What do the Hare Krishnas believe? Who are the Hare Krishnas?
The Hare Krishnas (officially named the International Society for Krishna Consciousness or ISKCON) began in 1486 when founder Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught that Krishna was the supreme lord over all gods. It was founded as ISKCON in New York City in 1966 to grow the practice of bhakti yoga. This movement taught that followers began a relationship or connection with Krishna by expressing allegiance through dancing and chanting. Since Krishna is considered a manifestation of Vishu, a Hindu deity, there is some overlap with Hinduism.
The goal of life for adherents of Hare Krishna is to exist in loving relationship with Krishna. Followers choose a guru who guides the follower to maturity. Followers often live in a communal setting with a guru whose teachings are closely studied and practiced. Many teachings follow those of the Bhagavad Gita, a holy book of Hinduism.
In the teaching of ISKCON, the four legs of dharma (teaching) include mercy (daya), self-control (tapas), truthfulness (satyam), and cleanliness (saucam). Four principles given by Swami Bhaktivedanta, a leader in ISKCON, include: 1) no eating of meat or eggs, 2) no illicit sex (only within a marriage), 3) no gambling, and 4) no intoxication (alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or caffeine).
Because many of its teachings are Hindu, Hare Krishnas believe in karma, reincarnation, a different holy book, and no biblical view of sin or need of salvation. As such, Hare Krishna teachings are incompatible with biblical Christianity. In the Bible, the Triune God of Father, Son, and Spirit is God, not Krishna. The human problem is one of sin that can only be changed through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). Salvation empowers a person for service in this life and offers eternity with God in the life to come (John 3:16).
Also concerning is the strict allegiance in the Hare Krishna movement with a guru. Many ex-members have expressed concerns over these arrangements. In addition, the many ethical or social teachings demanded of adherents leads to a life focused on self-denial and spiritual growth based on works rather than the grace of God. Instead, the Bible teaches that salvation is based on God's grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). As Acts 4:12 teaches, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
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