Spiritual Heritage

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was incorporated in New York in 1966. However, it is not a new religion. Its founder, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, represents a tradition tracing back to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. And Chaitanya Himself appeared in a succession of teachers dating back thousands of years in India. This lineage, called the Brahma-Madhva Gaudiya sampradaya, is one of the four principle traditions of Vaishnavas, those who worship Lord Krishna or Lord Vishnu as supreme.

Vaishnavism is one of the main theological schools within the tradition broadly defined by the word Hinduism. However, the terms “Hindu” and “Hinduism” are not found in any of the scriptures. They were coined by the Persian invaders to refer to the religion and culture of the people beyond the River Sindhu (now called the Indus in modern Pakistan). Hinduism has been used to refer to the totality of India’s religious culture, apart from those faiths originating outside of India (such as Christianity); it includes those which arose within this context but have since defined themselves as distinctive traditions (such as Buddhism and Sikhism).

Many adherents to the tradition prefer the term sanatan-dharma. This term refers to the eternal function of the living being, understood as service to God. It implies that genuine religion is above temporary designations of faith, gender, colour, nationality, and species. The principles of sanatan-dharma are enunciated in the sacred texts called the Vedas.