interesting support from Greater Atlanta Vedic temple
Why take up Krishna consciousness?
Iskcon - Hare Krishna is NOT a Cult:
Do We Want Brahminical Culture, or the "No Culture" of the west?
"Culture - Brahminical or Animal" - His Divine Grace Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta swami Prabhupada speaks out
On Troubles Reported in ISKCON - by Hanumatpresaka Swami:
Cult Links - all the dirt anyone would want:
Educational Services helps British Hindus to preserve their culture:
As we have come to know I.S.K.C.O.N., we have become aware that it is a representative of the main stream of Indian Vaishnava religion. As such they follow teachings and practices which have a venerable tradition in India. Dr. J. Gordon Melton (10-10-2000)
A STATEMENT CONCERNING THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS
My name is John Gordon Melton, and I have been requested to make a statement on the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) with special reference to some specific questions, I am a graduate of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (MDiv, 1968) and Northwestern University (PhD, 1975) with a doctorate in the history and literature of religions. I am the founder and director if the Institute for the Study of American Religion, a research facility in Santa Barbara, California devoted to the study of religious groups and organisations with a special interest in so-called New Religious Movements, i.e., those many groups which have originated in the West or come to the West from other parts of the world and have recruited members from the local populations. I am also (since 1985) a research specialist with the Department of Religious Studies of the University of California Santa Barbara and an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church.
As part of my official duties I have written some twenty-five books, including two college texts: The Cult Experience (1992) and The Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America (1986, 2nd ed., l992). I have also authored a variety of what have become standard reference books including the Encyclopaedia of American Religions (4th ed., 1992); Religious Groups in America: A Directory (1991); and the Encyclopaedia of African American Religions (l993). Along the way, I have consulted with the U. S. Army; on the issue of new religions' service in the Armed Forces, and assisted the Army Office of Chaplains in the preparation of the several editions of their 'Handbooks on the Beliefs of Certain Selected Groups'. (1978, 1991). Some consideration of ISKCON was included in most of the books named above.
Since I have concentrated my study on New Religious Movements since the 1960s, I have frequently been called into court to speak about various religious groups, including ISKCON. Several of the new religions such as ISKCON have been controversial due to the unfamiliarity of the public with the new and different ideas and practices they espoused. Early concerns voiced by the parents of some young adults in the 1970s, turned into a laundry list of charges against ISKCON and a number of other groups lumped together as what in North America were called "cults" and elsewhere "sects" or other labels. Much of the scholarly work which has been done on New Religions during the last two decades has been devoted to examining the many charges which have been brought against them.
Further distorting our research on New Religions has been the insertion of several pseudo-scientific hypotheses concerning the nature of life in groups like ISKCON. For example, during the 1970s, two people, neither with any medical training, announced their discovery of a new disease. Having discovered this new disease, before announcing their findings to the world in a popular text, they found no need to check their findings with anyone with medical training. In spite of their ignorance of medicine and physiology, they asserted that various very common religious practices such as prayer, meditation, and chanting, including the chanting practised in ISKCON, caused actual brain damage by denying the brain of its food, i.e., information. This bizarre idea was presented in a book called 'Snapping'.
For a brief time, members of what had by that time become part of an anti-cult network hailed the book and several popular news-stand magazines such as Science Digest ran articles about it. However, it was never considered a serious scientific hypothesis and after several articles in scientific journals refuting the book's ideas, Snapping soon passed from the scene.
More recently, several people have espoused the idea of brainwashing (also termed thought control, coercive persuasion, or mind control). Proponents suggested that cults had discovered a new psychological technology, a technology which has somehow escaped the rest of the psychological world. With this technology it "brainwashed" young recruits and held them with such force that they are unable to break the spell of attachment to the group.
These ideas which seemed to actually have a body of evidence behind them, provoked a heated debate among social scientists in the early 1980s. In the mid 1980s, the whole brainwashing perspective was thoroughly evaluated by the American Psychological Association. After looking at a detailed report prepared by the major advocates of this perspective, the American Psychological Association concluded that the idea of brainwashing and mind control as popularly applied to the new religious movements was scientifically unacceptable. It had been arrived at through a sloppy methodology and poor scientific work. Subsequently the American Sociological Association and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion reached a similar conclusion. As a result, testimony concerning brainwashing and mind control have properly been banished from consideration by American courts as an idea lacking any scientific credibility.
Having made these several general reflections, let me turn to some consideration of ISKCON. I have observed this organisation since it's emergence into prominence in the early 1970s and its founding of a Centre in Chicago, where I was then residing. Because of their unique dress and, to the average Westerner, their unusual practices, such as chanting Hindu kirtans on the street, they were most photogenic and were soon singled out to illustrate articles on cults and new religions.
As we have come to know ISKCON, we have become aware that it is a representative of the main stream of Indian Vaishnava religion and follows the same scriptures used by many denominations of Hindus. In the West they have many followers within the Indian ethnic community and are a part of most Hindu ecumenical organisations in both North America and Europe. As such they follow teachings and practices which have a venerable tradition in India. Also like most older religions, including Christianity, they follow scriptures which were written centuries ago when modern ideas such as those about democratic government or the rights of women were as yet not developed. As most Christians are aware, the Christian Bible is quite compatible with and in many ways, very supportive of autocratic government. Many leading Christian theologians have argued against democratic tendencies. So too are many Hindu holy books such as the Bhagavad Gita compatible with autocracy. However, just as Christians have developed a commitment to democratic values, so too do members of ISKCON have such a commitment.
I have also seen no lack of commitment to the values of family, marriage, or the duties of a married couple, to their marriage commitments. However, like Roman Catholic orders, at the same time, ISKCON members place a high value on the celibate ordered life and a number of its members have become the equivalent of monks and nuns. The value placed on such an ordered life is no more an attack upon the family than that implied in the existence of Franciscans or Dominicans.
Life in ISKCON, while strange to many Westerners, follows a pattern established many years ago in India. It includes spending regular periods each day chanting a mantra, eating a vegetarian diet, and, for some, living a semi-communal life style. While these practices are certainly different from that of most people, there is no evidence that following such practices have had any harmful effect upon either the Indian public or any person ever affiliated with ISKCON. There is simply no evidence that ISKCON'S religious practices adversely affect mental or physical health. While many anti-cult leaders have repeated such charges over the last two decades, they have failed to bring forth any supporting evidence.
It is of note that thousands of people have at some point in time joined ISKCON and later, finding it not to their liking, have left it and re-entered the larger society none the worse for their experience. Others, who affiliated have found it a very happy life and have married and had children, and now see their young adult offspring becoming members. Within the past few weeks I have attended a convention of young adults born and raised in ISKCON. At that time I had the opportunity to meet with people who have left ISKCON altogether and assumed positions in college and the work place, those who are marginal members of ISKCON, and those who are full members of the community.
ISKCON has been forced to spent its formative years in the full light of a skeptical media and critical, even hostile environment. It has been thoroughly scrutinised, in part as a result of several lengthy judicial reviews, for more than two decades. No substantive charges levelled at it have stood the test of such examination. For example, in the case brought by former-member Robin George against ISKCON, it was charged that ex-members could never again reintegrate into "normal" society or have a stable family life. However, the only people brought to testify to this point were former members who had already by the time they testified been able to find a place in society and develop a new set of acquaintances outside of the group. It turned out that the great majority of charges against ISKCON were simply a standard laundry list of items which have periodically been used against different new religions as public attention moves from one to the other.
Simply put, ISKCON has been present in the West for twenty five years. If it was, in fact, a danger to society, we would have long ago discovered that threat and dealt with it. Rather than a danger, ISKCON has shown itself capable of raising up a religious community which turned a number of people alienated from society in the 1970s into substantial law-abiding citizens who have in turn developed a program of service to the community through its efforts to feed the poor and other acts of charity. ISKCON does not threaten any Country's constitutional freedoms. Quite the opposite is true. In a series of cases it has been demonstrated that ISKCON's constitutional freedoms have been continually threatened by its having to repeatedly defend itself on issues which have previously been considered by Courts and discarded. I am not a follower of ISKCON. On a theological level I can find little with which I agree or with which I resonate. However, as a private citizen, I have no complaints and I would petition this court to act in their favour unless and until it has been demonstrated, by common standards of evidence, that they have acted against the state or have broken specific laws.
Dr. J. Gordon Melton
Aug. 17th 1994.
THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF AMERICAN RELIGION.
P.O. BOX 90709, SANTA BAR8ARA, CA 93190-0709
(805)967-7721, (805)967-2669 FAX(805)683-4876
Dr. J. Gordon Melton. Director
Is ISKCON a bona-fide member of the world of Vaishnavism?
Other Vaisnava sects (such as the Sri Vaisnavas, Vallabhites, and Maadhvas) also recognize ISKCON as a legitimate movement http://www.hindunet.org/alt_hindu/1995_Aug_1/msg00120.html
The Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Gaudiya Matha quotes Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's books in establishing that there are Four bona-fide Vaishnava sampradayas, of which the Gaudiya tradition coming down through Madhwacharya (see Madhwa support HERE) is one of them, and we state that to be true and that Iskcon is a descendent of the Gaudiya mission of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad, the Guru of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
You can view the facts about Iskcon and the Brahma-Madhwa lineage here. Also, you will find the usual controversy with some, but the facts being clearly presented by the Acharyas of the Asta-mutts of the Madhwa line in Udupi.
The Madhwacharya page, with all the links required: http://www.hknet.org.nz/parishad53.htm
The following statement is found on the New Govardhan web-page http://www.nor.com.au/education/krishna/com.htm
ISKCON Myths and
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) belongs to the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya (denomination or tradition), an ancient monotheistic tradition within Vedic or Hindu culture. ISKCON was established on July 11, 1966 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (affectionately called Srila Prabhupada). It began in a small storefront in New York and has since developed into a worldwide confederation of over 11,000 temple devotees, 980,000 congregational devotees, and is comprised of more than 350 centers, 60 rural communities, and 55 restaurants worldwide. The mission of this nonsectarian, monotheistic movement, popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement, is to promote the well being of society by teaching the science of Krishna consciousness according to the Bhagavad Gita and other ancient Vedic scriptures of India
With the growing influence and awareness about ISKCON, have also come many misconceptions, some of them trivial, bordering humorous (like do I have to become bald to join ISKCON?) to much more serious (like does ISKCON deny the existence of other religions?). In this article, we will examine the more common myths related to ISKCON and explain the facts.
Myth: ISKCON is an American organization.
Fact: ISKCON is non-sectarian in all respects, including nationality. It has temples all over the world managed and attended by local people of that region. Devotees often travel to different temples all over the world serving the deities, preaching and performing temple services as and when needed.
Myth: ISKCON propagates a predominantly Hindu religion.
Fact: Hindu culture is vast, and the term encompasses numerous theologies, philosophies religious traditions and spiritual cultures. ISKCON propagates the timeless Vedic philosophy which is not limited to any religion. The concept of God consciousness, devotional service and associating with God by remembering His name, His pastimes and following His instructions is universally preached in all spiritual walks of life and is explained in the Vedas as the 'sanatana dharma', the basic duty of all living entities.
Myth: ISKCON is a new-wave religion
Fact: ISKCON belongs to the Brahma Sampradaya, emanating from Lord Brahma and is one of the four authorized Vaishnava sampradayas (the other three are the Sri or Lakshmi, Rudra and Kumara sampradayas). The founder acarya Srila Prabhupada belongs to an unbroken disciplic succession started by Sri Krishna through Lord Brahma and includes authorities like Narada Muni, Srila Vyasadeva, Sripada Madhavacarya and Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Myth: ISKCON uses American wealth to fund its project over the world.
Fact: All temples in ISKCON are mostly self sufficient and rely on their local congregation, book distribution and festivals to sustain and expand.
Myth: ISKCON is very aggressive in its preaching.
Fact: Devotees are naturally very compassionate and eager to share their love of Godhead with others. The Vedic scriptures enjoin that there is no activity as holy as spreading the name and teachings of God. However they also respect the views, background and practices of different people at all times. ISKCON does see it as its mission to accept with open arms any sincere soul who declares a need for spiritual shelter and guidance. There is a definite missionary spirit in Vaishnavism and Hinduism, but its practice is not governed by an exclusionist conversion model. From a Gaudiya Vaishnava perspective, ISKCON works not at 'conversion' but spiritual development.
Myth: ISKCON has been altered to suit the westerners
Fact: ISKCON is based on the potency of disciplic succession. The original word is passed from spiritual master to disciple without any modifications. The philosophy, practices, principles and any apparent deviation have been clearly enunciated and authorized by the Vedic scriptures. ISKCON requires that all initiated devotees strictly follow the four regulative principles (no meat eating, no intoxication, no gambling, no illicit sex), chant at least sixteen round of Japa daily and seriously study, understand and assimilate the Vedic scriptures like Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam etc.
Myth: ISKCON has turned religion into a public show.
Fact: People are often bemused and some times angered by the public sankirtans performed by ISKCON. However the scriptures recommend sankirtan as the yuga dharma for the current age of Kali. The traditional ratha yatra held annually in Puri is a classic example of this. The Nagara Sankirtana (town chanting) movement inaugurated by Caitanya Mahaprabhu has been followed in India for centuries and spontaneously engages even unwilling people into devotional service by sravana (hearing) and kirtana (singing) the Lord's name. However, these public displays are sustained by serious introspection, study of the scriptures. and hours of daily Japa meditation and deity worship.
Myth: Deity worship standard in ISKCON does not come up to the level of traditional temples in India.
Fact: ISKCON temples are highly acclaimed in India and the rest of the world for exactingly high standard of deity worship. There are daily six aratis, regular bhoga offering beginning from early morning at 4:30AM, qualified priests and Brahmans expertly trained in deity dressing and worship.
Myth: ISKCON has very few people from Brahman families.
Fact: In Bhagavad Gita (18.42-44), Sri Krishna clearly states that the Varna (caste) of a person is decided by his activities, not by birth. At ISKCON all devotees follow rigorous regulative principles and are carefully guided and observed by their spiritual masters before they become eligible to receive their first (Harinam) or second (Brahamanical) initiation. All initiated devotees in ISKCON take a vow to adhere to the four regulative principles (no meat eating, no intoxication, no gambling and no illicit sex) and chant at least sixteen rounds of Japa every day.
Myth: ISKCON propounds a culture of conversion
Fact: ISKCON has the basic belief that God consciousness is universal and all major religions are bona fide. With this understanding, ISKCON does not have a mission to proselytize members of other faiths. There are fully practicing Christians and Moslems who are active members of ISKCON. Similarly there are many that have whole heartedly embraced the Vedic teachings explained in the ISKCON temples. Conversion is a an individual experience, a very personal spiritual journey that transcends religious institutions and sectarian affiliations. Conversion models that depend on exclusionist demands of affiliation may often do so without considering the Lord's supremacy, independent in truth.
Myth: ISKCON like other temples and churches is always asking for money.
Fact: It is customary for religious organizations, engaged in spiritual service, to depend on the congregation for support. While our temples do need money to support, they are ultimately only dependant on the mercy of Sri Krishna for this. People contribute voluntarily, only when they are eager to utilize their wealth in the service of Sri Krishna, and ISKCON takes utmost care that this is done optimally. However no one is excluded on the basis of their wealth or contributions. The greatest spiritual realizations that one can have is that he is not the proprietor of anything - every thing belongs to Krishna and is best used in His service.
Myth: ISKCON has diluted religion by making it high-tech.
Fact: Temples in ISKCON are known to rely on latest technology to attract visitors. Sannyasis fly around the world and keep in touch using Email from their laptops. But all this is being used in the service of Sri Krishna. In itself technology is neither good or bad, it is the intent of its use that makes the difference. The concept of 'yukta vairagya' using everything in the service of Krishna is fully understood and carefully followed in ISKCON.
Myth: ISKCON does not have any social obligations.
Fact: ISKCON is the largest Vegetarian Food Relief organization in the world. It distributes a plate of prasadam every five seconds, some times in the midst of war and famine situations. At different places, depending on the resources and interest, ISKCON has established hospitals, schools, farm communities and restaurants. However, they do not distribute just food, they distribute prasadam (food that has been sanctified by offering to Krishna), which not only alleviates physical hunger but also provides spiritual nourishment. The focus is always on the spiritual growth of a person, not just the temporary material body.
Myth: ISKCON requires its members to shave up and become bald !
Fact: The only basis of joining ISKCON is simple: a sincere desire to develop God consciousness. There are attendant processes while making spiritual advancements, like austerity, simplicity and frugalness. Becoming bald is simply one of the prescribed ways to lead a simple, austere life.
We hope that this has cleared many common misconceptions about ISKCON held by people in different countries and denominations. As always, we welcome from our readers, discussions on any of these points.
The Krishna Consciousness Movement is the Genuine Vedic Way
After reading an article on the Krishna consciousness movement in the Los Angeles Times, Srila Prabhupada begins an unusual correspondence with Dr. J.F. Stall, Professor of Philosophy and of South Asian Languages at the University of California, Berkeley... His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (08-29-01)
Excerpt from the Los Angeles Times Article
"Dr. J. F. Staal, Professor of Philosophy and Near Eastern Languages at UC Berkeley and an instructor in Indian philosophy, believes that the Krsna sect is an authentic Indian religion and that its adherents are sincere. He attributes the Society's rapid increase in members to the tendency of today's younger generation to reject organized churchgoing while at the same time searching for fulfillment of a belief in mysticism.
"He points out, however, that persons who turn away from Christianity, Muhammadanism, and Judaism have usually lost faith with the personal god of those religions and are looking for a mystical religion without absolutes.
" 'These people in the Krsna movement have turned to Hinduism, but, curiously, it is a cult that is highly personalistic,' Staal said. 'They accept a personal god, Krsna, and Christianity has that. I feel that they have transferred some of their Christian background to a Hindu sect.'
"He also feels that they spend too much time chanting to develop a philosophy. On these grounds he and others on the faculty turned down the request to grant credit for an experimental course in Krsna consciousness that will be taught during the winter quarter by Hans Kary, president of the sect's Berkeley temple."
Srila Prabhupada's Letter to the Los Angeles Times
January 14, 1970
Los Angeles Times
With reference to your article in the Los Angeles Times dated Sunday, January 11, 1970, under the heading "Krsna Chant," I beg to point out that the Hindu religion is perfectly based on the personal conception of God, or Visnu. The impersonal conception of God is a side issue, or one of the three features of God. The Absolute Truth is ultimately the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Paramatma conception is the localized aspect of His omnipresence, and the impersonal conception is the aspect of His greatness and eternity. But all these combined together make the Complete Whole.
Dr. J. F. Staal's statement that the Krsna cult is a combination of Christian and Hindu religion, as if something manufactured by concoction, is not correct. If Christian, Muhammadan, or Buddhist religions are personal, that is quite welcome. But the Krsna religion has been personal from a time long, long ago when Christian, Muhammadan, and Buddhist religions had not yet come into existence. According to the Vedic conception, religion is basically made by the personal God as His laws. Religion cannot be manufactured by man or anyone except God superior to man. Religion is the law of God only.
Unfortunately, all the svamis who came before me in this country stressed the impersonal aspect of God, without sufficient knowledge of God's personal aspect. In the Bhagavad-gita, therefore, it is said that only less intelligent persons consider that God is originally impersonal but assumes a form when He incarnates. The Krsna philosophy, however, based on the authority of the Vedas, is that originally the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His plenary expansion is present in everyone's heart in His localized aspect, and the impersonal Brahman effulgence is the transcendental light and heat distributed everywhere.
In the Bhagavad-gita it is clearly said that the aim of the Vedic way of searching out the Absolute Truth is to find the personal God. One who is satisfied only with the other aspects of the Absolute Truth, namely the Paramatma feature or the Brahman feature, is to be considered possessed of a poor fund of knowledge. Recently we have published our Sri Isopanisad, a Vedic literature, and in this small booklet we have thoroughly discussed this point.
As far as the Hindu religion is concerned, there are millions of Krsna temples in India, and there is not a single Hindu who does not worship Krsna. Therefore, this Krsna consciousness movement is not a concocted idea. We invite all scholars, philosophers, religionists, and members of the general public to understand this movement by critical study. And if one does so seriously, one will understand the sublime position of this great movement.
The chanting process is also authorized. Professor Staal's feeling of disgust in the matter of constant chanting of the holy name of Krsna is a definite proof of his lack of knowledge in this authorized movement of Krsna consciousness. Instead of turning down the request to give Kary's course credit, he and all other learned professors of the University of California at Berkeley should patiently hear about the truth of this authorized movement so much needed at present in godless society. [Credit for the course was later established.] This is the only movement which can save the confused younger generation. I shall invite all responsible guardians of this country to understand this transcendental movement and then give us all honest facilities to spread it for everyone's benefit.
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Spiritual Master of the Hare Krsna Movement
The Exchange Between Srila Prabhupada and Dr. Staal
January 23, 1970
Swami A. C. Bhaktivedanta
Thank you very much for sending me a copy of your letter to the Los Angeles Times, now also published in the Daily Californian. I think you will agree with me that apart from publicity, little is gained by discussing religious or philosophic issues through interviews and letters in the press; but allow me to make two brief observations.
First, I know that devotion to Krsna is old (though definitely not as old as the Vedas) and has never been influenced by Christianity, Islam, or Judaism (I never referred to Buddhism in this connection). The differences between the personal and impersonal are relatively vague, but adopting this distinction for simplicity, I expressed surprise at seeing people who have grown up in a Western culture which stresses the personal take to an Indian cult which does the same. I am less surprised when people who are dissatisfied with Western monotheism take to an Indian philosophy which stresses an impersonal absolute.
Second, I never expressed nor felt disgust at the chanting
of the name of Krsna. I am not only not irritated at it (like some people),
but I rather like it. But it is an indisputable fact that the Bhagavad-gita
(not to mention the Vedas) does not require such constant chanting. The
Gita deals with quite different subjects, which I treat at some length
in my courses on the philosophies of India.
J. F. Staal
Professor of Philosophy and of South Asian Languages
January 30, 1970
J. F. Staal
Professor of Philosophy and of South Asian Languages
University of California
My dear Professor Staal:
I thank you very much for your kind letter dated January 23, 1970. In the last paragraph of your letter you have mentioned that you are not irritated at the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra (like some people), but rather like it. This has given me much satisfaction, and I am sending herewith a copy of our magazine, Back to Godhead, issue number 28, in which you will find how the students [at a program at Ohio State University] liked this chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, although all of them were neophytes to this cult of chanting. Actually this chanting is very pleasing to the heart and is the best means of infusing spiritual consciousness, or Krsna consciousness, into the hearts of people in general.
This is the easiest process of spiritual realization and is recommended in the Vedas. In the Brhan-naradiya Purana it is clearly stated that it is only chanting of the holy name of Hari [Krsna] that can save people from the problems of materialistic existence, and there is no other alternative, no other alternative, no other alternative in this age of Kali.
Western culture is monotheistic, but Westerners are being misled by impersonal Indian speculation. The young people of the West are frustrated because they are not diligently taught about monotheism. They are not satisfied with this process of teaching and understanding. The Krsna consciousness movement is a boon to them, because they are being really trained to understand Western monotheism under the authoritative Vedic system. We do not simply theoretically discuss; rather, we learn by the prescribed method of Vedic regulations.
But I am surprised to see that in the last paragraph of your letter you say, "It is an indisputable fact that the Bhagavad-gita (not to mention the Vedas) does not require such constant chanting." I think that you have missed the following verse in the Bhagavad-gita, apart from many other similar verses:
satatam kirtayanto mam
yatantas ca drdha-vratah
namasyantas ca mam bhaktya
The engagement of the great souls, freed from delusion and perfect in their realization of God, is described here: satatam kirtayanto mam--they are always (satatam) chanting (kirtayantah) My glories and--nitya-yukta upasate--always worshiping Me (Krsna).
So I do not know how you can say "indisputable." And, if you want references from the Vedas, I can give you many. In the Vedas, the chief transcendental vibration omkara is also Krsna. Pranava omkara is the divine substance of the Vedas. Following the Vedas means chanting the Vedic mantras, and no Vedic mantra is complete without omkara. In the Mandukya Upanisad, omkara is stated to be the most auspicious sound representation of the Supreme Lord. This is also confirmed again in the Atharva Veda. Omkara is the sound representation of the Supreme Lord and is therefore the principal word in the Vedas. In this connection, the Supreme Lord, Krsna, says, pranavah sarva-vedesu: "I am the syllable om in all the Vedic mantras." (Bg. 7.8)
Furthermore, in Bhagavad-gita, Chapter Fifteen, verse 15, Krsna says, "I am seated in everyone's heart. By all the Vedas, I am to be known; I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I know Veda as it is." The Supreme Lord, seated in everyone's heart, is described in both the Mundaka and Svetasvatara Upanisads: dva suparna sayuja sakhaya... The Supreme Lord and the individual soul are sitting in the body like two friendly birds in a tree. One bird is eating the fruits of the tree, or reactions of material activities, and the other bird, the Supersoul, is witnessing.
The goal of Vedantic study, therefore, is to know the Supreme Lord, Krsna. This point is stressed in the Bhagavad-gita, Chapter Eight, verse 13, where it is stated that by the mystic yoga process, ultimately vibrating the sacred syllable om, one attains to His supreme spiritual planet. In the Vedanta-sutras, which you have certainly read, the Fourth Chapter, adhikarana 4, sutra 22, states positively, anavrttih sabdat: "By sound vibration one becomes liberated." By devotional service, by understanding well the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one can go to His abode and never come back again to this material condition. How is it possible? The answer is, simply by chanting His name constantly.
This is accepted by the exemplary disciple, Arjuna, who has perfectly learned the conclusion of spiritual science from the yogesvara, the master of mystic knowledge, Krsna. Recognizing Krsna to be the Supreme Brahman, Arjuna addresses Him, sthane hrsikesa...: "The world becomes joyful hearing Your name, and thus do all become attached to You." (Bg. 11.36) The process of chanting is herein authorized as the direct means of contacting the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead. Simply by chanting the holy name Krsna, the soul is attracted by the Supreme Person, Krsna, to go home, back to Godhead.
In the Narada-pancaratra it is stated that all the Vedic rituals, mantras, and understanding are compressed into the eight words Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Similarly, in the Kali-santarana Upanisad it is stated that these sixteen words, Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, are especially meant for counteracting the degrading and contaminating influence of this materialistic age of Kali.
All these points are elaborately presented in my book Teachings of Lord Caitanya.
The process of chanting is, therefore, not only the sublime method for practical perfection of life but the authorized Vedic principle inaugurated by the greatest Vedic scholar and devotee, Lord Caitanya (whom we consider an incarnation of Krsna). We are simply following in His authorized footsteps.
The scope of the Krsna consciousness movement is universal. The process for regaining one's original spiritual status of eternal life, full with bliss and knowledge, is not abstract, dry theorizing. Spiritual life is not described in the Vedas as theoretical, dry, or impersonal. The Vedas aim at the inculcation of pure love of God only, and this harmonious conclusion is practically realized by the Krsna consciousness movement, or by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra.
As the goal of spiritual realization is only one, love
of God, so the Vedas stand as a single comprehensive whole in the matter
of transcendental understanding. Only the incomplete views of various parties
apart from the bona fide Vedic lines of teaching give a rapturous appearance
to the Bhagavad-gita. The reconciliative factor adjusting all apparently
diverse propositions of the Vedas is the essence of the Veda, or Krsna
consciousness (love of God).
Thanking you once again,
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
February 8, 1970
Swami A. C. Bhaktivedanta
Thank you very much for your kindness in sending me your long and interesting letter of January 30, together with the last issue of Back to Godhead. So far I have had a few discussions with members of your society here, but they were not entirely satisfactory from my point of view. But now I have your much more authoritative letter, whereby the discussion moves to a higher level.
And yet, I am afraid, you have not convinced me that all the scriptures you quote prescribe only chanting of the name of Krsna. Let me refer only to the most important ones.
In the Bhagavad-gita (9.14), kirtayantah need not mean chanting of the name of Krsna. It may mean glorifying, chanting, reciting, talking, and refer to songs, hymns, descriptions, or conversations. The commentators take it that way. Sankara in his commentary merely repeats the word, but Anandagiri in his vyakhya classes kirtana as vedanta-sravanam pranava-japas ca, "listening to the Vedanta and muttering om" (that the Vedic om is Krsna is said in the Bhagavad-gita, where Krsna is also identified with many other things, and which is smrti, but not in the Vedas, which are sruti). Another commentator, Hanuman, in his Paisaca-bhasya, says that kirtayantah merely means bhasamanah--"talking [about]."
More important, I think, than the precise meaning of this
word, is that the entire verse does not require that everyone always engage
in kirtana, but merely states that some great souls do so. This is obvious
from the next verse, which states that anye, "others," engage in jnana:
yajnena... yajanto mam, "worshiping me... with the worship of knowledge."
The Bhagavad-gita is broad-minded and tolerant of a variety of religious
approaches, although it also stresses one aspect above all others (i.e.,
Sarva-phala-tyaga means "renunciation of all the fruits of one's work."
Finally, in the last sutra of the Vedanta-sutra, anavrttih sabdat..., sabda refers to the scripture or to the revelation of the Vedas, as is clear from the context and from the commentators. Sankara quotes a number of texts (ending with ity adi-sabdebhyah, "according to these sabdas") to support this, i.e., to support the statement that "according to the scripture there is no return." He also refers to sabda in this sutra by saying mantrartha-vadadi..., "mantras, descriptions, etc." Vacaspati Misra in the Bhamati supports this and clarifies it further by adding that a contrary view is sruti-smrti-virodhah, "in conflict with the smrti and the sruti."
Thanking you once again for your kind attention.
Yours very sincerely,
J. F. Staal
February 15, 1970
J. F. Staal
Professor of Philosophy and of South Asian Languages
My dear Dr. Staal:
I am very glad to receive your letter dated Sunday, February
8, 1970. I am very much pleased also to note the contents.
Regarding convincing you that all scriptures prescribe chanting of the name of Krsna, I can simply present the authority of Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya recommended, kirtaniyah sada harih ("Hari, Krsna, is constantly to be praised" (Siksastaka 3)). Similarly, Madhvacarya quotes, vede ramayane caiva harih sarvatra giyate ("Hari is sung about everywhere in the Vedas and Ramayana"). Similarly, in the Bhagavad-gita (15.15) the Lord says, vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah ("By all the Vedas, I am to be known").
In this way we find all the scriptures aiming at the Supreme Person. In the Rg Veda (1.22.20) the mantra is om tad visnoh paramam padam sada pasyanti surayah ("The demigods are always looking to that supreme abode of Visnu"). The whole Vedic process, therefore, is to understand Lord Visnu, and any scripture is directly or indirectly chanting the glories of the Supreme Lord, Visnu.
Regarding the Bhagavad-gita, verse 9.14, kirtayantah certainly means glorifying, chanting, reciting, and talking, as you have said; but glorifying, chanting, or reciting about whom? It is certainly Krsna. The word used in this connection is mam ["Me"]. Therefore, we do not disagree when a person glorifies Krsna, as Sukadeva did in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. This is also kirtana. The highest among all Vedic literatures is the proper place for such glorification of the Supreme Lord, Krsna, and this is to be well understood from the verse:
nigama-kalpa-taror galitam phalam
pibata bhagavatam rasam alayam
muhur aho rasika bhuvi bhavukah
"O expert and thoughtful men, relish Srimad-Bhagavatam, the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literatures. It emanated from the lips of Sri Sukadeva Gosvami. Therefore this fruit has become even more tasteful, although its nectarean juice was already relishable for all, including liberated souls." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.3)
It is said that Maharaja Pariksit attained salvation simply by hearing, and similarly Sukadeva Gosvami attained salvation simply by chanting. In our devotional service there are nine different methods for achieving the same goal, love of Godhead, and the first process is hearing. This hearing process is called sruti. The next process is chanting. The chanting process is smrti. We accept both sruti and smrti simultaneously. We consider sruti the mother and smrti the sister, because a child hears from the mother and then again learns from the sister by description.
Sruti and smrti are two parallel lines. Srila Rupa Gosvami therefore says:
aikantiki harer bhaktir
That is, without references to sruti, smrti, Puranas, and Pancaratras, unadulterated devotional service is never achieved. Therefore, anyone who shows a devotional ecstasy without reference to the sastras [Vedic scriptures] simply creates disturbances. On the other hand, if we simply stick to the srutis, then we become veda-vada-ratah,* who are not very much appreciated in the Bhagavad-gita.
[Bg 2.42] "Engaged in merely mouthing the words of the
scriptures, but not understanding or practicing them."
Therefore Bhagavad-gita, although smrti, is the essence of all Vedic scripture, sarvopanisado gavah.* It is just like a cow which is delivering the milk, or the essence of all the Vedas and Upanisads, and all the acaryas, including Sankaracarya, accept the Bhagavad-gita as such. Therefore you cannot deny the authority of the Bhagavad-gita because it is smrti; that view is sruti-smrti-virodhah, "in conflict with the smrti and the sruti," as you have correctly said.
See the Fourth of Sankaracarya's meditations.
Regarding Anandagiri's quotation that kirtana means vedanta-sravanam pranava japas ca ["listening to the Vedanta and muttering om"], the knower of Vedanta is Krsna, and He is the compiler of Vedanta. He is veda-vit and vedanta-krt. So where is there a greater opportunity for vedanta-sravana than to hear it from Krsna?
Regarding the next verse, in which it is mentioned that jnana-yajnena... yajanto mam, the object of worship is Krsna, as indicated by mam ["Me"]. The process is described in the Isopanisad, mantra 11:
vidyam cavidyam ca yas
tad vedobhayam saha
avidyaya mrtyum tirtva
"Only one who can learn the process of nescience and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality."
The culture of vidya, or transcendental knowledge, is essential for the human being, otherwise the culture of avidya, or nescience, binds him to conditional existence on the material platform. Materialistic existence means the pursuit or culture of sense gratification, and this kind of knowledge of sense gratification (avidya) means advancement of repeated birth and death. Those who are absorbed in such knowledge cannot learn any lesson from the laws of nature, and they do the same things over repeatedly, being enamored of the beauty of illusory things. Vidya, or factual knowledge, on the other hand, means to know thoroughly the process of nescient activities while at the same time culturing transcendental science and thereby undeviatingly following the path of liberation.
Liberation is the enjoyment of the full blessings of immortality. This immortality is enjoyed in the eternal kingdom of God (sambhuty-amrtam asnute), the region of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and is the result obtained by worshiping the Supreme Lord, the cause of all causes, sambhavat. So in this way real knowledge, vidya, means to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna; that is jnana-yajnena, the worship of knowledge.
This jnana-yajnena... yajanto mam is the perfection of knowledge, as stated in the Bhagavad-gita (7.19):
bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma sudurlabhah
"After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge
surrenders unto Me [Krsna], knowing Me to be the cause of all causes, and
all that is. Such a great soul is very rare."
If one has not yet come to this conclusion of knowledge and simply indulges in dry speculation without Krsna, then his hard speculative labor is something like beating empty husks of grain. The unhulled rice and the empty husks of rice look very much the same. One who knows how to get the grain out of the unhulled rice is wise, but one who beats on the empty husk, thinking to get some result, is simply wasting his labor uselessly. Similarly, if one studies the Vedas without finding the goal of the Vedas, Krsna, he simply wastes his valuable time.
So to cultivate knowledge for worshiping Krsna culminates after many, many births and deaths when one actually becomes wise. When one becomes wise in this way, he surrenders to Krsna, recognizing Him at last to be the cause of all causes and all that is. That sort of great soul is very rare. So those who have surrendered to Krsna life and soul are rare sudurlabha mahatmas. They are not ordinary mahatmas.
By the grace of Lord Caitanya that highest perfectional status of life is being distributed very freely. The effect is also very encouraging; otherwise, how are boys and girls without any background of Vedic culture quickly occupying the posts of rare mahatmas simply by vibrating this transcendental sound, Hare Krsna? And simply on the basis of this chanting, the majority of them (those who are very sincere) are steady in devotional service and are not falling down to the four principles of material sinful life, namely (1) meat-eating, (2) illicit sexual connection, (3) taking of intoxicants, including coffee, tea, and tobacco, and (4) gambling. And that is the last sutra of the Vedanta-sutra, i.e., anavrttih sabdat ["By sound vibration one becomes liberated"].
One has to learn by the result (phalena pariciyate). Our students are ordered to act like this, and they are not falling down. That they are remaining on the platform of pure spiritual life without hankering to culture the above principles of avidya, or sense gratification, is the test of their proper understanding of the Vedas. They do not come back to the material platform, because they are relishing the nectarean fruit of love of God.
Sarva-phala-tyaga ["renunciation of all the fruits of one's work"] is explained in the Bhagavad-gita by the Lord Himself in the words sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Give up everything and simply surrender unto Me [Krsna]." The Hare Krsna mantra means "O Supreme Energy of Krsna and O Lord Krsna, please engage me in Your eternal service." So we have given up everything and are simply engaged in the service of the Lord. What Krsna orders us to do is our only engagement. We have given up all resultant actions of karma, jnana, and yoga; and that is the stage of pure devotional service, bhaktir uttama.
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
February 25, 1970
Swami A. C. Bhaktivedanta
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Thank you very much for your very interesting letter of February 15, 1970, with enclosure.
I am afraid that whenever you quote a passage purporting to show that only the chanting of the name Krsna is required, I can quote another one which requires something else, adding, yadi sloko 'pi pramanam, ayam api slokah pramanam bhavitum arhati: "If mere verses are authoritative, this verse also ought to be regarded as authoritative." And there may be no end to this in the foreseeable future, as Patanjali also says, mahan hi sabdasya prayoga-visayah: "For vast is the domain for the use of words."
Yours very sincerely,
J. F. Staal
3764 Watseka Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90034
April 24, 1970
Dear Dr. Staal:
I beg to thank you very much for your kind letter dated February 25, 1970. I am sorry that I could not reply to your letter earlier because I was a little busy in the matter of purchasing a new church estate at the above address. We have secured a very nice place for a separate temple, lecture room, my quarters, and the devotees' residential quarters, all together in a nice place with all the modern amenities.
I beg to request you to visit this place at your convenience, and if you kindly let me know a day before, my students will be very glad to receive you properly.
Regarding our correspondence, actually this quotation and counter-quotation cannot solve the problem. In a court both the learned lawyers quote from law books, but that is not the solution to the case. The determination of the case is the judgment of the presiding judge. So argument cannot bring us to a conclusion.
The scriptural quotations are sometimes contradictory, and every philosopher has a different opinion, because without putting forward a different thesis, no one can become a famous philosopher. It is therefore difficult to arrive at the right conclusion. The conclusion is, as above mentioned, to accept the judgment of authority. We follow the authority of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is nondifferent from Krsna, and His version according to Vedic scripture is that in this age this chanting is the only solution for all problems of life. And that is actually being shown by practical experience.
Recently there was a big procession of our students in Berkeley on the Advent Day of Lord Caitanya, and the public has remarked as follows: "This crowd of men is not like others, who assemble to break windows and create havoc." This is also confirmed by the police in the following words: "Members of the Krsna consciousness movement cooperated fully with the police, and their efforts to maintain peaceful order throughout the parade were so successful that only minimal police involvement was required."
Similarly, in Detroit there was a big peace march, and
our men were appreciated as "angels" in the crowd. So this Krsna consciousness
movement is actually needed at the present moment as the panacea for all
kinds of problems in human society.
Other quotations will not act very appreciably at this time. In a drugstore there may be many medicines, and all may be genuine, but what is required is that an experienced physician prescribe medicine for a particular patient. We cannot say in this case, "This is also medicine, and this is also medicine." No. The medicine which is effective for a particular person is the medicine for him--phalena pariciyate.
Yours very sincerely,
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Final Note by Srila Prabhupada
In a court of justice two lawyers put forward their respective relevant arguments taken from the authorized law books to decide a point, but it is up to the judge to decide the case in favor of one of the litigants. When the opposing lawyers put forward their arguments, both of them are legal and bona fide, but the judgment is given as to which argument is applicable to the particular case.
Lord Caitanya gives His judgment on the authority of sastras
that the chanting of the holy names of the Lord is the only means to elevate
one to the transcendental platform, and actually we can see it is effective.
Each and every one of our students who has seriously taken to this process
may be examined individually, and any impartial judge will find it easy
to see that they have advanced in their transcendental realization further
than any philosophers, religionists, yogis, karmis, etc.
We have to accept everything favorable to the circumstances. Rejection of other methods in a particular circumstance does not mean that the rejected ones are not bona fide. But for the time being, taking into consideration the age, time, and object, methods are sometimes rejected even though bona fide. We have to test everything by its practical result. By such a test, in this age the constant chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra undoubtedly proves very effective.
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
[From Science of Self Realization]
I. The international Society for Krishna Consciousness
The message of the Vedas, India’s ancient spiritual and
philosophical texts, is that the human form of life is meant for reviving
our original God consciousness through the practice of spiritual discipline.
The International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is a worldwide,
nonsectarian movement dedicated to propagating this message for the benefit
of mankind. The Society was founded in 1966 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupada, who had come to the United States a year earlier on the
order of his spiritual master (Srila Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvati Gosvämi)
to teach Krsna consciousness in the Western World.
Over the years, ISKCON has steadily grown in popularity and influence, and today it is widely recognized by theologians, scholars and laymen as a genuine and important spiritual movement. The reason for this is twofold: first, the philosophy which guides the lives of ISKCON’s members is grounded firmly on the teachings of the Vedic literatures, specifically the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam; second, the spiritual master and founder of ISKCON, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, is a leader of substantial erudition and integrity. As the current representative of an unbroken chain of self realized spiritual masters, reaching back to Lord Krsna Himself, His Divine Grace is the leading exponent of Vedic culture in the world today.
ISKCON is an educational, cultural, and philosophical movement with nearly one hundred centers in thirty countries throughout the world. These centers enable full-time members to live in close association, following the principles of Vedic life, and also provide a place where interested visitors can learn about the philosophy and culture of Krsna consciousness and participate in its various functions.
The members of ISKCON are of all ages, of varying degrees of education, and from many walks of life: students, teachers, servicemen, laborers and professionals. Indeed, numerous races, creeds and nationalities are represented in ISKCON. The unifying characteristics that bring such diverse individuals to Krsna consciousness are high ethical standards and a sincere desire to understand spiritual truth. As a prerequisite for the serious pursuit of spiritual life, all devotees voluntarily abstain from meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication and gambling.
In contrast to the complexity and anxiety of modern life, the Krsna conscious lifestyle is based on the principle of “simple living and high thinking”. Devotees rise very early-about 4:00 AM.- and spend the morning hours in meditation and study, attending classes in the profound and practical philosophy of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. Srila Prabhupada’s translations of these two Vedic classics are regarded by many scholars as the most erudite and authoritative available. In the morning hours, the devotees also meditate on the Maha-mantra, composed of the following transcendental names of God: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Vedic literature states that this meditation is the simplest and most sublime process for reviving God consciousness in the current materialistic age.
During the day, the main activity is preaching Krsna consciousness. Many devotees go out to public places to distribute the Society’s books and its official journal, Back to Godhead magazine, which has a monthly circulation of more than a million copies in thirteen languages. This literature is provided by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, the publishing arm of ISKCON which is the exclusive publisher for the works of His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Since its inception in 1972, the BBT has quickly become the world’s largest publisher and distributor of English and foreign-language editions of India’s spiritual classics. To date, the BBT has published a total of sixty-400 page hardboard volumes, each profusely illustrated with original paintings by devotee artists. It is principally through the distribution of this literature (as well as by contributions from members and well-wishers) that the Society is financially maintained.
In addition to book distribution, devotees engage in a
wide variety of activities, including teaching, outside jobs, artistic
pursuits, and farming. The qualification in Krsna consciousness is not
the kind of work one performs, but that it be done in the spirit of devotion
to God. As Lord Krsna tells His Devotee Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita, “All
that you do should be done as an offering unto Me” (Bg.9.27)
Once a year, the members of ISKCON journey to the Society’s international headquarters at Sridhama Mayapur, West Bengal, India. Srila Prabhupada has proposed establishing an Institute of Vedic Studies at this site, where visitors from all over the world can learn about Vedic culture and witness it in practice. Presently the world center includes a large facility for massive distribution of food to thousands of needy families. Another major Indian center is in Vrndavana, the birthplace of Lord Krsna, where the Society has recently opened the magnificent Krsna-Balarama Temple and International Guest House.
In the United States and other countries, ISKCON has established a series of rural ashrams, each a model of Vedic agrarian life. Avoiding farm machinery as far as possible, they demonstrate that a human being need not depend on the artificial economy of the city. He can live peacefully and simply in the country while pursuing a spiritual life.
For the children of ISKCON there is Gurukula, the Society’s primary and secondary school system. Taught by academically qualified members of the Society, the children learn Vedic language and culture as well as the usual subjects like English, math, and history. The unique feature of Gurukula is that the entire educational process is centered around the goal of self-realization.
Throughout the world, the Krsna Consciousness Society has been recognized for its cultural and welfare activities. Mayors and law enforcement officials in major metropolitian areas have praised the Society for its success in helping young people overcome drug dependence. Addictions Magazines declared, “Krsna consciousness is close to one hundred percent successful in stopping drug use.” The mayor of San Francisco has proclaimed a Ratha-yatra Day in honor of the spectacular festival held annually by ISKCON. In addition, ISKCON is establishing centers for Vedic studies in several major American cities to enable college students and residents to take courses in Vedic philosophy, religion, arts, social thought and psychology.
Thus the International Society for Krishna Consciousness-a dynamic and effective spiritual movement- is making a significant contribution to the intellectual, cultural and spiritual life of contemporary man.
II. The Founder-Acarya (Spiritual master - Guru)
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was born in 1896 in Calcutta, India. He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvati Gosvämi, in Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent devotional scholar and founder of sixty-four branches of Gaudiya Mathas (Vedic institutes), liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge in the Western world. Srila Prabhupada became his student, and eleven years later (1933) at Allahabad, he became his formally initiated disciple.
At their first meeting, in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura requested Srila Prabhupada to broadcast Vedic knowledge through the English language. In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita and in 1944, without assistance, started English fortnightly magazine.
Recognizing Srila Prabhupada’s philosophical learning and devotion, the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society honored him in 1947 with the title “Bhaktivedanta”. In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, and four years later he adopted the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. Srila Prabhupada traveled to the holy city of Vrndavana, where he lived in very humble circumstances in the historic medieval temple of Radha-Damodara. There he engaged for several years in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959. At Radha-Damodara, Srila Prabhupada began to work on his life’s masterpiece: a multi-volume translation and commentary on the 18,000-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). He also wrote Easy Journey to Other Planets.
After publishing three volumes of Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada came to the United States, in 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. Since that time, His Divine Grace has written over sixty volumes of authoritative translations, commentaries and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India.
In 1965, when he first arrived by freighter in New York City, Srila Prabhupada was practically penniless. It was after almost a year of great difficulty that he established the International Society of Krsna Consciousness in July of 1966. Under his careful guidance, the Society has grown within a decade to a worldwide confederation of almost one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutions and farm communities.
In 1968, Srila Prabhupada created New Vrndavana, an experimental Vedic community in the hills of West Virginia. Inspired by the success of New Vrndavana, now a thriving farm community of more than one thousand acres, his students have since founded several similar communities in the United States and abroad.
In 1972, His Divine Grace introduced the Vedic system of primary and secondary education in the West by founding the Gurukula School in Dallas, Texas. The school began with three children in 1972, and by the beginning of 1975 the enrollment had grown to one hundred and fifty.
Srila Prabhupada has also inspired the construction of
a large international center at Sridhama Mayapura in West Bengal, India,
which is also the site for a planned Institute of Vedic Studies. A similar
project is the magnificent Krsna-Balarama Temple and International Guest
House in Vrndavana, India. These are centers where Westerners can live
to gain firsthand experience of Vedic culture.
Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contribution, however, is his books. Highly respected by the academic community for their authoritativeness, depth and clarity, they are used as standard text books in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into eleven languages. The Bhaktivendata Book Trust, established in 1972 exclusively to publish the works of His Divine Grace, has thus become the world’s largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy. Its latest project is the publishing of Srila Prabhupada’s most recent work: a seventeen volume translation and commentary completed by Srila Prabhupada in only eighteen months-on the Bengali religious classic Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.
In the past ten years, in spite of his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada has circled the globe twelve times on lecture tours that have taken him to six continents. In spite of such a vigorous schedule, Srila Prabhupada continues to write prolifically. His writings constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.
A. Scholars Praise Srila Prabhupada’s Books
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) adheres strictly to the principles of India’s ancient Vedic culture, whose goal is the spiritual perfection of man. The Krsna consciousness movement is firmly based upon the conclusive truths found in Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Ciatanya-caritamrta, which contain the essence of Vedic knowledge. These three major texts, translated into English by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and replete with his erudite commentation, provide the philosophical and practical foundation for the Krsna consciousness movement. His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada is uniquely qualified to translate and teach Vedic knowledge. He is the representative of a well-documented disciplic succession of Vedic authorities. By providing guidelines for the practical implementation of the sublime Vedic teachings, Srila Prabhupada has for the first time successfully implanted genuine Vedic culture in the West.
The books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are highly respected by students, scholars and laymen alike. His works are now widely used in college courses and seminars in diverse subjects, including philosophy, religion, world literature, history, and social sciences. The following reviews, written by scholars renowned in their fields, give graphic testimony to the scholarship and authenticity of the books of Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the Krsna consciousness movement.
B. Bhagavad-gita As It Is
“No work in all Indian literature is more quoted, because none is better loved, in the West, than the Bhagavad-gita. Translation of such work demands not only knowledge of Sanskrit, but an inward sympathy with the theme and a verbal artistry. For the poem is a symphony in which God is seen in all things… The Swami does a real service for students by investing the beloved Indian epic with fresh meaning. Whatever our outlook may be, we should all be grateful for the labor that has lead to this illuminating work.”
Dr. Geddes MacGregor, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
University of Southern California.
“The Gita can be seen as the main literary support for
the great religious civilization of India, the oldest surviving culture
in the world. The present translation and commentary is another manifestation
of the permanent living importance of the Gita.”
Thomas Merton, Theologian.
“I am most impressed with A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s
scholarly and authorative edition of Bhagavad-gita. It is a most valuable
work for the scholar as well as the layman and is of great utility as a
reference book as well as a textbook. I promptly recommended this edition
to my students. It is a beautifully done book.”
Dr. Samuel D. Atkins
Professor of Sanskrit, Princeton University
“… As a successor in direct line from Caitanya, the author
of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, is entitled, according to the Indian custom,
to the majestic title of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
The great interest that his reading of the Bhagavad-gita holds for us is
that it offers us an authorized interpretation according to the principles
of the Caitanya tradition.”
Olivier Lacombe – Professor of Sanskrit and Indology, Sorbonne University, Paris
“I have had the opportunity of examining several volumes published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and have found them to be of excellent quality and of great value for use in college classes on Indian religions. This is particularly true of the BBT edition and translation of the Bhagavad-gita.”
Dr. Frederick B. Underwood
Professor of Religion, Columbia University.
“… If truth is what works, as Pierce and the pragmatists
insist, there must be a kind of truth in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, since
those who follow its teachings display a joyous serenity usually missing
in the bleak and strident lives on contemporary people.”
Dr. Elwin H. Powell
Professor of Sociology
State University of New York, Buffalo.
“There is little question that this edition is one of
the best books available on the Gita and devotion. Prabhupada’s translation
is an ideal blend of literal accuracy and religious insight.”
Dr. Thomas J. Hopkins
Professor of Religion, Franklin and Marshall College
“The Bhagavad-gita, one of the great spiritual texts,
is not as yet a common part of our cultural milieu. This is probably less
because it is alien per se than because we have lacked just the kind of
close interpretative commentary upon it that Swami Bhaktivedanta has here
provided, a commentary written from not only a scholar’s but a practitioner’s,
a dedicated, lifelong devotee’s point of view.”
Denise Levertov, Poet.
“The increasing numbers of Western readers interested
in classical Vedic thought have been done a service by Swami Bhaktivedanta.
By bringing us a new and living interpretation of a text already known
by many, he has increased our understanding manifold.”
Dr. Edward C. Dimock, Jr.
Department of South Asian Languages and Civilization
University of Chicago
“The scholarly world is again indebted to A.C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupada. Although Bhagavad-gita has been translated many times,
Prabhupada adds a translation of singular importance with his commentary…”
Dr. J. Stillson Judah, Professor of the History of Religions and Director of Libraries
Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California
“Srila Prabhupada’s edition thus fills a sensitive gap
in France, where many hope to become familiar with traditional Indian thought,
beyond the commercial East-West hodgepodge that has arisen since the time
Europeans first penetrated India.
Whether the reader be an adept of Indian spiritualism or not, a reading of the ‘Bhagavad-gita As It Is’ ,will be extremely profitable. For many this will be the first contact with the true India, the ancient India, the eternal India.
Francois Chenique, Professor of Religious Sciences
Institute of Political Studies, Paris, France.
“As a native Indian now living in the West, it has given
me much grief to see so many of my fellow countrymen coming to the West
in the role of gurus and spiritual leaders. For this reason, I am very
excited to see the publication of Bhagavad-gita As It Is by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupada. It will help to stop the terrible cheating of false
unauthorized ‘gurus’ and ‘yogis’ and will give an opportunity to all people
to understand the actual meaning of Oriental culture.”
Dr. Kailesh Vajpeye, Director of Indian Studies
Center for Oriental Studies, The University of Mexico
“… it is a deeply felt, powerfully conceived and beautifully
explained work. I don’t know whether to praise more this translation of
the Bhagavad-gita, its daring method of explanation, or the endless fertility
of its ideas. I have never seen any other work on the Gita with such an
important voice and style… it will occupy a significant place in the intellectual
and ethical life of modern man for a long time to come.”
Dr. Shaligram Shukla
Professor of Linguistics, Georgetown University
“This is a work to be treasured. No one of whatever faith or philosophical persuasion who reads these books with an open mind can fail to be both moved and impressed…”
Dr. Garry Gelade
Professor of Psychology
“It has been my great pleasure recently to have read the
Srimad-Bhagavatam in the superb edition authorized by A.C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupada… I am sure this monumental work will go far to bring the
sublime message of the Bhagavatam to numerous Westerners who otherwise
would miss this opportunity.”
Dr. Alex Wayman
Professor of Sanskrit, Columbia University
“The Srimad-Bhagavatam is extremely useful for all those
interested in ancient India, whether their interest be that of the philosopher,
the student of religion, the historian, the linguist, the socialist or
the political scientist… I truly hope that Srila Prabhupada will complete
his translation of the entire Bhagavatam and continue to translate other
eminent Sanskrit works as well. Undoubtedly, this work of Swamiji’s is
a great contribution to the troubled human society of today’s world.”
Dr. Sooda L. Bhatt
Professor of Indian Languages, Boston University
“The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust editions of famous religious
classics of India, with new translations and commentaries, are an important
addition to our expanding knowledge of spiritual India. The new edition
of the Srimad-Bhagavatam is particularly welcome.”
Dr. John L. Mish
Chief, Oriental Division, New York Public Library.
“… A commentary on the Vedanta-sutra by Srila Vyasadeva
divided into twelve ‘cantos’ of which four are presented here in eight
beautifully produced volumes. These lavish volumes, obviously the product
of devotional effort, contain many lovely full-color illustrations…”
Choice magazine, June, 1975
“In the diversity of religious approaches offered by the
yogis of India, the most significant, of course, is the way of Krsna consciousness.
It is amazing to see how Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami has in less than ten years
succeeded, by his personal devotion, untiring energy and efficient direction,
in organizing the International Society for Krsna Consciousness. Now, he
has undertaken the stupendous project of rendering the entire Bhagavata,
the great devotional classic of India, into English. His edition is learning
blended with devotional feeling and inspired by a definite purpose of communicating
the intense Iyrical and devotional quality of the Bhagatava. Srila Prabhupada
has done an excellent service by his able rendition of ‘the abode of divine
joy’ that the Bhagavata is.”
Dr. Mahesh Metha, Professor of Asian Studies
University of Winsdor, Ontario, Canada
“It is axiomatic that no book can be expected entirely
to satisfy all its potential readers. Here is one, however, which can be
said to come remarkably close to that ideal… we have here the ideal of
what an edition of a Sanskrit text for a Western audience should be.”
Dr. R. E. Asher
Professor of Linguistics, University of Edinburgh
“… For those who have no access to the Sanskrit language,
these books convey, in superb manner, the message of the Bhagavatam. In
addition to being a scholarly work, it directly reflects the spiritual
aspirations of a religious community which has gained considerable popularity
in modern America.”
Dr. Alaka Hejib
Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University
“Srimad-Bhagavatam is a valuable source material and cannot
be attractive to serious students and scholars of religion and philosophy.
I recommend this series, to anyone, as an important and useful reference
Dr. C. P. Argawal, Chairwoman
Department of Humanities, University of Michigan
D. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta
“I am most happy to have these handsomely printed volumes which embody the work of so learned and sincere and believer in the message of the Caritamrta. I thank you.”
Dr. Daniel H. H. Ingalls
Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies
“The appearance of an English translation of Krsnadasa
Kaviraja Gosvami’s Sri Chaitanya-caritamrta by A. C. Bhaktivedanta [Founder-Acarya
of the International Society for Krishna Consciouness] is a cause for celebration
among both scholars in Indian studies and laypeople seeking to enrich their
knowledge of Indian spirituality. It will fill a most serious lacuna in
our libraries and in our courses on the religious traditions of India.
“… For the first time we possess a readily accessible edition for this great religious classic that will provide opportunity for scholars in Indian literature and followers of the Krsna consciousness tradition alike to compare the original text with a modern English translation and become acquainted with the deeper spiritual meaning of this work through the learned commentary of Sri Bhaktivedanta.
“… Anyone who gives a close reading to the commentary will sense that here, as in his other works, Sri Bhaktivedanta has combined a healthy mixture of the fervent devotion and aesthetic sensitivity of a devotee and the intellectual rigor of a textual scholar. At no point does the author allow the intended meaning of the text to be eclipsed by the promotion of a particular doctrinal persuasion.
“…These exquisitely wrought volumes will be a welcome addition to the libraries of all persons who are committed to the study of Indian spirituality and religious literature, whether their interests are sparked by the motivations of the scholar, the devotee or the general reader.”
Dr. J. Bruce Long
Depertment of Asian Studies, Cornell University
“It is a remarkable document of great historical and sociological
importance, giving a picturesque presentation of the socio-religious climate
in the India of Sri Caitanya’s times and the far-reaching social and religious
changes wrought by him. As a literary piece, it is regarded as a work of
great merit, having no parallel in the whole of Bengali literature. As
a religious text, its sanctity is compared to that of the Bhagavad-gita.
“This English edition translated by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is superb. It contains the original Sanskrit and Bengali verses with their English transliteration, synonyms, translation and elaborate purports, easily bearing testimony to the author’s profound knowledge of the subject.”
Dr. O.B.L. Kapoor, Emeritus Chairman and Professor, Department of Philosophy
Government Postgradute College, Gyanpur, India.
“It is a genuine joy to have this momentous biographical
work on the life of Bengal’s great saint Caitanya, prepared by his best-known
modern interpreter, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.”
Dr. Mark Juergensmeyer, Associate Professor of Ethics and the Phenomenology of Religions
Graduate Theology Union, Berkeley, California.
“Year by year, interest in Eastern religious thought and
philosophy grows in America. The editing and translating of the important
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta will make a substantial contribution to those who
seek information about Indian concepts…..”
Dr. Gerald A. Larue
Professor of religion, University of Southern California
“I can recommend Sri Caitanya-caritamrta as a source of
rich insights for every serious student of consiousness.”
Dr. Rory O’Day, Department of Human Relations
University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
E. Other Major Writings by His Divine Grace
“Teachings of Lord Caitanya is an authentic and lucid account, in English, of the life and philosophy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The spiritual movement initiated by ‘the Great Master’ five hundred years ago has profoundly influenced millions of men and women in India ever since, and is presently making its mark throughout the world.
“Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the present spiritual master of the movement in disciplic succession, has done a great service to the English speaking world by making this spiritual treasure available in English.”
Dr. K. L. Seshagiri Rao
Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
“Krsna is an important book both for the new student of
the history of religions and for the professional scholar. It is a helpful
and significant contribution to the growing phenomenon of interest in the
religions of Asia.”
William A. Johnson
Professor of Philosophy, Brandeis University
“The book Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead should
prove to be an important addition to materials available for college courses
in religion. It is one of the best sources in English for gaining insight
into the Bhakti religious tradition.”
Louis Roberts, Executive Chairman
Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Syracuse University
“The Perfection of Yoga is most useful for anyone wishing
to understand the meaning of yoga. It introduces the student to the study
of Bhagavad-gita and shows how direct and simple, yet in another sense,
how profoundly complex is the path of spiritual growth through yoga practice.
It is a scholarly book, yet has a direct personal meaning for all-a powerful
Dr. Frank Ledwith, Professor of Psychology
University of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland.
“I think the best feature of the Hare Krsna movement is
that it is providing scholars with excellent translations of the rarest
book on Krsna-bhakti.”
Dr. Lawrence Shinn
Professor of Religion, Oberlin College
“I have read Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami’s books with great
care, attention and profound interest, and have found them to be of incalculable
value to anyone who is curious about India’s spiritual and cultural heritage.
The author of these books displays on every page an astounding scholarship
in the subjects treated, and also an understanding and ease of exposition
of abstruse ideas, which are rarest gifts.”
Dr. H. B. Kulkarni
Professor of English and Philosophy, Utah State University
“The publications of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust are
very valuable documents and will no doubt become classics for the English
reader of Indian religious literature.”
Dr. Jerry M. Chance, Chairman
Department of Philosophy and Religion, Florida A&M University
“These books are not only beautiful, but also relevant
to our times, as we as a nation search for new cultural patterns for our
way of life.”
Dr. C. L. Spreadbury
Professor of Sociology, Stephen F. Austin State University
A. U.S. Courts Officially Recognize ISKCON’s Public Activities
Numerous decisions in American courts over the years have supported the public programs of the Krsna consciousness movement.
Judge Alfred L. Luongo
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
The Philadelphia decree was typical, and included the following points:
Krsna consciousness is recognized as an authentic religion.
To broadcast the glories of God to all people, members of the Krsna consciousness society can perform sankirtana, a missionary activity including chanting, dancing and playing cymbals and drums; the dissemination of the word of God through preaching and reading aloud from religious literature; the distribution of religious literature, sanctified foods and flowers to the public; and the solicitation and acceptance of contributions.
In performing sankirtana, devotees can go wherever people gather-streets, byways and other public places.
B. Other major decisions:
Judge Hubert F. Will
U.S. District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division
Judge Campbell M. Lucas
Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles
Judge Roger D. Foley
U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada
Judge Fred M. Winner
U.S. District Court of Denver
Judge Melvin E. Cohn
Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of San Mateo
V. A Short Statement of the Philosophy of Krsna Consciousness
The International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is a worldwide community of devotees practicing bhakti-yoga, the eternal science of loving service to God. The Society was founded in 1966 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a pure devotee of God representing an unbroken chain of spiritual masters originating with Lord Krsna Himself.
The following eight principles are the basis of the Krsna consciousness movement. We invite all our readers to consider them with an open mind and then visit one of the ISKCON centers to see how they are being applied in everyday life.
1. By sincerely cultivating a bona fide spiritual science, we can be free from anxiety and come to a state of pure, unending, blissful consciousness in this lifetime.
2. We are not our bodies but eternal spirit souls, parts and parcels of God (Krsna). As such, we are all brothers, and Krsna is ultimately our common father.
3. Krsna is the eternal, all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful, and all-attractive Personality of Godhead. He is the seed-giving father of all living beings, and He is the sustaining energy of the entire cosmic creation.
4. The Absolute Truth is contained in all the scriptures of the world. However, the oldest known revealed scriptures in existence are the Vedic literatures, most notably the Bhagavad-gita, which is the literal record of God’s actual words.
5. We should learn the Vedic knowledge from a genuine spiritual master-one who has no selfish motives and whose mind is firmly fixed on Krsna.
6. Before we eat, we should offer to the Lord the food that sustains us. Then Krsna becomes the offering and purifies us.
7. We should perform all our actions as offerings to Krsna and do nothing for our own sense gratification.
8. The recommended means for achieving the mature stage of love of God in this age of Kali, or quarrel, is to chant the holy names of the Lord. The easiest method for most people is to chant the Hare Krsna mantra:
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
“His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
is doing valuable work, and his books are significant contributions to
the salvation of mankind.”
Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri - Former Prime Minister of India
Reported in ISKCON - by Hanumatpresaka Swami:
Negative Comments that misunderstand the point being made regarding Hindu - Hinduism and it's origin, etc., and lack of mention in the Ancient Indian Scriptures known as the Veda. The reason being, the term Hindu was given by the Moslem peoples who conquered Bharat (India).
Modern day "Hinduism" is a mishmash of social, political, and religious beliefs that have evolved over years of occupation by those who have tried their hardest to destroy the infrastructure of Vedic culture through it's philosophy and practices.
Effects of Colonization on Indian Thought By Michel Danino: (shows how
the religion of India changed)
How Hindu are the Hare Krishna's? (.....lots of other negative prejudices
ISKCON and Hindutva:
Cult links - all
the dirt you want.........
- Hare Krishna is NOT a Cult: