History of ISKCON

International Society for Krishna Consciousness

International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) widely known as Hare Krishna movement is a spiritual society, which follows the disciplic succession in the line of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, the branch of Gaudiya Bhagavata Vaisnavism. It was established in the year 1966 in New York City by an Indian monk named A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

The origin of Gaudia vaisnavism, which started about five hundred years ago, is West Bengal. Gauda is name of a particular place in West Bengal and Vaishnavism is a cult followed by the people who worship Lord Vishnu. Thus derives the name Gaudia Vaishnavism. The followers of this cult constituted mostly people from West Bengal and Odisha. This cult was later propagated all over the world by Bhaktivedanta Swami through his extensive writings and translations of various Vedic scriptures like Srimad BhagavatamChaitanya Charitamrita and so on from Sanskrit or Bengali to English. These books are now available in more than seventy languages. Reading, contemplating and distributing these books are inevitable aspect of a devotee’s life in ISKCON.

The movement had to face various allegations and controversies in the beginning but it emerged out successfully and now approved by various leaders & Institutions all over the world. For example, the Supreme Court of New York state announced ISKCON as ‘bonafide organization’.

The purpose of establishing this organization is to spread the cult, which directs a person to make a loving relation with Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhakti-yoga. People from all over the world are following this movement meant to please Krishna, the Supreme Lord. Based on the report of 2007, the greatest expansions in membership had happened within India, East Europe like Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia.

History and belief

ISKCON devotees follow a disciplic line of Gaudiya Bhagavata Vaishnavas and are the largest branch of Gaudiya Vaishnavism

ISKCON is a monotheistic tradition which has its roots in the theistic Vedanta traditions. Krishna is described as the source of all the incarnations of God. Thus ISKCON devotees worship Krishna as the highest form of God and often refer to him as “the Supreme Personality of Godhead” in writing, which was a phrase coined by Prabhupada in his books on the subject. ISKCON follows the achintya bhedabheda philosophy, which proclaims that the individual soul is an eternal personal identity, which does not ultimately merge into any formless light or void as suggested by the monistic (Advaita) schools of Hinduism. Soul is identical with Supersoul in terms of quality but quantity wise its minuscule part of the Supreme. They give the analogy of a drop of ocean water and the whole ocean to support this point. Same minerals are present in the drop of water taken from ocean and the whole ocean water but difference is in the quantity. The constitutional position of minuscule jiva is to serve the whole i.e. the Supreme Lord. Only by doing so can one become blissful. To devotees, Radha represents Krishna’s divine female counterpart, the original spiritual potency, and the embodiment of divine love. She is the topmost devotee of Krishna who understands perfectly how to please Him.

Preaching activities

ISKCON was established with the purpose of spreading Krishna Consciousness throughout the world. The members of this society achieve this goal primarily by singing the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra in public places and by selling books written by Bhaktivedanta Swami. Both of these activities are known within the movement as Sankirtan. Various techniques of preaching like conducting seminars, dramas, quiz contests in schools, colleges and other institutions are effectively applied. Street preaching is one of the most visible activities of the movement. They sometimes invite members of the public to educative activities, such as Bhagavad-gita seminars and camps.

ISKCON has grown so much over the years that various management and business schools all over the world study their administrative and promotional strategies. One such study conducted by E. Burke Rochford Jr. at the University of California found that there are four types of contacts between those in ISKCON and prospective members. Those who are individually motivated contact, contact made with members in public areas, contact made through personal connections, and contact with sympathizers of the movement who strongly encourage people to join. According to the teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, one does not need to be born in a Hindu family to take up the practice. There are ISKCON communities around the world with schools, restaurants and farms. In general, funds collected by ISKCON are treated as communal property and used to support the community as a whole and to promote the preaching mission. Many temples also have programs (like Food for Life) to provide meals for the needy. In addition, ISKCON has recently brought the academic study of Krishna into eastern academia as Krishnology.

The ISKCON Ministry of Education regulates educational activities within ISKCON and oversees the operation of primary, secondary, tertiary, and seminary schools and centers of education. The Ministry of Education also oversees education for religious and sastric study, developed and monitored by the UK-based Vaisnava Training and Education organization. 

Updated on 16 November 2021