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WHAT IS ISKCON?
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Who Started the Hare Krishna Movement?


In 1965, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada traveled alone from India to America to establish the timeless tradition of Krishna consciousness in the Western world. He single-handedly began the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a worldwide society of over 500 temples, farm communities and schools, with a membership of over three million members in the West, fifty million worldwide. Srila Prabhupada translated over 50 books on Krishna consciousness, now available in over 65 languages. Before he passed away in 1977, he arranged for the movement to be guided by a Governing Body Commission composed of his senior disciples. Also, after Srila Prabhupada’s departure, his disciples themselves began to accept disciples, carrying on the age-old system of disciplic succession. Thus, he touched enough people who can pass along this knowledge to others that this movement will continue well into the future.

Who Started ISKCON?

The Society was founded in 1966 by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda (1896-1977), a pure devotee of God representing an unbroken chain of spiritual masters originating with Lord Kåñëa Himself. It was 1965 when he traveled alone from India to New York City to establish the culture of Krishna consciousness in the Western world. He single-handedly began a world-wide confederation of over one hundred temples, farm communities and institutes.

What is ISKCON’s Purpose?


When Srila Prabhupada began ISKCON, he established eight principles that are the basis of the Krishna consciousness movement.

 

1. By sincerely cultivating a genuine spiritual science, we can be free from anxiety and come to a state of pure, unending, blissful consciousness in this lifetime.

 

2. 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.

 

3. Krishna is the eternal, all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful, and all-attractive Personality of Godhead. He is the seed-giving father of all living beings, and He is the sustaining energy of the entire cosmic creation.

 

4. The Absolute Truth is contained in all the great scriptures of the world. However, the oldest known revealed scriptures in existence are the Vedic literatures, most notably the Bhagavad-gitä, which is the literal record of God’s actual words.

 

5. We should learn the Vedic knowledge from a genuine spiritual master--one who has no selfish motives and whose mind is firmly fixed on Krishna.

 

6. Before we eat, we should offer to the Lord the food that sustains us. Then Krishna becomes the offering and purifies us.

 

7. We should perform all our actions as offerings to Krishna and do nothing for our own sense gratification.

 

8. 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.

 

Only five hundred years ago, Lord Krishna descended as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach the most sublime and effective means for spiritual development and enlightenment for the present day. This is the chanting of the names of God, which has been recommended for thousands of years in the Vedic tradition, and used by many other spiritual paths throughout the world. The most important chant is the mantra of: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

 

“Krishna” is one of many Sanskrit names of God, which means “all attractive”, and Rama is another name which means “reservoir of pleasure”. 

The divine energy of God is addressed as Hare. Vedic knowledge teaches that since we are all constitutionally servants of the God, chanting the names of God is not an artificial imposition on the mind but is as natural as a child calling for its mother. Thus, the Hare Krishna Movement teaches two ways to chant, which is either on beads to chant the mantra a certain number of times each day in the case of mantra meditation (japa), and in congregational chanting or singing (kirtan). In either method, there are no hard and fast rules, and anyone can chant.

Who Is Srila Prabhupada?


Srila Prabhupada, known as His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, appeared in this world in Calcutta, India on Nandotsava, the annual festival day celebrating Krishna’s birth, in the year of 1896. His father was a pure devotee of Lord Krishna who would always invite holy men to his house for meals and ask them to bless his son to become a great devotee of Radharani, Lord Krishna’s most beloved devotee and consort. Srila Prabhupada’s father once bought him a small cart to pull the Deity of Lord Jagannatha, as they do during the great Rathayatra festival in Jagannatha Puri. So even as a child Srila Prabhupada would organize little festivals centered around Krishna in his neighborhood.

Prabhupada later attended Scottish Church College in Calcutta, which was administered by the British. Later, he joined Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement and refused to accept his diploma from that college as a type of protest, although he had actually completed all the requirements for the degree. After this, a friend of his father, Dr. Bose, made him a manager of his chemical company.

Thereafter, in 1918, Prabhupada became married and soon started a family.He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, in Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent religious scholar and the founder of sixty-four Gaudiya Mathas (Vedic institutes), liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge.

Srila Prabhupada became his student, and eleven years later (1933) at Allahabad he became his formally initiated disciple. At their first meeting, in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati requested Srila Prabhupada to broadcast Vedic knowledge through the English language. In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, and in 1944 started “Back to Godhead”, an English fortnightly magazine. Maintaining the publication was a struggle. Single-handedly, Srila Prabhupada edited it, typed the manuscripts, checked the galley proofs, and even distributed the individual copies. Once begun, the magazine never stopped; it is now being continued by his disciples in the West and is published in over thirty languages.Recognizing Prabhupada’s philosophical learning and devotion, the Gaudiya Vaishnava Society honored him in 1947 with the title “Bhaktivedanta”. 

On the order of his spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada began translating and writing Vedic literature in the English language to bring the message of Lord Krishna to the Western countries. In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, adopting the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. Srila Prabhupada traveled to the holy city of Vrindavana, where he lived in very humble circumstances in the historic medieval temple of Radha-Damodara. There he engaged for several years in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959. At Radha-Damodara, Srila Prabhupada began work on his life’s masterpiece: a multivolume annotated translation of the eighteen-thousand-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam. He also wrote “Easy Journey to Other Planets”.

After publishing three volumes of the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada came to the United States of America, in September 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. Subsequently, His Divine Grace wrote more than sixty volumes of authoritative annotated translations and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India.When he first arrived by freighter in New York City, Srila Prabhupada was practically penniless.

Only after almost a year of great difficulty did he establish the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in July of 1966.Thereafter, he continued to distribute this spiritual knowledge and the process of singing and chanting Hare Krishna all over the world. He traveled around the world 12 times and visited every major country to take bhakti-yoga and harinama sankirtana to the western countries. He gave thousands of lectures, wrote thousands of letters, and met with many important scholars and dignitaries who very much appreciated his efforts. Therefore, it was Srila Prabhupada who had been predicted by the previous acharyas, and by Sri Caitanya, and even by Lord Krishna in the ancient Puranas, as the person who would spread this new spiritual awareness.

Before his passing away on November 14, 1977, he guided the Society and saw it grow to a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred ashramas, schools, temples, institutes and farm communities.Srila Prabhupada also inspired the construction of several large international cultural centers in India. The center at Sridhama Mayapur in West Bengal is the site for a planned spiritual city, an ambitious project for which construction will extend over many years to come.

In Vrindavana, India, is the magnificent Krishna-Balarama Temple with an International Guesthouse, and the Srila Prabhupada Memorial and Museum. There is also a major cultural and educational center in Bombay. Other centers are planned in a dozen important locations on the Indian subcontinent. Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contribution, however, is his books. Highly respected by the academic community for their authority, depth and clarity, they are used as standard textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into over fifty languages.

The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 to publish the works of His Divine Grace, has thus become the world’s largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.In just twelve years, in spite of his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents. In spite of such a vigorous schedule, Srilla Prabhupada continued to write prolifically. His writings constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.He wrote 51 volumes of books with translations in 28 languages, especially Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, so anyone can take advantage of this knowledge.

He established 108 temples in most major cities around the world, and touched so many people who can also teach this philosophy that this genuine spiritual knowledge, as predicted in the ancient Puranic literature, will continue to spread and be available for at least the next 10,000 years.

Hare Krishna ... 

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