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Krishna Consciousness and the Judeo-Christian Tradition
A Guide to Interfaith Discussion

Dr. Diana Eck

Dr. Eck is a professor of the Hindu religion in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies and the Comparative Study of Religion at Harvard University. She compares the bhakti movements of the 16th century to the Protestant Reformation.

"The Krishna Consciousness movement is part of an important and distinctive tradition of devotional faith, the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, which began in the 16th century with the great saint Sri Chaitanya, but which participates in a much older movement of devotion dating back to at least the 2nd century B.C.

"This devotional faith is called bhakti, which means devotion to God or love of God. Bhakti expresses the relationship between human beings and the Lord. It is a relationship of shared being and of mutual love.

"The bhakti tradition found a full expression in the ancient Bhagavad-gita, ‘The Song of the Lord,’ existential dialogue on some of the most deeply significant human questions...What is human life? What is transcendence? How can one be actively engaged in the world without being ensnared by it? The Gita has been heard and told and cherished by generations of Hindus, who have seen Krishna as the Supreme Godhead.

"One of the most vigorous and vibrant periods of devotional activity on the Indian subcontinent began about five hundred years ago, when a new wave of this ancient bhakti tradition broke across north India as virtually a Protestant Reformation of the Hindu tradition. The love of Krishna was an important part of this movement...

"There were many poets, saints, and theologians who contributed to this era of exuberant devotion. Among them was the Bengali spiritual leader Sri Chaitanya, who may be called the founder of the Hare Krishna movement. He gave himself fully to the devotional worship of Krishna, popularizing and developing a form of worship called kirtana, the chanting and singing of the holy names of the Lord to the accompaniment of... hand cymbals and...drums.

"In 1933, one of the leaders of the Gaudiya Vaishnava movement, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami, initiated a new disciple: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, whose special task was to bring the message of krishna-bhakti to the English-speaking world.

"In 1965, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami came to the United States, arriving by freighter, with little money and no contacts. In time, with difficulty, he established the first Krishna temple in the United States...Within a decade, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness—the American strand of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition—spread to most major American cities.


Go on to:  05 - Dr. Harvey Cox

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