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Religion Library: ISKCON (Hare Krishna)

Modern Age

Written by: Benjamin E. Zeller

The second factor related to the first, namely the increased number of Indian Hindus who looked to ISKCON temples as locations for religious, social, and cultural gatherings. The 1970s and 1980s witnessed increased immigration of Hindus, and in the absence of an existent infrastructure of Hindu temples, many looked to ISKCON as offering a chance to reconnect to the religion of the homeland. By the late 1990s Indian Hindus numerically dominated the Sunday Feasts at most temples, a remarkable shift from the early days of the movement. On some major Hindu holidays, Indian Hindus represent well over 90 percent of attendees. Scholars have called this process the "Indianization" or "Hinduization" of ISKCON. 

In most cases, Indian Hindus attending worship at the temple do not seek initiation into Krishna Consciousness, and most do not formally join the temple as members. In this regard, the Indian Hindus have followed the cultural norms of Indian Hinduism; temples serve as locations for infrequent worship, but most religious observance occurs at home. This shift has radically transformed ISKCON from a sectarian new religion founded with the goal of spreading Krishna Consciousness -- the exclusive worship of Krishna -- throughout the world, to a kind of Hindu church. This has resulted in an increased emphasis in temple worship, a decreased interest in missionizing, and a shift toward adopting normalized Hindu worship patterns.

In recent years, ISKCON temples have begun to host Hindu rituals from outside the Gaudiya lineage, and several temples have even considered installed images of other Hindu deities, such as Ganesha or Shiva. Though the engagement of Indian Hindus has provided new financial and cultural resources for ISKCON, it has also transformed the institution from within.


Study Questions:
     1.    What is the relationship between ISKCON and Hinduism? How did this relationship change over time?
     2.    Why did ISKCON eventually come to identify itself as a Hindu denomination?
     3.    How does the temple separate ISCKON followers and Hindus?

 

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