What is ISKCON?
ISKCON – International Society for Krishna Consciousness, also popularly known as the HARE KRISHNA movement is a spiritual society founded by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in July 1966 in New York City, America. Today ISKCON comprises of more than 400 temples, 40 rural communities, over 100 vegetarian restaurants and millions of congregational members worldwide. It also conducts a wide variety of projects throughout the world, such as “Food for Life”, the only free vegetarian relief program in the world ISKCON has expanded widely since its founding.
The aim of ISKCON is to acquaint all people of world with universal principles of self-realization and God consciousness so that they may derive the highest benefit of spiritual understanding, unity and peace. Philosophically ISKCON is based on the Sanskrit texts Bhagavad-gita and the 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”.
ISKCON’s teachings are non-sectarian, following the principle of eternal religion (Sanatana Dharma), which denotes the eternal activity of all living beings – loving devotional service (bhakti-yoga) to Supreme Personality of Godhead. 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 great prayer (Maha Mantra) for deliverance: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Members of ISKCON practice bhakti-yoga in their homes and also worship in temples. They also promote bhakti-yoga, or Krishna Consciousness, through festivals, the performing arts, yoga seminars, public chanting, and the distribution of the society’s literatures. ISKCON members have also opened hospitals, schools, colleges, eco-villages, free food distribution projects, and other institutions as a practical application of the path of devotional yoga.
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.”