The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) which has united the followers of Krishnaism (Vaishnavism), was registered in 1966 by Bhaktivedanta Swami (1896-1977). In fact, ISKCON became the missionary successor of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya, one of the four sampradayas, i.e. disciplic succession, through which from time immemorial Vedic knowledge has been transmitted (there are also Sri-sampradaya, Kumara-sampradaya and Rudra-sampradaya). All these branches of Hinduism are called Vaishnava, because they are based on the worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu (Krishna).
The school of Vaishnavism called Gaudiya (from the ancient name of Bengal), to which Srila Prabhupada belonged, was founded by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1524) 500 years ago in Bengal. This continuity is connected with the school of Madhva (1281-1360), as well as with the even more ancient school of Sri Vaishnavas – the school of Ramanuja (1017-1137).
Since the 1970's, thanks to the activities of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who for the first time in history had managed to bring and widely disseminate the ancient science of bhakti-yoga (love for God) in the countries of the West, Vaishnavism is experiencing a revival both in India itself and abroad. The founder-acharya of the Krishna Consciousness Society, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is worshiped in India as a saint. Some streets of major cities and various institutions are named after him, and in 2015 in Kolkata, on the occasion of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of ISKCON, a unique sculptural composition consisting of two parts was installed, symbolizing the departure of Prabhupada on the ship called Jaladuta to America in 1965. The monument consists of two parts - the second part of the diptych will be installed in Boston on Commonwealth Pier, the place where Srila Prabhupada first set foot on the land of America.
ISKCON IN RUSSIA
The Center for Krishna Consciousness Societies in Russia is the largest Russian Hindu organization that unites (according to the Ministry of Justice on January 1, 2016) 79 registered communities and over 400 small spiritual groups in more than 120 cities in the country with a total number of at least 30,000 followers and no less than 150 thousand people interested in this philosophy and culture. The number of active followers reaches 11 thousand people.
THE ESSENCE OF LEARNING
The essence of the Vaishnava doctrine is that we are all eternal souls born in different material bodies, because we forgot about our higher spiritual nature. The goal of human life is the awakening in oneself of love for God and conversion to devotional service to Him.
ISKCON IN FIGURES
Modern ISKCON consists of:
— 602 spiritual centers around the world
— 65 agricultural farms and ecovillages
— 54 educational institutions, including primary schools, secondary schools and higher education institutions
— 110 vegetarian restaurants
— 75 thousand followers who have a spiritual initiation (who have taken vows)
— 7 million followers visiting temples and spiritual centers
— 2 thousand small (home) groups of spiritual communication (bhaktivriksha), including about 30 thousand followers
— 516 million published and distributed spiritual books
— 3 billion rations distributed around the world of prasad (consecrated vegetarian food)
— 1 million 200 thousand daily portions of prasadam for children in the framework of the programs "Midday Meal" and "Annamrita" of the ISKCON charity fund for the distribution of free food
— 1 thousand street harinamas every week
— 6 thousand Vaishnava festivals, such as Krishna Janmashtami, Ramanavami, Rathayatra and others in the temples and spiritual centers of ISKCON
— 210 thousand kilometers of padayatra (foot and other mobile groups of sankirtana (preaching), visited 52 thousand cities, towns and villages in 110 countries.
SEVEN PURPOSES OF ISKCON
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada incorporated the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in 1966 with seven explicit purposes.
1. To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all people in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.
2. To propagate a consciousness of Krishna (God), as it is revealed in the great scriptures of India, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
3. To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krishna, the prime entity, thus developing the idea within the members, and humanity at large, that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of Godhead (Krishna).
4. To teach and encourage the sankirtana movement, congregational chanting of the holy name of God, as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
5. To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krishna.
6. To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler, more natural way of life.
7. With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines, books and other writings.