As we know,ISKCON is a Gaudiya Vaishnava organization. Gaudiya is a Krishna centric Vaishnava sect. So their Ishta is Krishna. For those who don't know, ishta is one's preferred form of God.

Though we know from Chaitanya Charitamrita that Chaitanya himself allowed Murari Gupta to worship Rama as his ishta. But this doesn't mean that ISKCON also follows it. Like Chaitanya also worshipped Durga and Shiva,but ISKCON refers to them as "demigods" which is an UnVedic term.

Regardless I want to know if worshipping Rama and Vishnu (and other incarnations) as Ishta is allowed in ISKCON which is a Krishna centric organization.


As stated in comments, other Vaishnava deities ARE worshipped in ISKCON temples. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that ISKCON also allows their followers to worship other Avatars as their Ishta.

  • 1
    Srila Prabhupada (Gaudiya Vaishnava Acarya) used the word ‘demigods’ in line with the verse ekale īśvara kṛṣṇa, āra saba bhṛtya (Only the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, is master, and all others are servants) and many other similar ones in Sanskrit and Bengali which are part of the Vaishnava Philosophy.
    – user20251
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 20:44
  • @Hadaisutadas I know he used demogods to refer all non-Vishnu divinities. He even refered Shiva and Devi as demigods.But demigods literally means offsprings of Gods and Humans. Sort of like Hercules in ancient Greek Religion.In indian case pandavas should ve been described as demigods.. I feel Srila Prabhupada should have used the word "Deva" as it is quite appropriate in Sanskrit and has no translation in english.
    – RishX
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 16:20
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    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 6:21
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5 Answers 5


No, You can't! They strictly believe that Krishna is the Supreme God which they refer to as the Supreme Personality of Godhead in their books. Rest other forms of God are either HIS expansion or demigods. Ram and Vishnu are also considered Krishna's expansion. They quote Srimad Bhagavatam 1.3.28 to validate this point. Moreover, according to ISKCON, only Krishna posses all the opulence and 64 qualities in totality. But keep in mind that there are also numerous proofs of Krishna represented as an incarnation of Vishnu in the Puranas.

So, according to me if you want to consider Ram or Vishnu as ishta, ISKCON may not be the best place for you. Yet, even if you join the Hare Krishna cult, you will, at last, find yourself doing what they are doing - considering Krishna as the only and supreme God and worshipping only HIM.


OK ! No Problem at all !!

(All the queries in the question seems like complaining about a spiritual organisation. The findings are like misinterpretions about any religious belief/sect.)

The Chhandogyopanishada tells about expansions of eternity which is descending from the One Supreme towards the material existence of five elements, "eko aham bahu syam".

तत इक्षत बहु स्यां प्रजायेयेति तत्तेजोऽसृजत तत्तेज ऐक्षत बहु स्यां प्रजायेयेति तदपोऽसृजत | तस्माद्यत्र क्वच शोचति स्वेदते वा पुरुषस्तेजस एव तदध्यापो जायन्ते || (६.२.३)

"Tat ikshata bahu syaam prajaayeyeti tattejosrijata tatteja aiksata bahu syaaṃ prajaayeyeti tadaposrijata tasmaadyatra kvaca shochati svedate va puruṣastejasa eva tadadhyaapo jaayante"(6.2.3)

That Existence decided: ‘I shall be many. I shall manifest Myself.’ He then created fire. That fire also decided: ‘I shall be many. I shall be born.’ Then fire generated water. That is why whenever or wherever a person mourns or perspires, s/he produces water.

Now, let's come to the original point of the eternity and its descending transcendence within the eternal existence.

Rama as Radhika-Raman is Krishna Himself. And otherwise, Balarama, Raja Ramachandra and Parshu Rama are Lilavatars, eternal manifestations of Krishna, with pastimes in mundane worlds, through Vishnu.

Similarly, Anant-Vishnu* is Krishna Himself. And other Vishnu forms (Karanodsayi, Garbodsayi and kshirodsayi) are eternal personality expansions or Purushavataras of Krishna thru Sankarshan & Narayan¤.

By the way, the ISKCON uses in the literature some phrases, focusing at western world audience who have greek-roman civilization rooted educational background, the Big-demigods for the Mahadevas and demigods for devas like agni, vayu. Infact, some deep studies of the Srimad Bhagvatam also revealed that the mahadevas are by the eternal existence, for the material control and the devas are by the material existence, for the material existence, so the names.

Nevertheless, Sanskrit root "maha(t)" literally means big in English. Correct!! And no harm in calling devas like indra, agni, vayu et al as demigods, isn't it. Interesting dogma here is, we easily accept these devas to be called as demigods but always dislike Mahadevas been called as Big-demigods. And also nothing like so-called un-Vedic here, so far as interpreting on a basis of the Sanskrit grammar.

And about ISKCON and other Gaudiyas; they follow their respective acharyas (spiritual masters) and not Lord Chaitanya, Who is accepted as Krishna Himself, in the mood of Radha's devotional ecstasy. Infact, nobody is capable of following what Lord Chaitanya did during His Pastimes. The ISKCON and the Gaudiyas, however, follow eight-fold instructions/teachings compiled by Lord Chaitanya Himself, and take help of the example set by their acharyas. (http://www.harekrsna.de/Siksastaka/Siksastakam-E.htm)

Yes. At all the ISKCON/Gaudiya temples in the morning prayers (mangala arti) Tulsi arti is sung as "vishnu bhakti pradde devi, satyavatiyye namo namah..". So, Vishnu (Krishna) bhakti is granted/fortified by Tulsi devi. In the Juhu (Mumbai) ISKCON temple especially, Ram-Laxman-Sita deity is worshipped. But, who told you Krishna is worshipped as ishta in ISKCON. The ISKCON and/or the other Gaudiyas have no such system of ishta.

Moreover, the ISKCON literature depicts that; normally in the so-called Hindu societies the concept of worshipping ishta or ishta-devta was introduced to convince people involved in polytheism (mutiple gods theory) to worship impersonal Brahman by selecting only one personal form or ishta-devta. Especially, so because the impersonalists have made a philosophy that by becoming devoted to any one of them you will attain Brahman. So they call these deities as ishta devata. Perhaps, inspired by the dramatic success of foreign sophistry based religious literature, the "ishta" system was embedded in some Indian scripture, afterwards in the medieval times. In modern days, we find them propagating concept of "ishta-devta" as analogous to a microphone which amplifies the meditational voice to their impersonal God.

Anyways, asking/mooting such points is considered as good as negating Krishna's teachings in the B.Gita chapter #7 & 12. When we have asked the ISKCON practicing devotees about the same, they first denied commenting on such enquiries, based on impersonal monotheism. They said the Bhagavatam (1.3.28) clears that "Krishnastu Bhagvan Svayam". So, the ISKCON philosophy of monotheism respects every servant of Bhagvan, equally They follow the spiritual instructions based on the B.Gita and the Bhagvatam.

That is further explained as; in spiritual and material domains, any work (action) is done for some cause. As a slave is for the master; the action, "karyam" is for a "kaaranam", a cause. And "kaarnam bina karyam kadachit na vidyate", and that's why there is no work (action) without its cause. The Svetasvatar Upnishada (6.8) says God only exists beyond this cause-action relationship, "na tasya kāryaṃ karaṇaṃ ca vidyate ..". He is the supreme master and supreme cause of every cause, eternal and mundane, but He Himself has no cause. He is the supreme cause of His personal and impersonal causes too (Bh.Gita #14.27).

*The Bhagavatam, the eternal Gopis sing His glories as "Anant-Vishnu" in His Infinite transcendental characteristics but they reject Krishna as "Purna" Narayana in His complete features manifestation, at their supreme exalted stage of devotion. This we also find in famous prayers of the "Damodar-ashtakam" by Satyavrata Muni. Here, "Ananta-Vishnu" should not to be confused with the deity "anantasesha-vishnu".

¤The Ishopanishada and other Vedic Upnishadas salute Mahavishnu and Narayan as "Purna" or complete, because of possessing all the six spiritual opulences. Krishna, however, is beyond these complete divine features and is infinite in any sense of divinity. Krishna is the only real "kartum-akartum-anyathakartum" samartha.

  • 3
    This doesn't answer my question. I know that Vishnu,Rama and other avtars of Vishnu are worshipped in ISKCON temples. I want to know if one can worship them as their Ishta instead of Krishna.
    – RishX
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 18:06
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    – Pandya
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 13:14
  • 2
    Make your answer clear and specific. In the present form it looks hard to recognize whether it answers the question or not.
    – Pandya
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 13:16
  • @Pandya try and understand. we have answered all the six queries including the main question.
    – user30612
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 15:06
  • 1
    Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged - hinduism.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/edit
    – Pandya
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 16:21

I don't think it's allowed. According to ISKCON's Kṛṣṇa Consciousness Handbook (page 25), one of the qualifications of a devotee is to be "completely attached to Kṛṣṇa".

Qualifications of a Devotee

These twenty-six qualifications of a devotee are listed in the Vedic Scripture Caitanya-caritāmṛta.

  1. Kind to everyone
  2. Does not quarrel with anyone
  3. Fixed in the Absolute Truth
  4. Equal to everyone
  5. Faultless
  6. Charitable
  7. Mild
  8. Clean
  9. Simple
  10. Benevolent
  11. Peaceful
  12. Completely attached to Kṛṣṇa
  13. Has no material hankering
  14. Meek
  15. Steady
  16. Self-controlled
  17. Does not eat more than required
  18. Sane
  19. Respectful
  20. Humble
  21. Grave
  22. Compassionate
  23. Friendly
  24. Poetic
  25. Expert
  26. Silent

The above list appears to be based on these verses from Caitanya-caritāmṛta:

Library » Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta » Madhya-līlā » CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CC Madhya 22.78-80

kṛpālu, akṛta-droha, satya-sāra sama
nidoṣa, vadānya, mṛdu, śuci, akiñcana

sarvopakāraka, śānta, kṛṣṇaika-śaraṇa
akāma, anīha, sthira, vijita-ṣaḍ-guṇa

mita-bhuk, apramatta, mānada, amānī
gambhīra, karuṇa, maitra, kavi, dakṣa, maunī


kṛpālu — merciful; akṛta-droha — not defiant; satya-sāra — thoroughly truthful; sama — equal; nidoṣa — faultless; vadānya — magnanimous; mṛdu — mild; śuci — clean; akiñcana — without material possessions; sarva-upakāraka — working for the welfare of everyone; śānta — peaceful; kṛṣṇa-eka-śaraṇaexclusively surrendered to Kṛṣṇa; akāma — desireless; anīha — indifferent to material acquisitions; sthira — fixed; vijita-ṣaṭ-guṇa — completely controlling the six bad qualities (lust, anger, greed, etc.); mita-bhuk — eating only as much as required; apramatta — without inebriation; māna-da — respectful; amānī — without false prestige; gambhīra — grave; karuṇa — compassionate; maitra — a friend; kavi — a poet; dakṣa — expert; maunī — silent.


Devotees are always merciful, humble, truthful, equal to all, faultless, magnanimous, mild and clean. They are without material possessions, and they perform welfare work for everyone. They are peaceful, surrendered to Kṛṣṇa and desireless. They are indifferent to material acquisitions and are fixed in devotional service. They completely control the six bad qualities — lust, anger, greed and so forth. They eat only as much as required, and they are not inebriated. They are respectful, grave, compassionate and without false prestige. They are friendly, poetic, expert and silent.

So, if Murari Gupta were alive today he may not qualify as an ISKCON devotee.

  • Interesting! "Completely attached to Kṛṣṇa" is point number 12 and not 1.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 5:35
  • But Don't they consider all incarnations as 'expansions of Krishna"?. In many centers they have only Nitai Gaura no Radha Krishna. Also they worship Lord Rama Narsimha etc in their centers.
    – RishX
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 17:06
  • Do they worship other gods including Chaitanya occasionally or as iṣṭa? Is your question about general worship or worship of iṣṭa? I don't think simply having an idol of Chaitanya or Rama at an ISKCON temple mean Chaitanya or Rama is the iṣṭa devata at that temple or for the devotees there. @RishX Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 21:10
  • @sv. I know about general worship. My question is if a concept of Ishta exists in ISKCON. I assume it does. As you said simply having idols of Chaitanya doesn't mean that they worship Chaitanya as their ishta but worshipping ONLY Chaitanya without Krishna doesn't it violate the qualification of complete attachment to Krishna?If not I don't think there is problem with having Chaitanya as ishta. But what about Rama and Vishnu?
    – RishX
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 13:27
  • I thought your question was "I want to know if worshipping Rama and Vishnu (and other incarnations) as Ishta is allowed in ISKCON?" -- this is what I attempted to answer here. If you are saying there are a few ISKCON temples where the main/only deity is not Krishna, then it should probably be a different question or you should update your question with that new information? @RishX Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 2:07

Depends specifically what is your meaning of "Ishta" here. If u mean "The source of all Incarnations" then no, that place is only for Svayam Bhagavan Krishna within the Gaudiya Tradition.

However based on your inclination u may Worship other forms of the lord as your Ishta or Ultimate Goal & destination & reach them & serve them.

There are examples of Acharyas like Sri Murari Gupta Prabhu who was a Rama Bhakta & considered bhagvan Rama as Ishta although was clear in Gaudiya Conceptions of Siddhant & Mahaprabhu was very happy from his Bhakti.

However such cases are very rare. Because Bhakti is not Inherent in the Jiva according to Gaudiyas, hence whatever type of Association & Guru one will have that will decide ones inheritance and mood from them.


In vaiShNava traditions where kruShNa is considered as supreme and source of all incarnations, the kruShNa referenced is kruShNa (goloka).

This kruShNa (goloka) is not exactly same as kruShNa (mathurA) in terms of cosmology of those vaiShNava traditions.

In cosmology of those traditions kruShNa (goloka) is the supreme entity and it is kruShNa (goloka) who takes avtArs like viShNu, rAma, kruShNa (mathurA), etc.

Now out of all these incarnations kruShNa (mathurA) has lot of things common with kruShNa (goloka) like rasa leela etc. and hence the confusion. Many people also refer to the two kruShNas interchangeably and this adds to further confusion.

Worshipping viShNu & rAma will be at par with worshipping kruShNa (mathurA) and there should be no problem here.

  • I agree with your answer.Actually like Lord Krishna has Goloka in Vaikuntha, similarly there is Saket/Ayodhya loka in Vaikuntha for Lord Rama.Lord Vishnu's abode is there aswell. Even other avatars have their abodes. Lord Shiva and Maa Durga too. I agree with your answer but please also give some references from ISKCON works or from Srila Prabhupada's books/conversations etc so I can select your answer.
    – RishX
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 14:26
  • texts like skanda purana, brahma vaivarta purana, etc. do mention origin of universe from kruShNa-goloka which you can refer. Those texts clearly mention goloka as source of everything.
    – ekAntika
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 17:38

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