good Supreme Lord, who is known by many names. One of the names is "Krishna," which means "He, who is all attractive," another is "Rama"' which means " He who is reservoir of all pleasure," and "Hare," indicates the Lord's inconceivable energy.
Following the Vedic recommendation, the members of ISKCON are always seen chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna , Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. This sublime chanting puts us directly in touch with the Supreme Lord through the sound vibration of His holy names and gradually awakens us to our original relationship with God
ISKCON's primary mission is thus to encourage all members of human society to devote at least a portion of their time and energies in this process of hearing and chanting about Krishna. In this way they will gradually come to realize that all living beings are spirit souls, eternally related to the Supreme Lord in service and in love. Srila Prabhupada gave a clear mission statement for ISKCON, which is outlined in the following seven points.
The Seven Purposes of ISKCON
- To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all people 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.
- To propagate a consciousness of Krishna (God), as it is revealed in the great scriptures of India, Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
- To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krishna, the prime entity, thus developing the idea within the members, and humanity at large, that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of Godhead (Krishna).
- To teach and encourage the sankirtana movement, congregational chanting of the holy name of God, as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
- To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krishna.
- To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler, more natural way of life.
- With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines, books and other writings
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness draws its legitimacy from its place in a long succession of spiritual teachers and disciples (parampara). There are four major disciplic successions (sampradayas), ISKCON belongs to the Brahma Sampradaya, founded by Lord Krishna Himself.
There are many branches to this sampradaya. Our society belongs to the branch founded by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the 16th century.
The principle is that Vaisnava teachings should be passed on, unchanged, from guru to disciple. The most prominent devotees in this lineage are accepted as acaryas: those who teach by example, who carry the line forward. Listed below are the acaryas s, starting from Lord Krishna Himself all the way down to the Founder Acharya of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada:
1) Krsna, 2) Brahma, 3) Narada; 4) Vyasa, 5) Madhva, 6) Padmanabha, 7) Nrhari, 8) Madhava, 9) Aksobhya, 10) Jaya Tirtha, 11) Jnanasindhu, 12) Dayanidhi, 13) Vidyanidhi, 14) Rajendra, 15) Jayadharma, 16) Purusottama, 17) Brahmanya Tirtha, 18) Vyasa Tirtha, 19) Laksmipati, 20) Madhavendra Puri, 21) Isvara Puri, (Nityananda, Advaita), 22) Lord Caitanya, 23) Rupa, (Svarupa, Sanatana), 24) Raghunatha, Jiva, 25) Krsnadasa, 26) Narottama, 27) Visvanatha, 28) (Baladeva) Jagannatha, 29) Bhaktivinoda, 30) Gaurakisora, 31) Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, 32) His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.