This article, "Propagation of Krishna Consciousness," was published in The Hindu, December 10, 1971, in Chennai, India.
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
"Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare; Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare". This divine chant is by no means new to the people of India nor is the practice of group singing of devotional hymns in streets and other public places strange to them. But the Bhajan the huge holiday crowd in Triplicane beach witnessed last Sunday evening was something uncommon. A group of four saffron-robed sadhus charted God's names and sang Sanskrit verses in His praise. They had all the marks that go with a Hindu sadhu - vertical sandal-coloured streaks on the forehead, a small tuft of hair, bead-garlands and traditional clothes. But a closer look and a little conversation with them were enough to reveal that at least three of them were Americans - the fourth hailed from South India.
Impelled by curiosity, crowds collected to watch the Bhajan and soon hundreds among the onlookers themselves joined the choir, inspired by the fervour with which the sadhus chanted divine names and sang devotional hymns, clanging their cymbals to match the tune.
Founded in 1966 in the United States, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has now about 70 centres spread over a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Australia and Africa, and India accounted for five of them. Nearly 5,000 ministers, such as the four that have arrived in Madras, are engaged in propagating Krishna Consciousness among the people. What is Krishna Consciousness? It is the process of becoming aware that all the material benefits one enjoys - in fact life itself - are gifts of Krishna and living accordingly.
The core of this cult is: There is only one God - Krishna, one goal - devotional service to God, one scripture - Bhagavad Gita and one hymn - Hare Krishna. The Society aims to spread love of God through the process of Sankirtana and to publish authoritative literature on the "science of God" in English and other major languages of the world.
The Society has laid down certain norms of conduct for its ministers and students. Important among them are: no eating of meat, fish or eggs; no illicit sex; no intoxicants which include coffee, tea and alcoholic beverages; and no gambling. Since eating is an act of worship, no food should be taken before offering it to God. Marriage is primarily for the purpose of begetting children and Brahmacharya is not insisted upon for becoming an "initiated disciple." When a student is qualified, he is initiated into the "Hari Nama" Mantra and in the next stage into the Gayatri Mantra, upon which he is given a spiritual name.
BRINDAVAN IN U.S.
The Society, which has its world headquarters at Los Angeles, has established a new Brindavan near Washington D. C. and maintains a Goshala - the first of its kind in the West - which has now about 300 cows. In San Francisco, London and Tokyo, a Ratha Yatra (temple car procession) is conducted every year synchronising with the festival at Puri (Orissa). One such festival is proposed to be held in Bombay from next year. Plans are on hand to set up a college in Bombay to offer a degree course in divinity, according to Giriraj Das, an American-born minister of the Society. He said Krishna Consciousness was being taught as a subject in several universities in the U.S.
The father of this "Hare Krishna" movement is the Calcutta-born A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, who in 1965, at the advanced age of 70, went to New York to fulfil the mission assigned to him by his spiritual master years ago - to spread Krishna Consciousness to the West. (The Guru Parampara of this school is traced to Lord Krishna Himself through Chaitanya and Madhva). The Swami is due to visit Madras on January for a stay of about 10 days during which he will deliver discourses on Bhagavat Dharma.