On October 27th, IDI hosted a presentation on the Hare Krishna branch of Hinduism as part of our Exploring Faiths series. Kevala-Bhakti Dasa was the guide for the event and he explained the Hare Krishna faith to those in attendance. He began by telling the guests that in addition to learning about Hare Krishna from his parents, he was attending a Catholic school and it is with this upbringing that he saw the commonalities of all religions.
With Hinduism, Kevala explained, it is not as clear cut as with the Abrahamic faiths and focuses more on living a faithful life than following specific teachings. Hare Krishna is defined as a monotheistic branch, worshipping God—Hare Krishna meaning “most beautiful” or “God”. He explains that for the Hare Krishna branch, Allah, God, Jehovah, and other names and faith traditions are simply different relationships with the same God. The other gods in the Hindu pantheon represent empowered beings to help God according to the Hare Krishna branch.
Five hundred years ago, Kevala said, there was a religious renaissance in India. An avatar broke down the walls of social segregation and popularized Bhakti yoga, which is described as an active devotion of everything one does. He explained that with Hinduism’s long history it is difficult to pin down one figure, like Jesus or Moses, as civilization upon civilization has left its mark on Hinduism.
The Hare Krishna movement began in the 1960s, during which time a 70 year old Swami brought it over to New York. The beliefs they hold consist of a focus on the soul, with the body acting as its housing and making everyone equal as ,the soul is the most important aspect. The three fundamentals of the soul are truth, quality, and bliss. They lead a holistic lifestyle, where everything that one does and engages in constitutes a meditation; every act can be an offering to the divine, Kevala explained. The soul, he said, controls the mind which in turn channels the senses. There are four regulative principles, but they do not necessarily disqualify someone from practicing: no meat, fish, eggs; no intoxication (includes coffee); no outside marital affairs; no gambling.
Made famous in the 1960s and 70s, the Hare Krishna tradition is a religious movement which is officially known as International Society of Khrishna Consciousness (ISKCON). ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiya-Vaishnava branch, a monotheistic tradition within the Vedic and Hindu cultural traditions that dated back thousand years. ISKCON follows the teachings of God, Lord Sri Krishna, as revealed in the sacred Vedas, including Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
This interactive discussion and dialogue covered the essential practices in the daily life of Hare Krishna practitioners, highlighting several processes of devotional service which brings lasting happiness and peace in the society by reviving our loving relationships with God and spirit.
Kevala-Bhakti Dasa was raised in a household infused with the teachings and practice of the Vaisnava line of Hinduism. He has been a lifelong practitioner of the Hare Krishna faith which espouses the practice of bhakti-yoga – the yoga of devotional love to God. For the past 10 years, he has served as Chairperson for the annual Festival of India, an annual two-day festival in Toronto which presents the ancient, spiritual culture of India in a contemporary, family-friendly fashion. Kevala-Bhakti also serves as one of the leaders of Toronto’s vibrant Hare Khrishna community, conducts regular outreach to Toronto’s vast yoga scene, and teaches classes on the ancient teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita.