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To what extent the Hare Krishna movement can be described as a cult

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Before we can discuss to what extent the Hare Krishna movement can be described as a cult, it is important to understand that the word 'cult' can be defined in different categories. One of the obstacles to an understanding of cult mania is a lack of adequate definitions. Many words either have a single meaning or their meaning can be determined by their context. Some words, such as 'cult', have so many different, but similar, meanings that they need to be defined in advance of any further discussion. In the context of this essay the word cult can be defined as follows1: * In a theological sense, the traditional use of the term describes a cult as away of life or style of worship. * Sociologically the term is commonly used to describe a religious group that exists outside a nation's dominant religion. The Buddhist community in England might be considered a cult by some, while Christianity might equally be seen as a cult in Tibet. * For a Fundamentalist Christian any religious group which does not adhere strictly to historical Christian doctrine (the Creation, Immaculate Conception and so on) is termed, usually negatively, a cult. This effectively dismisses the beliefs of some 70 per cent of humankind. * Like the fundamentalists, the evangelical church regards historically accurate Christianity as the only path to salvation. However, it confines its use of the term cult to other Christian collectives (such as Mormons), not to such groups as Hindus, Pagans or Buddhists. * An Open Religious view of the word cult defines any small religious group that does not derive from an established religion, whilst the Popular definition is particularly applicable in the context of this essay, describing cults as being, in the main, small, occasionally malevolent collections of disciples, often led by a charismatic 'messiah'. This leader is frequently accused of ensnaring converts and then subjecting them to a form of coercive mind control in order to manipulate them both spiritually and financially. ...read more.


Hare Krishna devotees, like Christian monks and nuns, find peace in submission. Another appeal of eastern cults is that they are derived from old eastern religions. Members of these cults are searching for the Truth and new religious movements provide them with an accessible way of getting it combined with the knowledge and wisdom taken from some of the oldest surviving religions. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), who was born in Calcutta, founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna. He became a follower of the Gaudiya Mission, a Hindu revivalist group, and in 1933 was ordered by the leader, Bhakti Siddhanta, to take Krishna consciousness to the West. ISKCON was founded in America in 1966. Over the next few years the movement spread rapidly through America, England and across the West. Unlike many other forms of Hinduism, Krishna Consciousness teaches a relationship between individuals and a personal god, Krishna, who was the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, though ISKCON sees Krishna as the original form of Vishnu. There is Truth in all the great scriptures, but the oldest surviving scripture, the Vedic Hindu Bhagavad-Gita, is the literal words of Krishna. Krishna is regarded as the supreme Godhead; this in effect is a monotheistic form of Hinduism, known as Vaishnavism (worship of Vishnu). Krishna is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and eternal, and the sustaining energy of all creation. He is also personal, rather than unknowable, which the more mystical Hindu movements teach. Krishna cares individually about every jiva, every living entity. Unlike the teaching of Shankara, for example, which is that atman, or higher soul, of every person is the same, ISKCON teaches that every person is an individual.4 Full-time devotees of the Hare Krishna movement can be seen dancing and chanting in the streets dressed in traditional Indian robes. The vast majority of followers, however, live and work within a general community, practising Krishna consciousness in their homes and attending temples on a regular basis. ...read more.


The Hare Krishna derived from the world's oldest religion, Hinduism, and many Hindu priests and scholarly figures accept their beliefs, although in some ways it contradicts Hindu beliefs. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion while the Hare Krishna has monotheistic beliefs. The Hare Krishna believe that Krishna is the one supreme deity, while in Hinduism Krishna is one of the many gods that one can worship. There is little documented evidence available that argues that the Hare Krishna is not a cult. Although some Hindu priests accept the beliefs of the Hare Krishna, this is still a subjective view making it hard to come to a definitive classification. Most evaluations of the Hare Krishna are that it does fulfil the criteria of a cult, therefore making it difficult to establish firm grounds for it being a legitimate part of mainstream Hinduism. This makes the Hare Krishna have an ambivalent position in society. Following Christian beliefs, the Hare Krishna movement is accurately described as a cult. In today's society, in the Western World, it would also be considered a cult. However, in India or other places where Hinduism is the dominant religion, the Hare Krishna is normally accepted as an alternative way of life rather than a cult. This is due to a sociological factor that varies in different environments. "THE HARE KRISHNA MOVEMENT IS ACCURATELY DESCRIBED AS A CULT." DISCUSS. By Gayatri Ramnani 9560 Religious Studies Unit D2 Centre 10148 January 2001 1 Definitions taken from Brian Lane, Killer Cults: Murderous Messiahs and their Fanatical Followers, Headline Publishing, UK, 1996, pp1-2 2 John Bowker (ed), The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, OUP, 1997, p247 3 The Deceivers, Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, Here's Life Publishers, UK, (1992). 4 Sects, 'Cults' & Alternative Religions, David V. Barrett, Cassell plc, UK, (1998). 5All information from Sri Isopanisad, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhativedanta Swami Prabhupada, The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, UK, (1993) 6 Case study taken from Killer Cults: Murderous Messiahs and their Fanatical Followers, Brian Lane, Headline Book Publishing, UK, (1996). ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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