This section of the FAQ covers general questions about ISKCON and involvement in this movement.
Q: How did society react to the emergence of the Hare Krishnas? Was the reaction good or bad? Were there acts of violence and hatred, kindness and acceptance, or both?
A: The Hare Krishna movement was started in America in 1966 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. As you probably know this was a unique period in modern American history and the movement was very much accepted and appreciated by thousands upon thousands of hippies, seekers, radicals, intellectuals, and other members of the counter-culture at that time. It was also recognized and appreciated my many scholars throughout the country who understood its ancient origins and strict tradition.
Over the years there have certainly been other negative responses as the movement became more powerful and prominent in the world. Parents of course did not understand or appreciate their childrens choice to dedicate their life to such an exotic and inexplicable (for the parochial American mind-set) pursuit and cast aspersions and accusations upon the Hare Krishna movement and there have been a few isolated incidents of violence, the most serious ones occurring in countries like Russia, Armenia and the like. But such acts of violence have been the exception rather than the rule.
Western man is generally not inclined to serious spiritual pursuit and will thus always feel somewhat threatened by the spectical of someone dedicating their entire life to such a course. That of course is due to ignorance and we must be tolerant and determined to dance to the beat of our drummer.
Q: How are people recruited in your movement?
A: We distribute books and people read them and when they are convinced they usually visit the temple and when they like it they decide to live with us. Or else they see a public program and like it and then visit us and then decide to stay. Usually one of the two.
Q: Do you accept just anyone in your movement?
A: We accept everyone from any race, religion, economic situation or whatever. Only we ask that whoever lives in the temples as a full time devotee must follow our principles and come to the programs in the temple. Otherwise anyone can become a congregational member and live outside the temple and come for programs when he likes and follow as he can. Or one can, if he is more strict, make his home into a center.
Q: Do you have enough money for medical care (dentist, doctor, optometrist, etc.)?
A: Generally, devotees who live in our temples are cultivating renunciation and thus do not often have funds of their own. But all of their medical needs should then be taken care of by the temples in which they are serving. You can ask the person in charge of the temple nearest to you for particular information on this point.
Q: Where do you get the money from to support your movement?
A: The Lord maintains all living entities throughout the universe, so surely He will maintain His devotees. Please keep in mind that we are a world wide religious and cultural movement with over 450 centers in 76 countries, and not just a couple of weird "sect" members living down the block.
We receive money mainly from the sales of Srila Prabhupada's books (over ten million anually) published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, our world famous restaurants and boutiques, and through donations from our working householder members, congregation, life members, and from the general public.
Besides that, many of our projects, like Food For Life Emergency Relief and the establishment of cultural centers, are government sponsored all over the world.
Q: What makes you so sure that "the man on top" isn't getting all the money?
A: First of all, we do not have such a thing as "the man on top." ISKCON is managed by a Governing Body Commission consisting of over 30 members. It's annual meetings are attended by neutral monitors and its resolutions are made public.
Second, all temples, centers, farm projects, and restaurants are financially independent units that are responsible for their own income and expenditures. These units each have a separate president and treasurer.
Third, one qualification for being "on top" is to be spiritually advanced, which is not at all an easy thing and can only be faked for a very short time as it involves great austerity. Some of the characteristics of advanced devotees are that they are materially detached and use whatever they get in the service of Krishna, money included.
The point is that ISKCON is a genuine spiritual movement and people join this movement with the prospect of becoming devotees of the Lord, not to become wealthy charlatans. Besides, the whole setup in our movement doesn't lend itself very well for such practices and any misguided individual who may want to give it a try will quickly come to his senses.
And another thing, most of the people that join ISKCON do not bring any money at all, and those who live in temples and perform devotional service there are fully maintained.
Q: Is your movement not merely an attempt to escape reality?
A: History has made it ample clear that "reality" from a material point of view has always been a matter of time, place and circumstances. Cultural trends and general believes are the social facets that shape whatever a specific community of people will consider acceptable or rejectable, normal or abnormal, real or illusory. These norms are relative and subject to constant change.
Moreover, they can be carefully controlled and manipulated by sophisticated propaganda techniques.
The spiritual reality found in the ancient Vedic literatures is beyond time, place and circumstances as it deals with and originates from the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth is always truth, and therefore actual reality. It is never subject to interpretation or speculation, cultural trends or opinions. It was reality millions of years ago, is reality now and will still be reality after millions of years.
We follow these scriptures in affirming that reality is our eternal loving relationship with God, full of bliss and knowledge, and not our temporary stay in this material world full of suffering and misery.
Material, cultural reality has no answers to the actual workings of nature, its past, present and future, life and its origin, the goal of existence and everything else beyond its narrow-minded little attempts to explain everything in terms of matter. In that sense its position is like that of an ant trying to explain the light at the end of a light post. All speculation.
Spiritual reality is different. The temporary material world finds its origin in the spiritual realm. Spiritual reality is the only actual reality from which all relative realities sprout. It has all the answers.
So from this angle of vision the answer is: no, it is a sincere attempt to get closer to reality.
Q: Why does you movement criticize technology and at the same time make use of it?
A: We do not criticize or condemn technology. We criticize what it is used for and the attitude that science and technology are the only important things in the world. Science and technology are means to an end, tools which are helpful if properly used, harmful otherwise.
Properly used means that they are used in the service of the Supreme Lord, Krishna. The material world and everything in it belongs to Krishna and everything should therefore be used for His pleasure.
We think people would be happier if life were materially simpler, if they had fewer distractions from concentration on their relationship with Krishna, but we take the world as we find it. Utility is the principle.
|© 1997 BBTI, Inc.||Feedback @|