Hindu religion has several gods, who manifest themselves in human form, and then come to rescue man during a time of trouble. The gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva form the trinity in Hindu religion. Brahma is in charge of creation, having grown from the navel of Vishnu. He later made himself a goddess to enable him create the world and human beings (Bryant, 12).
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Vishnu is the most powerful of the three and is supposed to sustain the status quo. They believe that everything is in place the way Vishnu wants, and he stays vigilant to ensure things do not go astray.
So far, he has had nine avatars, and it is believed the next will be a white horse. Shiva is a god of destruction. He is believed to reside on at the top of the Himalayas. He facilitates reincarnation by destroying old things and men. All these gods are depicted differently, according to the roles they play. It is essential to note that Krishna was an avatar of Vishnu. Krishna worshippers identify themselves with devotion to Vishnu (Vaishanvism), and the religious philosophy of Vedi (Bryant, 12).
Krishna followers subscribe to (ISKCON) The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, an association created in 1966. The late A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada moved to America in his old age and settled in New York, where he started the society. The movement was originally founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who instructed people on excessive dedication to Vishnu. A. C. B. Swami Prabhupada was inducted to the movement by his friends at the Guadiya Matha Mission, which was based in Calcutta.
They worship by chanting the Krishna mantra and performing sentient dance routines around statues of Krishna (Bryant, 12). They believe in aim towards salvation in the end, and carry out several practices to help them achieve this, most notably lacto-vegetarianism. They also abstain from illegitimate sex, gambling and intoxicants like tobacco, alcohol and many more.
As observed from their beliefs and practices, we can conclude that Krishna followers are monotheist. This is unlike original Indian religion which had polytheistic characteristics. Mainstream Hindus believe in the existence of more than one god, and have gone further to categorize them either as major or minor (Bryant, 12).
According to them, Krishna was only an avatar, and like his predecessors, he died. They are waiting for his successor, who will appear as a Kalki on a white horse bearing a sword that will be used to eradicate poverty and corruption. Krishna followers view him as their main deity. They do not have any regard for past avatars or future avatars, although they acknowledge god Vishnu’s existence.
It is noteworthy that both Krishna followers and mainstream Hindus believe that life has a purpose, and we have to achieve this before the end of our lifetime on earth. For mainstream Hindus, the purpose of human life can be analyzed in four stages, namely; Dharma, which requires someone to fulfill their moral, religious and social obligations.
Artha necessitates personal success by attaining financial stability, while Kama calls for restraint when laboring to satisfy our needs. Moksha is regarded as the ultimate purpose of life (Saliba, 45). Here, people aspire to avoid reincarnation, by strict adherence to frugal discipline of world denouncers, by direct knowledge of ones inner self. Krishna followers, on the other hand, lay emphasis on Dharma and Moksha.
Members of the ISKCON worldwide participate in numerous charity activities of different types, targeting different sections of society. They are universally involved in the provision of rations and accommodation for the famished and destitute. Their branches worldwide collect funds which are then used to achieve this goal.
They use this as a means of coercion, hence their steady growth in numbers over the past years. Mainstream Hinduism is silent on the use of incentives to lure people to their religion. There is no documented record of their engagement with such activities explicitly. It is noteworthy that a silent rule exists, which grants native Hindus the right of entry into the temples of their gods. Krishna followers are the only sect who disregards this rule (Bryant, 12).
Modern day Krishna followers engage in income-generating ventures, in order to sustain their temples and themselves. In Australia, for example, they operate restaurants, shops and other businesses. As a result, most of their establishments are autonomous, and they register themselves under ISKCON as a formality.
The money they raise from these sources is used to finance their schools and for the upkeep of devotees and other full time temple employees. The remainder is donated to charities (Saliba, 45). Swami Prabhupada established a council to oversee the activities of the sect after he died, which is based in America.
They were tasked with the responsibility of making momentous decisions and resolving all conflicts among followers. They were given the power to mediate on matters of doctrine. No records have been found among other mainstream Hindus of such organization levels. They engage in charity activities individually, and most of them do not have schools specifically dedicated for their children.
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The American chapter of the Krishna sect was embroiled in controversy, compelling them to file for bankruptcy. This showed some level of organization, the existence of a hierarchy, and most importantly, a strong financial base. Parents and victims accused the society of child molestation.
Most of the other mainstream Hindu sects have not had allegations of such high magnitude against them. The mere fact that they filed for bankruptcy proves that they had financial ambitions and that their existence depended on their financial muscle. The American chapter sought for financial assistance from other societies worldwide to settle the claim.
Numerous cases of child molestation had been reported, both in American and Indian schools. Cases of violence and neglect were also rampant in the said schools (Saliba, 45). Remote cases were reported in Australia, although they responded promptly by shutting down all their boarding schools. They later asserted that it was due to lack of sufficient funds.
It is also striking that despite having its roots in primordial India, the Krishna society started from America where it is based, before spreading to India and many other countries.
All other sects of Hinduism originate from India and are propagated by Indians, as opposed to the Krishna sect, which has placed emphasis on recruiting non Hindus to the sect (Saliba, 45). There have been cases of infighting, disagreements about the validity of doctrines they were propagating among members of the executive council. It has negatively affected the society’s standing.
Surprisingly, the sect continues to grow steadily as converts from different walks of life are lured into it, hoping to find an alternative to Christianity, Islam and other mainstream religions. Hindus who migrate to other countries where their sects do not exist tend to join the Krishna band wagon.
Bryant, Edward. Krishna: A Sourcebook. New York: Oxford University Press US, 2007 12
Saliba, John. Understanding New Religious Movements. California: Rowman AltaMira, 2003 (2 illustrated) 45