FAQ

Who is Srila Prabhupada?

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, or Srila Prabhupada, is the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). On the order of his guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, Srila Prabhupada left India at the age of 69 to teach the timeless message of bhakti-yoga, or connecting to God through devotion. Prabhupada founded ISKCON in 1966 in New York City, and in the eleven years before his passing away in November, 1977 traveled the world to establish over 100 ISKCON temples. He also translated, with elaborate commentary, several dozen books on the Vaishnava tradition, or Krishna Consciousness, which are highly esteemed by scholars and have been translated into more than 70 languages.

Is ISKCON Hindu?

ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiaya Vaishnava sampradaya (denomination or tradition), a monotheistic tradition within Vedic or Hindu culture.

The word “Hindu” is not found in the ancient texts of India. The word originated as a designation for the people living in the vast regions east of the Sindhu River. Today,Hinduism has evolved into an umbrella term that refers to the “family of religions” based on the Vedic writings, including the major traditions Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism. Together, they make up the world’s third largest religion-today called Hinduism.

Death

What is reincarnation and what happens at death?

The word ‘reincarnate’ derives from the root ‘carna’ which means ‘flesh’. Reincarnate therefore means to enter into the flesh again. The Vedic texts explain that the spirit soul is eternal and it never dies. In the natural course of life the body grows from a baby to youth to boyhood, middle age, then old age and death, and then transmigrates into another body at death. Your destination depends upon your thoughts at death, and what we think of at the time of death depends on what we have been absorbed in for most of our lives.

God

Are the Deities idols?

One of the most unique aspect to Vaishnavism, is the form of Deity (murti). The Vedic texts maintains a sharp distinction between idols and Deities. The Deity is not a figment of imagination of the artist.The ancients text called Shilpa-shastras give exact prescriptions for the fashioning of deities. There are specifications for the proper stance of the Deities, hand gestures, bodily proportions etc. The artists called shilpins enter into deep meditation and carve deity forms in accordance to scriptural canon. After this, elaborate ceremony is performed where the Lord is asked “to imbue the Deity with His divine presence” At this point, Deity is ready to be worshipped.


Who is Lord Krishna?

Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or God. While residing eternally in His spiritual kingdom, or Vaikunatha, the place of no anxiety, He also descends into this material world from time to time to reestablish the principles of spiritual life, or religion, as He did when He spoke the Bhagavad-gita 5,000 years ago, one of the world’s classic spiritual literatures.


Who is Lord Chaitanya?

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared as a devotee of Krishna in Mayapur, West Bengal, India in the late fifteenth century. He introduced sankirtan, widespread congregational chanting of the Supreme Person’s names, as the most effective means by which anyone can achieve spiritual perfection. By His influence, many of India’s leading religious scholars and their followers became devotees of Krishna themselves. He is considered by disciples, scholars and followers to be the latest avatar of Krishna Himself, based on extensive evidence found in Vedic literature. ISKCON is a continuation of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtan movement.


Life

What is purpose of Life?

Srila Prabhupada said the goal of life is to enjoy. Our real, spiritual nature is to seek enjoyment. That\’s what everybody does. But the problem is that we find our enjoyment in material world, which temporary and short-lived. Real happiness can be found in serving the reservoir of all pleasure, Krishna.

Why is there suffering?

The answer is Karma. Western science and philosophy explain that the law of causality governs all actions and events in the universe. Actions and events have corresponding reactions on the material platform. The Vedic texts, call this principle of action and reaction ‘karma’. The spirit soul, which is entrapped in the material nature, acts in particular ways which can cause it either further bondage or liberation from the laws of nature. An individual’s actions bring about his or her transmigration from one body to another. One cannot become free from karma simply by refraining from action. One has to learn the art of working without accruing karma, which is the process of bhakti yoga. or devotion to God.


Practices

Why do we chant?

Chanting is a spiritual practice that has a place in practically all religious traditions, although the method of practice may differ. It is a transcendental sound vibration that connects with the spirit soul; the soul cannot be Muslim, Hindu, Christian or Jew; the soul is simply what it is – pure spirit.

According to Vaishnava tradition (which include devotees of Krishna), these spiritual sound vibrations especially the Hare Krishna Maha mantra – connects with who you really are (the soul) and revives our dormant spiritual consciousness. It is like nourishment for inner-self. The mantra is not a sectarian chant belonging to a particular religion. It is a chant of names of God and can be chanted by anyone.

What are the four regulative principles?

A 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 regulative principles we follow are:

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). Chanting 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.

3. Austerity: To take only what we really need, without greed or violence. Intoxications like alcohol, hard and soft drugs, tobacco, etc. make someones 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 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.

What is the yellow marking on the forehead?

The markings are called ’tilak ‘and applied with sacred clay. Although the forehead marking is the most conspicuous, the devotees of Krishna mark their bodies at 13 central energy centers, reciting various names of Lord while applying to each spot. This meditation is designed to promote the awareness that body is a temple of God.


Soul

Who am I?

This question has preoccupied both philosophers and academics alike for millennia. The ancient scriptural wisdom of India explains that the bodies we see with our eyes – white, black, Indian, European, Greek, Chinese – are temporary, external designations. The real person, the spirit soul, dwells within. It is not that we should claim “I have a soul”. In fact you are the soul. The real understanding is, “I am a soul and I have a body”. When the body dies, the soul continues to live and moves onto another destination.


Vegetarianism

Why be vegetarian ?

We believe the art of cooking, is a sacred experience, based on principles of compassion, non-violence and balanced living. Devotees abstain from eating meat, fish and eggs. We believe being vegetarian sustains the environment. The meat industry contributes largely to deforestation, desertification, water pollution, water shortages, air pollution, and soil erosion. Half of the Amazon rain forests have been cleared for cattle ranching, All the soybean and grain fed to US livestock in a year could feed 1.3 billion people.

The only practical way to respect and be affectionate to all living entities is when we believe Lord as the Supreme father. The Bhagavad Gita further declares that one who lovingly offers his food to God according to scriptural guidelines is freed from sinful reactions.


Why cow protection?

Some think protection is for endangered species, and since there are billions of cows, it’s better to concentrate on whales or the leopards.If there are other animals why only the cow.The actual philosophical reason for cow protection is very simple. All living entities deserve protection from slaughter and other violence. According to Vedic civilization, there are seven mothers. The birth mother, the nurse, the wife of the father (if she is not the birth mother), the wife of the king,the wife of the spiritual master, the earth and the cow. You may wonder why the cow is one of the seven mothers. It is because her milk nourishes us. The sentiment itself is so fine that simply for supplying milk, the cow is accepted as one of the seven mothers.


Women

What is the role of women in ISKCON ?

Although we uphold traditional family values, the ancient Vedic text emphasize the deep respect accorded to women. Within society, they serve as priests, temple presidents and even sit on the ecclesiastic board GBC. At the same time, some Hare Krishna women work outside in professional fields like medicine, engineering, state departments etc.


Yoga

What is Yoga?

Yoga is more than just a physical exercise. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanksrit root Yuj which means to link up with, or combine. Yoga was systematized in medieval India by Patanjali. He explained the the methodical process whereby one can learn to control the body and mind, with the ultimate goal of using these practices to connect with Supreme. In the West the physical fitness part of it has become an end in itself. But traditional yoga system , this is merely the first step in path of God realization. However with the complexities of modern life, these processes are fraught with difficulties and it could take hundreds of years to perfect them. The recommended practice is Bhakti Yoga -linking oneself to the Supreme with devotion.