Hare Krishna Movement
Tremendous Wealth of Knowledge
The Hare Krishna movement is now very famous worldwide, but despite being well known, many people have only a basic understanding of their beliefs and practices.
I remember when I first saw saffron-robed, shaven-headed devotees chanting Hare Krishna Mantra in the streets of Vilnius, I experienced a very strange feeling. I was stunned to see so many young people hearts filled with love to God and devotion. But at the same time, their activity seemed very strange to me.
But it was not until two years later... when I started to learn more about the movement and was able appreciate the sound philosophy which stems from one of the oldest world's religion. I read books of Srila Prabhupada (Founder-Acarya of the Hare Krishna movement) and they concisely answered all the questions I ever had regarding life, its purpose and more.
I realized that there was a tremendous wealth of knowledge and logic behind the activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
What is Hare Krishna Movement?
The Hare Krishna movement is the popular name for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Founded in 1966 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, ISKCON carries on in the modern world a great ancient tradition rooted in the Bhagavad-Gita , the teachings Lord Krishna spoke five thousand years ago. The Gita and the other Vedic scriptures declare Krishna to be the original person, God Himself, who appears periodically in this world to liberate all living beings.
Only five hundred years ago, Krishna descended as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach the most sublime and effective means of meditation for the present day: the chanting of the names of God, especially as found in the Hare Krishna mantra.
Today, members of ISKCON continue Lord Caitanya's movement by distributing the teachings of Lord Krishna and the Hare Krishna mantra all over the world.
Who Started the Movement?
All Glories to Our Spiritual Master
ISKCON was started by
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, born 1896 in Calcutta, India.He was always a strong devotee of Lord Krishna and worked hard publishing periodicals and translating the principal scriptures into English. At the age of seventy, on the order of His spiritual master, he left India on the cargo carrier 'Jaladuta' bound for New York. 35 painful days and two heart attacks later he arrived in New York City with only a few dollars in his pocket and a trunk full of his books.
Srila Prabhupada passed away from this world in 1977. After preaching for 11 years in the West, he had created 108 centres worldwide, written 51 volumes of transcendental literature, travelled around the world eight times and initiated 5,000 disciples. He had created the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, the world's largest publisher of Vedic literature, a scientific preaching academy - The Bhaktivedanta Institute and many other trusts to insure the continuity of ISKCON.
The philosophy of Krishna consciousness is non-sectarian and monotheistic. It may be summarized in the following eight points:
1) By sincerely following an authentic spiritual science, we can become worry-free and achieve a state of pure, unending, blissful consciousness.
2) We are not physical bodies made of matter. Each of us is an eternal soul, part of God, or Krishna. Realizing that we all have one common father in God helps us to see each other as one global united family.
3) Krishna is eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-attractive and present everywhere. He is the source of all life and the sustaining energy of the universe.
4) The Bhagavad-gita, spoken by Krishna Himself over 5,000 years ago, contains the essence of the Vedas, ancient Sanskrit texts. The goal of Vedic knowledge is simple: to know and love God.
5) A genuine spiritual teacher (guru) is an essential guide on our path to self-realization. The Bhagavad-gita and other sacred texts list many criteria one should look for in a potential guru. Above all, a guru should repeat Krishna's message unchanged, be free from selfish motives, and constantly focus his thoughts and actions on Krishna.
6) Before eating, we should acknowledge and reciprocate Krishna's love by offering all our food to Him with a prayer. Like a parent receiving a gift from a young child, Krishna is pleased when we offer Him food, even though He Himself has provided it. Offering food to Krishna purifies our consciousness and brings us closer to Him.
7) Rather than living in a self-centered way, we should act in a way that gives Krishna pleasure. This is known as bhakti-yoga, the science of devotional service.
8) The most effective means for today's spiritual seeker to reach the blissful, worry-free state mentioned in point one, and to become closer to God, is to chant His holy names:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
Bhagavad-Gita As It Is
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is uniquely qualified to present this English translation and commentary on Bhagavad-gita. He is the world's foremost Vedic scholar and teacher, and he is also the current representative of the unbroken chain of fully self-realized spiritual masters beginning with Lord Krishna Himself. Thus, unlike other editions of the Gita, this one is presented as it is-without the slightest taint of adulteration of personal motivation. Replete with sixteen full-color plates, this new edition is certain to stimulate and enlighten any reader with its ancient yet thoroughly timely message.
Where Do the Teachings Come From?
Although the Hare Krishna movement has only been established in the West since 1966, its roots extend thousands of years into India's past. The lifestyle and philosophical beliefs are based on ancient scriptures known as the Vedas. Originally preserved in the spoken word,
Vedas Manuscript in Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Vedas
Their compiler, Srila Vyasadeva, divided the work into various departments of material and spiritual knowledge, entrusting his disciples with particular sections. In this way, the scriptures developed into four principal Vedas, including the Vedanta Sutra, 108 Upanishads, and 18 Puranas, collectively known as the "fifth Veda." The final Purana, the Bhagavat Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam, contains the essence of the Vedic wisdom in 18,000 verses. A further work was the Mahabharata, which includes the well-known Bhagavad gita. The process described in the Vedas is one of gradual elevation to the platform of God-realisation. Vedic wisdom was then carefully preserved and passed down for centuries through the tutorial vehicle of guru-parampara, a disciplic succession of self-realised teachers.
In the early 16th century, a remarkable spiritual renaissance took place within India. This was led by a brilliant philosopher, mystic and saint, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534). He challenged the religious leaders of his day whom he felt were stifling the teachings of Vedic knowledge. Caste-conscious priests alone had access to the Vedas and considered spiritual life the prerogative of an educated minority. Taking religion out of the temples and amongst the people, regardless of their caste, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu propagated devotion to Lord Krishna and pioneered a massive movement which swept the subcontinent, gaining a following of millions.
The ancient wisdom of the Puranas and Upanishads, through the practical teachings of Sri Chaitanya are now finding expression outside India in the Hare Krishna movement.
What is the Hare Krishna Chant?
Devotees of Krishna chant the Hare Krishna mantra:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
- because the Vedas refer to it as the maha - mantra or "Great Mantra". This sixteen-word mantra is especially recommended as the easiest method for self-realization in the present age.
Krishna is a Sanskrit name of God meaning "all attractive", and Rama is another name meaning "reservoir of pleasure". The divine energy of God is addressed as Hare. Vedic knowledge teaches that since we are all constitutionally servants of God, the chanting of His names is not an artificial imposition on the mind but is as natural as a child calling for its mother. There are two ways to chant the maha mantra: group chanting (kirtan) and softly saying the mantra to oneself (japa). The latter is done by using a string of 108 wooden prayer beads to enhance concentration. In both methods there are no hard and fast rules, and anyone can chant with good results.
Why Should Someone Chant Hare Krishna?
Why do they chant in the streets?
Most scriptures of the world, and particularly the Vedas, extol the chanting of God's names as a powerful means of spiritual realisation. Someone who enjoys their spiritual life naturally feels inclined to share it with others. This enthusiasm caused the founder of ISKCON to not only teach Krishna consciousness, but to organise his early students as a formal society for the purpose of teaching others. Devotees of Krishna, therefore will often be found in public places performing sankirtana, by chanting with musical instruments, as introduced by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu 500 years ago.
Hare Krishnas in Ashgrove, Brisbane, Australia
Are there any specific rules or restrictions in this movement?
Answers from Krishna.ie
Nobody likes to be restricted in any way. It would seem that freedom is what most people are searching for nowadays. Krishna Consciousness delivers just that. Pure freedom. From the anxieties and uncertainties of every-day life and beyond. However we follow four principles to help guide us in the right direction. These are not as much restrictions as they are common sense and their practice leads to a clean, happy and confident life.
We believe very strongly in non-violence. How can we ever claim to be non-violent as a society when we mercilessly slaughter more than 25 billion animals and a much bigger amount of aquatics for food yearly? While they may not have the same level of intelligence as us, that is what puts the onus on us to care for all of God's creatures. After all are they not almost the same as us in most ways? For this reason we eat no meat, fish or eggs. Add to this the severe health risks that eating meat promotes. For instance, research and comparative studies over the past twenty-five years show that a meat-based diet is the number one cause of heart disease and cancer. When you see for yourself how more sumptuous and delicious vegetarian food is and how more socially economic and healthier a vegetarian lifestyle is, you're unlikely to need further convincing.
No illicit Sex
We seem to have liberated ourselves from the foolish and primitive shackles of sexual restraint. Yet serious problems have caught up with our progressive march toward newer and stranger sexual practices. We believe in the unity of the family as the basis for society. Acting to the contrary leaves society's doors open to the current problems of unwanted children, the killing of the child by use of abortion and sexual diseases such as aids (Now an estimated 12 million adults and 1 million infants are infected with aids and these numbers are growing steadily). We believe in sex within marriage for the procreation of well-cared for children to be brought up in God Consciousness.
Intoxication refers to taking into the body substances that are not required for bodily sustenance and have altering effects on the mind and body. Vedic scriptures therefore include as intoxication everything from tea, coffee and tobacco to liquor, heroine and other more powerful drugs. What's the most basic thing we care about? Most people would answer their physical and mental well-being. We would add spiritual well-being. Why take a substance that threatens all three? We should aim to be of clear mind and good health at all times.
It doesn't take much consideration to realise that gambling puts many individuals and families under enormous financial and emotional pressure. How can we live a simple and happy life if we are worried about the role of a dice? We also use the word gambling in reference to other risks in life such as extra-marital sex, dangerous driving etc. Living a life focused on Lord Krishna will ultimately eliminate all anxiety.