ISKCON stands for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, also known as the Hare Krishna movement. It is a spiritual organization that was founded in 1966 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who was a follower of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism.
The primary purpose of ISKCON is to spread the teachings of Bhagavad-gita and the practice of bhakti yoga, which emphasizes devotion to Krishna, the supreme personality of the Godhead. The organization promotes vegetarianism, meditation, and other practices that are believed to help individuals connect with Krishna and attain spiritual liberation.
ISKCON has centers and temples around the world, and its members engage in a variety of activities, including chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, distributing literature about Krishna consciousness, organizing festivals and cultural events, and offering vegetarian food to the public. The organization also runs schools, hospitals, and other charitable institutions.
Foundation of ISKCON
ISKCON, also known as the Hare Krishna movement, was founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1966 in New York City. Bhaktivedanta Swami was born in Calcutta, India in 1896 and was a lifelong devotee of Krishna. He was a scholar and spiritual teacher in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism, which emphasizes devotion to Krishna as the supreme personality of the Godhead.
In 1965, Bhaktivedanta Swami traveled to the United States at the age of 69, with the aim of sharing the teachings of Krishna consciousness with Westerners. He arrived in New York City with just a few dollars and a small group of followers and began to teach and chant the Hare Krishna mantra in public parks and on street corners.
Over time, more people became interested in the teachings of Bhaktivedanta Swami, and he established the first ISKCON temple in New York City in 1966. From there, the movement spread rapidly to other cities in the United States and around the world, with the first temple in India being established in 1970.
Today, ISKCON has centers and temples in more than 60 countries, and its members continue to spread the teachings of Krishna consciousness through a variety of activities and outreach programs.
Followers of ISKCON
ISKCON is estimated to have tens of thousands of followers around the world, with the majority of its membership residing in India, the United States, and Europe.
ISKCON has a significant presence in countries such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia, among others. The organization also has a large number of followers in South America and Africa.
In addition to those who identify as formal members of ISKCON, there are many more people who participate in its activities, attend its festivals and events, and support its causes. ISKCON has also had a significant influence on popular culture, with its distinctive style of dress, music, and spiritual practices being widely recognized and adopted by people from various backgrounds.
Life of a Follower
The day-to-day life of a follower of ISKCON, also known as a Hare Krishna devotee, may vary depending on their level of involvement with the organization and the particular temple or center they are affiliated with. However, there are some common practices and routines that are generally followed by members of ISKCON.
- Morning Program: Devotees usually wake up early, before sunrise, and begin their day with a morning program of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, studying scripture, and offering worship to deities of Krishna and other deities.
- Service: Devotees engage in various forms of service throughout the day, which may include cooking for the deities, cleaning the temple, managing the temple store, or engaging in outreach activities.
- Vegetarianism: Devotees follow a vegetarian diet, and many of them also avoid consuming onions, garlic, and mushrooms as they are considered to be in a mode of ignorance in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition.
- Meditation: Devotees may engage in individual or group meditation practices, such as japa meditation, where they repeat the Hare Krishna mantra on a string of prayer beads.
- Study: Devotees engage in the study of the Bhagavad-gita and other scriptures related to the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition to deepen their knowledge and understanding of Krishna’s consciousness.
- Festivals and Celebrations: Devotees celebrate various festivals and holidays throughout the year, such as Janmashtami (Krishna’s birthday) and Radhastami (Radha’s appearance day), with special ceremonies and events.
Overall, the day-to-day life of a follower of ISKCON is focused on cultivating a devotional relationship with Krishna through service, meditation, study, and community engagement.
Celebrities Following ISKCON
Several celebrities have shown an interest in ISKCON and its teachings over the years. Some of the most well-known celebrities who have been associated with ISKCON include:
- George Harrison: The Beatles guitarist was a major proponent of ISKCON and was instrumental in introducing many people to the organization’s teachings. He even donated a large sum of money to help build the Bhaktivedanta Manor temple in England.
- Alice Coltrane: The jazz pianist and widow of saxophonist John Coltrane became involved with ISKCON in the 1970s and even recorded an album of devotional music called “Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana.”
- David Bowie: The legendary musician was known to have an interest in Eastern spirituality and reportedly explored ISKCON teachings in the 1970s.
- Richard Gere: The actor is a practicing Buddhist but has also shown an interest in ISKCON and has been associated with the organization for many years.
- Steve Jobs: The late Apple co-founder was known to have dabbled in Eastern spirituality and reportedly visited an ISKCON temple in India during a trip in the 1970s.
- Russell Brand – The comedian and actor has been open about his spiritual journey, which includes his affiliation with ISKCON. He has spoken publicly about his love for the Hare Krishna mantra and his appreciation for the teachings of ISKCON.
- Henry Wrinkler – The actor, best known for his role as “The Fonz” on the TV show Happy Days, has been a follower of ISKCON for many years. He has spoken about his appreciation for the movement’s teachings and its emphasis on compassion and kindness.
- Devendra Banhart – The musician and visual artist has been associated with ISKCON for several years. He has spoken about his love for the Hare Krishna mantra and the teachings of ISKCON, which he incorporates into his music and art.
- Boy George – The musician, best known for his work with the band Culture Club, has been associated with ISKCON for many years. He has spoken about his love for the Hare Krishna mantra and his appreciation for the teachings of ISKCON.