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Hare Krishna motion attracts ever extra numerous set of religious seekers in NYC

(RNS) — Greater than 50 years after the motion started in Manhattan’s Tompkins Sq. Park, ISKCON is having a brand new second in New York Metropolis. A faith as soon as recognized for its reputation amongst white hippies, the Worldwide Society for Krishna Consciousness, or Hare Krishna, has discovered each reputation and legitimacy amongst an ever rising Hindu diaspora.

Final week, ISKCON NYC celebrated the competition of Janmashtami, the vacation marking the start of Krishna, the namesake “Godhead” of the Hare Krishna motion. Tons of of devotees gathered on the Brooklyn Hare Krishna middle, a location full with a present store and full-service vegetarian continental kitchen, to chant Krishna’s identify and provide flowers and music in veneration of the Vishnu incarnate and his spouse, Radha.

“There’s a nice pleasure that’s skilled after such meditations that’s incomparable to the rest we’ve skilled,” stated senior devotee Rohini Ramnarayan. “Every year we sit up for celebrating the appearance of our Lord and greatest pal.”

Additionally in attendance on the celebration had been just a few New York lawmakers and representatives, together with Dilip Chauhan, the deputy commissioner of the Mayor’s Workplace of Worldwide Affairs, who got here bearing a particular proclamation from Mayor Eric Adams — a framed assertion that Aug. 19, 2022, could be declared as “ISKCON Day.”

“I need to commend the nice work ISKCON has executed,” stated Chauhan, noting the Hare Krishna Meals for Life, the most important vegetarian meals distribution program on the earth. “They’ve executed the job for the neighborhood.”

Hare Krishna founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in Germany in June 1974. Picture by Christian Jansen/Wikipedia/Inventive Commons

The Worldwide Society of Krishna Consciousness was conceived in 1966 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is claimed to have began the motion by chanting below a tree within the park till curious New Yorkers joined him. Prabhupada had an evangelistic zeal and labored to unfold his teachings all through the West, first by translating Vedic knowledge texts to English, then by packaging the idea system as one which religious seekers worldwide might simply perceive.

“There was a sort of magnetism that drew younger folks to him,” stated Graham Schweig, a scholar of Vaishnavism and professor at Christopher Newport College in Virginia. “The seed was planted in New York, and it exploded everywhere in the world.”

The motion caught on inside Nineteen Seventies counterculture largely as a consequence of its most recognizable religious apply — vigorous and transcendent singing and dancing to the repeated prayers, or Mahamantra, of “Hare Rama” and “Hare Krishna” — and drew the likes of Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison. ISKCON followers grew to become a well-known, if nonetheless peculiar, sight at airports and in subway tunnels. Characterised by their lengthy crimson robes, brow markings and shaved heads, devotees shared music and copies of the Bhagavad Gita with passersby, in addition to requests for donations.

ISKCON has historic roots in Hinduism however concurrently maintains a novel identification below Gaudiya Vaishnavism, a monotheistic custom inside Vedic or Hindu tradition. Many ISKCON members elect to separate themselves from Hindus altogether, calling themselves solely servants of God, a perception they are saying transcends any sectarian identification. After devotees confronted pushback and had been criticized as a “new cult,” Prabhupada emphasised ISKCON’s ties to the third largest religion custom on the earth, in hopes of being thought-about an genuine apply.

At this time, the motion has over 1 million followers and greater than 800 facilities internationally. A majority of ISKCON’s membership now comes from Indian Hindus, and India has the most important demographic of ISKCON devotees and temples. And it has turn out to be a big characteristic within the Indian American expertise.

The Sri Sri Radha Madhav Sundar Mandir is an ISKCON temple in West Bengal, India. Photo by Sourik8/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

The Sri Sri Radha Madhav Sundar Mandir is an ISKCON temple in West Bengal, India. Picture by Sourik8/Wikipedia/Inventive Commons

As Schweig describes, Indian immigrants to the US began to embrace the “non-watered down” devotion that Hare Krishnas needed to their religious practices within the ’80s and inspired others from the Hindu diaspora to fund and apply at ISKCON temples. They noticed the motion as a technique to protect the Hindu cultural ties they feared had been fraying of their youngsters’s generations.

“They seen a sort of depth and focus that wasn’t current in different Hindu temples,” stated Schweig. 

State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, the primary Hindu elected to a New York state workplace, attended the Janmashtami celebration in Brooklyn, the place she described her efforts to make Diwali a acknowledged vacation and declare October Hindu Heritage Month to a cheering crowd.

“We’re gaining illustration, and the sky’s the restrict for our neighborhood,” stated Rajkumar. “The time has come for us to unfold our Dharmic mild throughout the state and throughout the nation.”

People surround a booth about reincarnation during the Hare Krishna Festival at Washington Square Park on June 11, 2022, in Manhattan, New York. RNS photo by Richa Karmarkar

Folks encompass a sales space about reincarnation in the course of the Hare Krishna Pageant at Washington Sq. Park on June 11, 2022, in Manhattan, New York. RNS picture by Richa Karmarkar

As marked by the mayor’s proclamation, the ISKCON neighborhood in New York Metropolis is giant and rising. In July, the group took over Washington Sq. Park for the Hare Krishna Pageant, the place a whole lot of New Yorkers got here to obtain free meals, reward baggage and details about ISKCON’s founder and core beliefs.

As extra Individuals flip away from religiosity and towards spirituality and repair, some see echoes of the Vietnam period’s disillusionment with American establishments and predict a resurgence of the faith. In Schweig’s view, this resurgence will take a number of generations to come back to fruition and can stay centered in giant metropolitan, free-thinking cities like New York and Los Angeles.

For devotees, the time is now to embrace the traditional knowledge Prabhupada delivered to the West.

“Because the age of Kali Yuga (the present section of strife within the Vedas) progresses, persons are searching for options to the issues of life,” stated Bakula Devi Dasi, a direct disciple of Prabhupada himself. “An increasing number of persons are turning to religious life for options as a result of materials life isn’t offering the inside satisfaction that they’re searching for.”

People attend the Hare Krishna Festival at Washington Square Park on June 11, 2022, in Manhattan, New York. RNS photo by Richa Karmarkar

Folks attend the Hare Krishna Pageant at Washington Sq. Park on June 11, 2022, in Manhattan, New York. RNS picture by Richa Karmarkar

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