When we need to prove our authenticity legally, before governments and to society at large, we are Hindu. When ISKCON came under attack, Srila Prabhupada even had the head of the VHP write a letter stating that we were Hindus.
Societies Opinion: In society's opinion we are Hindus, as Hindu for them refers to any authentic religious tradition of Indian origin. Whether we agree with the term or not, or wither they specifically know what they mean by the term or not, we are Hindu and thus we are authentic. In their opinion our books, Deities and rituals are all Hindu.
Our View: In the absolute sense we are not Hindu; as God, the soul, and the process of devotional service are not of an Indian ethnic origin, but rather, remain far beyond all worldly designations. However socially and culturally it cannot be denied- we are conservative Hindus.
The Way Forward: We have to work with both this absolute and relative understanding according to time, place, circumstance and our audience. There are two levels of understanding, one is general and the other specific. On this matter we are often confused as an institution and we are confusing and upsetting others. No doubt there are gains to be had and losses to be incurred in accepting the nomenclature ‘Hinduism'. Neither can we fully accept or reject the identity. Amongst the gains there is acceptance, recognition, influence and opportunity. On the downside we may be viewed as a mundane religion and misunderstood to be only catering to born Hindus. Therefore, when we are asked if we are Hindus, we would do well to answer the question strictly according to the time, place and circumstance and more than anything: in line with Srila Prabhupada.
The following is a quote from Srila Prabhupada describing the same. It is from a letter to his disciple Janamajaya:
"Regarding your questions: Hindu means the culture of the Indians. India happens to be situated on the other side of the Indus River which is now in Pakistan which is spelled Indus—in Sanskrit it is called Sindhu. The Sindhu was misspelled by the Europeans as Indus, and from Indus the word "Indian'' has come. Similarly the Arabians used to pronounce Sindus as Hindus. This Hindus is spoken as Hindus. It is neither a Sanskrit word nor is it found in the Vedic literatures. But the culture of the Indians or the Hindus is Vedic and beginning with the four varnas and four asramas. So these four varnas and four asramas are meant for really civilized human race. Therefore the conclusion is actually when a human being is civilized in the true sense of the term he follows the system of varna and asrama and then he can be called a "Hindu.'' Our Krsna Consciousness Movement is preaching these four varnas and four asramas, so naturally it has got some relationship with the Hindus. So Hindus can be understood from the cultural point of view, not religious point of view. Culture is never religion. Religion is a faith, and culture is educational or advancement of knowledge."
In this quote Srila Prabhupada explains the term Hindu to mean the varnasrama culture of Indians, however he then extends it to include any true civilized human being who follows the varnasrama culture. Thus, inferring that we are Hindu (we are civilized humans endeavoring to follow varnasrama and not necessarily all Indians).
In stating that we have a relationship with Hindus, but clearly differentiating between culture and religion, we can understand that our relationship is restricted to culture and not religion. In this case we have to take the meaning of the word religion to be the eternal spiritual constitution of the soul or Santana dharma. It is not always that Srila Prabhupada uses the word religion in this context. In the Gita 4.7 he uses the word alternatively referring to varnasrama- ‘The higher principles of religion begin with the acceptance of the four orders and the four statuses of social life, as will be explained later.' Again he states the same in the SB1.23.24 ‘The system of varnasrama religion sets aside a part of one's life completely for the purpose of self-realization and attainment of salvation in the human form of life.' Therefore the type of religion Prabhupada is distinguishing from varnasrama in the above quote is the eternal function of the soul, Santana dharma which is transcendental to varnasrama culture.
We can therefore conclude on the basis of this quote that culturally we may be acknowledged as Hindus, however our eternal religion is beyond the limitations of this designation.
Without this higher knowledge or belief, scholars and faith leaders cannot understand why we would have a problem being recognized as the third largest religion in Britain (Hinduism), a religion which is most ancient, authentic and credible. They see that everything from our scriptures to our rituals, to our dress are Hindu. When we are adamant that we are not Hindus, it leaves them without a category for us except for the unsavory ones like cult, new religion or sect. Some have even called us ‘the Hindus who say they are not Hindus.' Not necessarily believing in the eternal constitution of all souls as we see it, and acknowledging the salient characteristics of our movement, scholars continue to define us in terms of culture and society. Regardless of what we say, Hindu it is, and that is within parameters that were acceptable to Srila Prabhupada.
The matter is not at all ambiguous. Prabhupada's recorded statements and personal example in dealings, when taken on the whole make practical and spiritual sense. He accepted the Hindu designation for his movement, but never over extended the definition to include the soul's constitution.
The following are a collection of quotes by Srila Prabhupada that specifically focus on identifying ourselves as Hindus:
Lecture NY 2.12 1966
"Now, this Bhagavad-gita was spoken in India, and it is understood that it is a scripture of the Hindus. But why...? Now, you are Americans. You are also keeping this Bhagavad- gita, and not only in America, in other countries also, in Germany. In Germany there are great, great scholars, in England, in Japan, in all countries. So why? Because it is spoken by a great personality. Apart from... We may... We Hindus, we accept Him the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but others, even not accepting Him the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they accept it as, at least, that He was a great personality. Therefore, besides the Hindu community, others, they are also consulting the knowledge…."
"So here is an authority, Sri Krishna. Authority. His authority, authorityship, is accepted by all over the world. In, in our India there are five different disciplic succession of authorities, just like the Shankarites, followers of Shankaracarya, and Vaisnavites. Generally, they are two: Mayavadis, impersonalists; and personalists. The personalist school, philosophers, they are divided into four: Ramanuja-sampradaya—that means followers of Acarya Ramanuja; Madhvacarya-sampradaya, or the followers of Madhvacarya; Nimbarka-sampradaya, followers of Nimbarka Acarya; and Visnu Svami-sampradaya. They, their conclusion is the same. Although they are four in number, their conclusion is the same. And another sect is Shankarite sampradaya. So all these four, I mean, five different section of the Hindus, they accept Sri Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All of them. There is no denial. Although they are five, they have got different theses and philosophies, little, little difference, not, I mean, conclusion, but still... Now, Sripada Sankaracarya, he, he is supposed, he is considered to be impersonalist. Impersonalist means he does not believe in the personal form of God. But still, he has commented in this, of this Bhagavad-gita …."
Comment: Herein Srila Prabhupada refers to we (early ISKCON) and the four Vaisnava Sampradayas (of which we are one) as Hindu.
Lecture NY BG 4.6-8 1966
"That is vandanam. Vandanam. Vandanam means offering prayers. You also offer prayer to the Supreme Lord. So that is also accepted as devotional service. Muslims also, they go to the Mosque and offer prayers to Allah. So practically... And in Buddhism... Lord Buddha is accepted as incarnation of Krishna in Srimad-Bhagavatam. So we also, Hindus, we worship Lord Buddha as incarnation of God".
Comment: Again Srila Prabhupada refers to early ISKCON as Hindu.
Lecture Bombay 4.18 1974
"We are recognized outside the world as "Hindus." The "Hindu" word is a foreign word. Actually, India's position or bharatiya kristi,(?) bharatiya civilization, is varnasrama-dharma".
Comment: Here Srila Prabhupada acknowledges the fact that we are recognized as Hindus.
Lecture Vrindavan SB 1.2.28 1972
"Hindu dharma is a vague term. Real dharma is varnasrama-dharma. Hindu dharma we don't find in any Vedic literature. Neither in the Bhagavad-gita. It is a, a nomenclature given by the Muhammadans—"Hindus." From Sindhu, "Hindu." Anyway, now we are known as Hindus. The "Hindu" is a vague term. Real term is varnasrama, varnasrama, four varnas and four asramas. This is dharma and this is given by God Himself. Just like Krsna says, catur-varnyam maya sristam guna-karma-vibhagasa [Bg. 4.13]. It is given by God. You cannot manufacture dharma, religion. No. Dharmam tu sakshad bhagavat-pranitam: [SB 6.3.19] "Dharma means the codes, the regulations given by God." That is dharma. That is dharma. Otherwise, it is not dharma."
Lecture Mayapur SB 1.8.33 1974
"The whole world, civilized world, they have got some religion-Christian religion, Muhammadan religion, Hindu religion, Buddhist religion, and many other subordinate religions. Under the groups of Christian, there are so many churches-Protestant, Catholic. In the Muhammadans, they have got Shiya, Suni, Sek,(?) so many. In Hindus also, Vaisnavas and shaktas and Sauras, Ganapatyas, so many. But Krishna says that "All of them, seeking after Me." Mama vartmanuvartante partha sarvasah: "Everyone, they may go on under different religious systems, but the aim is how to approach Me." Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah [Bg. 15.15]."
Comment: In this case Srila Prabhupada states exactly what our ISKCON communications are saying today, that we are a Vaisnava tradition within the broader culture of Hinduism.
Lecture Bombay SB 3.26.43
"Now, the position is how to know God. How to know God. So God know, it is very easy. If you don't chant... Suppose if I say that "By chanting Hare Krishna mantra you will know God," you may think that "Why shall I chant Hare Krishna mantra? I belong to different religion. Why shall I chant this Hindus' Hare Krishna mantra?" Then all right, you do not chant Hare Krishna mantra, but you try to understand God in your daily life. What is that? That satisfaction by drinking water. Raso 'ham apsu kaunteya [Bg. 7.8]. Everyone drinks water. Either you become Hindu, Muslim, Christian, you have to drink water. And after drinking water, when you feel satisfaction, as it is said, tapa apanodah, the tiresomeness immediately annihilated, immediately diminished, satisfies, so that satisfaction is Krishna, or God. Krishna says. So you haven't got to search out Krishna anywhere".
Comment: Srila Prabhupada acknowledges that our mantra is viewed as Hindu.
Lecture Surat SB 6.1.39 1970
"All the acaryas. All the acaryas. So far we are concerned, we Indians, Hindus, we are very controlled by the acaryas, recent acaryas—Shankaracarya, Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Vishnu Svami. They have accepted Vedas as supreme."
Comment: Srila Prabhupada refers to personal and impersonal schools as Hindus. We are of course contained within the personal category.
Lecture Bhuvaneswar CC ML 8.128 1977
"Go on reading. [break] ...movement here giving this yajnopavita to the Europeans and Americans because they are now qualified. So sometimes we are criticized in the fact. We are increasing the number of Hindus. Unfortunately these, our these European and American disciples, these so-called brahman priests of Jagannatha Puri, they do not allow."
Comment: Now in a broader sense Srila Prabhupada refers to his western followers as Hindus. In response to the rule of ‘no non Hindus' allowed into the Jagannatha temple, Srila Prabhupada in objection categorizes his own followers as Hindus.
Lecture Hydrabad Vyasapuja 1976
"Cow dung is the stool of an animal. Vedic injunction is that if you touch cow dung..., any stool of an animal, you have to take immediately bath and purify yourself. But the Vedic injunction is also that cow dung can purify any impure place. Especially we Hindus, we accept it. Now by reason it is contradictory. The stool of an animal is impure, and the Vedic injunction is cow dung is pure. Actually we accept cow dung as pure to purify any place. Out of panca-gavya the cow dung is there, cow urine is there."
Comment: No qualms here, this attitude to cow dung is a cultural matter and in this sense Srila Prabhupada accepts- we are Hindus.
Lecture NY On Mahamantra 1966
Then how to catch up the Absolute Truth? What is the way? Now, dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam: "Therefore the Absolute Truth is concealed within your heart." Nihitam guhayam. Now, mahajano yena gatah sa panthah: [Cc. Madhya 17.186] "You just try to follow the great personalities, what they are doing, what they are doing." Now, about this mahajana, there is also difference of opinion who is mahajana. But so far our Vedic culture is concerned, there are specific mention, mahajana. And so far Lord Krishna is concerned, so there is no two opinions about His authority throughout the whole world. And so far we are concerned, Hindus, or the followers of the Vedic religion, there is no difference of opinion so far Krishna's authority is concerned. There are five authorities, recognized authorities, in India so far this is..., spiritual life is concerned. One of them is Sri Ramanujacarya and other is Sankaracarya. The other is Madhvacarya, other is Vishnu Svami, and other Nimbarka, Nimbaditya (?). Principal. The whole, I mean, some of them flourished, say, two thousand years before; some of them 1,500 years before; some of them eleven hundred years before.
Lecture Bhuvaneswara 1977
Hari-sauri: You won't be speaking, Srila Prabhupada?
Prabhupada: No. He will explain in Oriya. [break] ...that is Vedic culture. As yesterday we were talking of varnasrama-dharma, four varnas and four asrama—brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya, sudra—so the Vedic culture means to execute the varnasrama-dharma. Now we are known as Hindus. The Hindu word is not to be found... [break] A little disturbance will mar the situation. So, Vedic culture means this varnasrama-dharma. The Muhammadans from the other side of river Sindhu, they have called us Hindu. Actually, this word "Hindu" you'll not find any Vedic scripture. So to accept this position-brahmacari, grihastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa—is compulsory. It is not that one has to take sannyasa as a fashion. No. Actually it is absolutely necessary for any person at the last stage of life to accept sannyasa. This Ramananda Raya also retired from the government service. He met Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised him that "Now you retire from your governorship and come to Jagannatha Puri, your home, and let us talk together about spiritual life." So in this way he retired. So all the associates of Caitanya Mahaprabhu-sri-rupa sanatana bhatta-raghunatha sri-jiva gopala-bhatta dasa-raghunatha-Six Gosvamis, the direct disciples of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they were all in renounced order of life. Then? Read. You read. You'll hear.
Morning Walk LA 1974
Bali Mardana: The newspaper said that it was the most favorite festival of all San Francisco, of all the festivals.
Prabhupada: So they have mentioned, "American Hindus." (chuckles) (pause) It is a dead blow to the material civilization: "No drinking and no intoxication, no meat-eating, no gambling, no illicit sex." Their whole civilization is finished. Because they stand on these things, four pillars.
Morning Walk Marine del ray LA 1974
Bali Mardana: In New York also, we have to do negotiations very secretly because if they find out, they would not want to sell to us. They would be afraid.
Prabhupada: Oh, New York, there was Ratha-yatra?
Bali Mardana: No, no. For purchasing the church.
Bali Mardana: They're also afraid that we will take over.
Prabhupada: But that is not yet finished.
Bali Mardana: Well, it is going on now. The one building is finished. Other building is still... Until we are living there...
Prabhupada: That, one Japanese gentleman wrote in a paper that "This Movement, as it growing fast, within ten years the whole world will become Hindu ."
Bali Mardana: Jaya. (laughter) [break]
Prabhupada: So even it is as it is, they may take in palanquin, but there must be a protest meeting continuously. Protest meeting and the Indians should approach the Ambassador that, "Represent our case to the Queen that Hindus are being harassed." This should be organized.
Bali Mardana: And also newspaper…….
Bali Mardana: They should have a protest meeting in front of the Parliament building, with signs.
Prabhupada: Protest meeting must be there. How to organize? At least, a protest meeting should be done in such a way that the whole world may know that the British Government stopped the yearly Ratha-yatra ceremony of the Hindus. That should be organized. What can be done? You are not very strong GBC's. There must be vehement protest meeting……
Comment: We now we see Srila Prabhupada instructing his disciples to build a case in response to harassment on the basis that we are Hindus.
Morning Walk Mayapur 1976
Acyutananda: I felt uncomfortable. He was clicking his teeth and moving his hands and talking very quickly. It was very uncomfortable just to be in his presence. I was very nervous. He actually contradicted himself. I was saying we should be respected in all Hindu temples. He says, "Yes, you are Hindus." He says, "Jains and Buddhists, they are also Hindus." I said, "How is that?" He says, "Who is Buddha?" I said, "He is incarnation of Krishna." He says, "No, aside from that, he is the son of a ksatriya." I said, "Then you are bringing it back to birth again." And then he started groping for words and avoiding it. They want to make a unity of Hindus so that they can always sway elections, so that Mohammedan and Christians do not change the election.
Prabhupada: And we want to make Mohammedans Hindus.
Comment: In this case Srila Prabhupada speaks of making Mohammedans devotees and thus refers to the converts as Hindus.
NY Court Case Vrindavan 1976
Gopala Krishna: They are saying, they are saying we are not Hindus.
Gopala Krishna: They are saying this is not Hinduism.
Prabhupada: Hindus, we are Krishnian. It they, if...
Prabhupada: Krishna, in the dictionary it is said, that Hindu God but we are claiming, that Krishnian, Krishna. Krishna conscious. Krishna conscious means "Godder than the Hindus." When you say we are not Hindu that we are not restricted with the Hindi community. That is the meaning. Because Krishna says, "I am for everyone." So why should we be restricted to the Hindi community. Krishna says sarva yonishu, "In all forms of life, I am the seed giving father." Why he should be simply Hindu? This point should be stressed. Sarva yoni means eighty four million..., eighty, eighty, eight million four hundred thousands, all forms. Krishna is for all of them. We therefore, why Krishna should be restricted to the Hindu community? Hindus are included but Krishna is not restricted to Hindus. Krishna's picture, that Bal Gopal. He's embracing the calves. Krishna does not embrace only the gopis, He's embracing the calves also. That is Krishna. He's equal to everyone. Mam hi partha vyapasritya ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah [Bg. 9.32]. Papa-yonayah, so many low-grade forms of life, they're also His.... Devotees are part and parcel. Mamaivamso ji... [Bg. 15.7]. Quote this: Krishna is not restricted to the Hindu. We say, "We are not Hindu," means we are not.... We embrace everyone. We are not restricted to the Hindus. The so-called Christians, so-called Mohammedans, they.... We embrace everyone, and actually we are doing that. Why should we simply be compact within the limitation of Hindus. That is not our purpose. Then we would not have come to western countries. We actually spreading universal brotherhood. Krishna is the father and everyone our brother. We are claiming, all our fallen brothers to become Krishna conscious. This is our movement. Caitanya Mahaprabhu (said) prithivite ache yata nagaradi grama, this is our movement. Why you should be restricted, to the India, and amongst the Hindus. Our (indistinct) they asked that "Go, go," bharata bhumite, you have taken birth in India, that's alright, make your life successful and go abroad, para upakara. Janma sarthaka kori koro para-upakara. This is our mission. We have come to you to make you civilized. This is our mission. And the best men of your country they are recommending. All the learned circle, they are coming. How can you defy us? If you have got brain.... You are trying to brainwash. Actually you have no brain, (indistinct) how important it is, this movement. You are trying to brainwash. We are not brainwashing. We are giving you good brain. That is our mission. That you are so dull-headed we have come to give you good brain. Su-medhasah. Yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi su-medhasah [SB 11.5.32]. We have come to make you intelligent. Receive us well, for your benefit. Tell them like that. Bring one court case, and I shall sit, go and sleep there. And expose them. Item by item. I know my case is strong.
Comment: Here we have and interesting case wherein Srila Prabhupada is recommending raising the support of the international Hindu community against an attack on his movement. In responding to the strategy of Hindu support, Gopal Krishna Maharaj is stating that the parents or courts will say that we are not Hindu. Answering to this Srila Prabhupada states that in his saying that ‘we are not Hindu', he is simply inferring that we are not just limited to Hindus. Giving such a rationalization of the statement would naturally infer that it doesn't mean we are not Hindus, it means we are not just restricted to Hindus.
Morning Walk Bombay 1976
Prabhupada: He has recommended our case, that "This is the only institution who is making the Christian Hindu. Before this movement the Christian converted Hindus. Nobody could convert the Christian to become Hindu. And this is the only movement that is converting Christian to Hindu." So he is very much in favor of this movement, and it is understood that he talked with Indira Gandhi in telephone. So maybe that if that Hindu movement is increasing and in India the cow slaughter is going on, and it is against Hindu, (they) might have considered like that.
Prabhupada: Ah, Chandra Swami, has strongly recommended that "This is the only movement which is converting Christian into Hindu." He is pleased on this account. He is not interested our Hare... He has said that "I am not very much interested in Hare Krsna, but I am interested in this point." That is natural, that nobody could convert the Christian to Hindu, but this movement is doing that."
Comment: In this conversation Srila Prabhupada is discussing with devotees and Hindu friends the present state of affairs in India in relation to cow protection. Quoting a politician Srila Prabhupada takes the full credit for converting Christians to Hinduism.
Room Conversation Bombay 1976
That is the defect. Therefore we did not get any benefit. And in the modern countries, before me, so many yogis, swamis have been there for the last two hundred years. Not a single person became a Hindu. Now they are calling (them) "American Hindus." Why? Because it was lost. Rotten thing was given…………
Here their son is lost, and they are now called "American Hindus." So naturally they are very much against me. And counter movement is going on. Hindus... The government...That this is not a religion. The swami knows some mind-controlling power and he's brainwashing. In this way, there is charge. So because America has got freedom of religion, so if they accept my movement as Hindu religion, they cannot do anything. People are free to accept. But they are giving in a different charge, that I have manufactured something, that no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no gambling. How people can accept all these things? They're brainwashed. There are so many charges. But anyone who comes to me, I don't make any compromise. Yes... (end)
Comment: Srila Prabhupada is clearly stating that we were charged with being a manufactured process, however the fact is something else – his movement is Hindu religion.
Conversation Bombay 9.1.77
…of thought? Then you are illegal. They want to think of Krishna, and you are checking. Then who is illegal? We have to put in that way, in their word, that "Then you have no right to check him about thinking of Krishna." This will be our argument. Yes. How you can check? Let him think of Krishna freely, because Krishna wants. Then you have to take Bhagavad-gita as illegal.
Hari-sauri: Yeah, if they condemn the whole thing, they have to condemn the whole, entire Hindu religion.
Prabhupada: That's it. We have to fight in that way.
Hari-sauri: This is really separating us from these other cults because most of these other cults, they have no defense because their whole thing is a concoction. But for ourselves, we're actually practicing a standard way of worship, and we have so many testimonials from actual Hindus themselves.
Prabhupada: No, outside scholars...
Hari-sauri: And from all the scholars and professors and everything.
Prabhupada: "It is bona fide thinking and you are checking."
Hari-sauri: What complicates it is they get ex-cult members to come and testify that "Yes, I was psychologically kidnapped. I was made into a robot just to think of God."
Hari-sauri: So the whole thing's become a very...
Prabhupada: We have to defend in our way. (end)
Comment: Again we have ISKCON taking its authenticity from Hinduism.
Conversation Mayapur 14.2.77
Prabhupada: Actually it is brainwash, ceto-darpana-marjanam [Cc. Antya 20.12], but it is for the good. People are suffering with these dirty things within the brain. We are washing them. That is brainwash actually.
Satsvarupa: "Indian Brain Research Association, Department of Biochemistry, University of Calcutta. Gentlemen: The Hare Krishna kirtana mantra used in meditation or chanting of Radha-Krishna has been practiced not only by the Vaishnavas of India, but by most of the Hindus as a regular religious and social practice in Hindu families. Millions of Hindus practice with sublime devotion the Hare Krishna mantra. We are not aware of any case where such practice has resulted in any detrimental effect to the health or mind of anyone. We can submit that the worshiping of Radha-Krishna, as being practiced in West Bengal, India, does not differ from that of the Hare Krishna mantra chanting of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. And as such, either of them cannot do any harm to the devotee or to the observer. Further we can add that the rhythmic dance and musical (Bengali:) svara in Hare Krishna kirtana mantra may have profound beneficial effect on a distorted human mind. These practices do not have any relation with brainwashing, although the word seems to carry no scientific meaning at all. Statement by Professor Ajit K. Mytee. Yours faithfully, J.J. Ghosh, President on behalf of the Indian Brain Research Association."
Prabhupada: It is good certificate. And University of Calcutta. So you publish this.
Letter to brahmacari 16.5.66
This is purely cultural programme for spreading the Hindu culture and if the Hindus have no such scope for spreading their culture then what is the meaning of independence? These points are to be raised and I think there must be some provision for such cultural propaganda because the Government has its own cultural ministry and they are spending millions and billions for this purpose. Please try for this first and foremost and if we are successful in getting the sanction then other things will follow automatically on this cultural programme. I hope you will follow the idea because you have done so many practical work in the mission."
Comment: In trying to get the Indian government to support his early preaching mission, Srila Prabhupada expresses that his preaching is spreading the Hindu culture.
Letter to Mahamsa 25.11.74
Please accept my blessings. If you have got a copy of Bhavan's Journal,'' Diwali Number, No. 8 November, 10, 1974, you can see on page 197 under the heading "Our Reader's Page,'' there is a question: "Should non-Hindus who have adopted the Hindu way of life e.g. the followers of the Hare Krishna movement, be allowed to enter Hindu temples?
So immediately you reply to the Editor of Bhavan's Journal, Dr. K.M. Munshi Marg, Bombay—400 007, enclosing the letter of Swami Cinmayananda's letter about the approval of learned panditas and sannyasis about the Hare Krishna movement members entering into Hindu temples. You can mention also that we are allowed to enter into the biggest temple in India, Tirupati, as well as Nathadwar where the head of the temple received us very well and presented some gifts. Except the Jagannatha temple in Puri no where have we been checked admission.
This time we wish to go to the Jagannatha temple again, and let us see what they do. The Hindu Vishva Parishad approves us as rigid Hindus as it will be clear from the letter of Swami Cinmayananda.
So immediately write a letter and send me a copy of your letter as well as Swami Cinmayananda's letter. We shall request them to publish the letter of Swami Cinmayananda in this connection as well.
Comment: Again Srila Prabhupada draws ISKCON's authenticity as Hindu from the most prominent Hindu group – the Vishva Hindu Parisad. The response is to tackle the point stated in the article of Hare Krishna's not being Hindu. Srila Prabhupada wanted the letter of Cinmayanand published stating that we are rigid Hindus.
Letter to Adikesa 26.12.76
That you are gathering good support from the Indian community is nice. This Candra Swami has said that "In America there is no one turning Christians into Hindus except for the Hare Krsna Movement." That means his support is genuine, he's appreciating. Yes, it is dangerous to associate with such men, you should always remember that. But to take our interest, if the help is coming from such persons, we should not lose it also. But you must be very careful. If it is by his arrangement that we shall be able to see Carter, then we shall take advantage. If we can explain our philosophy that will be nice.
Comment: In all of these conversations it must be noted that Srila Prabhupada never once responded by saying ‘we are not Hindus, why are these people proclaiming we are making people Hindus' Rather in all these cases he used the identity as Hindu strategically to spread, support and protect his movement.
Letter to Balavanta 4.1.77
Our only motive is how to interest people in Krsna consciousness. That's all. There is no economic problem. We can produce our own food and clothes, gradually, and save time for spiritual life.
So, [TEXT MISSING] that this is genuine Hindu religion. How can there be discrimination against us? There are so many Hindus in your country.
Comment: Not only Hindu, but genuine Hindu and again to counter discrimination.
Original India Bhagavatams
The Bhagavata-purana, which is one of the mahapuranas, commands high respect among all sections of Hindus, especially among votaries of the Vallabha and Caitanya sects.
Comment: ISKCON being a Chaitanya sect is therefore Hindu.
Conversation Vrindavan 10 Aug. 1977
Prabhupada: Phalena pariciyate: "By result." We are spreading Hindu culture throughout the whole world. He has to judge from this point of view, by the result. The persons, the people who are accustomed to kill cows, they are giving up meat-eating. Do you think it is ordinary thing? So he has... He must have good judgment before giving any adverse opinion. Engaged in horrible cow slaughter, they are becoming Vaishnavas. Is it ordinary thing? Narada did. What is the vyadha?
Comment: As late as August 77 Srila Prabhupada still speaks of ‘spreading Hindu Culture.'
Interview by Journalist 1975 Australia
Journalist: Is Krsna consciousness connected with any other religion? Does it derive from Hinduism or Buddhism?
Prabhupada: Yes, you can call it Hinduism, but actually it does not belong to any "ism." It is a science of understanding God. But it appears like Hindu religion. In that sense Buddha religion is also Hindu religion, because Lord Buddha was a Hindu and he started Buddha religion.
Comment: In this interview Srila Prabhupada accepts that you can call Krishna consciousness Hinduism, but then swiftly qualifies his statement and presents Krishna consciousness as a science beyond ‘isms'. From this we can gather that in a general sense you can say Krishna Consciousness is Hinduism, however in the absolute sense it is transcendental to any designation.
It appears that on his immediate arrival from India, Srila Prabhupada drew his authenticity from being Hindu. Then with the initial success of his movement among westerners who were in search of their true spiritual identity beyond all designations, he choose to then emphasize that we are not Hindus, but pure spirit souls. With all the success then came many challenges, especially that ISKCON was a brain washing cult. Then again Srila Prabhupada was happy to accept that we were even "rigid Hindus" in order to protect ISKCON.
I have only presented some quotes here that specifically illustrate Prabhupada's identifying his movement with Hinduism, or at least not contending the identity. There is no doubt many quotes that are quite the opposite stating that we are not Hindus. So, Srila Prabhupada has said both, and as a movement we suffer because we allow our members to take a stand on wither we are or are not Hindus. Srila Prabhupada always insisted that we don't just take the parts of scripture that satisfy us, we have to accept the scripture in its entirety. Therefore, it is inappropriate to simply take the statements of Srila Prabhupada that say we are not Hindu and without understanding the context or import of such statements, proclaim that we are not Hindus in our entirety. We have to accept the whole Srila Prabhupada and not just the part that suits us, and for sure there is a large part wherein he did identify his movement, his teaching and indeed his very self as a Hindu.
As there has been much concern and confusion in ISKCON about this Hindu topic; it would be in the best interest of our society the GBC should commission an in-depth study of this topic including quotes, history and personal accounts. As we are spreading and growing in our international credibility, we can no longer afford to give confusing messages to the media and society. Our members need to be united and not divided over such issues. With a proper study documented we can then begin to officially educate our members, new and old; and have one clear and concluded voice. In effect there would be much more time for chanting and preaching with the time saved from conflict, doubt and criticism.
Conversation 1975 South Africa
Prabhupada: The Hindu community, I think they will accept us. I don't think they will deny.
Prof. Olivier: But this would be a wonderful opportunity to bring the essence of Hinduism because from what I gather here from what you have said, this is not only the essence of religion from here but it is also the essence of Hinduism.
Prabhupada: Yes. The essence of Hinduism is Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
Comment: In order to teach Krishna Consciousness in the academic field, Srila Prabhupada was prepared to send his devotees to teach the Hinduism course at University, proclaiming the Gita as the essence of all Hinduism.
Arrival address Calcutta 1975
Not only Western countries—especially Western countries—we have sown some seed, that a community, Vaishnava community, is now established. That is very hopeful, a Vaishnava community, and they are, in America, they are now addressed, "American Hindus," these American boys and girls. So by the grace of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, this much has been done, and they are improving more and more. They are serving Krishna.
Comment: With his movement established, Srila Prabhupada takes pride in his disciple being called "American Hindus", as if they have attained recognized status.