ISKCON has over one million members worldwide. While some members live in temples and ashrams, most Hare Krishna devotees live, work, and go to school in the general community.
In one way or another, members should rise early, practice mantra meditation regularly, be vegetarian and offer their food to Krishna before eating it, study the books Prabhupada left us, follow the regulative principles, dress either in western or Indian clothing but be clean, neat, and decent, attend temple services when possible or make the home a temple, and strive to share Krishna consciousness in whatever way possible with others who are favourable to it.
Four regulative principles
Participation is open to anyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, or any other factor. Spiritual life rests on the four pillars of honesty, cleanliness, compassion and austerity (discipline). Although anyone can chant Hare Krishna and participate in devotional activities, if he is serious about making tangible progress in Krishna consciousness, he will additionally follow the four regulative principles.
1. No gambling: Gambling shows that one is dissatisfied with the results that come naturally from his daily work. A devotee should be peaceful, satisfied and dependent on what the Lord provides for him. Truthfulness is destroyed by gambling. This is quite obvious. Gambling turns a person into a liar, a cheat. Gambling invariably puts one into anxiety and fuels greed, envy, and anger.
2. No intoxicants: We know many arguments against the use of intoxicants. It is not a very difficult thing to understand because anyone with a sane mind will accept that taking intoxicants is physically, mentally and spiritually detrimental. It destroys the principle of austerity because the reason people take to drugs is that they want to avoid their suffering in the material world- they do not want to face that austerity. Drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, as well as any drink or food containing caffeine, cloud the mind, over-stimulate the senses, and make it impossible to follow the principles of bhakti-yoga.
3. No meat eating: Devotees follow a strictly vegetarian diet and do not eat meat, fish, eggs or any of their derivatives. Nature provides enough variety of vegetarian food to keep a person fit and healthy. Killing animals destroys the quality of mercy.
4. No illicit sex: Cleanliness is destroyed by illicit sex. This is sex outside of marriage or any sex for any purpose other than procreation. Sex for pleasure compels one to identify with the body and prevents one from understanding Krsna consciousness. The scriptures teach that sex is the most powerful force binding us to the material world. Anyone serious about advancing in Krsna consciousness should therefore abstain from or regulate sexual activity according to the scriptures. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krsna says that sexual union for conceiving a child to be raised in God consciousness is an act of devotion to Him.
Are we Hindu?
The philosophy and practices of Krishna consciousness are based on the essential teachings of the Vedas, which ultimately direct one towards establishing a loving relationship with a single, personal Supreme Being. The terms “Hindu,” “Hinduism,” and “Hindu dharma” aren’t found anywhere in Vedic literature. Rather, the origin of these terms can be traced to fairly recent history. Hinduism also generally defines the supreme truth as impersonal, and because it commonly includes the worship of demigods, it is often believed to be polytheistic. So although Hinduism and Krishna consciousness seem to have some philosophical and cultural similarities, they aren’t the same.
Krishna consciousness is also known as sanatana-dharma, the eternal function of the self, which is the standard spiritual culture outlined in the Vedas. Everyone—whatever their nation of origin and whatever religion they may profess—has an eternal relationship with the Supreme Person, and Krishna consciousness is meant to revive that relationship. As such, Krishna consciousness is open to Christians, Muslims, Hindus, or anyone else wanting a better understanding of themselves and their ultimate source.