The Vaisnava/Hindu tradition, commonly referred to as the Hare Krishna
Movement was transplanted to the West by the singular efforts of His
Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Srila Prabhupada. It took root in America
in the 1960's amidst the hippy, counter culture movement. In the first
ten years, the Movement guided by Srila Prabhupada experienced a
phenomenal and unprecedented growth.
The International Society For Krishna Conscious (the movement's official
name, aka ISKCON) and New Vrindavan Community have gone through many
changes since their beginnings. New Vrindavan Community itself, of
course, is somewhat a microcosm of the Movement. There have admittedly
been mistakes and abuses of power along the way since Srila Prabhupada
passed away in 1977.
Then again, there are certainly many inspired leaders who are dedicated
to presenting the message of Bhagavada Gita and carrying on Srila
Prabhupada's vision - a vision of a Krishna (God) conscious society of
people of many different religious traditions around the world living in
peace and prosperity; a vision of unity in diversity.
ISKCON has had some successes. The Hare Krishna devotees have helped fan
an interest in Eastern spirituality and vegetarianism in America. It has
inspired musicians, artists and film makers. The Movement has also
influenced the style of clothing, apparel, and hair styles. The zealous
proselytizing mood of the devotees during the Movement's first decade
caused many churches and synagogues to take a deeper look at their own
faith and to look for new ways for them to reach out to their
That youthful zealousness of the devotees has given way to a maturity and
to the understanding that answers, alliances and even friendships can
also be found outside the walls of ISKCON. In turn, the Movement has
also been influenced as it has begun to seek advice and help from
counselors in conflict resolution, educators, and motivational speakers.
It has also engaged in and hosted interfaith dialogues. By the early
1990's the emphasis and direction of the Movement had already begun to
shift and will continue to do so.
It has also begun to listen to the members within its own ranks. It has
started to listen to, rather than fear and condemn, dissenting voices.
The direction of the Movement is no longer solely being steered by the
managers and International Governing Body Commission(GBC). What is
emerging is a grass roots movement within the Movement; a shift in the
leadership and essential paradigm of the movement, which was driven for
many years by the renounced (monastic) order, to the more user friendly,
householder and ecumenical perspective; a shift from the efforts of an
organization to the efforts and voices of individual devotees.
ISKCON was at one time a predominately sannyasa (celibate clergy)
leadership driven organization. I feel it is gradually transforming
into a multifaceted movement charged by many inspired individuals
carrying out numerous projects and undertakings. Devotees are also making
important contributions as they take up positions in the greater society
in the academic, corporate, artistic, and scientific sectors. These
individuals are creating networks of their own far beyond what the
organization itself is able to create.
The Movement is undergoing growing pains. In effect, in it's first 50
years in the West, the Krishna Movement will have dealt with issues
(i.e. abuse of power, child abuse in the ashramas, leadership by women,
interfaith outreach, as well as its being labeled a "cult" and its
legitimacy by the larger society brought into question) that have taken
other religious organizations hundreds of years to process. Therefore,
it would serve those who are interested in religious movements,
spirituality, intentional communities, social patterns and the growing
diversity of American culture to take a closer look at the Hare Krishna