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The International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Founder-Acarya Sri Srimad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

The Origin

Although the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, also known as the Hare Krishna movement, is relatively new in the West, its roots date back to ancient India, to the most advanced civilization the world has ever known.

The most important witnesses of this era are the Vedic scriptures, written in Sanskrit. Outstanding among these writings are the texts that deal with philosophy and religion. The Vedic religion is monotheistic and teaches the worship of one Supreme God (named Krishna in Sanskrit), and it was this God conscious lifestyle that ensured the long lasting prosperity of the Vedic culture.

Under the influence of time everything in this world is subject to a cycle of revival and destruction. About 5000 years ago Kali-yuga, the iron age of quarrel and hypocrisy, began. In due course of time kings, priests and teachers, followed by the rest of the populace, slowly lost their qualities of cleanliness and godliness, and with it the principles of their spiritual society.

Still, even in Kali-yuga for a long time India remained a country possessing legendary opulence. Again and again we find how throughout history great powers have tried to exploit its treasures. All those who penetrated the Indian sub-continent -- from Alexander the Great in 327 BC up to the Muslims and Englishmen -- were astonished at the sight of this country with its imposing temples and palaces. But what these conquerors saw (and often also destroyed) were merely the remains of an earlier and even greater civilization.

The True Treasure of India

The great sages and saints of the Vedic tradition could understand that in Kali-yuga materialism would predominate. Therefore they decided to put all Vedic knowledge, which had been an oral tradition up till then, into writing to save it from the influence of Kali-yuga. Thus the Vedic scriptures came into being 5000 years ago, although their contents, originating from divine revelation, had been existing from time immemorial.

Besides the scriptures there were also teachers (gurus) who embodied the Vedic teachings by their own example and in this way passed it on to their disciples, who passed it on to their disciples, etc. This unbroken chain of spiritual masters, which can be traced back to Lord Krishna Himself, has kept the Vedic tradition alive, even while the people of Kali-yuga turned away from it more and more. Thus those who knew the meaning and goal of the Vedas could foresee the coming of every incarnation of God who would reestablish the Vedic culture and religion.

In 1486 Lord Krishna appeared in Bengal as Sri Caitanya. His appearance as an incarnation of God (avatar) had already been predicted in the Vedic scriptures. He established the movement for Krishna consciousness in India and revealed the recommended method of God-realization for the present age (yuga-dharma): the congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord. In other words, the same Krishna, who spoke the Bhagavad-gita 5000 years ago, had now appeared to show how to live the Bhagavad-gita. God always gives both the perfect teachings and the perfect example.

Lord Caitanya explained that real God consciousness does not depend on caste or church membership, and opposed Himself to any social, religious or racist prejudice. He spread the chanting of the holy name as the method to enable anyone to become Krishna conscious and predicted that one day the holy name of Lord Krishna would be heard all over the world.

In fulfilling this prophecy of the Lord His followers saw their life's mission. They traveled all over India, wrote volumes of books, and since the 19th century also started to make the Vedic knowledge available to the whole world through the English language. A major step was taken ten generations after Lord Caitanya by the great scholar and devotee A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), who gave the name of Lord Krishna and the message of the Vedas to the whole world.

ISKCON Nowadays

ISKCON, founded in 1966 in New York by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, is the contemporary representative of the ancient religion of Krishna consciousness. It is a cultural and religious movement that offers humanity facilities to acquire, study and practice Vedic knowledge.

This ISKCON section of "The Complete Picture" offers those who are not that familiar with our movement an insight in its structure, goals, means, and future.

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