The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
was established in 1966 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Prabhupada (Srila Prabhupada). ISKCON has since developed into a
worldwide confederation of 6,000 temple devotees and 190,000 congregational
Better known as the Hare Krishna movement, ISKCON is comprised
of more than 350 centers, 60 rural communities, 50 schools and 60
The mission of this nonsectarian, monotheistic movement is to promote
the well being of society by teaching the science of Krishna consciousness
according to the Bhagavad Gita and other ancient Vedic scriptures
Srila Prabhupada gave a clear mission statement for ISKCON which
is outlined in the following seven points:
- 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, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam.
- 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
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is a denomination
of the Gaudiya Vaishnava faith, a devotional tradition based on
the teachings of Bhagavad-gita and the Bhagavat Purana (Srimad Bhagavatam).
The tradition traces its roots back 5,000 years.
The precepts and practises of the members of the present day ISKCON
were taught and codified by the 15th century saint and religious
reformer Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and his principle associates, the
six Goswamis of Vrindavana.
Sri Caitanya, whom devotees revere as a direct incarnation of Krishna,
gave a powerful impetus for a massive bhakti (devotional) movement
of Krishna followers throughout India. It was under his direction
that hundreds of volumes of books on the philosophy of Krishna consciousness
were compiled. The movement diminished somewhat until the 19th century,
when a outstanding Vaisnava theologian, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, again
revived Krishna consciousness.
His son, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami, became the guru of
Srila Prabhupada and instructed him to make the spreading of Krishna
consciousness in the West the mission of his life. In 1965, after
spending 43 years of his life preparing for the journey, Srila Prabhupada
came to America to spread the Krishna philosophy. On July 11, 1966,
ISKCON was officially registered in New York state, and thus began
the Hare Krishna movement in the West.
The Vedic scriptures state that spiritual life begins when one
inquires into the nature of the absolute truth, the Supreme Godhead.
Gaudiya Vaisnavas are monotheists and know the personality of Godhead
as Krishna, the All-attractive. But it is also recognized that the
Supreme has unlimited names such as Rama, Buddha, Vishnu, Jehovah,
Allah, etc. The ultimate goal of Gaudiya Vaisnavism is to develop
a loving relationship with the Supreme Godhead.
The Vedas also tell us that the understanding of the self, as being
non-material or spiritual by nature, is the preliminary stage of
realization of the absolute truth. To understand knowledge of self-realization
one must approach a genuine spiritual master, just as one learns
the essence of any subject from a perfected practitioner.
The congregational chanting of the maha-mantra, Hare Krishna, Hare
Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama
Rama, Hare Hare, as promoted by Sri Caitanya, is accepted by the
Vedas as the most effective means of self-purification in this age.
The Vedas describe the mantra as a prayer to the Lord, "Please
Lord, engage me in Your service".
Devotees may accept formal initiation into the chanting of the
Holy Name vowing to abstain from intoxication, gambling, illicit
sexual connections and the eating of meat, fish or eggs. ISKCON
members believe indulgence in the aforementioned activities disrupts
physical, mental and spiritual well-being, and increases anxiety
and conflict in society. At the time of initiation devotees also
agree to chant a prescribed number of mantras each day.