“Hare Krishna Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare,
Hare Rama Hare Rama,
Rama Rama Hare Hare.
For relief of all the anxieties of material life, please chant these names of God.”
This was inscribed on a card recently given to me as I recently passed through my college campus. Hare krishna followers are commonly present on my campus as they are in many other public forums around the world, where they frequently chant and sing in harmony with small chiming symbols and the slow undertone of drums guiding an ever changing rhythm. They are easily identified by their soft orange wraps and often totally shaved heads. Their music emotes a kind of peaceful happiness that is certainly nice to hear when all you can think about is the stresses of the day.
Two Hare Krishna followers sing and chant Photo Credit: Collegian
However, the Hare Krishna are not always seen as the peaceful, gentle, music makers described above. For some, the Hare Krishna fellowship is considered to have a darker side and sometimes is even considered to be a cult. In the last 20 years there has not only been a highly publicized lawsuit following allegations of child abuse, resulting in a 9.5 billion dollar settlement and declaration of bankruptcy in 2005, but also frequent of allegations of brainwashing, such as the 2013 story of celebrity Vanna White’s son, Nicolas.
At the same time, testimonals from followers like Daily Life- Australia writer Jocelyn Brewer, seem to paint the picture that Hare Krishna life is deeply fulfilling and provides lifelong connections. With so many differing stories floating around, it is easy to understand why the Hare Krishna’s remain shrouded by mystery despite their prominence in the world today.
The official name for the Hare Krishna movement is The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, where the modern movement was founded in New York during the 60’s by Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, despite origins tracing back to Bengal in the 16th century.
The basics of the belief are a mixture between traditional hindu beliefs, and the monotheistic beliefs found in religions like Christianity and Judaism. Followers believe that chanting Hare Krishna strengthens the soul’s connection to God. The video below shows a group of followers in London, Uk during a 2012 summer parade.
Hare Krishna followers also practice special meditation and Bhakti yoga, and follow a vegetarian diet that is also free from alcohol and caffeine.
It is estimated that the practice has anywhere between 350,000 to over 1 million full members and devotees worldwide, in places like Brussels, Belgium, London , United Kingdom, and West Virginia and Houston in the US.
Temple in London, UK right). Photo Credit: ISKON
The truth about the Hare Krishnas, likely lies somewhere between the extremes of the positive and the negative stigma that stems from a handful of corrupt followers or leaders that may have given the practice a bad name. One thing that is certain however, is that this mysterious practice and it’s followers will continue to mesmerize with their chiming bells and gentle nature, as the echo of Hare Krishna in blows away in the wind.