The Hare Krishna Sect.
The hare Krishna hare Rama mantra is better known than most others, because of the Hare Krishna sect. (They call it the “maha mantra” = “superior mantra.”) This can be an advantage, for more is written about this mantra, in this language. It can also be a disadvantage, because that sect is strange, and some disapprove of it. However, I have recordings of this mantra by many Kirtan musicians, and none of them are in that sect.
I would like to write about this sect. It is properly called the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON for short.
I often attended their Sunday meetings in Perth in the early 1990’s, along with many of my friends. Perhaps they went because the Hari’s, as we called them, offered a good meal after the talk and chanting, by donation, or for free. Working for Krishna is part of the religious obligations of the devotees. And we were very poor. The sect was well respected in my social circle, although only one of us could actually join it.
I went to these Sunday gatherings because I enjoyed the atmosphere. They had a very impressive basement temple in Perth CBD (between Murray and Wellington Sts, near the railway station). It was accessed by a dirty, dark alley way, complete with rubbish bins and feral cats, and I enjoyed the contrast. Unfortunately this very opulent temple was too expensive to keep, and I was told later that the debt troubled the devotees for years after.
I have long been familiar with the teachings of their Founder, Prabhupada. I write about this sect because I have never been impressed by Prabhupada’s teachings, not now as I read a borrowed copy, nor 45 years ago when I first read them. The Krishna devotees were very keen to distribute copies of their books, almost giving them away.
Therefore, “The Bhagavad Gita, As It Is”, by Prabhupada, is probably the most widely printed English version of this famous scripture. I found Prabhupada’s presentation so unattractive that I could not bring myself to read this important scripture for two years after I started teaching Kirtan in Bundaberg, Qld.
But this was no problem to me in the 1990’s. I enjoyed jumping up and down and getting excited with the devotees. I did not want to know what the hare Krishna, hare Rama mantra meant, it remained just a sound that I was happy to chant with the others on Sundays. For their meetings were chanting, not real music like Pralad and these other professional Kirtan musicians.
It also shows the importance of being able to modify the translations by eminent scholars like Prabhupada. Hence my efforts in my appendix L on Scripture.