ISKCON of Colorado

Hare Krishna devotees first lived in Nederland, Colorado and moved down to Denver in 1971, where they inhabited the basement level of an African-American Protestant Church on 1400 Cherry Street. The Protestants inhabited the upper lever and Hare Krishnas in the basement level. At some point the Protestants moved out and the Hare Krishnas made the whole building their temple. Srila Prabhupada, founder-acharya of ISKCON, visited in 1975 for a week. In 1976, ISKCON of Colorado was incorporated.

ISKCON Denver temple is presently considered the home-base temple for congregations and groups of devotees in neighboring towns and cities including Longmont, Fort Collins, Boulder, and Colorado Springs. ISKCON Denver temple maintains daily high-standard Deity worship, Radha Govinda’s restaurant (30 years in the Denver vegetarian scene), three weekly college programs, home programs, festivals, daily liturgical programs, and organic gardens.

ISKCON Denver community exists to facilitate sat-sanga (spiritually-based relationships) and teach Bhakti lifestyle to local people, according to the principles, values, and spirit that Srila Prabhupada delineates in his 7 principles of ISKCON.

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness – ISKCON

ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna consciousness, also known as the “Hare Krishna movement,” was founded by Srila Prabhupada and his followers in 1966. Srila Prabhupada’s aim was to create a global association of Krishna devotees based on the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam on the nature of the self and our relationship with the Supreme Person.

ISKCON has since grown into a worldwide organization of individuals, communities, temples, farm projects, schools, and restaurants, each centered on the ideal of devotional service to the Supreme Person, who is known by unlimited names but whom the Vedas refer to as Krishna, “the all-attractive one.” ISKCON is an extension of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtan movement for spreading the chanting of the names of God, specifically the Hare Krishna mantra, as widely as possible.

Our Founder-Acarya

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami, born Abhay Charan De and known by the honorific Srila Prabhupada by his followers, was an Indian spiritual teacher and the founder of the popular international bhakti yoga movement known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as “the Hare Krishna movement.”

He was born and raised in Kolkata, and met his spiritual inspiration and guru Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati there. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami was married and raised several children before becoming a renunciate monk in his later years. He traveled to America in 1965 and established ISKCON there in 1966.

One of the world’s most prominent teachers of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, a school of Vaishnavite Hinduism based on the teachings of 16th-century16th century saint Sri Krishna Caitanya, he is especially noted for his determination to share the message of bhakti yoga outside of India. He is renowned for his prolific translation of sacred texts and his significant role in the Western counterculture of the 1960s and 70s. Before his death in 1977, he circled the globe 14 times on lecture tours, accepting thousands of people on 6 continents as his disciples.

Followers of ISKCON today look to him as their prominent spiritual guide and inspiration, and his many books serve as a philosophical foundation for understanding and practicing bhakti yoga.

Access his books online
Watch a movie about his life

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti-yoga is the process of connecting and relating with Divinity through devotion or loving service. The Sanskrit word yoga means “to yoke” or “to link or connect”. In Bhakti, we connect to our spiritual source through devotion. Bhakti-yoga is the innate dharma, or essential nature, of the soul. The process of Bhakti-yoga entails directing one’s consciousness toward the self and one’s relationship with the Supreme. The soul is completely spiritual, whereas the physical and mental bodies are composed of material energy (gross and subtle). The soul is covered by misunderstandings and misconceptions of reality. One of the main practices of Bhakti-yoga is mantra meditation, which cleans away these layers of coverings, revealing the radiant diamond-like spiritual self. As the true self becomes uncovered, deeper understandings, happiness, peace, and inner knowing all awaken, as well as one’s unique relationship with the Supreme Person.

We spirit souls are on multi-lifetime journeys, evolving or devolving in consciousness depending on the activities we engage ourselves in. We take on different physical bodies, life after life, according to our mindset, conceptions, desires, and past actions. This is also referred to as samsara, the cycle of repeated birth and death. When we act in ways to offer our talents, work, and skills to Divinity, we can direct our consciousness in progressive evolution upward. With this mindful practice of directing our consciousness, we experience a deeper sense of life purpose. The Vedas say that human life is designed for self-realization. Within the human experience lies an abundance of opportunities to realize one’s spiritual self and one’s relationship with Love Supreme. Ultimately, when our connection with the Supreme Person is deeply re-established, we exit the cycle of samsara and return to the abode of the Supreme.

The hare krishna mantra is described in Sanskrit texts of the Vedas to be the most potent mantra for awakening the dormant love or Bhakti within one’s soul. Serious practitioners of Bhakti-yoga repeat this mantra for lengths at a time as a regular daily meditation. Practitioners commonly use japa mala or a string of 108 beads, to count the groups of mantras. They also sing or chant this mantra in melodies to music, collectively in groups, which is called kirtan or sankirtan. This specific process of sankirtan or the musical group chanting of the maha mantra was inaugurated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Bengal in the late 1500s. The maha mantra is as follows: hare krishna, hare krishna, krishna krishna, hare hare, hare rama, hare rama, rama rama, hare hare.

Serious practitioners also daily read devotional Sanskrit texts such as Bhagavad Gita As It Is and Srimad Bhagavatam. They also practice the four principles of freedom, which are: 1-vegetarianism, 2-sexual continence, 3-cleanliness & sobriety, 4-honesty. That is, they refrain from taking intoxicants, gambling, having sexual relations outside of marriage, and eating meat. By regulating these activities, the cleaning and awakening process is well-facilitated and greatly supported.

The nine main process of Bhakti-yoga are:

  • 1-Hearing about self-realization and the Supreme,
  • 2-Singing, talking, chanting about the Supreme and self-realization,
  • 3-Remembering and keeping the Supreme in one’s awareness,
  • 4-Serving the Supreme with humility,
  • 5-Worshiping the Supreme,
  • 6-Praying to the Supreme,
  • 7-Following the guides and instructions of the Supreme (found within scripture and qualified spiritual teachers),
  • 8-Having a friendly disposition and mood of service to the Supreme,
  • 9-Surrendering or living one’s life as an offering to the Supreme.

The sanatana-dharma, eternal nature, of the soul is Bhakti-yoga. It is a simple process that can be done by anyone in any situation. It is the deepening element of any activity. It puts the essential purpose in human life. It goes beyond race, creed, caste, and any social designation. It is nourishment for all living beings. We invite you to make an experiment and add a little in your life, and see what happens.

Bhakti Yoga FAQ

Bhakti Yoga is centered around recognizing our original identity as a servant of eternal truth. We each have a unique relationship with the personification of truth whose name is Krishna. Our unique relationship with Krishna is based on service. Bhakti yoga is about reviving an attitude of service in our relationship with divinity. As our attraction to spiritual service grows it gradually cleanses our heart of the painful, frustrating confusion of selfish emotions like anger, greed and lust. As we are purified of these tendencies the original nature of our true self as an individual and eternal spirit soul, separate from any material designation, becomes clearer. Krishna Prema (pure love) manifests in the stage of perfection once a person has completely let go of any identification with matter and see’s fully their own self beyond circumstance. From this place of pure love a person may still be in the world, but their every action becomes an expression and indication of divine truth and its potential to be experienced by all life.

Bhakti Yoga isn’t based on a particular belief. Bhakti yoga is an awareness, and so can be practiced by anyone from any background and is supportive rather than in conflict with other faith traditions. The practices of Bhakti Yoga are about uncovering an identity already present, so it’s not a question of belief in the same way eating isn’t an act of faith but one of nourishing a need which we deeply feel in a healthy way. We’ve become distracted from the identity of our soul because of attraction to the shiny but shallow glamour of the world around us. This draws us to identify with designations related to the body – a certain race, or nationality, gender etc. – rather than our eternal spiritual nature. For this reason we can earnestly value all other spiritual practices or religions that may be followed to the degree we can see the individuals practicing them are being freed from the harassments of mundane consciousness and are developing their awareness of their original spiritual nature as a spark of Divinity.

Bhakti Yoga is unique because it seeks to harmonize the practitioner with the world around them rather than reject or hide from it. As an aspect of Krishna’s identity is to be the sum of all energies, the material energy we are confused by is not evil or bad in and of itself. What is lacking is our own consciousness of how to relate with that energy in a way that supports rather than degrades our consciousness. Bhakti Yoga helps to rehabilitate our sense of identity so that we don’t feel a need to exploit and manipulate the world around us for pleasure or gain. This is because we develop a deep sense of inner satisfaction because we are becoming reestablished in our original loving relationship with Krishna. That, in turn, lets us relate to the outer world in a wholesome way that supports the chance for spiritual development in others.

Bhakti is spiritual romance. So like a young infatuated couple is constantly absorbed in thinking of each other wherever they are, Bhakti is about making our whole life a ceremony, an offering, in hopes of catching the attention of Krishna. Coming to that place takes time, as the soul rehabilitates from its long and habituated tendency to serve the material energy. On that journey, there are 4 practices that act as pillars to support our growth. They are

Meditating on Krishna’s names

Spending time with serious spiritual practitioners

Studying and discussing the sastra (sacred texts)

Preparing and eating prasada (sacred food)

These 4 elements are easy to incorporate into a person’s everyday life because we all have the habit of listening to some music, spending time with friends, reading and hearing stories and eating already established. Learning to live our every day life in a way that supports our spiritual growth is the essence of the practice of Bhakti Yoga.

Krishna is an eternal person, and so are we. It’s hard to wrap our heads around because our experience of identity is related to our physical bodies which decay and die. The deity is an opportunity for us to relate to Krishna’s eternal form in a way we can perceive, even before our transcendental self has been fully developed. The forms are carved according to the realizations of saints who have fully uncovered their own souls identity, and the revelations of those saints consistently confirm the specific features of Krishna and the other Divine personalities we offer service to on the deity altar. Offering practical service to the deity each day; cooking, dressing and decorating with flowers and jewelry etc. helps us recognize it is more fun to give than to receive. Most people live their life struggling to get that kind of attention for themselves. In Bhakti we learn to offer that energy to Krishna instead, it quickly helps the soul see the true joy in spiritual service.

The practice of Bhakti is about becoming less dependent on worldly circumstances for our sense of happiness and fulfillment and more focused on the spiritual opportunity that is the birth right of every living being, whether they are in a human body at present or not. We recognize that society as a whole must be structured in a way that supports the general health and well being of all life and with that principle in mind we can appreciate social policy that can help bring this about.

The danger is when social circumstance is overemphasized as all in all. For example, racism is abhorrent, but we don’t see the attempts to correct its effects having substantial value without being based in first recognizing no soul should be reduced to the value of the physical body it inhabits on this earth. None of us are white, or black or Chinese or American or young or old or rich or poor in the ultimate sense. The misconception that the identity of the self is based in the physical body is the root of all violence.

Mantra Meditation

Mantra meditation is a timeless and powerful method of meditation that has been practiced for thousands of years. It helps the practitioner control the mind by tuning into transcendental sound vibration. The transcendental sound vibration is unlike ordinary sound vibrations, because it has the potency to connect the chanter to the Divine and allows the individual to obtain higher states of consciousness.

The word mantra comes from the Sanskrit language and literally means to “free the mind,” in particular from mental anxieties. The mind, especially nowadays, is filled with endless distractions, and mantra meditation helps engage the mind and can free one from anxiety and stress through its repetition. The practice of mantra meditation consists of chanting a mantra out loud and listening. By focusing on the transcendental sound vibration, the chanter’s mind becomes naturally cleansed and one experiences bliss and satisfaction.

There are thousands of mantras, and of those there is one that is recommended by the ancient yoga texts that has the greatest benefit. The maha mantra or Hare Krishna mantra is the most effective mantra in this age to chant. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The effects of Hare Krishna mantra meditation are quick and powerful, and the chanter experiences positive results within the first few sessions of chanting it.

Composed of just three words, Hare, Krishna, and Rama, the maha mantra’s meaning is quite profound. Each word in the maha mantra is a name for the Divine. Hare refers to the compassionate energy of the Divine. We appeal to the kind nature of the Divine for grace to be able to connect to Krishna, or the all-attractive, possessing all qualities in full. Krishna is all-good, all-playful, all-loving, all-everything, and as parts of Krishna we too possess these qualities in small amounts. By chanting the maha mantra, we can realize our true potential in context with our unique relationship with Krishna. The third word in the maha mantra is ‘Rama,’ or the reservoir of all spiritual happiness. Through meditation on the Hare Krishna maha mantra, we make a prayer to the Divine to deliver us from material existence and place us into spiritual existence, where our activities are full of eternality, bliss and knowledge.

This mantra meditation practice is non-sectarian. Anyone can chant the Hare Krishna mantra. It is not limited to any race, culture, religion, etc. Mantra meditation can be practiced by oneself or in a group, and engages all the senses in both settings. The personal, private practice is called japa. Japa consists of chanting on meditation beads, usually with a commitment to a certain amount of chants. Advanced spiritual practitioners of bhakti yoga practice mantra meditation for about two hours daily. To practice in a group is called kirtan, and is often accompanied by musical instruments in a call-and-response style. Most people who practice mantra meditation practice both japa and kirtan. They are both equally potent meditation practices.

Mantra meditation is the practice of the science of self-realization. As in any science experiment, there is a hypothesis: mantra meditation will help you feel happier. The method is chanting the Hare Krishna mantra daily. The experiment has been tested internationally and tested true. Try mantra meditation for just a few minutes a day and see how you feel. If you feel some effect, try chanting more every day and again, see how you feel then. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Sacred Food

What’s the secret ingredient that makes Hare Krishna food so delicious?

The yoga of food is a very essential element in the bhakti yoga practice. Every aspect of our cooking is a meditation on the divine. Beginning from shopping for the ingredients, to cutting, to stirring and finishing the preparations, all is done in a meditative state. We never taste what we prepare while we are cooking, and even try our best not to smell it during the process. We are cooking as though we are cooking for the divine Himself, and want Him to enjoy. Imagine an esteemed guest is coming to your home. You prepare what you know they like and offer them the food first before eating yourself. Therefore, once finished preparing sacred food in this meditative state, we offer it to Krishna.

Krishna accepts all nice vegetarian dishes that are prepared with love. We simply place a special plate before a picture or a deity of the Lord, say a little prayer, and wait for Krishna to eat. After just a few minutes, the food placed before Him is now sacred food, or prasadam. Prasadam literally means “mercy,” and after offering our food, we have the honor of literally consuming Krishna’s mercy.

Even though we are spirit souls, we are contained in bodies that require sustenance. However, if we simply offer all vegetarian food to Krishna before eating, then we can spiritualize ourselves physically from the inside out.

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