Koenraad Elst in Who is a Hindu? claims the following:

6.7. Are travelling gurus Hindus?


The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) generally denies that it is Hindu, in spite of practising purely Hindu rituals and a purely Hindu lifestyle in the service of a purely Hindu god. That this policy is guided by petty calculations of self-interest is clear from the cases where ISKCON exceptionally does claim to be Hindu, viz. when collecting money from Hindus.

A former ISKCON member explains: that ISKCON is non-Hindu “is clearly evident in the writings and lectures of Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON’s founder, as well as in the day-to-day preaching statements of its members and current-day leaders. What is especially troubling is that ISKCON periodically does claim to be a Hindu organization. Unfortunately, these claims on the part of ISKCON occur when, and only when, it serves the legal and financial interests of the sect. Thousands of unsuspecting Indian Hindus have been persuaded to contribute funds to the group with the reassurance that they were supporting ‘Hinduism’, ‘Hindu’ temples and the printing of ‘Hindu’ books.”

My question is, how does ISKCON currently identify itself? Does it still consider itself, Hindu, at times and at other times, non-Hindu?

  • 4
    @Partha where does the sanatana dharma prohbit foreigners from practicing it? Where does Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita that only Indians can follow my instruction? Mar 5, 2019 at 4:25
  • 3
    @sv can you please define Hindu? I know what ISKCON identifies as however I am not sure how you define hindu. If a person keeps Gita or some puran in house and goes on to drink and eat meat, is he considered a hindu? Mar 5, 2019 at 4:27
  • @sidharthchhabra The Sanatana dharma follows the rules of the smritis. Gita also says: svadharme nidhanam sreyah paradharmo bhayabaha. Moreover, no foreigner can be converted to brahmins as per the Smrities.Gita says that the Scriptures must be followed (16-23/24)
    – user17294
    Mar 5, 2019 at 4:29
  • 4
    @Partha Lord Krishna says in BG 4.13 that one becomes a varna by quality. vedabase.com/bg/4/13 Before I pull out a million verses from Smrti to support my case, the Bhagavad Gita itself is answering against your opinion. Lord Krishna is arguing for varna system not based on where you are born but how you conduct. Would you consult a doctor if he is born amongst the doctors or if he is trained as a doctor? Similarly, a devotee or a follower of sanatana dharma is not known by his birth but his behavior. Mar 5, 2019 at 4:35
  • 1
    I can tell you Srila Prabhupada s statement ... can't tell about ISKCON stance now...But they hate the word 'Hindu' for sure.
    – RishX
    Mar 5, 2019 at 5:16

2 Answers 2


The FAQ available on ISKCON's official website clearly states:

Is ISKCON Hindu?

ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya (denomination or tradition), a monotheistic tradition within Vedic or Hindu culture.

Further, they claim that -

The word “Hindu” is not found in the ancient texts of India. The word originated as a designation for the people living in the vast regions east of the Sindhu River. Today, Hinduism has evolved into an umbrella term that refers to the “family of religions” based on the Vedic writings, including the major traditions Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism. Together, they make up the world’s third largest religion–today called Hinduism.

You can read more about it here.

To summarize, ISKCON considers itself to be part of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, which itself is part of Vedic or Hindu religion. However, they don't like the term Hindu as it is a foreign term given by Persians to people living across Sindhu river. ISKCON considers itself part of the Sanatana Dharma but disregards the term "Hindu".

  • @Partha yesterday was Maha ShivaRatri.. Mods would not have had that much time.
    – user2612
    Mar 5, 2019 at 8:21
  • 1
    On census form (example) do you know if ISKCON followers select 'Hinduism' as their religion or write 'other religion'? Mar 5, 2019 at 22:46
  • @sv. yes they do write as Hinduisn.Hinduism is 2.6% in Altai Republic of Russia due to ISKCON's effort.You can check the demographics online...
    – RishX
    Mar 6, 2019 at 5:59
  • @sv. Its more like they hate the term "Hinduism". They prefer to call themselves part of sanatana dharma..
    – RishX
    Mar 6, 2019 at 6:31
  • So you're saying they don't like the terms 'Hindu' or 'Hinduism' and yet on the census form they select 'Hinduism'? Let's say the form also had 'Krishnaism' & 'Sanatana Dharma' which one will they select? Mar 6, 2019 at 15:42

Many a times I have heard that question. And I think many people misunderstand the official stance of Iskcon on that question. Srila Prabhupada has often used to say to his disciples that in public they should never present their organisation and themselves as a Hindu. And because of that many people misunderstood that thing to mean that Srila Prabhupada refused to identify his Iskcon movement to be a Hindu organisation.

Srila Prabhupada said:

Hindu dharma is a vague term. Real dharma is varṇāśrama-dharma. Hindu dharma we don't find, any Vedic literature. Neither in the Bhagavad-gītā. It is a, a nomenclature given by the Muhammadans---"Hindus." From Sindhu, "Hindu." Anyway, now we are known as Hindus.

It's not that he did not recognise Iskcon as a Hindu, but he just wanted his movement and disciples to specify that they are Lord Krishna's people.

Srila Prabhupada said:

Prabhupāda: No, we are clearly stating "Kṛṣṇa consciousness."

Srila Prabhupada said:

They are attracted to Kṛṣṇa. These people, they are [Hindi]. But you are taking Kṛṣṇa as Hindu. That is your mistake. Kṛṣṇa is... Hindu ne. He is God. He is God. God Hindu ne, Mussulman ne, Christian ne, Parsi ne—God is God. [Hindi] And I am also not interested to preach Hindu dharma. [Hindi] ...Kṛṣṇa dharma. Kṛṣṇa consciousness, that is the only dharma. [Hindi] ...Kṛṣṇa literature. It is not a Hindu dharma literature. [Hindi]

So they are not interested in many gods, Durga, Kali, or Śiva, or... [Hindi] Strictly, if you take the version of Bhagavad-gītā, why Bhagavān says that "You give up all religion. Simply you take to the shelter of My feet?" That means to take shelter of Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet is the only religion.

He just wanted his movement and disciples to be recognised as Lord Krishna's people specifically, and not as Hindus which is one broad, unspecified and vague term.
This: "to take shelter of Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet is the only religion" -- to take shelter solely in Krishna is the only religion for Srila Prabhupada.
He is quoting a verse from the Bhagavad-gita 18.66:

Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.

In the above speech he translated that verse a bit different: "You give up all religion. Simply you take to the shelter of My feet".
So a Vaishnava should not be interested in other gods, Indra, Agni, Surya, Shiva, Durga, etc, and Gaudiya Vaishnavas even think that there is no need to be interested in other forms of Lord Vishnu such as Lakshmi-Narayana, Sita-Rama, etc, but only in Radha-Krishna!

  • Thanks for clarifying. I hv 2 questions :1) is varnashrama dharma identical with krishna dharma? 2) If not, which dharma is greater in glory ( u mebtion varnashrama dharma is real dhatma)? Thanks again.
    – user17294
    Mar 5, 2019 at 7:23
  • @Partha 1) Yes, it is, but there's also some difference. 2) SP (S. Prabhupada) often emphasized that Krishna dharma, ie dedicating our life solely to Lord Krishna, is the topmost dharma, while some people might think that varnashrama dharma is just a fulfillment of duties of varnas and ashrams but not necessarily solely dedication of our life to Krishna. For SP such understanding of the dharma is not the topmost dharma. Mar 5, 2019 at 7:54
  • Thanks again. 'Offering Varnashrama-Dharma' to Krishna was mentioned as the best Dharma by Mahaprabhu.What He did not accept was ignoring the scriptural injunctions and the entering into temples by non-hindus, as He was very pleased to see that Sri Rupa, Sri Sanatana and Sri Yavana Haridas never entered into the Jagannath temple. So Mahaprabhu's way was to maintain the maryada of the shastras and offer all dharma and everything to Sri Krishna. It is here where lies the difference with some of His present followers.
    – user17294
    Mar 5, 2019 at 8:08
  • @Partha I'm not sure what he said about Jagannath temple, but I'm sure that he believed every human on this earth planet can become a soul surrendered to Lord Krishna. Mar 5, 2019 at 8:24
  • 1
    Wonderful discussions. I would like to just bring in, that varnasrama dharma is actually meant for pleasing Lord. Just following prescribed duties is not perfection, The highest perfection of Varnasrama dharma can be achieved only by pleasing Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna. (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.13) prabhupadabooks.com/sb/1/2/13 Oct 9, 2020 at 5:32

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .