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Examine how the 'structures and organisation' prevalent in the new religious movement ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) contrast from those of traditional Hinduism?

The religion of India and its related customs and traditions have existed for over four thousand years. The oldest of any organised religious movements has over 943 million followers, making it the third largest world religion. It has no founder, rather as Bhaskarananda (2002) discusses, ancient Indian sages founded the religion through realization of the eternal truths and philosophies. Flood (2001) discusses the religion and states that Hindu identity as recognised today developed during the 19th century (Flood 2001: 3). Hinduism's structure can be likened to a tree in that its central trunk of philosophy has existed for thousands of years and new factions or movements within Hinduism have branched off and developed from the essential philosophy, all searching for a path to a shared goal. Conversely Flood discusses Faure's river theory in which the different streams of Hinduism have combined to form a core which is used to define Hinduism as it is today (Flood 2001: 9, Faure 13-14). The essential goal for Hindus is escape or moksha from the cycle of reincarnation, samsara. What differs from one Hindu to another is the means or ways to get to moksha.

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness organization (ISKCON movement as it will be referred to from hereon in), also referred to as the Hare Krishna movement was brought to western attention by the Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who promoted his philosophy and proselytized his faith in America during the 1960s. The ISKCON movement is an example of a transfer of foreign religious ideology from one country to another. Its substance as a devotional religion emulates that of existing monotheistic religions in the west and became popular with the counter culture during the 1960s. Since its inception ISKCON has gained over 250,000 members Prabhupada became the founding figure of the movement and his revered by the followers of the movement today.

Just as the Hindu Brahman and gurus who descend from spiritual lines of succession, followers believe ISKON's leader Prabhupada also follows a line of succession, spiritually connected directly to Krishna (as noted in volume 10 of Back to Godhead the official magazine of Hare Krishna, p29). Both religions have temples of worship, and most Hindu temples welcome ISKON followers. ISKON and Hindus read from the same texts (although placing differing importance on particular texts) and share many philosophies. Many Hare Krishna members take to the streets in order to promote their religion and fundraise for the development of the religion and support of its members, something not performed by Hindus.

From this brief examination of Hinduism and International Society for Krishna Consciousness there are clear similarities between the philosophical and structure of bhakti Vaishnava Hinduism with ISKON followers, not so much with Hinduism as a whole. The defined separation of Hinduism and ISKCON is strange as historically Hinduism has been a generous, inclusive movement incorporating different traditions which use and venerate Hindu scripture and Hindu figures. On the face of it ISKCON is clearly a Hindu based religious movement but as Gavin and others have discussed, many of Hinduism's authority figures denounce the apparent connection; doubting ISKCON's authenticity as an Indian religion because of its seemingly western ideas and high population of western, non-Indian members. However in both spiritual and leadership structure the two religions have much in common.

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