Hinduism - What Is The ISKCON Or International Society for Krishna Consciousness?

Abbreviation for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a Hindu missionary group known as the Hare Krishnas.

The necessity of reciting the holy name, especially the mahamantra ("Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare"), is emphasized by ISKCON.

ISKCON was created by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, and its religious origins may be traced back to his home Bengal's Vaishnava religiosity.

The value of publicly singing Krishna's name has long been stressed in Bengali Vaishnava tradition, notably in the Gaudiya Vaishnava congregation established by Bengali saint Chaitanya.

ISKCON is based on Bengali tradition, yet it exhibits tensions that distinguish it as a twentieth-century phenomena in different ways.

It is a particularly uncommon Hindu religious organization because of its vigorous missionary operations, as well as its membership— ISKCON was established in New York City by Prabhupada, and the majority of its members are Western converts from Judaism and Christianity, with the majority of its missionary operations taking place outside of India.

Theological inconsistencies have arisen as a result of ISKCON's origins and the inherent passion connected with converts.

On the one hand, ISKCON ideology tends to minimize human potential, focusing instead on God's rescuing grace.

ISKCON followers (bhakta) believe that they obtain religious merit by adhering to a strict vegetarian diet, abstention from booze and nonmedicinal substances, sexual activity limited to reproduction, and a well-established daily devotional regimen; many devotees also wear Indian clothing and hairstyles.

ISKCON reveals startling similarities to evangelical Christianity in these two opposing emphases—complete surrender to God's love and rigid obedience to a specified "holy" lifestyle.

Despite its Indian beginnings, ISKCON has been managed by these Western converts since Prabhupada's death in 1977, and hence may be described as a "countercultural" Euro-American phenomenon.

ISKCON has a strong presence in Brindavan, the hamlet that is revered as Krishna's boyhood home and where the organization has erected a beautiful temple; they are also active in Mayapur, Bengal, which they believe is Chaitanya's birthplace.

Following a period of expansion in the 1970s, ISKCON faced major legal issues in the 1980s, including civil suit defeats and claims of money laundering and murder.

See Larry Shinn, The Dark Lord, 1987, and Robert D. Baird (ed. ), Religion in Modern India, 1998, for supportive perspectives on the movement.

Also see vegetarianism.

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