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The Hare Krishna Movement

Five hundred years ago Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the most recent incarnation of Krishna, taught by His own example that one can live the essence of Bhagavad-gita by chanting Krishna’s holy names: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Sri Krishna and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu both taught Bhakti yoga, the spiritual practice of connecting with God through devotional service to Him. Based on Their teachings, in 1966 A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, referred to as Srila Prabhupada, founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in New York City.

Srila Prabhupada and his disciples popularized the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra in the 1960s and 1970s, and it spread to countries around the globe. Though the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is the legal name for the movement Prabhupada started, most people know it as the Hare Krishna movement.

Basic Philosophy

The Vedas teach us that our real identity is spiritual. All living beings in this world are souls identifying with the bodies they inhabit. Though we souls are tiny and God is infinite, like Him we are by nature eternal, full of happiness, and full of knowledge.

Though we belong with God, Krishna, in the spiritual world, we must stay in the material world until our pure love for Him awakens and we lose all desire to try to enjoy separately from Him.

We must understand the pitfalls of living in the material world. Sensual pleasure is temporary and fleeting. We suffer from old age, disease, and eventually die. The reactions to our activities, or karma, compel us to take repeated births in various species.

Enlightenment involves coming in contact with a realized soul, or guru, who can teach us how to purify our consciousness and reestablish our love and service attitude for God. In the current age, the easiest method of purification is to chant the holy names of God, the Hare Krishna mantra, in the association of like-minded spiritual seekers, or devotees of Krishna.

Basis of the Teachings

At the beginning of creation, Krishna spoke the knowledge of the Vedas, which guides souls on the journey of life and ultimately back to their spiritual home.

From time to time that knowledge becomes diluted or changed. To revive it, Krishna came to this world 5,000 years ago and spoke Bhagavad-gita to His friend Arjuna. The Gita contains detailed teachings on the supreme, infinite soul (God), the finite souls, karma (work in this world), time, and creation.

After Krishna left this world Vyasadeva compiled Srimad-Bhagavatam, from the ancient oral tradition originating from Krishna. The Srimad-Bhagavatam is a treatise of 18,000 verses, explaining in detail the science of God.

Five hundred years ago, Krishna came again, this time in the guise of His own devotee as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He taught that the easiest method for returning to God is to chant His holy names, especially by chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By His life, Sri Krishna Chaitanya demonstrated how a devotee of Krishna lives in this world and progresses to the next.

Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu form the core of the Bhakti teachings, the essence of which is to return to our relationship with God and live with Him eternally.

History of the Bhakti Tradition

Vedic knowledge is carefully passed down from guru to disciple in spiritual lineages called sampradayas. India’s sampradayas have for centuries protected its traditions of deep spirituality. Unfortunately, when spiritual knowledge is not gained from an authorized sampradaya it lacks real spiritual benefit.

The Hare Krishna movement strictly adheres to the sampradaya system. Srila Prabhupada, the movement’s founder, was a spiritual master of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya, which begins with Lord Krishna and includes His most recent descent, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

The lineage is known as the Brahma sampradaya because at the beginning of creation Lord Krishna Himself enlightened Brahma, the original inquisitive soul, the first created being.

The line later becomes known as the Brahma-Madhva sampradaya because of the prominent teacher Madhva (A.D. 1238-1319).

Still later, the line becomes known as the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya after the line is joined by Sri Chaitanya (1486-1534), who appeared in the region of Gauda (Bengal) and imbued the tradition with new vigor.

The members of the sampradaya up to Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual preceptor of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, are listed below.

  1. Lord Krishna
  2. Brahma
  3. Narada
  4. Vyasa
  5. Madhva
  6. Padmanabha
  7. Narahari
  8. Madhava
  9. Akshobhya
  10. Jaya Tirtha
  11. Jnana-sindhu
  12. Daya-nidhi
  13. Vidya-nidhi
  14. Rajendra
  15. Jayadharma
  16. Purushottama
  17. Brahmanya Tirtha
  18. Vyasa Tirtha
  19. Lakshmipati
  20. Madhavendra Puri
  21. Ishvara Puri (Nityananda, Advaita)
  22. Sri Chaitanya
  23. Rupa (Svarupa, Sanatana)
  24. Raghunatha, Jiva
  25. Krishnadasa
  26. Narottama
  27. Vishwanatha
  28. (Baladeva) Jagannatha
  29. Bhaktivinoda
  30. Gaurakishora
  31. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati
  32. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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