Getting the Details on the modern Hare Krishna movement

This piece reminds me of the Vanity Fair one on Ashtanga from a few years back.

It looks from a distance at something that seems to be gaining in popularity, and then it tries to make some sense of things. Unlike the Vanity Fair story, though, this one doesn’t find any particular controversy. But the theme of yoga, meditation, mindfulness and vegetarianism slowly taking root in the West feels very familiar.

It’s from Details magazine earlier this month, and the subject is “modern” Hare Krishna / ISKCON:

Nowadays, many people are flat-out running. Nearly 50 years after Srila Prabhupada journeyed from India to America to bring the new teachings of Krishna to a generation of Western burnouts, Hare Krishnas have moved out of the airports, into the streets, and into the cubicle right next to yours. The sect’s once-exotic-sounding core practices of mindfulness and vegetarianism—the very beliefs that early on relegated it to the “freak” aisle—have spread virally, turning America into a postmodern ashram. We don’t pray anymore; we go on Facebook to ask that good thoughts and positive energy be magically zapped to us. We don’t plant our dead in the ground; we feed their ashes to the cosmos. We seek out veggie burgers and lie to ourselves about the deliciousness of kale while contorting our bodies into wordless physical devotionals. Yes, Christianity and Islam may have the numbers, but Hare Krishna—the little sect that could—is winning the culture war.


On the surface, Hare Krishna’s estimated North American membership of 100,000 doesn’t seem that impressive. But that number undervalues the religion’s ability to be consumed in à la carte fashion. With Hare Krishna—one of the youngest branches of Hinduism’s 4,000-year-old tree—there is no commitment, just a loosey-goosey to-do list of daily chanting and meditation, a handful of no-no’s (no meat, no illicit sex, no gambling, no intoxication), and a deities-welcome policy that merely holds Lord Krishna up as the CEO. The 20 million of us practicing yoga, the 7 million of us eating vegetarian, and the many thousands of us lost in meditation might not self-identify as Hare Krishna, but we are clearly getting a stiff secondhand hit of the group’s gateway drug.

A maybe interesting weekend read.

Posted by Steve