Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2001 08:39:47 -0000
Subject: Hare Krishna's a Cult?
Are Hare Krishna's a Cult?
Hi, my name is Rachel Jacobson and I am preparing to write an A-Level
Religious Studies project on the topic of Hare Krishna. I was
wondering if you would be able to give me any information- my essay
is to discuss whether Hare Krishna is a "cult" or not. I am sorry for
not knowing who I am talking to but maybe you could help me by
telling me what you think about cults and if Hare Krishna is one.
Thank you very much!
Thanks for your message and for giving us the opportunity to help a
little with your research project.
The term "Hare Krishna" refers to the practice of chanting the names
of God, as promoted in 15th Century India by the great Vaishnava
saint Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Lord Chaitanya, believed to be an
incarnation of Krishna Who came to this world to spread the chanting
of God's names, really promoted a principle found in all major
religions: that God's name is holy, or transcendental, and capable of
delivering the materially conditioned soul. Muhammad, Christ, and
Buddha all promoted the repetition of holy names. This chanting had
existed in India before Chaitanya's time, and he succeeded in making
it popular among all classes of people when India was affected by
God has unlimited names describing His qualities and other
attributes. We are all familiar with the names Buddha (intelligent),
Jehovah (powerful), and Allah (merciful). Worshipers of monotheistic
branches of so-called Hinduism have been chanting these names and
other names of God for thousands of years. Krishna means all
attractive, Hare addresses God's energy, and Rama means reservoir of
As to whether Hare Krishna is a cult, it is too old to be a modern
day concoction. And the Vedic scriptures such as Bhagavad-gita and
Srimad-Bhagavatam, which are thousands of years old, authorize it.
This chanting and other worship practices found in the Hare Krishna
movement are practiced by Asian Indians all over the world, as has
been done in India since time immemorial.
The founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, brought this chanting and a few
books from India to New York City in 1965. His personal simplicity
and simple message (God is the supreme enjoyer, this is His world, He
is everyone's best friend, we are meant to serve and love Him) spread
around the world as he introduced more and more people from various
backgrounds to the ancient Vedic culture of living God consciously.
He expected his disciples to strictly follow vows, including no meat-
eating, intoxication, illicit sex, or gambling, as he did himself.
The early followers lived in the temples he founded and devoted
themselves to preaching, distributing books, conducting traditional
Vaishnava worship ceremonies, and practicing Vedic arts from cooking
Because so many early adherents were young and passionate about their
missionary work, Hare Krishna got a reputation for being a cult, in
the derogatory sense. Eventually they had families, moved out of the
temples and into the workplace, and began to mingle more and more
with the rest of society. This natural maturation process has changed
the ways devotees relate and some interesting cultural and
philosophical exchanges are taking place.
Dancing and singing Hare Krishnas are regular features in local
parades. Krishna-run Govinda's restaurants are patronized by a wide
spectrum of people. A publicly funded and Florida state supervised
charter school is run by Hare Krishna practitioners on temple
property in Alachua, Florida. The student body includes a few non-
devotee neighbors. Hare Krishna devotees are soccer moms and scout
leaders, realtors, coaches and postal workers. They vote, pay taxes,
and sometimes even run for local office.
It's also interesting to see cultural hints from this Vaishnava
culture entering into the larger society: draped, sari like outfits,
decorative face and hand painting, neck beads, vegetarianism, belief
in karma and reincarnation to name a few.
Eventually, I think there will be more acceptance and understanding
all around. Westerners until very recently have generally known very
little about Asian cultures and philosophies. Throughout my entire
education, even in college (1950s-70s), I was exposed to very little
history, geography, or other study involving India or other Eastern
societies. We were told that civilization began around the Tigris and
Euphrates Rivers. Now we all know that there are early signs of
advanced civilization all around the world, from Africa to Tibet to
Mesoamerica. So I think things are changing for the better.
The important facts are that this is an ancient authorized practice
and not a man-made concoction for fame, profit, or some other
material agenda as the common use of the word "cult" denotes. Also,
that Krishna practitioners of western origin are owning up to
mistakes made in their youth and addressing important societal issues
that relate to humans everywhere.
Hope this helps. If you would be so kind, I'd love to get a copy of
your final paper, or whatever you care to share. Good luck with the
Hare Krishna World
P.S. The Hare Krishna maha-mantra (great chant of deliverance) is:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare