About Us !
What is ISKCON?
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), otherwise known as the Hare Krishna movement, is the larger worldwide movement dedicated to the philosophy and practice of Krishna Consciousness or Bhakti Yoga. It includes five hundred major centers, temples and rural communities, nearly one hundred affilated vegetarian restaurants, thousands of namahattas or local meeting groups, a wide variety of community projects, and millions of congregational members worldwide. Although less than fifty years on the global stage, ISKCON has expanded widely since its founding by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda in New York City in 1966.
Who is Swami Prabhupada ?
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON. In 1965, he left the holy village in India where he was residing (Vrindavan) and came to the United States via steamship, ultimately opening a small storefront temple in New York City. Practically penniless, his luggage mostly consisted of the first three volumes of Srimad Bhagavatam that he had translated just before he departed for the U.S., with the purpose of spreading the philosophy of Bhakti Yoga to a western audience.
From that humble beginning in New York City, a movement was born that eventually became worldwide. Bhaktivedanta Swami circled the globe 14 times over the course of 11 years, overseeing the start of ISKCON temples and preaching activities in various countries around the world. Though he was leading a spiritual movement, Bhaktivedanta Swami always stated that he was just a servant--that he was just trying to fulfill the desire of his own spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, that this incalculably valuable, nonsectarian philosophy of Bhakti Yoga be given to all the people of the world.
What is Bhakti Yoga?
We are introduced to Bhakti Yoga in the sacred pages of the Bhagavad-gita. Bhakti Yoga is the form of yoga that Krishna (the Supreme) recommends for this age, due in part to its practicality and being so easy to practice along with everything else we need to accomplish, school, job, or family-wise. This is because Bhakti Yoga entails a shift in consciousness, not in external dress or in where we live (we don't have to become an ascetic living in a cave somewhere to practice this form of yoga!). All that Bhakti Yoga requires is a willingness to connect our day-to-day lives back to our source, Krishna, via our consciousness.
The word "bhakti" translates to "loving devotional service." The word "yoga" means "to link" or "to connect." In yoga, we are attempting to connect to our source -- and the source of all that be: the Absolute Truth, or Supreme Being, Krishna. "Krishna" is just a nonsectarian name for the Supreme indicating that He is "All Attractive" -- He Who attracts all living beings ultimately.
Meanwhile, when we add the word "yoga" to "Bhakti," it comes to refer to the body of practices employed for connecting to the Supreme via devotional services, such as chanting the Maha Mantra [link to Mantra Music page of the site] (a Mantra composed of the names of the Supreme), offering/dedicating our daily activities (whether work or school) to Krishna, reading the Bhagavad-gita and other books related to Krishna, and offering our vegetarian food to Krishna before consuming it so that even our food becomes spiritualized and nourishes us spiritually.
The Maha Mantra
The Mantra you'll hear us chanting at our Musical Mantra Nights is as follows:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
This mantra is known as the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra. “Maha” is a word meaning “great.” This mantra is considered “great,” because according to sastra (scripture), this is the most effective and potent mantra for this age for purifying our consciousness – elevating it from material to spiritual.
Interestingly, we clean everything in life (our hands, our bodies, the dishes). Why not also clean our consciousness? Try it out and you'll feel the difference.
What does the Maha Mantra mean?
Importantly, the Maha Mantra is not sectarian; it does not belong to anyone's religion or culture. Why? Well, because it’s spiritual. And that which is spiritual transcends matter and thus, transcends material designations – like belonging to a certain country or culture. The Maha Mantra is for all people and indeed, people around the world have benefited and are benefiting from chanting it.
The word Krishna is a non-sectarian name describing the Supreme and it refers to the fact that the Supreme is all-attractive.
The word Hare refers to the transcendental energy of the Supreme and the word Rama refers to the bliss that is associated with the Supreme and that we feel when chanting His names.
Altogether, in this particular combination, the Maha Mantra is a petition for devotional service to the Supreme. It is a calling out to be connected to the Supreme via loving devotional service (bhakti-yoga) – which we come to learn is the whole point of this human form of life that we are in.