The term “Hare Krishna” or The Hare Krishna Movement™, formally The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is a branch of the monotheistic Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition dating back 5000 years to Lord Krishna Himself.
God is known by many names, according to His different qualities and activities. In the Bible he is known as Jehovah (“the almighty one”), in the Koran as Allah (“the great one”), and in the Bhagavad-gita as Krsna, a Sanskrit name meaning “the all-attractive one.”
ISKCON was established in the West in 1966 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as a continuation of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya and has since developed into a worldwide confederation of over 500 temples, centres, communities, schools, and restaurants with some 250,000 devotees under the ultimate managing authority of the Governing Body Commission (GBC).
ISKCON is part of the disciplic succession which started with Lord Krishna Himself and continued with Srila Vyasadeva, Srila Madhavacharya, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and in the present day His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his followers.
Lord Krishna appeared as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the form of His own devotee 525 years ago to establish the congregational chanting of God’s holy names, sankirtana, as the easiest and most sublime spiritual practice for this age. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu popularized the chanting of the maha-mantra, comprised of sacred names of God:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Srila Prabhupada gave a clear mission statement for ISKCON which is outlined in the following seven points:
The Seven Purposes of ISKCON
1. 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.
2. To propagate a consciousness of Krishna (God), as it is revealed in the great scriptures of India, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
3. 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).
4. 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.
5. To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krishna.
6. To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler, more natural way of life.
7. With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines, books and other writings.
Governing Body Commission (GBC)
In 1970 Srila Prabhupada formed a Governing Body Commission (GBC) to help manage an expanding ISKCON. Before Srila Prabhupada passed away in 1977, he requested that executive authority for ISKCON be passed to this Commission. The GBC decides ISKCON’s major strategies and guidelines by democratic voting and in consultation with Temple Presidents and other leaders. The GBC meets every year at the Mayapur Temple – India.
It may be summarized in the followed 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:
Krishna mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.