What is ISKCON?
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is the spiritual institution founded by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in July 1966 as a continuation of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya.
The seven purposes of ISKCON as given by Srila Prabhupada are as follows:
(1) To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all peoples 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 as it is revealed in the Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam.
(3) To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krishna, the prime entity, and thus to develop 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 Sankirtan movement of congregational chanting of the holy name of God as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Chaitanya 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 and more natural way of life.
(7) With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines, books and other writings.
Under Srila Prabhupada’s guidance, ISKCON has grown from a small group of disciples assembling in a New York City store front into an international society with scores of centers. At present, there are more than three-hundred ISKCON centers worldwide.
What is Krsna Consciousness ?
Krishna consciousness, or bhakti-yoga, means how to act in harmony with ultimate reality–the Supreme Person. Bhakti, “devotional service” is how the bhakta, “devotee” and Bhagavan, “God, the possessor of all opulences” relate.
Krishna consciousness is both a practice and the goal of the practice. The goal is to be Krishna conscious. The practice is to always stay conscious of Krishna.
Who is Srila Prabhupada ?
The Founder-Acharya of ISKCON. For a short biography of Srila Prabhupada please click here .
What are the four regulative principles ?
1. No gambling including speculation on the stock market or in business deals, lotteries and lotto games, etc.
2. No intoxicants including liquor, tea, coffee, tobacco in any form, betel nut (paan), paan masala, etc.
3. No meat eating including fish and eggs.
4. No illicit sex i.e. no sex outside of marriage and ideally one should control his senses even within the institution of marriage.
Why do ISKCON devotees chant the sixteen syllable Hare Krsna maha mantra ?
The chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, KrsnaKrsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—is recommended in the Vedic literature as the easiest method for this age to attain spiritual realization. Krsna is the Sanskrit name of God meaning “all attractive”, and Rama is another name for God meaning “reservoir of all pleasure”. Hare refers to the divine energy of the Lord. So the Hare Krsna maha mantra means, “O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your service”.
What books should one read to understand Krsna Consciousness and in what sequence should one read them ?
The following is the list of Srila Prabhupada’s books to be read by a person aspiring to be serious in his/her spiritual life. A systematic and regular reading of these books will help the reader clearly understand the philosophy of Krishna consciousness and thus develop faith and conviction.
01. On The Way to Krishna
02. Elevation to Krishna Consciousness
03. Krishna Consciousness the Matchless Gift
04. Krishna the Reservoir of Pleasure
05. Perfection of Yoga
06. Krishna Consciousness – The Topmost Yoga System
07. Beyond Birth and Death
08. Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers
09. Easy Journey to Other Planets
10. Raja Vidya: The King of Knowledge
11. Transcendental Teachings of Prahlad Maharaj
12. Coming Back
13. Message of Godhead*
14. Civilization and Transcendence*
15. Hare Krishna Challenge*
16. Scientific Basis of Krishna Consciousness*
17. Sword of Knowledge*
18. Nectar of Instruction
19. Path of Perfection
20. As many Issues of Back To Back to Godhead Magazine as possible
21. Prabhupada Lilamrita#
22. Introduction to Bhagavad Gita As It Is
These books are to be read after one has completed at least most of the books in category I
01. Science of Self-Realization
02. Journey of Self Discovery
03. Life comes from Life
04. Teachings of Queen Kunti
05. Teachings of Lord Kapila
06. Sri Isopanishad
07. Few Shlokas of Bhagvad Gita Everyday
08. Krishna Book#
09. A Second Chance#
These books can be read after the books in Category II have been read.
01. Bhagvad Gita As It Is
02. Nectar Of Devotion (Only Part I)
03. Teachings of Lord Chaitanya
04. Srimad Bhagavatam – Canto 1
These books are to be read after one has completed the books in the previous categories.
01. Srimad Bhagavatam (Canto By Canto)
02. Nectar Of Devotion (Part II And Part III)
03. Chaitanya Charitamrita
# Can be read simultaneously
Why do devotees wear a tilaka mark on their forehead and tulasi beads around their neck ?
The devotees wear tilaka as it sanctifies one’s body and dedicates it to the service of Lord Visnu. Devotees apply tilaka using gopicandana. The two vertical marks (on the forehead) symbolize the lotus feet of Lord Visnu and the leaf in the centre (on the nose) symbolizes tulasi who is always at the lotus feet of Lord Visnu. Wearing tulasi beads (known as kanti mala) around your neck indicates that the devotee has taken a vow to follow the orders of a genuine spiritual master, who is a direct representative of Lord Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They are made of wood of the sacred tulasi plant.
Sources : http://gbc.iskcon.org/, Manual of Vaisnava Etiquette and Lifestyle-ISKCON Chowpatty, and ISKCON Desire Tree.