Hare Krishna Transformed

285 pages

May, 2007

ISBN: 9780814775790

$26

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Subjects:

Religion

Part of the New and Alternative Religions series

Author

E. Burke Rochford, Jr. is Professor of Sociology, Anthropology and Religion at Middlebury College. He is the author of Hare Krishna in America.

All books by E. Burke Rochford

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.

Reviews

  • “Eloquently written. . . . Highly Recommended.”

    —G.R. Thursby, Choice

  • “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.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “[Rochford] has constructed solid arguments that constitute a major contribution to his discipline.”

    Journal of the American Academy of Religion

  • “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

  • "This impressive volume is aptly named...Burke Rochford's latest book heartedly as a well done and sociologically informed case study. It is also quite well written, and flows well."

    —James T. Richardson, International Journal for the Study of New Religions

  • “E. Burke Rochford Jr.’s Hare Krishna Transformed is a compelling example of the deep insights . . . the strength of this study is Rochford’s meticulous data gathering.”

    Sociology of Religion