TEACHINGS OF BHAKTI
It is often assumed that the final goal of Indian spirituality is nirvana – the extinguishing of individual existence and the simultaneous absorption into an amorphous Absolute. The Bhagavad Gita reveals that this is only the preliminary stage of self-realization. Beyond this is the awakening of the soul’s eternal consciousness of Krishna, the personal form of the Absolute Truth. In brief, the Gita explains as follows:
Some of our basic tenets are explained briefly below. If you would like to learn more, we invite you to attend our classes either in person or online. If you do come to New Vrindaban for a visit, we also encourage you to speak with our New Vrindaban community members if you have any questions about our teachings.
We are not our bodies, but eternal spirit soul (atman), part and parcels of God (Krishna). Although we are essentially spiritual (brahman), we have temporarily forgotten our true identity.
Having lost touch with our original, pure consciousness we are trying to achieve permanent happiness within a temporary world. Our attempts produce karmic reactions that cause us to remain within this world for repeated lifetimes (samsara).
By sincerely learning and following a genuine spiritual science (dharma) under the guidance of a self-realized teacher, we can be free from anxiety and come to a state of pure, blissful enlightenment in this lifetime.
Krishna is eternal, all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful and all-attractive. He is the seed-giving father of all living beings and He is the sustaining energy of the entire cosmic creation.
Our dormant relationship with Krishna can be re-awakened by the practice of bhakti-yoga, the science of spiritualising all human activities by dedicating them to the Supreme. This ancient yoga system gradually frees us from the entanglement of karma and thereby the cycle of birth and death. https://iskconeducationalservices.org/HoH/
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) is widely regarded as the foremost Vedic scholar, translator, and teacher of the modern era. He is especially respected as the world’s most prominent contemporary authority on bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the Supreme Person, Krishna, as taught by the ancient Vedic writings of India. He is also the Founder-Acharya (spiritual master) of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada, as he is known to his followers, translated and commented on over eighty volumes of the Vedas’ most important sacred bhakti texts, including the Bhagavad-gita—a concise handbook for understanding the purpose and goal of human life—and the multi-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam—an epic biography of Krishna, Krishna’s avatars, and His many devotees throughout the history of the universe.
Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, was the leading proponent of Krishna consciousness in India during the early part of the twentieth century. He specifically taught the philosophy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the divine avatar who revived Krishna-bhakti all over India in the 1500s. When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta first met the young man, later known as Srila Prabhupada – in Calcutta in 1922 – he urged him to preach Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s message of Krishna consciousness throughout the English-speaking world.
After forty years of struggling within India to carry out his guru’s order, while maintaining family and business responsibilities, Srila Prabhupada boarded a steamship bound from Calcutta to New York City in 1965. The journey proved to be treacherous, and he suffered two heart attacks aboard. At age sixty-nine, with forty rupees and a trunk of his Bhagavatam commentaries – the first ever in English – his aim was to introduce “India’s message of peace and goodwill” to the western world. During the last twelve years of his life, Srila Prabhupada would inspire thousands of Westerners and Indians to devote their lives to Krishna consciousness, launching one of the fastest-growing spiritual movements in the history of the world.
He considered his translations and commentaries as divinely inspired, practical guidebooks for the spiritual and material benefit of human society. Many scholars and professors who met Srila Prabhupada and became familiar with his work continue to use his books as standard university texts, and regard him as a genuine, realized, and scholarly teacher of bhakti.
With the help of his students, he founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). ISKCON is popularly known as the “Hare Krishna” movement, due to its members’ widespread practice of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra in public. Srila Prabhupada wanted ISKCON to provide spiritual association and education to bhakti-yoga practitioners, and his followers continue to spread this mission.
Many books have been authored by disciples of Srila Prabhupada, where they share their stories of time spent in the presence of their spiritual teacher. A definitive biography, Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, has also been compiled and is a highly recommended read if you are interested in learning Srila Prabhupada's life story.
HARE KRISHNA MOVEMENT
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was established in 1966, in New York City, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Srila Prabhupada). Better known as “The Hare Krishna Movement,” ISKCON has expanded widely since its founding and now has 500 major centers and temples, 60 rural communities, 50 schools, 100 restaurants, and millions of congregational members worldwide.
ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiya-Vaishnava sampradāya, a monotheistic spiritual tradition, which is philosophically based on the Sanskrit texts of the Bhagavad-gītā and the Srimad Bhagavatam (aka Bhagavata Purana). The mission of this nonsectarian movement is to promote the wellbeing of society by teaching the science of Krishna (God) consciousness according to these ancient Vedic texts that date back over 5000 years.
Devotees of the Hare Krishna Movement practice Bhakti-yoga, which teaches that the ultimate goal of life is to reawaken our dormant love for God, or Lord Krishna, the “all-attractive one.” Essential practices of Krishna Consciousness involve the chanting of God’s holy names—among several processes of devotional service—to revive our loving relationship with Him.
Devotees promote bhakti-yoga, or Krishna Consciousness, through festivals, the performing arts, yoga seminars, public chanting, and the distribution of the society’s literatures. ISKCON members have also opened hospitals, schools, colleges, eco-villages, free food distribution projects, and other institutions as a practical application of the Bhakti-yoga path.
For more information on the teachings of ISKCON, please visit www.iskcon.org
WHO IS KRISHNA?
Krishna is a name of the original, unique Supreme Person, the source of all that exists. God has many names, and each describes a different aspect of His personality. Allah, Vishnu, Jehovah, and God refer to His greatness and His role as creator, maintainer of the universe, and Lord of all. The name Krishna—”the all-attractive one”—indicates the unequaled charm and beauty of the Supreme Person, as He appears to His most dear devotees.
Krishna appears as other forms of God—avatars—to create and maintain the universe, while He simultaneously enjoys loving relationships with His countless associates in the spiritual world. He visits this material world from time to time to free His devotees from material existence and to vanquish the wicked. He performs superhuman pastimes—lifting mountains, swallowing forest fires, and killing numerous extraordinarily powerful demons—as easily as a child playing with toys.
By all historical accounts, Lord Krishna appeared 5,000 years back and played his part as a human being to perfection. Within the prison of His maternal uncle Kamsa, where His father and mother were confined, Krishna appeared outside His mother’s body as the four-handed Vishnu – Narayana. Then He turned Himself into a baby and told His father to carry Him to the house of Nanda Maharaja and his wife Yashoda in Gokula. The Vedic literatures give further histories of his appearances over millions and billions of years. In the Fourth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna states that He can remember instructing the lessons of the Bhagavad-gita some millions of years ago to the sun-god, Vivasvan, because He possesses unlimited knowledge, Krishna has a memory that is boundless.
The Bhagavad-gita, spoken by the Lord, as a treatise has been acknowledged the world over for its unfathomable depth and replete with practical instructions. The world’s foremost western philosophers have paid rich tributes for the priceless wisdom that it offers to mankind. A discerning person will notice that all the instructions contained in the Bhagavad-gita is also contained in all other religious scriptures of the world, but there is higher knowledge, which is not found in any other book of knowledge.
Reincarnation is the process by which the spiritual essence of any individual (commonly called “the soul”) passes from one body to another in a repeated cycle of birth and death.
In the Bhagavad-gita this process is explained using the following analogy: “As the embodied soul passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” (Bhagavad-gita 2.13)
Because the soul eternally exists then this process, if unchecked, is also eternal. In everyday life there is always some degree of distress and suffering & because the soul is eternal, as long as he is in the cycle of reincarnation, then he will be eternally suffering. The Hare Krishna philosophy explains how one can break this cycle of repeated suffering. This is exemplified in the Bhagavad-gita which, in essence, is an explanation of how to break this cycle and achieve liberation… never takes birth again.”
OUR DIET— VEGETARIANISM
There are two principles of Hare Krishna philosophy, which are expressed practically by the practice of vegetarianism. These two principles are:
Service to God (Krishna)
Non-violence means not to stop the progressive life (materially or spiritually) of any living being. According to the laws of karma and reincarnation if an animal is killed before its allotted time in that particular body has ended then it has to take birth again in the same type of body in order to complete its remaining days and be promoted upwards to the next species. Thus its evolution upwards through the different species of life is checked. Therefore, the killing of animals simply to satisfy the demands of the palate is an act of both material and spiritual violence.
As far as service to God is concerned in Bhagavad-gita it is said: “If one offers Me (Krishna) with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it.” (Bhagavad-gita 9.26)
Before eating anything devotees of Krishna perform a ceremony whereby they offer their food to God. This religious performance sanctifies the food and frees the person eating it from the karma involved in the collection and preparation of the ingredients.
Environmentally speaking, the escalating loss of species, destruction of ancient rain forests to create pasturelands for livestock, loss of top soils and the consequent increase of water impurities, water depletion and air pollution have all been traced to meat in the human diet. No single decision that we can make as individuals or as a race can have such a dramatic effect on the improvement of our planetary ecology as the decision to not eat meat.
Health wise, it’s a scientific fact that vegetarians are healthier than meat eaters with studies showing that vegetarians have a much lower risk of suffering from diseases like cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and other health disorders compared to meat eaters.
Finally, because in the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says that He will only accept food if it is vegetarian then Hare Krishnas only eat vegetarian food. This they do as an act of service to please God (Krishna).
PRINCIPLES OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
Hare Krishna devotees often say that religion without philosophy is sentimental and philosophy without religion is dry speculation. Religion expresses itself through culture: different codes of behavior that help us to become aware that we are not this temporary material body but an eternal spirit soul, servant of God.
Although our state of mind is seen through the nature of our activities (how we dress, eat, talk etc.), the type of activities we perform also affects our state of mind. This means we can elevate our consciousness by elevating the nature of our activities. All spiritual activities help us to purify our consciousness and direct it towards God.
Because of this, a Vaishnava (devotee of Krishna) does not take the regulations of spiritual life as restrictions, but rather as ‘regulative principles of freedom’ – a tool for advancing personal character development & spiritual consciousness.
The four basic principles are as follows:
1. Cleanliness: Of body, mind and soul.
This means the daily washing of the body, but also refraining from illicit sex (only sex for procreation within marriage). Celibacy, recitation of God´s (Krishna´s) holy names and studying the holy Scriptures help us to keep the mind and soul clean and balanced.
2. Mercy: To help living entities (materially as well as spiritually).
True followers of the Vedic (or any other) Scriptures are strictly vegetarians. It is perfectly possible to live healthily and happily without needlessly killing innocent animals. To kill our fellow living entities instead of protecting them is against the laws of God.
3. Austerity: To take only what we really need, without greed or violence.
Intoxications like alcohol, hard and soft drugs, tobacco, caffeine etc. make someone’s mercy and friendliness disappear. Addictions are not only unnecessary, but also very harmful (to body, mind and to others). The best alternative for addictions is an awakening of our eternal relationship with God (Krishna) by living in accordance with His laws.
4. Truthfulness: Means that we should not lie or gamble.
Gambling destroys truthfulness because it is an attempt to bypass the laws of nature and obtain material profit without honestly working for them. An honest deed is the best gamble in the world and a sure winner. There are many rules and regulations to follow in human life which help us to be healthy, happy and successful. The most important of all is: Always remember Krishna (God) and never forget Him.
The word mantra comes from the ancient Sanskrit language. Man means “mind,” and tra means “release.” So a mantra is a combination of transcendental sounds meant to release the mind from all the anxieties of material life. The Hare Krsna mantra is known as the maha-mantra, or great mantra. It is the essence of all mantras.
Mantra meditation is a spiritual and religious practice that has a place in practically all religious traditions, although the method of practice may differ. In the Vaishnava tradition (which includes the devotees of Krishna) this type of meditation has two basic forms. The first is individual practice and the second is congregational.
Individually devotees of Krishna perform a daily schedule of personal prayer and meditation. This is centered around the recitation of the names of Krishna (God) using prayer beads to count out the number of names chanted. The prayer, or “mantra”, that they repeat is called the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
The second form of this process, which is congregational, includes the use of musical instruments. Instead of chanting on beads the mantra is sung. One person leads the singing while others in the group respond. This process is called kirtan. Depending on the circumstances, kirtan is done either within temples of Krishna or in public. In India such public performances are very common and have been for many centuries.
“Hare”, “Krishna” and “Rama” are all names used in the Vaishnava tradition that refer to God and His energies. Because God is spiritual and all-powerful if someone chants His name then they will become purified – materially and spiritually. This chanting is also considered a form of prayer whereby the devotee is appealing to the Lord to please engage the devotee in the Lord’s service.
GUIDE TO DEVELOPING KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS
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. Read here for more information on the steps you can take to help you to "Always remember and never forget Krishna".