There’s so much a person could talk about when it comes to the Hare Krishna movement, ISKCON, and Vaishnavism in general, however, one things stands out: Hare Krishnas love you loving Krishna loving you loving Love.
It’s not every day a person comes across a religious or spiritual tradition that uses inclusiveness, simplicity, and joy to enthrall the masses. This is not to say that the Hare Krishna movement isn’t spilling over with scandals top to bottom like many other traditions, nor should it imply that other spiritual paths don’t offer something of the sensuous themselves. It’s hard not to admit, however, that Hare Krishnas have a certain something that gets even the most suits of suits up-jump-and-jolly.
First appearing in the Kali Santarana Upanishad, the Maha Mantra [read: the Hare Krishna chant] was first made into a really big deal by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (b. 1486), a scholar turned devotee who made chanting to the blue-hued Lord of Lords the practice perfect. However, it wasn’t until the mid-sixties when the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISCKON), A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, made the sound of devotees chanting to Krishna a cultural phenomenon.
Hare Krishnas and New Yorkers have been peanut butter and jelly ever since Prabhupada set up shop at 26 2nd Avenue in May of 1966. Since then, a number of other Krishna conscious spaces have popped up, and while it’s now rare to find Hare Krishnas singing and dancing on subways and in airports, devotees can still be found regularly chanting around the Lower East Side, Times Square, Tompkins Square Park, and Union Square Park, especially when the sun is nice and shiny.
Remember: If you pass by a kirtan in full swing and feel yourself being drawn into a devotional twirl-fest, just go for it. You don’t have to buy their books. You can just be happy. Krishna loves you.