(Adapted from classes by His Grace Vijaya Das and His Grace Chaitanya Charan Das)
In August 1965, Srila Prabhupada, under the instruction of his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, traveled with a mission to share the timeless wisdom of Krishna consciousness with the Western world. Srila Prabhupada sailed from Calcutta, India to New York City aboard a cargo ship, with a mere seven dollars in Indian rupees and his translations of sacred Vedic texts. Upon reaching America, Srila Prabhupada introduced to the West the teachings of Lord Krishna. His message on Krishna consciousness resonated with many young Americans and with their help, Srila Prabhupada rented a small storefront on New York’s Lower East Side to use as a temple. Hundreds of people came forward to accept the message of the Vedic literature, and Srila Prabhupada’s mission to distribute spiritual wisdom for the benefit of the world soon began to unfold. On July 11, 1966, Srila Prabhupada, later known by the honorific His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, incorporated the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) with seven explicit purposes.
In ISKCON’s incorporating document, Srila Prabhupada imparts the “Seven Purposes of ISKCON” as follows:
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.
The purpose is to educate people from all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities on the importance of spiritual life and how to practice spiritual life. The aim is to give people genuine spiritual knowledge that we are all spirit souls and that there is a spiritual world beyond this material world. Examples of how this can be achieved are by distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books which present the most scientific and the most authentic understanding of spiritual reality in a very simple way, and by inviting people to talks/seminars by spiritual teachers to understand the purpose of spiritual life. Hearing about the purpose and the goal of spiritual life will enable people to become more peaceful, content, and self-satisfied from within.
2. To propagate a consciousness of Krishna (God), as it is revealed in the great scriptures of India, Bhagavad-gita, and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
The purpose is to present the specifics of who God is as revealed in the scriptures. Srila Prabhupada has presented knowledge about Krishna, the Supreme Being, by translating great scriptures such as the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. Krishna (God) knows everything. He is the Supreme controller; He controls everything. He is smaller than the smallest and greater than the greatest, and He is maintaining everyone. Thus, learning about the Supreme and our relationship with Him will allow us to move forward and make progress with our spiritual lives.
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).
The purpose is for people to come close together to become part of an institution whose focus is centered on Krishna. It is the nature of the soul to want knowledge of the Supreme Being and to learn about our relationship with Him. Feeling a sense of belonging in a community and making friendships with like-minded people further fosters and solidifies our connection with Krishna. The focus is to get on the spiritual path and to help others onto the path back to Godhead too. This movement is not a static movement. The word ‘movement’ means that we are moving along the path of bhakti, and giving knowledge of Krishna consciousness to others.
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.
The purpose is for everyone to come together to glorify Krishna and to chant the holy name, the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. The aim is to distribute the holy name to everyone, everywhere; and to help spirit souls reawaken love for God through congregational chanting of the holy name.
5. To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krishna.
The purpose is to provide for the community a place where Krishna’s glorifications manifest. This can be achieved by providing spiritual educational institutions to hear about Krishna and His pastimes. For example, establishing ISKCON temples/centers around the world, and at places of historical spiritual significance such as Sri Vrindavana and Sri Mayapur.
6. To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler, more natural way of life.
The purpose is to ensure that our day-to-day living does not take up too much of our time and energy, so that we have enough time to practice Krishna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada stressed simple living, and high thinking.
The point is to simplify our life and make it less complicated in order to have more time to think about Krishna. This has inspired the development of self-sufficient farm communities.
7. With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines, books and other writings.
The purpose is to provide educational material that can be easily accessed by people from all walks of life. Srila Prabhupada published volumes of books, several of which have been translated into more than 70 languages. The distribution of Srila Prabhupada’s books has become one of the biggest activities for the Krishna consciousness movement. Srila Prabhupada encouraged us to write articles and essays for newsletters, write books, and so on, as this very process of meditating on Krishna and His qualities enables one to become purified. Distributing spiritual wisdom to society at large will enable people to realize the importance of Krishna consciousness.
Ultimately, the “Seven Purposes of ISKCON” are to help each one of us to become Krishna conscious and to be able to share this message of Krishna consciousness with others too.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was personally directed by its Founder-Acharya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada until his departure on November 14, 1977. ISKCON has grown from a small group of disciples assembling in a storefront in New York City to a confederation of more than 650 temples, 65 farm communities/eco-villages, and 110 vegetarian restaurants worldwide. ISKCON has continued to expand under the guidance of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and thousands of devotees worldwide with over 9 million worshippers, 520 million books distributed, 3600 Bhakti Vriksha/home study groups, and 3 billion plates of prasadam distributed.
“He was a genuine holy person with enormous integrity and compassion, and he had a powerful impact on those who met him. He never claimed authority and respect for himself; what he said and did was always in the name of Krishna…” – Dr. Thomas Hopkins, Emeritus Professor of Franklin and Marshall College.
“The voyage of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to the United States in 1965 and the spectacular popularity his movement gained in a very short spell of twelve years must be regarded as one of the greatest spiritual events of the century.” – Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Former Prime Minister of India.
We are forever grateful to Srila Prabhupada for establishing ISKCON and for providing us with the facilities to be able to go back home, back to Godhead.
Dec 06, 2023
Kulavati Krishnapriya Devi Dasi, ISKCON News Staff Writer
Dec 06, 2023
Rati Gopika Devi dasi
Dec 03, 2023
Dec 02, 2023
Kulavati Krishnapriya Devi Dasi, ISKCON News Staff Writer
Dec 01, 2023
Atma Tattva Das, ISKCON News Staff Writer