The Hare Krishnas in India

The Hare Krishnas in India

Charles R. Brooks
Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 276
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    The Hare Krishnas in India
    Book Description:

    Most Americans know about the "Hare Krishnas" only from encounters in airports or from tales of their activities in the East Village and Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s. This entertaining and sensitive book deepens our knowledge by tracing the paths of those Western Hare Krishnas who eventually traveled to or lived in India. The charismatic leader of the sect, the Indian monk Swami Bhaktivedanta, aimed to save Westerners from what he saw as materialism and atheism by converting them to worship of the Hindu god Krishna. In addition, he hoped that Western disciples would inspire Indians to rediscover their own religious heritage. Charles Brooks describes in full detail the work of the "reverse missionaries" in the town of Vrindaban--which, since it is traditionally considered to be identical with Krishna's spiritual world, is one of the holiest places in India and the site of some of its most engaging rituals.

    Have the Western Hare Krishnas really become part of Indian culture? Can it be that Indians accept these foreigners as essentially Hindu and even Brahman? Brooks answers in a way that radically challenges our accepted images of Indian social dynamics. Analyzing the remarkable success of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and their temple complex in Vrindaban (where Bhaktivedanta was buried in 1977), Brooks describes the intricate social, economic, and religious relationships between Westerners and Indians. He demonstrates that social rank in the town is based not only on caste but also on religious competence: many Indians of Vrindaban believe, in Bhaktivedanta's words, that "Krishna is for all."

    Originally published in 1989.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5989-4
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-26)

    Every morning at 7:00 the Taj Express pulls out of the New Delhi railway station, its air-conditioned class compartments full of Indian and foreign tourists headed for Agra and a day of marveling at the Mughal splendor of the Taj Mahal. About forty-five minutes before arriving at the Agra Cant station, the Taj halts briefly at Mathura, and from the second-class cars disembarks a varied swarm of passengers: urban civil servants dressed in polyester shirts and pants; Punjabi men sporting colorful turbans and stately beards, their wives in traditional pants and long blouses; Rajasthani farmers with gold rings in each...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Meaning of Vrindaban: Textual and Historical Developments
    (pp. 27-55)

    ISKCON has achieved integration in Vrindaban due to a conjuncture of historical, cultural, and social antecedents. Since the beginning of its development as a town about five hundred years ago, Vrindaban has, in retrospect, been preparing for the events occurring there now. Not only are the present situations of ISKCON-Indian interaction leading to the foreign devotees being incorporated into the town’s traditional system, but they are having an impact upon how Indians view foreigners in general. Furthermore, transformations are occurring which affect how they perceive and intertact among themselves as well.

    If an adequate understanding of these events is to...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Sacred Pilgrimage Complex
    (pp. 56-71)

    Vrindaban was a place of pilgrimage long before it became a town, but until the time of the Bengal Vaishnavas the locations of Krishna’s activities were visited only by the recluses who lived alone in the forests there. It was the desire of Chaitanya and the Six Goswamis, however, to make the experience of Vrindaban’s spiritual power available to the masses of devout Vaishnavas, and the development they initiated there in the sixteenth century was toward that end. Anchored solidly upon their achievements, this development has been continued by a variety of Indian sects, holy men, wealthy individuals, and also...

  8. CHAPTER 4 ISKCON and Vrindaban
    (pp. 72-105)

    Just as Krishna cannot be separated from Vrindaban, neither can ISKCON. A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, ISKCON’s founder, was himself a resident of Vrindaban for some ten years before embarking on his journey west, and in 1967 brought the first of his American disciples to this North Indian pilgrimage town as part of a sweeping vision to revitalize Indian religion and spread Krishna consciousness throughout the world.¹ From a modest beginning with two devotees at the temple of Radha-Damodar in 1967, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has altered the cultural texture of the town, prompting one Brahman informant to declare...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Pilgrimage Processes: Aspects of Pilgrim-ISKCON Interactions
    (pp. 106-141)

    Pilgrimage was a unifying force in Indian society long before the country’s diverse regional, linguistic, religious, and ethnic groups were politically united. Today the institution of pilgrimage still functions to unite people from far-flung regions and is serving to bring yet another group, ISKCON, under the common cultural umbrella of Hinduism. For this study, the attributes of pilgrimage combine with the concept of Vrindaban as a celestial space and the egalitarian ideals of Vaishnava Hinduism to provide the resources for understanding the dynamics of social flexibility and cultural integration in the town. Since the opening of the Krishna-Balaram temple in...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Symbolic Interactions in Vrindaban Town: Making Sense of a New Reality
    (pp. 142-175)

    Symbols do not simply stand for other things; they bring things into meaning. During situations of interaction or sequences of situations, people attempt to work an unfamiliar reality into forms they can understand. In the everyday life of Vrindaban, Indian residents are faced with making sense of the reality of foreign devotees in terms of their own cultural system; as people who live there repeatedly say, “Vrindaban never changes.”

    The symbols used in interactions between ISKCON devotees and Vrindaban residents are common to both parties, but since meaning is not simply “stored” in the symbols, there is no guarantee that...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Cross-Cultural Dynamics of Mystical Emotions in Vrindaban
    (pp. 176-198)

    Although iskcon devotees are considered legitimate Vaishnavas in the Bengal tradition (see chapter 4), some Vrindaban residents nonetheless perceive that ISKCON Vaishnavism is somehow different from their own. This perception is not a simple recognition of obvious ethnic differences, now largely overcome by ISKCON’s behavioral presentation and arguments from traditional texts, but rather an intangible feeling revealed in comments such as “Indeed they are very good Vaishnavas, perhaps the best in Vrindaban, but their mood is different from us”; and “Their understanding is not yet complete—they are only beginning along the path of deep mysteries of Krishna in the...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 199-224)

    In this book I have described aspects of the social reality of Vrindaban at a particular point in time, a description which, I believe, accurately reflects how the inhabitants—Indian residents, pilgrims, and foreign devotees of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness—go about their daily lives. This report is a result of my own attempts to become part of that reality in order to understand the various cultural resources of informants and how they use these resources to make sense of their everyday activities and relationships. In describing the cultural domain of ideas, symbols, and meanings; the social domain...

  13. APPENDIX 1 Map of Vrindaban
    (pp. 225-226)
  14. APPENDIX 2 Vrindaban Pilgrimage Clusters
    (pp. 227-230)
  15. APPENDIX 3 The Situation
    (pp. 231-232)
  16. APPENDIX 4 Loi Bazaar Questionnaire
    (pp. 233-234)
  17. APPENDIX 5 Methodology
    (pp. 235-246)
    (pp. 247-254)
    (pp. 255-262)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 263-265)