KRISHNA WEST TIMELINE
1948: Hridayananda Das Goswami (Howard J. Resnick) was born in Los Angeles, California.
1969: Hridayananda Das Goswami met Swami Prabhupada, founder of ISKCON.
1970: Hridayananda Das Goswami received initiation under Swami Prabhupada.
1972: Hridayananda Das Goswami accepted saṃnyāsa (formal renunciation) from Prabhupada.
1977: Hridayananda Das Goswami became one of group of eleven successors to run ISKCON after the death of Prabhupada.
1996: Hridayananda Das Goswami earned his Ph.D. in Sanskrit & Indian Studies.
2013: Hridayananda Das Goswami established Krishna West.
2016: Krishna West Orlando opened.
2016: Krishna West Mexico City opened.
2017: The First International Krishna West Festival was held in São Paulo, Brazil.
2022: Krishna West Chicago opened.
Krishna West is a sub-movement of the International Society for Krishna Consciousnes (ISKCON) that was founded by Hridayananda Das Goswami in 2013. Born Howard J. Resnick in 1948 in Los Angeles, California. [Image at right] Hridayananda Das Goswami first met the founder of ISKCON, AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in 1969 while he was an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. Upon meeting Swami Prabhupada, Hridayananda Das Goswami’s entry into the ISKCON movement was swift: within a year of their meeting, he joined ISKCON as a full-time temple devotee and took formal initiation into the movement by Prabhupada himself. Just two-years later, in 1972, Hridayananda Das Goswami accepted saṃnyāsa from Prabhupada. In ISKCON, saṃnyāsa is an order of life wherein one takes a formal and lifelong vow of celibacy and a renunciation of family and societal life in order to spend one’s full time and efforts preaching.
In 1977, when Swami Prabhupada passed away, Hridayananda Das Goswami became one of eleven men to take disciples of his own and help lead the ISKCON movement into the future. Between the years of 1977 and 2013, Hridayananda Das Goswami engaged in a number of devotional projects in ISKCON including serving on ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission (GBC), initiating and guiding his own disciples, writing and translating various texts and treatises, and spending his time traveling and preaching in order to spread the ISKCON movement around the world as he believed was Swami Prabhupada’s wish.
Initially, Hridayananda Das Goswami felt that he (and other ISKCON gurus like him) were successful in their efforts to fulfill Swami Prabhupada’s mission and goals. However, starting in the 1990’s, Hridayananda Das Goswami began to feel seeds of discontent with the state of ISKCON affairs. In particular, he was concerned about the fact that while ISKCON was successful attracting people from the Indian community (particularly those with ties to, or familiarity with, Hinduism), the movement was struggling to attract (and retain) members from other demographic groups. This demographic circumstance, labeled by E. Burke Rochford, Jr. as the “Hinduization of ISKCON,” (Rochford 2007) concerned Hridayananda Das Goswami because he believed that Prabhupada’s chief mission was for ISKCON to be a global movement: one with followers of a variety of ethnic, racial, and national backgrounds (Karapanagiotis 2021). Hridayananda Das Goswami believed that because ISKCON was not global in its congregant base, it was failing.
In response to this perceived failure, Hridayananda Das Goswami created Krishna West, an ISKCON sub-movement, in 2013. The goal of Krishna West was to draw people from outside the Indian community to ISKCON by recasting and reformulating the movement (as least spaces within it) in such a way that would be appealing to them (Karapanagiotis 2021). The name “West” in Krishna West refers both to the demographic groups that Hridayananda Das Goswami wished to attract in creating this new sub-movement as well as the style in which ISKCON would be recast in order to attract them. For Hridayananda Das Goswami, as well as those within broader ISKCON circles, the term “westerner” is used to refer to anyone not of Indian heritage and “west” is used to describe regions of the world outside of the Indian subcontinent. These terms and their usage within both Krishna West and ISKCON have roots in colonialism as well as in the reform movements that arose in response to it (Karapanagiotis 2021). Despite being both problematic and imprecise, they are used without critique in Krishna West and in the broader ISKCON movement. In creating Krishna West as a sub-movement stylized for “westerners,” Hridayananda Das Goswami re-packaged the practice, form, presentation, and spaces of ISKCON in hopes of drawing “westerners” to the movement (Karapanagiotis 2021).
It is important to note that Hridayananda Das Goswami is not the only ISKCON guru who is recasting the ISKCON movement in order to attract “westerners.” In fact, it is a popular and growing effort across ISKCON, being spearheaded by a number of ISKCON gurus and other proponents in the United States, India, and elsewhere (Karapanagiotis 2018; Karapanagiotis 2021). Hridayananda Das Goswami’s Krishna West differs from the efforts of these other ISKCON gurus, however. Whereas other gurus recast ISKCON (building yoga studios, meditation lounges, etc.) in order to attract “westerners,” their ultimate aim through these efforts is to eventually draw them into the mainline ISKCON movement (Karapanagiotis 2021). For his part, however, Hridayananda Das Goswami does not believe that “westerners” will be drawn to (or wish to remain in) the mainline ISKCON movement. Instead, Hridayananda Das Goswami’s Krishna West was designed as a free-standing sub-movement of ISKCON: a “movement within a movement or a “western Hare Krishna movement,” as Krishna West proponents like to say. This is why Hridayananda Das Goswami refers to Krishna West as a “destination” and not a bridge: Krishna West is an ISKCON sub-movement meant to draw in “westerners,” and keep them there (Karapanagiotis 2021). [Image at right] In this regard, Krishna West is simultaneously embedded in, yet also functionally adjacent to, the ISKCON movement.
Proponents and practitioners of Krishna West identify themselves as ISKCON devotees, and it is important to the identity of Krishna West (and to Hridayananda Das Goswami’s vision for it) that it is characterized as a sub-movement of ISKCON, rather than a movement separate from it.
Because Krishna West is a sub-movement of ISKCON, Krishna West practitioners share beliefs and doctrines with devotees in the ISKCON movement. Like other ISKCON members, for example, Krishna West adherents believe in the god Krishna and understand him to be the “Supreme Personality of Godhead,” which is ISKCON’s gloss on the term Puroṣottama from Bhagavad Gita 15.16–15.18. For ISKCON devotees, this means that Krishna is the “Ultimate Person,” in that he is the supreme being who possesses transcendental superiority over the manifest and unmanifest worlds. It also means in ISKCON that Krishna is believed to have a form, receptivity to human relationships, and personality traits. As such, Krishna West practitioners (like fellow ISKCON devotees) believe in and relate to Krishna as a being who has a presence in their lives, has a history full of mythical pastimes, and has a form that can be visualized and “seen.” (Bromley and Shinn, eds. 1989; Bryant and Ekstrand, eds. 2004; Burke 1985; Burke 2007; Dwyer and Cole, eds, 2007; Karapanagiotis 2021; Knott 1986; Squarcini and Fizzotti 2004). Regarding the latter, devotees often speak of Krishna’s beauty, his physical attributes, what he wears, etc. as meditative ways to remember and build connection with him.
Besides their belief in and views about Krishna, Krishna West adherents also share other beliefs/doctrines with the broader ISKCON movement. For example, they believe that the self’s true identity is not the body, but rather the soul, and that the soul is “part and parcel” of Krishna’s divine nature (Bromley and Shinn, eds. 1989; Bryant and Ekstrand, eds. 2004; Burke 1985; Burke 2007; Dwyer and Cole, eds. 2007; Karapanagiotis 2021; Knott 1986; Squarcini and Fizzotti 2004). Further, they believe that through remembrance of and devotion to Krishna, they can achieve a state of liberation wherein they will share in the eternal company of Krishna and live out a joyful relationship with him in perpetuity. Finally, Krishna West practitioners also share with fellow ISKCON devotees beliefs about the power and importance of chanting Krishna’s names (Delmonico, 2007) and eating and distributing his sanctified food (King 2012; Zeller 2012). With respect to the former, in Krishna West, as in its parent organization ISKCON, the names of Krishna (specifically the Hare Krishna mahā mantra) play a central role in the lives of practitioners. Theologically speaking, the names of Krishna are believed to be ontologically the same as Krishna himself (Delmonico 2007; Dimock 1999; Haberman 2003; Hein 1994; Prabhupada 1968; Prabhupada 1973, 1974). As such, devotees believe that uttering them aloud (or even in one’s own mind) puts the devotee in the direct presence of Krishna. For this reason, devotees also like to chant the mahā mantra in public, believing that the effect of the names will be brought to all who hear them. (Haddon 2013; Karapanagiotis 2019; Prabhupada, 1973). Krishna West practitioners (and ISKCON devotees at large) have a similar set of beliefs with respect to prasādam, or sanctified food that is eaten after having been first offered to Krishna (King 2012; Zeller 2012). Just as Krishna’s names share in Krishna’s essence, so too is prasādam believed to be imbued with Krishna’s grace. Because of this, devotees believe that eating prasādam changes eaters’ hearts. For this reason, devotees in Krishna West (and in ISKCON more broadly) strive to eat prasādam regularly and also to distribute it to others so that Krishna’s grace can be brought far and wide (King 2012; Zeller 2012).
Although Krishna West is a sub-movement of ISKCON, sharing beliefs and doctrines with its parent organization, there are several ways in which Krishna West differs from ISKCON. These differences primarily reside in the domain of rituals and practices. This is not to say that Krishna West has additional practices not shared by the broader ISKCON movement, however. Instead, practices in Krishna West differ from those of the broader ISKCON movement because Krishna West adherents attempt to “syphon out” a core set of practices from ISKCON (those they see to be essential) and conduct them in a manner that they feel will appeal to “westerners.” This process is explained in the mission and vision statements of Krishna West:
we call this project Krishna West because we do everything possible to make bhakti-yoga easy, relevant and enjoyable for Western people, without in any way compromising, diluting, or diminishing the purity and power of a glorious ancient tradition. We do this by offering the essential spiritual teaching and practice in its entirety, without requiring students and practitioners to embrace a new ethnicity composed of non-essential Eastern dress, cuisine, music etc. People in the West need and deserve the chance to practice genuine bhakti-yoga within an external culture that is comfortable and natural for them. (Krishna West Website n.d.).
We teach the practice of bhakti-yoga, a non-sectarian, joyful spiritual science that delivers accessible and impactful spiritual knowledge and growth to the sincere practitioner. The bhakti-yoga community thus aims to contribute to the respiritualizing of our planet, naturally contributing to social, economic, political, and environmental justice. (Krishna West Website n.d.).
As can be seen in these mission and vision statements, Krishna West proponents believe that there is an essence of ISKCON which exists and can be separated and practiced as divorced from any regional, cultural, or ethnic dressing or accoutrements. Further, this essence, they believe, can then be re-cast within cultural garb that is comfortable for the target audience (“westerners” in the case of Krishna West) (Karapanagiotis 2021).
Hridayananda Das Goswami and other Krishna West proponents criticize the fact that ISKCON devotional culture is rooted in an Indian Hindu cultural “dressing,” citing this as the reason that ISKCON has been so successful at attracting the Indian community, but not at attracting “westerners” (Karapanagiotis 2021). For example, Hridayananda Das Goswami discusses the fact that initiated devotees in ISKCON take Sanskrit devotional names, and make use of an extensive “insider language” full of Sanskrit terms and references. He also notes that devotees typically wear South Asian devotional clothing at the temples and other ISKCON events, eat prasādam that is nearly always Indian cuisine, and play music on Indian instruments (and sing in Indian liturgical languages). If the “essence” of ISKCON could be presented to “westerners” in a mode and manner that is culturally comfortable for and familiar to them, Krishna West proponents argue, “westerners” will be eager to join the movement. Rituals and practices in Krishna West, therefore, are designed with this aim in mind.
The Krishna West goal of practicing ISKCON without any Indian Hindu cultural “trappings,” is first and foremost reflected in the spaces in which Krishna West groups meet. [Image at right] Unlike many ISKCON programs, Krishna West programs do not take place in temples, or in spaces that resemble temples. Instead, Krishna West programs take place in rented halls, rented yoga studios (or the meet-up spaces attached to them), in parks, walking trails, outdoor gardens, and/or in devotees’ homes.
Another hallmark of Krishna West spaces is that they do not have the altars or ritually installed deities (mūrtis) that are characteristically found in ISKCON temples. Likewise, Krishna West practices do not involve the deity worship (mūrti pūjā) customarily practiced in ISKCON temples.
In addition to practicing in spaces that are made to be appealing to “westerners,” Krishna West proponents are also committed to allowing practitioners to wear clothing that is most comfortable for them. Clothing is one of the key areas of difference between Krishna West and its parent organization ISKCON. In Krishna West, devotees do not wear South Asian devotional clothing. This means that rather than wearing ISKCON’s typical attire of dhotīs (long loin cloths), kurtās (long, loose tunics), sarees, etc., Krishna West practitioners wear jeans, button-down shirts, dresses, skirts, trousers, sweaters, etc.
In terms of the format of practices and programs, Krishna West shares many similarities to the ISKCON movement. Many Krishna West centers, for example, have weekly meetings and gatherings. These gatherings—which vary between in-person and online modalities—typically begin with the singing or chanting of the Hare Krishna mahā mantra. Importantly, as per the Krishna West paradigm, the chanting/singing is not (just) accompanied by Indian instruments or the standard ISKCON harmonium, mṛdaṅga drums, etc. Rather, it is often accompanied by “western” instruments such as guitars, pianos, violins, keyboards, and the like. Further, in Krishna West, the mahā mantra is set to “western” melodies, including those of western classical music. Sometimes, devotees get creative with the melody, setting the mahā mantra to tunes of popular rock music such as those of Pink Floyd, the Eagles, etc.
In most Krishna West programming, a discussion of the Bhagavad-Gītā follows the chanting of the mantra. This discussion is often led by one individual, but is otherwise a very participatory conversation that concludes with Q & A. Importantly, because the ritual of mūrti pūjā (deity worship) is absent from Krishna West Centers, the programs in Krishna West are much more text-centered than in mainline ISKCON. After the Gītā discussion, the program concludes and the gathered attendees share a collective meal of prasādam. In a manner consistent with the principles of Krishna West, the meal is not the standard ISKCON Indian vegetarian fare. Instead, it is vegetarian food that is more “western-leaning,” and often includes dishes such as pasta, salad, soups, and pizza. Importantly, the cuisine in Krishna West centers matches the local fare of the community in which it is based: for example, if a Krishna West center is in Chile, vegetarian Chilean food would be served following the Gītā discussion.
In addition to weekly programs, there are a variety of other programs in Krishna West. These programs vary by location, but involve meetings to discuss Swami Prabhupada and Hridayananda Das Goswami’s books, gatherings to sing and chant the Hare Krishna mahā mantra, as well as gatherings that are purely social in nature (going for walks, sharing in prasādam, etc). In addition to the group practices, devotees in Krishna West maintain the individual practices that are standard in ISKCON: chanting jāpa (rounds of the mahā mantra chanted silently or softly to oneself using a mālā, or beaded rosary) and following ISKCON’s four regulative principles (no meat, fish, eggs, gambling, intoxication, or illicit sex) (Bromley and Shinn, eds. 1989; Bryant and Ekstrand, eds. 2004; Burke 1985, 2007; Dwyer and Cole, eds. 2007; Karapanagiotis 2021; Knott 1986; Squarcini and Fizzotti 2004). Krishna West devotees also endeavor to spread the teachings of Prabhupada and ISKCON by developing more and further Krishna West programs and distributing Prabhupada’s and Hridayananda Das Goswami’s books. These books include Swami Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is (Prabhupada 1986), Hridayananda Das Goswami’s A Comprehensive Guide to the Bhagavad-Gītā With Literal Translation (Goswami, 2015), and Hridayananda Das Goswami’s Quest for Justice: Select Tales with Modern Illuminations from the Mahabharata (Goswami 2017), amongst others.
Krishna West is a sub-movement of ISKCON; as such, it is housed under the authoritative structure of ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission (GBC). Hridayananda Das Goswami, the founder of Krishna West, has mentioned on numerous occasions that it was important to Swami Prabhupada that ISKCON not split into different groups with altogether different leadership structures. Therefore, Krishna West remains under the umbrella of ISKCON and the GBC, even though administratively it might be easier if it were otherwise.
Despite the fact that Krishna West is under the umbrella of ISKCON, because it is a sub-movement, it also has its own leadership and organization. The official leader of Krishna West is Hridayananda Das Goswami. Working with Hridayananda Das Goswami, is a team of roughly fifty people, with roles ranging from “project leader,” “council member,” “liaison,” “manager,” and “coordinator,” to name a few. (Krishna West Website n.d. “Meet the Team”). Despite this setup, Krishna West leadership does not take a centralized or top-down approach. Instead, Krishna West’s organizational structure is decentralized and diffuse, and its projects and centers are ever-evolving.
There are Krishna West centers and projects all over the world, including in Mexico, Brazil, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Chile, Argentina, and Italy, to name just a few. Each of the centers in these locations is different and has its own individually designed and managed programming, along with its own management, and devotee-personnel. The organizational structure of Krishna West is best understood as a broad-based group of ISKCON devotees (most of whom are Hridayananda Das Goswami’s disciples) who have been tasked with starting and running Krishna West satellite centers and programs in their area, wherever they happen to be. This lends a very generative and fluid structure to the organization and leadership of Krishna West because it means that Krishna West grows and spreads according to the talents, abilities, time, location, and proclivities of these disciples themselves. It also means that each Krishna West center is different: not only with different sizes and capacities depending on the number of disciples, but also with different programming and programming styles depending on the disciples who run it.
A few other important dimensions of the organizational structure of Krishna West are of note. First, the different Krishna West centers and projects around the world are in different stages of development: while some have very regular programming, others do not. Further, because most Krishna West Centers are run by just a few devotees who operate on a volunteer basis, the state of these centers is often in flux. For example, if a devotee moves, takes a new job or, as during Covid 19, there is a shift in circumstances of the community, such as that a center might close or be dormant for a while. Therefore, while there are a lot of Krishna West centers officially listed on the group’s formal website, many are no longer in operation or are defunct (Krishna West Website n.d. “Projects”). The most robust Krishna West Centers are in South America: in particular, in Chile, Brazil, and Argentina. Krishna West Chicago and Krishna West Orlando (both in the United States) also have successful programs.
Finally, it is important to bear in mind that the term “center,” when looking at the organizational structure of Krishna West, is loose. This is for two reasons. First, not all (or even most) Krishna West centers have their own established, free-standing space: on the contrary, the overwhelming majority of Krishna West programs take place on a rotating basis in rented halls, yoga studios, and/or devotee homes. Second, the term “center” is often an umbrella term used to describe a group of different Krishna West programs and projects, each run by different disciples, that are being offered in the same city and that have complementary, but not identical programming. It should be noted, however, that although each Krishna West “center” is distinct and discrete, the disciples who run the various centers and programs nonetheless get together regularly for conversations to discuss the progress of their center, to converse about what is going well, and to collectively strategize about how to improve. Hridayananda Das Goswami himself also regularly meets with center and project leaders and visits the various Krishna West centers frequently.
Although it was just founded in 2013, Krishna West proponents have encountered a number of challenges, largely stemming from devotees in the wider ISKCON movement and also ISKCON’s GBC. These challenges primarily revolve around conceptions of Krishna West’s beliefs, practices, and institutional identity with respect to the broader ISKCON movement. Some of these challenges led to the GBC issuing temporary preaching holds on Hridayananda Das Goswami (for example, in 2014 when the GBC banned him from going to Europe to preach Krishna West) (Karapanagiotis 2021). However, Krishna West was never exiled or excommunicated from ISKCON by the GBC. At present, Krishna West has established a peaceful place within the ISKCON umbrella, remaining both within, and also functionally adjacent to, the broader movement.
The most frequently raised challenge about Krishna West in ISKCON has to do with the changes that Hridayananda Das Goswami has instituted with respect to devotees’ manner of dress. As discussed previously, Hridayananda Das Goswami has argued that in Krishna West, devotees do not wear the South Asian devotional clothes that typically characterize ISKCON devotees’ manner of dress. Instead of dhotīs, kurtās, sarees, etc., devotees in Krishna West wear what Hridayananda Das Goswami refers to as “western clothing:” anything ranging from jeans, khaki pants, maxi dresses, blouses, and blazers.
Despite the fact that Hridayananda Das Goswami has not tried to change the way devotees dress within ISKCON’s mainline centers, the clothing changes he has made in Krishna West have nonetheless hit a deep existential nerve in the broader ISKCON movement, and many ISKCON devotees have taken these clothing changes to be an assault on a central aspect of their (and ISKCON’s) identity (Karapanagiotis 2021). The broad contours of the debate are as follows: while Hridayananda Das Goswami argues that dress is not essential to ISKCON beliefs or lived practices, devotees in the broader movement argue that the South Asian devotional clothing they wear is a dimension of the movement established by Prabhupada. It is also a chief way in which they ensure that their primary identity is a religious one (insofar as the clothing one wears impacts one’s self-understanding, state of mind, etc.). This clothing, they believe, also helps them remember Krishna and keep a detachment from the mundane world. Therefore, while Hridayananda Das Goswami only wishes to retain in Krishna West what he sees to be the “essence of” ISKCON (and he does not believe that South Asian devotional clothes fit this criterion), ISKCON devotees in the larger movement do not believe that the “essence” of ISKCON can be syphoned out of the movement and/or believe that if there is an “essence,” it includes specific manners of South Asian devotional dress.
Hridayananda Das Goswami makes a distinction between what is essential in ISKCON (or what is “eternal” as he calls it) and what is non-essential in ISKCON (or “external”). This distinction is at the heart of much of the backlash against Krishna West. In making this distinction, Hridayananda Das Goswami contends that he is following the teachings of Prabhupada and argues that Prabhupada himself did not feel that Indian clothing is an essential dimension of the movement (nor, according to Hridayananda Das Goswami, did he feel other aspects (such as Indian food, Indian music, etc.) were essential). Instead, what mattered to Prabhupada, he claims, were practices like chanting, eating sanctified food, and reading, learning from, and distributing the Bhagavad-Gītā. (Karapanagiotis 2021). According to Hridayananda Das Goswami, it did not matter to Prabhupada whether these activities were done in Indian or “western” clothes; if devotees ate Indian or “western” prasādam, etc. Many devotees in the broader ISKCON movement, however, disagree with this formulation, believing that Hridayananda Das Goswami is “pandering to the crowd,” and is disingenuously altering Swami Prabhupada’s teachings in order to attract “westerners.” In other words, to mainline ISKCON devotees, Hridayananda Das Goswami is conveniently claiming that particular dimensions of the ISKCON movement are non-essential (or “non-eternal”) because he believes these dimensions will not appeal to the “westerners” whom he is hoping to attract to the movement. Nowhere is this controversy more heated than when it comes to the set-up of Krishna West centers, most notably, their conspicuous absence of Krishna mūrtis (deities) and the accompanying rituals of mūrti pūjā, or worshipping/serving the deities. For many devotees in the broader ISKCON movement, this absence is an affront to a cherished and central dimension of ISKCON: certainly one that they see as being essential. Hridayananda Das Goswami, however, argues that Prabhupada’s main mission was to preach and spread the ISKCON movement, noting that Prabhupada had the temples built to support the mission of preaching, not to become central dimensions of the movement in their own right. (Karapanagiotis 2021).
Although they do not use the language of essential versus non-essential (or eternal versus external), other gurus also host ISKCON programs in non-temple spaces (such as meditation lounges, yoga studios, etc.) and most often these spaces are deliberately without mūrtis and mūrti pūjā. Further, these programs are staffed by devotees who wear what Hridayananda Das Goswami labels “western” clothing. Importantly, all of this is done intentionally so as to try to attract “westerners” (Karapanagiotis 2021). These gurus and their programs, too, receive backlash from those in the broader ISKCON movement for similar reasons as does Hridayananda Das Goswami. However, Krishna West receives more backlash than do these other gurus and programs because Hridayananda Das Goswami has noted that Krishna West is not intended to be a “bridge,” but rather, to be a “destination” (Karapanagiotis 2021). This language of “bridge” versus “destination” refers to the fact that while the other gurus who design ISKCON programs in lounges, yoga studios, etc. in order to attract a “western” audience do so as a means to an end, Hridayananda Das Goswami’s Krishna West is an end in itself. In other words, while the other gurus present a “western” inflected ISKCON in order to attract “westerners,” their ultimate aim is nonetheless to eventually bring these “westerners” into the mainline ISKCON movement and its temple-based communities. Krishna West proponents, on the other hand, are not trying to draw “westerners” into mainline ISKCON’s temples or temple communities. Instead, Krishna West is, as Hridayananda Das Goswami himself notes, a destination in itself.
Last but not least, it is certainly controversial that Krishna West (and other ISKCON initiatives similar to it) are striving to draw in “western” audiences to the movement rather than being content with a large (and growing) congregant base of committed Indian devotees. In fact, the very division of “western” versus Indian is itself problematic as it is an overly simplistic and troubling binary division of people that only makes sense in an Indian colonial framework. These controversies, however, tend to be raised by outsiders to the ISKCON movement, rather than devotees within it. This is because the desire to have a globally-based congregant base was so frequently discussed by Swami Prabhupada (and his predecessor gurus in the ISKCON lineage) that it is part of the ISKCON movement’s central identity and mission. This mission persists to this day and permeates the evangelic spirit of the ISKCON movement in all of its major centers, including those in India.
Image #1: Hridayananda Das Goswami playing the piano. Source: Krishna West Website. Accessed 9/1/23.
Image #2: Krishna West London Gathering. Source: Krishna West Facebook page (public). Accessed 9/1/23.
Image #3: Krishna West Gathering. Source: Krishna West Facebook page (public). Accessed 9/1/23.
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Krishna West Facebook Page (public). 2023. Accessed from https://www.facebook.com/KrishnaWest. on 1 September 2023.
Krishna West Website. n.d. Accessed from https://krishnawest.com/ on 1 September 2023.
Prabhupada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. 1986. Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is: Complete Edition Revised and Enlarged with Original Sanskrit Text, Roman Transliteration, English Equivalents, Translation, and Elaborate Purports. Los Angeles: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Prabhupada, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. 1974. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam: With the Original Sanskrit Text, Its Roman Transliteration, Synonyms, Translation and Elaborate Purports by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Prabhupada, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. 1973. “The Nectar of Devotion — Bombay, January 4, 1973.” Lectures: Vaniquotes. Accessed from https://vaniquotes.org /wiki/If_you_chant_loudly_Hare_Krsna,_even_the_ants_and_insect_who_is_hearing,_he’ll_bedelivered,_because_it_is_spiritual_vibration._It_will_act_for_everyone on 28 May 2018.
Prabhupada, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. 1973. Śrī Caitanya-Caritāmṛta of Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmi: Ādilīlā Volume Two “Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu in the Renounced Order of Life” with the original Bengali text, Roman transliterations, synonyms, translation and elaborate purports. New York, Los Angeles, London, Bombay: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Prabhupada, A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmī. 1968. “Śrī Śikṣāṣṭakam (Caitanya Mahāprabhu): The Eight Instructions of Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.” (From: “Teachings of Lord Caitanya, 1968). Accessed from http://www.prabhupadabooks.de/chaitanya/siksastakam_en.html on 27 May 2018.
Rochford, E. Burke, Jr. 2007. Hare Krishna Transformed. New York: New York University Press.
Rochford, E. Burke, Jr. 1985. Hare Krishna in America. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Squarcini, Federico, and Eugenio Fizzotti. 2004. Hare Krishna. Salt Lake City: Signature Books.
Zeller, Benjamin E. 2012. ‘‘Food Practices, Culture, and Social Dynamics in the Hare Krishna Movement.” Pp. 681-702 in Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production, edited by Carole M. Cusack and Alex Norman. Boston: Brill.
**Special thanks to Cassius Blankenship, my undergraduate research assistant, who worked with me on the ethnography on which this entry is based. His many insights have made their way into the analyses here. Thanks also to Ishana Das of Krishna West Orlando, Krishna Das of Krishna West Chicago, and Panchali Dasi of Krishna West Chile for the dates they provided for Krishna West timeline, their assistance in understanding the organizational structure of Krishna West, and their generosity in hosting Cassius and me at their programs.
3 September 2023