The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

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ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna consciousness, also known as the "Hare Krishna movement," was founded by Srila Prabhupada and his followers in 1966. Srila Prabhupada's aim was to create a global association of Krishna devotees based on the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam on the nature of the self and our relationship with the Supreme Person.

ISKCON has since grown into a worldwide organization of individuals, communities, temples, farm projects, schools, and restaurants, each centered on the ideal of devotional service to the Supreme Person, who is known by unlimited names but whom the Vedas refer to as Krishna, "the all-attractive one." ISKCON is an extension of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's sankirtan movement for spreading the chanting of the names of God, specifically the Hare Krishna mantra, as widely as possible.

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The comprehensive theological teachings of the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Chaitanya Charitamrita are the basis of ISKCON's philosophy. These books describe in great detail the eternality of the self, our relationship with the Supreme Person, the Supreme Person's actual identity, and the activities by which anyone can enhance their innate spiritual consciousness. ISKCON is essentially a spiritual educational institution; systematically teaching the books of Srila Prabhupada and his followers and making such literature available to the general public.

Membership in ISKCON can be formal or informal. Anyone respectful of ISKCON's principles may consider themselves part of the greater ISKCON community. Those who are willing and able to devote themselves to regulated spiritual practice—such as observing spiritual regulative principles and committing to daily chanting a minimum quota of the Hare Krishna mantra—may take formal vows of initiation, enabling them to perform services such as worship of the temple Deity, giving classes, and other duties within the institution.

To manage ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada appointed some of his most mature and responsible leaders to act as a Governing Body Commission for maintaining spiritual standards within the society and preserving ISKCON as a unified movement.

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Below are selections from Srila Prabhupada's books in which he defines the need for and the mission of ISKCON:

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 2.4.18, Purport:

    " . . . instead of running a godless civilization in the present context of the world situation, if the leadership of world affairs is entrusted to the devotees of the Lord, for which a worldwide organization under the name and style of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has already been started, then by the grace of the Almighty Lord there can be a thorough change of heart in human beings all over the world because the devotees of the Lord are able authorities to effect such a change by purifying the dust-worn minds of the people in general."

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.25.24, Purport:

    " . . . a pure devotee, who is preparing to transfer himself to the spiritual kingdom, is also freed from the association of the three modes of material nature. We have to seek the association of such devotees. For this reason we have begun the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
    There are many mercantile, scientific and other associations in human society to develop a particular type of education or consciousness, but there is no association which helps one to get free from all material association. If anyone has reached the stage where he must become free from this material contamination, then he has to seek the association of devotees, wherein Krishna consciousness is exclusively cultured."

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 4.7.44, Purport:

    "The way to get out of illusory maya is to engage in the topics of Krishna. . . Lord Chaitanya advised everyone to spread the word of Krishna. He advised, "All of you become spiritual masters. Your duty is simply to talk to whomever you meet of Krishna or of the instructions given by Krishna." The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is operating for this purpose. We do not ask anyone to first change his position and then come to us. Instead, we invite everyone to come with us and simply chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, because we know that if one simply chants and hears the topics of Krishna, one's life will change; he will see a new light, and his life will be successful."

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 4.9.11, Purport:

    "Transcendental devotional service cannot be complete and cannot be relishable without the association of devotees. We have therefore established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Anyone who is trying to be aloof from this Krishna Consciousness Society and yet engage in Krishna consciousness is living in a great hallucination, for this is not possible."

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 4.12.37, Purport:

    "A devotee sees all living entities with spiritual vision and does not discriminate on the platform of the bodily concept of life. Such qualities develop only in the association of devotees. Without the association of devotees, one cannot advance in Krishna consciousness. Therefore, we have established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Factually, whoever lives in this society automatically develops Krishna consciousness."

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 4.12.48, Purport:

    "It is said that only in the association of devotees can one understand the importance of the character and pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or His devotees. . . The International Society for Krishna Consciousness has been organized for this purpose. In every center of this Society—not only in the morning, evening or noon, but practically twenty-four hours a day—there is continuous devotional service going on. Anyone who comes in contact with the Society automatically becomes a devotee."

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