The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement. comprises of more than 400 temples, 40 rural communities and over 100 vegetarian restaurants. It also has five hundred major centers, nearly one hundred affiliated vegetarian restaurants, thousands of namahattas or local meeting groups. It also conducts special projects throughout the world such as “Food for Life”, the only free vegetarian relief program in the world. ISKCON has expanded widely since its founding in New York City in 1966 by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda.
ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiya-Vaishnava sampradāya, a monotheistic tradition within the Vedic or Hindu culture. Philosophically it is based on the Sanskrit texts Bhagavad-gītā and the Bhagavat Purana, or Srimad Bhagavatam. These are the historic texts of the devotional bhakti yoga tradition, which teaches that the ultimate goal for all living beings is to reawaken their love for God, or Lord Krishna, the “all-attractive one”.
God is known across the world by many names including Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Rama, etc. ISKCON devotees chant God’s names in the form of the maha-mantra, or the great prayer for deliverance: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Many leading academics have highlighted ISKCON’s authenticity. Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University, describes the movement as “a tradition that commands a respected place in the religious life of humankind.” In the 1980s Dr. A. L. Basham, one of the world’s authorities on Indian history and culture, wrote of ISKCON that, “It arose out of next to nothing in less than twenty years and has become known all over the West. This, I feel, is a sign of the times and an important fact in the history of the Western world.”
ISKCON’s founder, Srila Prabhupada, has drawn appreciation from scholars and religious leaders alike for his remarkable achievement in presenting India’s Vaishnava spiritual culture in a relevant manner to contemporary Western and worldwide audiences.
Members of ISKCON practice bhakti-yoga in their homes and also worship in the temple. They also promote bhakti-yoga, or Krishna Consciousness, through festivals, the performing arts, yoga seminars, public chanting, and the distribution of spiritual literatures such as the Bhagavad Gita As It Is.