Handbook of Today's Religions

Hare Krishna


The origin of the Hare Krishnas (International Society for Krishna Con-sciousness or ISKCON) dates back to the fifteenth century A.D., when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu developed The Doctrines of Krishnaism from the Hindu sect of Vishnuism.
Simply stated, Vishnuism believed Vishnu, the Supreme God, manifested himself at one time as Krishna. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught the reverse: Krishna was the chief God who had revealed himself at one time as Vishnu. The doctrinal system of Krishnaism is Hinduistic and while worshiping Krishna, acknowledges universal monism. This system believes every individual must go through a series of successive lives (rein-carnation) to rid himself of the debt of his actions (karma).
Krishnaism was one of the early attempts to make philosophical Hin-duism appealing to the masses. While pure Hinduism's god is impersonal and unknowable, Krishnaism (and other sects) personalize god and pro-mote worship of and interaction with the personalized aspects of god, such as Krishna. In 1965 Krishnaism came to America by means of Abhay Charan De Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, an aged Indian exponent of the wor-ship of Krishna. He founded ISKCON and remained its leader until his death in 1977. Presently, ISKCON is ruled by two different groups, one group of eleven men rule over spiritual matters, while a board of direc-tors heads the administrative matters. This wealthy organization presently has about 10,000 members in America. Part of ISKCON's wealth comes from soliciting funds and distributing its lavishly illustrated literature including the Bhagavad-Gita: As It Is and its periodical Back to Godhead. ISKCON's beliefs are those of Hinduism and are wholly incompatible with Christianity. This can be observed by a comparison between the statements of ISKCON on matters of belief with those of the Bible.


The Bible speaks of God as the infinite-personal creator of the universe. He is eternally a separate entity from His creation. He existed before His creation came into being. The Scripture says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1), showing God was there before His creation existed.
ISKCON practices monotheism. However it assumes traditional Hin-duistic monism (essential pantheism). To them they are all one. "In the beginning of the creation, there was only the Supreme Personality Narayana. There was no Brahma, no Siva, no fire, no moon, no stars in the sky, no sun. There was only Krishna, who creates all and enjoys all.

"All the lists of the incarnations of Godhead are either plenary expan-sions or parts of the plenary expansions of the Lord, but Lord Sri Krsna (alternate spelling of Krishna) is the original Personality of Godhead Himself," Srimad Bhagavatam 1:3:28 (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, n.d.).

Jesus Christ

According to Scripture, Jesus Christ is God Almighty who became a man in order to die for the sins of the world. He has been God from all eternity. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God" (John 1:1). ISKCON denies this by making Christ no more than Krishna's son. "Jesus is the son, and Krsna is the Father, and Jesus is Krsna's son" (Jesus Loves Krsna, Los Angeles Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, n.d., p. 26).


The Bible teaches that all of us have sinned against a holy God and are therefore in need of a Savior: "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23); "For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). This is not so in the teachings of ISKCON. According to ISKCON, salva-tion must be earned by performing a series of works. To get rid of the ignorance, one must practice disciplinary devotion by chanting the name of God, hearing and singing his praises, meditating upon the divine play and deeds of KRSNA, and engaging in the rites and ceremonies of worship. One must also repeat the name of God to the count of beads (Abhay Charan de Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad-Gita As It Is p. 326).
Self-denial and sacrifice are crucial for salvation in ISKCON. Note the following quotation: All these performers who know the meaning of sacrifice become cleansed of sinful reactions, and, having tasted the nectar of the remnants of such sacrifices, they go to the supreme eternal atmosphere (ibid p. 81).
The Passantinos have done extensive research in the area of the cults, and they offer pertinent comments regarding salvation in ISKCON:

Salvation in Hare Krishna is thoroughly entwined with the Hindu concept of karma, or retributive justice. This teaching, which requires belief in rein-carnation and/or transmigration of the soul, says that one's deeds, good and bad, are measured and judged either for or against him. Only when his good deeds have "atoned" for his bad deeds (and he is thus cleansed of this evil world) can he realize his oneness with Krishna and cease his cycles of rebirth. The idea of karma and reincarnation is anti-biblical. Is it just or reasonable for a man to suffer in this life or be required to atone for sins in this life that he committed in a previous life that he doesn’t even remember? How can suf-fering for an unknown sin reform the sinner and mature him to the point where he no longer performs that sin? Such so-called justice is cruel and absolutely opposed to the God of the Bible (Robert and Gretchen Passantino, op. cit., p.150).


Since ISKCON has a different God, a different Jesus, and a different way of salvation from what the Bible reveals, it is impossible for there to be any compatibility between the two. They differ on all crucial issues. A person must choose between Krishna and Jesus Christ; no harmony can exist between the sect of Hare Krishna and Christianity.

Hare Krishna Terms

ISKCON- Acronym for the official name for the Hare Krishna movement: The International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Prabhupada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta -Late founder and spiritual head of ISKCON, a religious philosophy of self-denial where the devotees stress asceticism to attain God-consciousness. Born in India in 1896, he came to America in 1965 with the message of Krishna. He was considered by his devotees as Krishna's representative on earth.
Back to Godhead-The best-known of the Hare Krishna (ISKCON) publications.
Bhakti Yoga -The type of yoga, or exercise to spirituality, practiced by Hare Krishnas.
Karma -The Hindu idea of one's accumulated debts (bad deeds). Karma must be paid for during an individual's succession of lives (reincarnation).
Karmis -The Hare Krishna term for non-members, who are said to be captives of their own bad karma.
Laksmi -The Hare Krishna term for money. Also the name of one of the Hindu god Krishna's consorts. (Also Lakshma.)
Mantra -The Hindu prayer chant, specialized for each Hindu sect, in-cluding the Hare Krishnas.
Nirvana -The Hindu concept of heaven or bliss.
Paramatma -The Hare Krishna term for the Holy Spirit.
Sankirtana -The mantra, or religious chant in the Hare Krishna move-ment. Chanting of the Sankirtana "brings one ever closer to God--consciousness. " This term is now used loosely to refer to any income--producing activity.

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Handbook of Today's Religions