Q. Hare Krishna and Hinduism
A. The terms Hare Krishna and Hinduism are intimately connected, yet not synonymous. The word ‘Hindu’ was first used by Persians to denote ‘those South of the Indus River’. It has come to include the many diverse strands of Indian and Vedic culture which make up Hinduism, the world’s third largest religion, with over 600 million practitioners worldwide. As such, ‘Hinduism’ describes not a single, monolithic religion, but a vast spectrum of spiritual paths, many tracing their origins to particular branches of the Vedas.
The word ‘Veda’ literally means knowledge, and refers to the original Vedic shastras (scriptures) and civilization, dating back many thousands of years. One of these shastras, the Bhagavad Gita, forms the philosophical and theological basis of the Hare Krishna Movement, and is often referred to as ‘The Bible of Hinduism’.
Hare Krishna is a major monotheistic tradition, known academically as Vaishnavism or Sanatana dhama, ‘the eternal teaching’. The core practice is bhakti (devotion) to Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is both a major strand of Hinduism, and a transcendental, non-sectarian and inclusive process applicable to any religious culture such as Christianity, Buddism, Judaism or Islam, all of which include devotional practices and branches, such as Sufism