International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was founded by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (Srila Prabhupada) in the West in 1966. ISKCON belongs to Gaudiya (refers to Bengal) Vaishnavism, a devotional tradition based on the teachings of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
The precepts and practices of ISKCON were taught and codified by the 15th century saint and religious reformer Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1532), his brother Nityananda Prabhu and six of his principle associates, the Goswamis of Vrindavana (Sanatana, Rupa, Jiva, Gopal Bhatta, Raghunatha Dasa and Raghunatha Bhatta.)
The Bhagavad-gita was first put into writing about 5000 years ago. The Gita is the principal scripture of The Hare Krishna Movement™ Organization. Its origins are more than 5000-years-old.
Sri Caitanya, whom devotees recognize as a direct incarnation of Krishna, gave a powerful impetus for a massive bhakti (devotional) movement throughout India. Under his direction hundreds of volumes on the philosophy of Krishna consciousness were compiled. Many devotees followed in the preceptorial line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu including, in the 19th century an outstanding Vaishnava theologian, Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914) who brought Krishna consciousness to a modern audience.
Bhaktivinoda’s son, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami (1874- 1937), became the guru of Srila Prabhupada (1896-1977) and instructed him to spread Krishna consciousness in the West.On this order, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada took a perilous journey across the Atlantic Ocean to USA in 1965, and consequently started the most auspicious spiritual movement, The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, for the fulfillment of his guru’s desire. ISKCON quickly spread to the major cities of the whole world in a mere 11 years.
ISKCON’s history includes a disciplic succession (sampradaya or guru parampara). It draws its legitimacy from its place in a succession of spiritual teachers and disciples (parampara). There are four major disciplic successions, and ISKCON belongs to the Brahma-Gaudiya-Madhva (referring to Madhvacharya [A.D. 1239-1319]) sampradaya, founded by Lord Krishna Himself. The other three are called the Sri (referring to the goddess Laksmi) Sampradaya, the Rudra (referring to the god Shiva) Sampradaya and the Kumara (referring to the four Kumaras [celibate sages] Sampradaya.
There are many branches to the Brahma Sampradaya. ISKCON belongs to the Brahma-Gaudiya-Madhva lineage founded by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the 16th century.
What is the Hare Krishna Philosophy?
The term “Hare Krishna”, or The Hare Krishna Movement™ Organization, formally The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), is the orthodox core of Hinduism. It was registered in the West (in New York) in July 1966, but dates back over 5000 years. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1532) popularized the movement all over India. Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion with over 900 million adherents, second to Christianity and Islam (according to various leading encyclopedias, websites and almanacs). The principal scriptures are The Bhagavad-gita (The Song of God), and the Srimad Bhagavatam (the story of the Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna Bhagavan). Krishnas believe in one God.
The basic Hare Krishna beliefs can be summarized as follows:
By sincerely cultivating true spiritual science, we can be free from anxiety and come to a state of pure, unending, blissful consciousness in this lifetime.
We are not our bodies but eternal, spirit souls, parts and parcels of God (Krishna). As such, we are all brothers, and Krishna is ultimately our common father. We accept the process of transmigration of the soul (reincarnation).
Krishna is eternal, all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful, and all-attractive. He is the seed-giving father of all living beings, and He is the sustaining energy of the entire cosmic creation. He is the same God as The Father Allah, Buddha and Jehovah.
The Absolute Truth is contained in the Vedas, the oldest scriptures in the world. The essence of the Vedas is found in the Bhagavad-gita, a literal record of Krishna’s words.
One can learn the Vedic knowledge from a genuine spiritual master — one who has no selfish motives and whose mind is firmly fixed on Krishna.
Before one eats, one offers to the Lord (Krishna) the food that sustains all humans; then Krishna becomes the offering and purifies the offered.
One performs all actions as offerings to Krishna and does nothing for one’s own sense gratification.
The recommended means for achieving the mature stage of love of God in this age of Kali, or quarrel, is to chant the holy names of the Lord. The easiest method for most people is to chant the Hare Krishna mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Kolkata-born A.C. Bhakitivedanta Swami (1896-1977), also known as Srila Prabhupada, who founded The Hare Krishna Movement™ in New York in 1966, wrote a statement that was used in the religion’s initial incorporation. This statement is still relevant for ISKCON, and sometimes serves as a Mission Statement.
It reads as follows:
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, especially Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. We accept the principle of transmigration of the soul (reincarnation).
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 Caitanya 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 and to create websites that help realize these purposes.