New Book Alert: Hare Krishna Transformed
Posted April 14, 2007
E. Burke Rochford, Jr.
"Longtime Hare Krishna observer Rochford shows that devotees, formerly
known for their public chanting and controversial fundraising practices,
have largely moved out of the temples, taken jobs, and established nuclear
families. Using survey data and extensive interviews, Rochford investigates
the attitudes of the original members' children (some of whom suffered abuse
in the early Hare Krishna schools), the changing roles of women, differing
modes of affiliation with the organization, and the increasing influence of
Indian Hindu immigrants in what is formally known as the International
Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). His findings are generally clear
and convincing, and he lets the devotees speak for themselves in frequent
quotes. . . . This story of accommodation within a movement that forged its
identity through strict rejection of secular culture provides valuable
insight into how new religions evolve."
"Burke Rochford is the most notable scholarly interpreter of Krishna Consciousness in America, and Hare Krishna Transformed is the most insightful and informative book written on the organizational evolution of the movement."
-David G. Bromley, Virginia Commonwealth University
Most widely known for its adherents chanting "Hare Krishna" and distributing religious literature on the streets of American cities, the Hare Krishna movement was founded in New York City in 1965 by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Formally known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON, it is based on the Hindu Vedic scriptures and is a Western outgrowth of a popular yoga tradition which began in the 16th century.
In its first generation ISKCON actively deterred marriage and the nuclear family, denigrated women, and viewed the raising of children as a distraction from devotees' spiritual responsibilities. Yet since the death of its founder in 1977, there has been a growing women's rights movement and also a highly publicized child abuse scandal. Most strikingly, this movement has transformed into one that now embraces the nuclear family and is more accepting of both women and children, steps taken out of necessity to sustain itself as a religious movement into the next generation. At the same time, it is now struggling to contend with the consequences of its recent outreach into the India-born American Hindu community.
Based on three decades of in-depth research and participant observation, Hare Krishna Transformed explores dramatic changes in this new religious movement over the course of two generations from its founding.
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