PRABHUPADA & THE HARE KRISHNAS
Who is Srila Prabhupada?
Srila Prabhupada (1896–1977) is the founder and foremost teacher of the Hare Krishna movement (also known as ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness). On the instruction of his teacher, Prabhupada, at the age of 70, journeyed alone and without funds from Calcutta to New York to begin this movement. Today it has grown into a worldwide community with hundreds of ashrams, schools, temples, institutes, restaurants, and farm communities. Prabhupada’s most significant contribution, however, is his books, which consist of his translations of and extensive commentaries on original Sanskrit texts. Highly respected by the academic community for their authority, depth, and clarity, Prabhupada’s books have been translated into over 80 languages and are used as standard textbooks in numerous college courses.
What was Prabhupada’s purpose in coming to the United States?
In coming to the United States, Prabhupada was fulfilling the vision and desire of his teacher. His teacher, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, as well as the long line of teachers that came before him, wanted to introduce the people of the world to an ancient and highly effective spiritual process known as bhakti yoga. Most people are familiar with yoga as a form of exercise, but exercise is only a part of yoga. ‘Yoga’ means connection and bhakti yoga means to connect with Krishna or God in loving devotion. Based on the teachings of Bhagavad-gita, Prabhupada said that the spiritual process of bhakti yoga offers people an opportunity to become truly happy.
When was the Hare Krishna movement established in the United States?
The Hare Krishna movement was established in the United States in July of 1966 in New York City by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The formal name of the movement is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
What is ISKCON?
ISKCON is an acronym for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. It was established to promote the timeless wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita and other Vedic scriptures. Srila Prabhupada travelled around the world 12 times to develop this fledgling society, which currently has hundreds of temples, farm communities, ashrams, schools, institutes, and restaurants. He established the Governing Body Commission (GBC) to oversee both the administrative and spiritual needs of the society as well as to provide a management structure so that the Society would survive his passing. ISKCON temples are in almost every major city of every continent and its members are from all races, ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds.
What is the essence of Prabhupada’s teachings?
The essence of Prabhupada’s teachings is that every living being is ultimately an atma, or soul. Unlike the body it inhabits, the soul is not material but spiritual. The soul is not temporary but eternal; it is not insentient but sentient. The soul has a relationship with the Supreme Soul, God, and re-evoking that relationship is called bhakti-yoga, or connecting to the Supreme through devotion. Bhakti yoga is a joyful practice that involves engaging the mind, body, and soul in devotion to the Divine.
What is the source of Prabhupada’s teachings?
Prabhupada’s teachings are based on the timeless and well-known Vedic scripture, Bhagavad-gita, the song of God. Read and revered by 850 million people worldwide, Bhagavad-gita was sung some five thousand years ago and is arguably the world’s oldest spiritual dialogue. Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Mahatma Gandhi are a few of the thinkers and leaders who found inspiration and guidance in the Gita’s wisdom.
Who is Krishna?
Krishna is a Sanskrit name for God meaning “the all-attractive Person.” Just as the sun has different names in different languages, similarly, God has many different names in different traditions but ultimately, just as the sun is one, similarly God is one. The Bhagavad-gita and other Sanskrit wisdom texts explain that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead from whom everything emanates, including the impersonal, formless effulgence known as Brahman.
What is Krishna consciousness?
Krishna consciousness means to become aware of God, Krishna, in every aspect of life. Put in another way, Krishna consciousness is a traditional process of spiritual realization that can enable each and every person to develop love for God — it’s the art and science of learning how to love everyone and everything by the simple process of loving Krishna. Bhakti yoga is another name for the practice of Krishna consciousness.
What is bhakti-yoga?
In the West, the term yoga has become synonymous with postures and exercises known as asanas. These asanas were practiced by ancient sages in quiet places in order to control the mind and senses in order to improve meditation on God. Prabhupada explained, however, that this is only one part of yoga.
Bhakti is a Sanskrit word that means “devotional service” and yoga means “to connect.” Therefore, bhakti yoga means to connect with God by serving him with devotion. Hearing and speaking about God, singing his names, remembering and praying to him, worshiping and making offerings to him, and using one’s talents and time for him, are some of the many different ways to engage in bhakti yoga.
Prabhupada emphasized that the practice of bhakti yoga can be easily applied within one’s everyday life. Relationships, family life, career, creative pursuits, eating habits, etc. can all take on a spiritual focus when included in the practice of bhakti yoga. One does not necessarily have to give up all these things and move to a cave in the Himalayas!
What are the four regulative principles?
Persons who formally join the Hare Krishna movement agree to follow four regulative principles:
1. no eating meat, fish, or eggs;
2. no intoxication;
3. no illicit sex life; and
4. no gambling.
Just as a top athlete requires some regulation and a healthy diet to achieve peak performance, similarly, these regulative principles are intended to help practitioners purify their existence, which in turn helps the process of becoming God conscious and self-realized.
What is the Maha Mantra and what’s its purpose?
The Maha Mantra literally means “great chant,” or put in another way, “the transcendental vibration that surpasses the senses, mind, and intelligence and enables one to connect with the self (the soul).” Chanting the Maha Mantra can free the mind of stress and bring one to the spiritual platform, the platform of the spirit soul. The soul is not Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jew or any other designation; the soul is simply pure spirit. As it is not sectarian and does not belong to a particular religion, the Maha Mantra can be chanted by anyone, and anyone can experience the pleasure of this unique spiritual process. This mantra consists of three words: Hare (God’s energy), Krishna (God), and Rama (God, the source of all pleasure). The Maha Mantra is these sixteen words: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Why is this process referred to as the science of self-realization?
The scientific method often involves experiment, observation, and result. Similarly in the process of bhakti yoga one tries chanting (experiment), is aware of particular changes in one’s consciousness (observation), and experiences the benefits (result). The difference is that science relies on one’s external senses to conduct the experiment, while bhakti yoga is an internal process that revives the dormant spiritual consciousness that’s covered by the mind, intelligence, and ego.
Why do the Hare Krishnas dress differently?
Followers of Krishna consciousness are not obliged to dress in traditional Indian attire. Most devotees work in the secular world and dress according to their cultures and the expectations of their place of work. Hare Krishna ambassadors, however, represent their spiritual tradition in the way they dress. The men wear a dhoti (the cloth draped over the lower half of the body) and kurta (shirt) (Saffron-colored clothes indicates a renunciant.) Women wear saris, punjabis (slacks and a long top), or a traditional skirt and top. At festivals, women often wear elaborate and colorful clothing and jewelry.
What is ISKCON’s view on other religions?
ISKCON accepts that God consciousness is universal and all major religions in their authentic form are bona fide. The Krishna conscious understanding is that according to time, place, and circumstance, God’s empowered agents give his message to people in different parts of the world. Thus it may surprise practitioners of other faiths to know that Prabhupada honored Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha. For example, in his commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam (2.4.18), Prabhupada writes: “Jesus Christ and Muhammad, two powerful devotees of the Lord, have done tremendous service on behalf of the Lord on the surface of the globe.” With this understanding, Hare Krishna devotees give all respect to sincere members of other faiths and enter into interfaith dialogue with a view to improving their own practices.