A newly-published booklet, entitled “ISKCON and Hinduism: Exploring the Hare Krishna Movement and its Broader Traditions,” will be used to help students and teachers in schools, as well as visitors to ISKCON temples, better understand ISKCON and how it relates to broader Hinduism. (During the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be available to order by mail)
The 26-page illustrated booklet is published by ISKCON Educational Services, (IES) which was established at Bhaktivedanta Manor over thirty years ago and arranges for about twelve thousand school students, teachers, parents and governors to visit the temple per year.
During the visits children often take a cart ride to see the cows at the goshala; dress up in saris and turbans; do face painting; and listen to a presentation on both broader Hinduism and ISKCON’s own Vaishnava tradition. IES staff also make presentations at schools, and have departments in London and Newcastle as well.
It’s all part of the UK’s Religious Education curriculum, in which primary and secondary students learn about the nation’s six main religious traditions – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism.
The booklet “ISKCON and Hinduism” came about as a response to questions from teachers during IES presentations. “Teachers have been asking, ‘What is the difference between what you do in ISKCON and Hinduism, as practiced by the wider Hindu community?’” says IES General Manager Tulsi-seva Dasi.
ISKCON Educational Services also felt a booklet on the similarities and differences would be important after seeing a bullet point in the Hinduism A-Level studies syllabus that mentioned ISKCON as “a divergence from ‘traditional’ Hinduism.”
The booklet is written by Rasamandala Das, who established IES with his brother Indriyesh, has an MA in Religious Education from Warwick University, and is the author of The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Hinduism: Faith and Practices, and other works.
“ISKCON and Hinduism” covers a range of topics including Defining Hinduism; Hindu Philosophy; Hindu Practices and Way of Life; Denominations within Hinduism; Hinduism as a Global Religion; ISKCON and Hinduism; Distinctive Views and Practices[of ISKCON]; A History of ISKCON; ISKCON Worldwide; Engaging with the World; Teaching about Hindu Traditions; and Addressing Misconceptions.
In “Defining Hinduism,” Rasamandala discusses the history of the term, explaining, “Persians of the 8th century first used the term ‘Hindu’ to refer to the people beyond the River Indus. Only in the 19th century did European scholars coin the term ‘Hinduism’. They tried to understand and explain the indigenous Indian traditions through their own values and conceptual frameworks. Drawing from their own faith backgrounds, they defined Indian religion as a single, cohesive faith, which they designated ‘Hinduism.’”