February 19, 2011
Yoga: Theory, Culture and Practice
Project and Presentation
ISKCON and Its History
Iskcon Boston, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is a center open to the public with a purpose to spread their belief and to continue cherishing the Hare Krishna movement. The center located on 72 Commonwealth Ave. was buried in a luxurious wealthy neighborhood through a façade of an ordinary brownstone, identical to the rest around it. It was hard to believe that a temple of a religion exists within it. As I walked in without knowing that it’s a Hare Krishna center or what the center was for at all, I didn’t know what to expect. Through the musty entrance and halls, a man sat behind a desktop computer stared up at me as I asked if I needed to take my shoes off. He replied with a repulse “Yes!”
After a few questions he directed me to an open space surrounded with idols, shrines, and paintings of Krishna in different sceneries and forms. A young man with a Harvard sweatshirt approached me eagerly. Since I needed to find out what this place was about, I proposed many questions that came to mind. As he was describing the history, I remembered hearing the name Hare Krishna group that emerged during the 1960’s along with negative associations once when I was younger. I also remembered seeing groups of people who worship this religion in New York City, where they roamed around at public fairs and events asking for money through my childhood and until now.
From my first visit to the Krishna Consciousness center, I’ve learned the history of Krishna and its’ believes. Hare Krishna is a chant to a Hindu god, Krishna. This god was an expansion of different personalities through different forms. He/she could transform and transcend into many bodies and figures. The Krishna movement emerged in the 1966 in the United States by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada through the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
The old religion and tradition that the Krishna movement emerged in the west from was the Sanskrit poem, Gita Govinda of Jayadeva (12th century AD) with Krishna as a central idol of Hinduism. As the story of Bhagavad-Gita was told and studied, the history of Krishna became philosophies in Hinduism. While talking to the young man and jotting down key points I’ve heard, I’ve politely asked what the belief of the religion is. He replied in neutral and vague, “when religion is degraded, Krishna comes to reestablish them.” Then I nodded.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was a founder of the ISKCON located in New York City in 1966, as one of the largest Krishna center in the country. He was the first leader that brought over the traditions with the main beliefs from the Hindu scriptures of Bhadgacad-Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam since 5,000 years ago. The practice of Bhakti Yoga is used to simply express love for God and link with divine through a state of mind. These expressions can translate into performance of activities to pleasure Krishna wholly with physical and mental state. The idea of expressing love for God is to strengthen closure on a personal level relationship with God.
As for the ISKCON center, every Wednesdays and Sundays, there is a full day preparing and devoting love through singing/chanting, dancing, and having vegetarian feast for the love of Krishna. The whole day was spent to celebrate with the public and the community to spread the knowledge of Krishna and retold of the Bhadgacad-Gita stories to others.
The center and the community were welcoming to a new face like me. I was the only one with no knowledge of the background history or the traditions. There were many weird aspects that I have observed at the feast. One was the mixture of the crowd, the thought of Hinduism in my mind was strictly Indian people, but what I’ve noticed was there were a lot of Caucasian males. Two, the vagueness of the idea, as Krishna being the supreme God, they’ve never questioned or mentioned his achievements to ho he became the Supreme Being. The last aspect was how do they dictate who will past on or be the next Krishna.
I’ve asked specifically about the process of becoming Krishna and I’ve only received vague and unanswered questions. As I can understand, there are qualifications and standards that gurus and practitioners have to exceed, which to me was questionable. Since I am a Buddhist and have a chance to study and practiced it growing up, I still consider myself as not an extreme religious person but only an observer. The believe between Buddhism and Hare Krishna have some similar qualities, through which both religions believe in karma and reincarnation. The only differences are that Buddhism believes in the power of enlightenment and achieving nirvana, where as Hare Krishna believes in giving love back for God.
The idea of a religion that have transcend from the original land and emerged in a foreign country with alterations and modification goals can stay true and pure is hard to digest. Even though, Hare Krishna’s believes are similar to many good deeds in life, there are still the political side and the cult side that I distrust. Despite the fact that I’ve tried to stay true to my judgments, there are many controversies that went along with Hare Krishna as a religion.
Many times that I’ve searched that discuss this topic to my peers, I’ve received negative responds to the system as a cult. Brainwashing chant that they sing, where people worship the God just for his being. In addition to the negative sides, through my friends’ experience and so as mine, have all once came across groups of Caucasian males, with bold heads that begs for donations that labeled themselves as Hare Krishna believers.
As an observer and an open-minded student, who is eager to learn variety of things, I’ve was challenged by the Hare Krishna’s believe system. Although, some views are true to my own believes, the act of pleasuring the God turned my curiosity in the opposite direction. For my experience at the ISKCON I was blown away by the devotion and commitment that all the practitioners have, staying tune with their believes or even trying to be connected in this society.