Hare Krishna (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness) is a Hindu cult that worships Krishna as the supreme deity. Hinduism has many gods, but the most important three are Brahma (god of creation), Shiva (god of destruction), and Vishnu (god of preservation). Vishnu, it is believed, had many incarnations on earth, the most popular one of which is Krishna. In the 1930s, a follower of a cult of Krishna in India was commissioned to spread the cult’s teaching to the West. He was given the name Swami Prabhupada. He came to the United States in 1965 and started Hare Krishna in New York City.
Like most Hindu cults, Hare Krishna teaches that we somehow make up part of a universal consciousness and that we are part of god. Also like most Hindu cults, Hare Krishnas believe in reincarnation. Hare Krishnas, however, teach that Krishna is the same as the God of Judaism, the God of Christianity, and the god of Islam. Other religions, Hare Krishnas say, just don’t recognize his true name: Krishna. Salvation comes through Krishna consciousness. And since Krishna is the same as his name, chanting his name is tasting him and giving an offering to him.
Followers of Swami Prabhupada therefore chant and dance before Hindu deities daily. They exercise 64 items of devotional service prescribed by Prabhupada. They wear a distinctive saffron dress, and the men have shaved heads except for a pigtail. Food is important to the Hare Krishnas–who are vegetarian–because each meal is seen as communion with Krishna.
The Hare Krishnas, who frequently appear in airports and other public places selling literature or flowers, are just one manifestation of the various Hindu groups that have come to America.
Significantly, the land of their origin–India–has horrible poverty. It also has desperate problems of overpopulation, illiteracy, hunger, mismanagemen and suffering. So it seems strange that religions which have brought such trouble to India would be imported to America where we have flourished and prospered under Christianity for several centuries.