The Office of Communications for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) works to create and sustain favorable environments for advancing the goals of the Krishna consciousness movement – by establishing and maintaining confidence and faith in the integrity of the movement’s members and its mission. As such we are committed to helping ISKCON be a respected and influential religious organization all over the world.
Popularly known as the Hare Krishna Movement, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is a worldwide confederation of more than 400 temples, 100 vegetarian restaurants, and a wide variety of community projects. ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiya-Vaishnava sampradaya, or denomination, a monotheistic tradition within the broad Vedic, or Hindu culture. It is scripturally based on the 5,000-year-old Sanskrit text Bhagavad-gita, or “Song of God.” ISKCON traces its lineage directly to the speaker of that sacred book, Lord Krishna, who is revered as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and to Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a 16th century incarnation of God who emphasized the chanting of Hare Krishna as the most effective means of achieving self-realization and love of God in this age.
In 1965, at the age of 70, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada journeyed alone from India to America, to bring the teachings of Krishna west. On July 11, 1966, Srila Prabhupada officially registered the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in New York City, and thus began the Hare Krishna movement in America. Srila Prabhupada passed away in 1977.
This nonsectarian, monotheistic movement’s mission is to advance the well-being of society by promoting the science of Krishna consciousness. To that end, Srila Prabhupada enunciated ISKCON’s mission statement in seven purposes:
- To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all people in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.
- To propagate a consciousness of Krishna (God), as it is revealed in the great scriptures of India, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
- To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krishna, the prime entity, thus developing the idea within the members, and humanity at large, that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of Godhead (Krishna).
- To teach and encourage the sankirtana movement, congregational chanting of the holy name of God, as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
- To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krishna.
- To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler, more natural way of life.
- With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines, books and other writings.
More information about ISKCON can be found in this online media kit, and on ISKCON’s website.
When His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada entered the port of New York City on September 17, 1965, few Americans took notice — but he was not merely another immigrant. He was on a mission to introduce an ancient religion, which originated in India, into mainstream America. Before Srila Prabhupada passed away on November 14, 1977, at the age of 81, his mission proved successful. He had founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and saw it grow into a worldwide confederation of more than 100 temples, ashrams and cultural centers.
Srila Prabhupada was born Abhay Charan De on September 1, 1896, to a pious Hindu family in Calcutta. As a youth growing up in British-controlled India, Abhay became involved with Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement to secure independence for his nation. It was, however, a 1922 meeting with a prominent scholar and religious leader, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, which proved most influential on Abhay’s future calling. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was a leader in the Gaudiya Vaishnava denomination, a monotheistic tradition within the broad Hindu culture, and asked Abhay to bring the teachings of Lord Krishna to the English-speaking world. Abhay became a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta in 1933, and resolved to carry out his mentor’s request. Abhay, later known by the honorific A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, spent the next 32 years preparing for his journey west.
In 1965, at the age of sixty-nine, Srila Prabhupada traveled to New York City aboard a cargo ship. The journey was treacherous, and the elderly spiritual teacher suffered two heart attacks aboard ship. Arriving in the United States with just seven dollars in Indian rupees and his translations of sacred Sanskrit texts, Srila Prabhupada began to share the timeless wisdom of Krishna consciousness. His message of peace and goodwill resonated with many young people, some of whom came forward to become serious students of the Krishna tradition. With the help of these students, Srila Prabhupada rented a small storefront on New York’s Lower East Side to use as a temple. On July 11, 1966, he officially registered his organization in the state of New York, formally founding the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
In the eleven years that followed, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe 14 times on lecture tours, bringing the teachings of Lord Krishna to thousands of people on six continents. Men and women from all backgrounds and walks of life came forward to accept his message, and with their help, Srila Prabhupada established ISKCON centers and projects throughout the world. Under his inspiration, Krishna devotees established temples, rural communities, educational institutions, and started what would become the world’s largest vegetarian food relief program. With the desire to nourish the roots of Krishna consciousness in its home, Srila Prabhupada returned to India several times, where he sparked a revival in the Vaishnava tradition. In India, he opened dozens of temples, including large centers in the holy towns of Vrindavana and Mayapur.
Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contributions, perhaps, are his books. He authored over 70 volumes on the Krishna tradition, which are highly respected by scholars for their authority, depth, fidelity to the tradition, and clarity. Several of his works are used as textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into 76 languages. His most prominent works include: Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the 30-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the 17-volume Sri Caitanya-caritamrita.
To say that the teachings of the ancient ones come to us through a series of teachers does not mean that the teachers are themselves interchangeable. If they were so faceless, there would be little point in writing a biography of any of them. But this life of Srila Prabhupada is pointed proof that one can be a transmitter of truth and still be a vital and singular person, even—in a sense I now feel safe to use—in some ways “original.” . . . At what almost anyone would consider a very advanced age, when most people would be resting on their laurels, he harkened to the mandate of his own spiritual teacher and set out on the difficult voyage to America. Srila Prabhupada is, of course, only one of thousands of teachers. But in another sense, he is one in a thousand, maybe one in a million.
– Dr. Harvey Cox, Harvard Divinity School
In essence, ISKCON Communications builds bridges between ISKCON as an organization (and sometimes the Vaishnava faith as a tradition) and key audiences. These audiences include the media, academia, government officials and NGOs, interfaith groups, the broader Hindu community, and – perhaps most importantly – our internal audience of Hare Krishna devotees, practitioners, and congregational supporters.
Some of our work with the media includes the sending out of media releases (subjects will range from ISKCON events, such as a Ratha Yatra parade, to ISKCON’s response to issues of concern in the world), consultation with reporters and producers who are interested in better covering ISKCON or related topics, creating resource materials such as the ISKCON media kit, and occasionally responding to misleading, erroneous, or biased portrayals in the media.
We help the academic community by providing them with case studies to explore and write about, and by offering the practitioner’s view to their study of the faith. We attend academic conferences and provide guest speakers in University classes. In addition, we help to connect others (such as the media) with scholars who are experts on the Hare Krishna movement and the Chaitanya Vaishnava tradition that it is rooted in.
ISKCON’s Office of Communications also works with government officials (on local, regional, national, and international levels) to help them better serve the needs of a religiously diverse world. We also seek to ensure that ISKCON’s activities are harmonious with government policy, and that government policy is being exercised in a fair, neutral, and even-handed manner.
We also work with representatives from other faith traditions, as well as organizations that represent other Hindu sampradayas, in a spirit of mutual cooperation, to further shared concerns and learn from one another’s practice. We sponsor and take part in dialogues, and help to involve ISKCON in faith-based service projects with other faith organizations. ISKCON Communications is also involved in a formal way with several umbrella interfaith and Hindu collectives.
Finally, we help to bridge individual ISKCON members with one another, with the leadership of ISKCON, and with the general society. We maintain the organization’s news site, sponsor gatherings and conferences, and undertake projects and initiatives to empower our members to better represent the ideals of ISKCON and its Founder-Acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
One of the core tenets of the Vaishnava faith is that one should utilize whatever is favorable for devotional service (bhakti) to Krishna. Thus, devotees may use modern technologies, practices, and skills – but because they do so to serve God, these seemingly “material” devices become spiritualized. Communications and marketing activities are neither good nor bad; it depends on the purpose for which one uses them. They can be used to manipulate people’s desires and egos to increase greed and envy, leading to a more materialistic world. However, they can also be used in the Lord’s service, to help people understand and appreciate the significance and relevance of spiritual life.
The effective use of communications has helped the public to become more aware of and informed about ISKCON’s contributions to the wider society. It has helped to counter the misinformation and stereotype that minority faith traditions sometimes face, and has enabled us to bring ISKCON’s valuable theological and philosophical outlook to diverse dialogues and forums. Perhaps most importantly, effective communications allows us to serve as a “mirror” to ISKCON—to demonstrate to the organization what the perception of our faith is in the world, what the needs and interests of the world around us are, and how we can take concrete proactive steps to become the type of meaningful, relevant service organization that we have the potential to be.
We believe that in order to fulfill our mission – to help ISKCON be a respected and influential religious organization all over the world – we must chastely adhere to the following principles and values. These principles represent the spiritual foundation upon which we base our communication.
- Consistency with Srila Prabhupada’s teaching and example.
- Appropriate consideration of time, place, and circumstance.
- Building interdependent relationships.
- Maintaining exemplary character and behavior.
Mukunda Goswami – Communications Minister Emeritus
Mukunda Goswami is one of the founding members of ISKCON, and the Society’s first Communications Minister. He has published articles and lectured worldwide and is the co-author of four books, including Divine Nature: A Spiritual Perspective on the Environmental Crisis, and Coming Back: The Science of Reincarnation. He now lives and writes in Australia, and offers guidance and inspiration to ISKCON Communications in an advisory capacity.
Anuttama Dasa – International Director of Communications
Anuttama Dasa has been a member of ISKCON since 1975. He currently serves as ISKCON’s International Director of Communications, Chairperson of the North American Executive Council, and as a member of the Governing Body Commission (GBC) for the society. He is on the Board of the Bhaktivedanta College in Belgium, the Grihasta Visioning Team, and the Child Protection Office. Anuttama is also active in several interfaith initiatives, including the Religion Communicators Council. He and his wife Rukmini live in Rockville, Maryland, and are the proud grandparents of two beautiful little girls.
Venkata Bhatta Dasa – North American Director of Communications
Venkata Bhatta Dasa (Vineet Chander) is an attorney and communications consultant. A graduate of the George Washington University Law School (Washington, DC), he was a prosecutor in the Domestic Violence Bureau of the Queens County District Attorney’s Office in New York City before accepting his current position as the North American Communications Director for ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness). He also works as the Coordinator for Hindu Life at Princeton University. He and and his wife live outside of New York City.
Madhava Smullen – Staff Writer
Madhava Smullen grew up in the Hare Krishna Movement in Ireland and has worked as a freelance writer since the age of sixteen. He has contributed to several mainstream UK and Ireland magazines including Quality Times, Lifescape and In Dublin. In ISKCON, he has worked with Back to Godhead magazine, Krishna.com, and Friends of the BBT. He is also working on his first novel, a supernatural thriller that features reincarnation as its central theme. He lives in Alachua, Florida.
Ekendra Dasa – Managing Editor, ISKCON News Weekly
Ekendra Dasa graduated with a Bachelor in Media from Murdoch University in Australia. He also holds a Bachelor of Teaching and Learning from Christchurch College of Education in New Zealand. After serving in United Nations operations in Somalia he joined ISKCON and now resides in Australia where, along with his wife and children, he does service for the temple.
Mahaprabhu Dasa – European Director of Communications
Mahaprabhu is a very nice devotee of Krishna. In his humility, he has failed to submit a bio. Please kep watching this space.
Gopisvari Devi Dasi – Administrative Assistant
Gopisvari is too busy tending to Tulasi Devi to submit a bio. We hope we can get to know her better soon.
In addition, many of ISKCON’s 400 temples and centers worldwide have contact persons who serve – most in an unpaid, volunteer capacity – as communications representatives. Our goal (which we are still in the process of realizing) is to have identified regional and local communications ministers for each and every ISKCON project.
If you would like to be part of the ISKCON Communications team as a volunteer, or for information about how you can financially support the work that ISKCON Communications does, please contact us.