BHAKTI YOGA LIFESTYLE
Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita 18.65: "Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend".
This is the ultimate understanding of how to become Krishna conscious. Developing one's Krishna consciousness is a gradual process and can be attained by engaging in various activities throughout one's day. We are all individuals from diverse backgrounds so it is natural that everyone's spiritual practice may look a bit different. Basically the goal is to always remember Krishna and never forget Him and the following lifestyle habits help us in this endeavor.
EAT THE FOOD!
Hare Krishna food is delicious, healthy, and satisfying to body, mind, and soul. It’s called prasadam which means mercy, and it really is! Having been offered to Lord Krishna, it is literally divine. Its ingredients are pure vegetarian, its cooks are pure monks, and the experience of eating it is pure bliss! Once you’ve tasted Hare Krishna food, you’ll never want to taste anything else. Just being able to eat prasadam three times a day is a good enough reason to become a Hare Krishna!
VISIT AN ISKCON TEMPLE
Most temples are open all day every day, but it’s good to find out when they have a guest program because then you’ll have someone to explain things to you. An added bonus is that they give out free prasadam at most guest programs. To make sure it’s a genuine Hare Krishna temple, look for the ISKCON name. (That stands for International Society for Krishna Consciousness). Search online for a center near you.
From their exotic appearance to their ancient philosophy, there’s plenty about the Hare Krishnas to spark your inquisitiveness. Don’t be shy to ask the big questions. Most Hare Krishnas are happy to talk to you, and the amazing thing is that they have rational answers to practically any philosophical or theological question you can think of.
LISTEN TO THE MUSIC
Just as Hare Krishna food is no ordinary food, Hare Krishna music – called kirtan - is no ordinary sound. What they sing is a mantra comprised of God’s names as revealed in ancient Vedic texts: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The transcendental sound vibration of this mantra uplifts the heart and mind by connecting the soul to God and enabling us to experience the peace, happiness, and fulfillment that we are all longing for.
READ SRILA PRABHUPADA'S BOOKS
The scriptural basis for the Hare Krishnas is extensive, including over 80 volumes which have been translated and commented on by ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada, formally known as A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The basic text is Bhagavad-gita As It Is. But it may be best to start with an introductory book like The Science of Self Realization or Beyond Birth and Death. You can get books at any Hare Krishna temple or you can read them all online at vedabase.io.
Once you start feeling comfortable with the devotees, ask them if there is some service you can do. They’re usually more than happy to have an extra hand. Doing service alongside devotees is a great way to make friends and really understand what the Hare Krishnas are all about. And somehow, even doing a little volunteer work at a Hare Krishna temple makes you feel great.
GO CRUELTY FREE
The Hare Krishnas respect all living beings as spiritual souls, so they avoid causing unnecessary harm to any creature. They are strict vegetarians and sometimes vegans. Foods like meat, fish, and eggs, being products of violence and ignorance, degrade our consciousness. So, if you’re serious about making spiritual progress, you really have to give these up. Also, opt for cruelty-free shoes, clothing, cosmetics, and cleaning products. These adjustments will save you from a lot of bad karma.
The next step is to get some chanting beads and a bead bag and start chanting japa. Japa is mantra meditation which one does softly to oneself (as opposed to singing the mantra in a group with musical instruments which is called kirtan). There are 108 beads on a string of beads and chanting 108 mantras is called a “round.” Hare Krishna devotees chant 16 rounds everyday as one of the pillars of their spiritual practice. Start with one round a day and gradually increase at your own pace.
The best time for spiritual practice is in the early morning, especially an hour or two before sunrise. At this time, most of the world is still asleep, so the atmosphere is very peaceful and conducive to meditation, prayer, and study of the scriptures. All Hare Krishna temples have a daily morning program which usually starts as early as 4:30am. If you like, you can attend these programs or do your own at home. Of course, in order to wake up early, you have to go to bed early. That is usually the hard part! But once you get into a routine, you’ll feel a huge difference in your life.
CLEAN UP YOUR ACT
As the saying goes, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” So, Hare Krishnas are super clean. If you don’t do this already, make it a habit to brush your teeth and take a shower as soon as you get up every morning. Wear clean clothes, wash your hands after eating or using the bathroom, and keep your living space clean and organized. You’ll be surprised how external cleanliness can positively impact your state of mind.
DETOX YOUR LIFESTYLE
Intoxication is just what the world implies: toxic. Cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and even caffeine poison our bodies and minds and impair our consciousness so we can’t assimilate spiritual knowledge. To understand reality, you need a clear head. So, serious Hare Krishnas steer clear of all forms of intoxication. In any case, since intoxication is mainly a form of escape, Hare Krishnas don’t need it because their life is so joyful, it’s not something they want to escape from.
REFRAIN FROM GAMBLING
Gambling is an addictive, destructive behavior which causes undue anxiety. People gamble because they think they can win quick money. Unfortunately, because of the nature of gambling, most can’t stop on a win, but keep going until they’re deep in debt. Hare Krishnas believe that the amount of wealth we will have in this lifetime is already determined according to our karma, so you won’t improve your lot by gambling anyway. Just give it up.
REIGN IT IN
The first lesson Hare Krishnas learn is that we are not these material bodies; we are eternal spiritual souls. To pursue our real self-interest as spiritual beings, we need to focus more on spiritual activities and less on material activities, especially those which cause us to get deeply absorbed in the body, like sex. Many Hare Krishnas observe complete celibacy for a designated period of time. Most eventually get married, restricting themselves to one partner and engaging in sex as a sacred act for conceiving children. This kind of restriction is not difficult when one experiences the higher pleasure of genuine spiritual life.
DO IT FOR KRISHNA
Whatever you do in your life, do it in a spirit of devotion to the Lord. If you work, offer some of your income to Krishna. When you cook, offer your food to Krishna before eating it. While you exercise, remind yourself that you are keeping your body fit for the service of the Lord. When you’re hanging out with friends, say something to inspire them spiritually. The ever-increasing transcendental joy you’ll feel by living a life devoted to the Lord is sure proof that you’ve become a Hare Krishna!