For devotees and persons interested in the Hare Krishna Movement


History of Gaudiya or Caitanya Vaishavism
The term Gauda is an ancient name for Bengal, and a Vaishnava is a devotee of the Supreme Lord Vishnu. The Gaudiya-Vaishnava’s are generally known as followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who rejuvenated the culture of Krsna bhakti in the sixteenth century. Since Krsna and Vishnu are different aspects of the same Supreme Person, devotees of Krsna are also known as Vaishnavas. Gaudiya-Vaishnavism was revived in Bengal in the late nineteenth century by Bhaktivinoda Thakur and his son Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakur, (who organized the Gaudiya Math). The Gaudiya Math consisted of numerous temples and asramas dedicated to preaching the philosophy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. One of Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati’s disciples, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada went to the west on his guru’s order, and in America founded ISKCON, or the Hare Krsna movement, in New York, in 1966.
History of ISKCON
His divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada found the International Society for Krsna Consciousness in 1966 in New York. In years that followed, ISKCON rapidly expanded to become a global association of several hundred temples with affiliated farm communities and gurukula schools. Although ISKCON is a fairly recent and new spiritual movement in the Western World, it is part of the Gaudiya Vaishnava spiritual lineage, a branch of a very old and flourishing tree of aged Vedic or Hindu culture.
How can I become an ISKCON’s member?
There are many organizations of which the members, having similar interests, co-jointly endeavor to fulfill their aims. Those who are interested, wanting to assist and contribute to ISKCON’s aims can found different types of memberships within ISKCON. Full time, dedicated devotees join the society’s worldwide network of asramas and temples, submitting them self to discipline of the student like, devotional life. However, there are many people who are serious about Krsna consciousness, but having family and business responsibilities, are unable to join full time. Can they also join? Of course they can! By following the instruction given in Srila Prabhupada’s books they can very easily practice Krsna Consciousness at their homes. Even while living at home, they can still have the same effect as those living in the temples and achieve perfection of Krsna Conciosness – love of God. Those who find ISKCON’s goals meaningful, can also, by giving fixed money donations, become Life Members of ISKCON. Still, those who don’t feel ready to take any of the above mentioned roles can at least take up the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
How can I get information about the decisions taken in the RGB?
Information is distributed via the European Leaders Conference (European.Leaders@pamho.net). The members of this conference include European Temple Presidents, GBCs, GBC Deputies, and senior devotees concerned with European management. You may also find some information on this website.
If I join the Hare Krsna movement, do I have to shave my head and were devotee close as well?
Development and awakening of our eternal relationship with the Supreme Spirit, Sri Krsna, does not depend solely upon length of our hair or change of dress. Spiritual advancement depends on our internal attitude and desire to get rid of our impurities like lust, greed or envy toward others. However, there are some external circumstances, like our external appearance, which if accepted with correct understanding, can actually boost our devotion. By putting on garments of a student, person does not automatically become a good and brilliant scholar. The uniform is just an outward sign that he or she will abide by the rules and regulations of the educational institution and is willing to undergo the required training to become a scholar. Likewise, acceptance of spiritual life is not only the change in our appearance, only the external conversion. It implicates much more. To progress on the spiritual path we should go through deep internal transformation for which introspection, contemplation and thoughtfulness are required. Thus change of dress or shaving of head, are not necessary to go forward on the spiritual path. Still, they are useful props and can he helpful on our spiritual journey. So why not accept them?
Isn’t spiritual life just a waste of time, a pointless quest for dreamers that do not have anything meaningful to do in life?
Srimad Bhagavatam, ancient Vedic scripture from India, would respond to that question by posing a contra question. What is the value of a prolonged life, which is wasted, inexperienced by years in this world? Better a moment of full consciousness, because that gives one a start in searching his or her supreme interest. Persons who are actually intelligent and philosophically inclined should endeavor only for that purposeful end which is not obtained even by wandering from the topmost planet down to the lowest.
Under which circumstances can I make requests to the RGB?
Issues regarding European preaching strategies or emergency issues that could not be resolved through the local ISKCON authorities may be circumstances in which to make a request to the RGB.
What is GBC?
On an international basis, ISKCON is managerially divided into different zones. A senior, more experience devotee, oversees each of those zones. He has a position of a Governing Body Commissioner, GBC officer. While some zones have only one GBC officer, due to size and manifold responsibilities, some zones have two or even more co-GBC officers. Comprised of all the GBC officers, GBC is the highest executive authority in ISKCON. For assessing and planning the future activities of the society, the GBC meats once yearly, in ISKCON’s main spiritual headquarters in Sri Dhama Mayapura, West Bengal India.
What is ISKCON?
ISKCON is an acronym for International society for Krsna Consciousness. It is a spiritual organization consisting of over 300 hundred temples, farm communities and various other projects like gurukula schools, worldwide. Each of those centers functions independently and is to a large extent managed autonomously, and thus ISKCON does not have a head office. However, ISKCON’s main spiritual headquarters is in Sri Dhama Mayapura, West Bengal India. ISKCON’s main purpose is propagation of spiritual knowledge and culture, as presented in timeless teachings of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, to the society at large with an aim of establishing more peaceful, spiritual, God-centered (Krsna conscious) atmosphere.
What is Krsna consciousness?
Condition of pure consciousness where one becomes aware of himself or herself as minute, yet always individual, part of the Supreme Lord, is called the state of Krsna Consciousness. Just as sunrays are tiny particles of the sun globe, so are we, the living entities, eternal fragmented parts of the Supreme Spirit. Thus, gradually the most advanced devotee sees within everything the soul of all souls, the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna. Consequently he or she sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord and understands that everything that exists is eternally situated within the Lord.
What is the Hare Krsna movement?
Due to the frequent chanting of the Hare Krsna maha mantra on the streets and city squares all over the world and appearance of devotees in films and musicals, such as Hair, the Hare Krsna maha mantra has become a familiar term in households all over the world. Thus devotees are often being named “Hare Krsna’s” and the ISKCON as an institution itself the Hare Krsna movement.
What is the meaning of the word mantra?
The word mantra comes from the ancient Sanskrit language and it essentially consists of two words, manas and trayate. The word manas on Sanskrit stands for mind and trayate is a verb that means to liberate, set free. Thus the compound mantra, if literary translated, would mean that what liberates the mind and unshackles him from the material captivity. Although in the Vedic scriptures we can find many different kinds of mantras and ritual chants, we find only one maha mantra, or great mantra. That is the Hare Krsna maha mantra Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, or the great song for deliverance.
Who is Caitanya Mahaprabhu?
As predicted in the Vedic scriptures, Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appeared as Caitanya Mahaprabhu five hundred years ago in Sri Dhama Mayapura, West Bengal India. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in the guise of a devotee to inaugurate the religious process for this age – the congregational chanting of the holy names of God.
Who is Srila Prabhupada?
When ISKCON members speak of “Srila Prabhupada” they refer to His divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of ISKCON. The reputable title “Prabhupada” is rightly used for those great spiritual masters who have made an exceptional contribution of Vaishnava literature or preaching to the whole world. Srila Prabhupada appeared in this world in 1896 in Calcutta, India. He met his spiritual master, Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakura, in 1922 at what time Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakura requested him to preach and spread the message of Caitanya Mahaprabhu all over the English-speaking world. In years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote the commentary on Bhagavad-Gita, (ancient Sanskrit text) offered valuable help in the mission of his spiritual master, and in year 1944 single-handedly started the twice-weekly magazine called Back to Godhead. Highly honoring his knowledge and commitment, Gaudiya Vaishanva society, gave him in 1947 the honorific title Bhaktivedanta. At the age of 54, in year 1954, he redraws himself from the marriage life with intention to dedicate himself more to studying and writing. After publishing the first three volumes of Srimad Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada, in year 1965, went to USA to fulfill the mission and desire of his spiritual master. Subsequently, he wrote more then sixty authorized translations, commentaries and concise studies of Indian philosophical and religious works. Greatly respected in academic circles because of their comprehension, deepness and clarity, his books are used as standard textbooks in many Universities. In only twelve years, despite his old age, Srila Prabhupada traveled the globe fourteen times while simultaneously lecturing on all of the six populated continents. Regardless of such an intense program, Srila Prabhupada continued his fruitful writing opus. His works represent true treasure house of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.
Why should I chant Hare Krsna?
Forgetting Krsna, God, our ever loving and well-wishing father, we, the living entities have become attracted by the material energy. As a consequence, we lost participation in His grace by looking earthward and allowing our love for Him to fade away. Our consciousness has become tainted by the desire to lord and control over the material nature. That hankering over material things covered our consciousness and thus we have become afflicted by the malady called materialism. Surely, a sick person cannot experience the joy and pleasure of a healthy person. To again take pleasure in life he first needs to get healthy. Moreover, if the disease is strong and lifelong, only a strong remedy will help to cure him. Similarly, deluded by ignorance and baffled by false pride and our own conceit, we have drowned ourselves in the endless waves of material anxiety. But, the Vedic scriptures assure us that there is an easy way out of such precarious situation – chanting of the holly name of the Lord. The holly name of Krsna is transcendental wish fulfilling gem, a power remedy, which bestows all benedictions upon the chanter. Thus, for cleansing the consciousness, mind and above all for cleansing the heart, the Vedic scriptures assure us that chanting of the holly name in the best remedy. Granted one is enthusiastic, confident of success, sincere and patient in his practice, he is sure to be successful in getting the result of chanting – admittance to our eternal home, kingdom of God.