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Frequently Asked Questions: Krsna Consciousness in a Nutshell


he kṛṣṇa karuṇā-sindho dīna-bandho jagat-pate

gopeśa gopikā-kānta rādhā-kānta namo 'stu te

tapta-kāñcana-gaurāńgi rādhe vṛndāvaneśvari

vṛṣabhānu-sute devī praṇamāmi hari-priye


“Hari Bol! Hare Krishna!” If you don't know what these words mean, you sure have come to the right place. This page will give you some of the basics of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness in a nutshell. Unlike typical websites where an article is presented as it is, this page explains Kṛṣṇa Consciousness in the form of frequently answered questions.


Who is Kṛṣṇa?


Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is God. The name "Kṛṣṇa" means "all-attractive." Understanding this, devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa are non-sectarian, as God has many names and Kṛṣṇa is just one of the names. The names of God represent His numerous opulences and qualities. For instance, He can be referred to as Rama in Hinduism ("Reservoir of Pleasure"), Buddha in Buddhism ("Enlightened One"), or Allah in Islam ("Merciful One"). According to one of the scriptures known as the Brahma Samhita, the Lord's name is originally Kṛṣṇa and Govinda (The giver of pleasure to the senses of the cows).


What is Hare Kṛṣṇa?


Hare Kṛṣṇa is the first two words of a sixteen worded Sanskrit mantra. The entire mantra is chanted as such:


“hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare

hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare”


This mantra is known as the mahamantra or "greatest mantra" as this mantra has so many potencies. When chanted with devotion and sincerity, it can deliver fallen souls and help one understand the love of Godhead. In this current Iron Age, known in the scriptures as Kaliyuga, when all souls are in the verge of degradation, the only method to be saved is chanting the Lord's name. This is why occasionally one can encounter Kṛṣṇa devotees on the street chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa and attempting to spread it.


As mentioned before, Kṛṣṇa Consciousness is non-sectarian. Other religions may have other sayings like "Allahu Akbar", "Nam Yo Ho Renge Kyon” and "Hallelujah" which is just as potent to save a falling soul through a different path.


What is Kṛṣṇa Consciousness?


Kṛṣṇa Consciousness can be simply defined as always remembering Kṛṣṇa; however, going about that can becme difficult to understand. Kṛṣṇa Consciousness is a lifelong process of understanding how to love Kṛṣṇa and how to serve Him. Kṛṣṇa is a person, a spiritual person. Spiritual evidence in Vedic scriptures says that every living entity has a soul without distinction. Each soul has the same qualities as God, however the quantity and extent of those qualities are far different and far lower than those of God's. Kṛṣṇa can love, so can souls to some extent. Kṛṣṇa can eat, so can the souls to some extent. Kṛṣṇa has feelings, so do souls to some extent.  Knowing that God is indeed a person, it is first important to develop love for Him. This takes place to through reading His glories and chanting the mahamantra. One will develop love for Him. After this, one will want to serve Him. Naturally, the person who loves someone will want to serve them. Kṛṣṇa Consciousness is a never-ending science on loving, serving, and always remembering Kṛṣṇa.


Who started Kṛṣṇa Consciousness?


In actuality, Lord Kṛṣṇa started this process. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Kṛṣṇa mentioned that His teachings were spread in an unbroken succession of disciples. According to scripture, Kṛṣṇa had first imported this knowledge to Brahma (demigod of creation). Brahma then spread this knowledge to his son, Narada Muni. Narada Muni taught the compiler of the Vedic scriptures, Vyasa Deva, about five thousand years ago. This chain continued spreading perfect knowledge without interpretations or any modifications and it still continues today.


Most notable feature is that Lord Caitanya, Lord Kṛṣṇa's incarnation in Kaliyuga, came in this disciplic succession as an instrument to carry out the spreading of Hare Kṛṣṇa mahamantra and showing how to love Kṛṣṇa and how to serve Him. He came on earth around 1486 and lived until approximately 1534.


Around the late 1800s, Bhaktivinoda Thakura had a worldwide vision to spread the Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. His son, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, made a start to formalize Kṛṣṇa Consciousness in Vedic institutes called the Gaudiya Matha. His disciple is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, or Srila Prabhupada for short. By the order of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada traveled to Western countries in 1965 and preached Kṛṣṇa Consciousness in English. In addition, he distributed knowledge of Kṛṣṇa through books, lectures, and recordings. He founded an institution for devotees to assemble together and glorify the Lord. This was known International Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness or ISKCON for short. Prabhupada passed away in 1977, however his works, teachings, and inspiration remains immortal. Prabhupada initiated disciples to spread these teachings around. Thus the succession of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness continues.


What rules do devotees follow?


In order to understand how to love God, one must first understand how to be good and how to be pure. There are four regulative principles which are based on the four pillars of goodness. The four regulative principles are as follows:


1) No intake of meat, fish, or eggs. If one does not stop killing animals just for their edibility, then how can one understand what compassion for animals are?


2) No intoxication. One must love and live with a clear mind devoid of any stimulants to create an artificial zone for the mind.


3) No inappropriate sex. It dulls the mind and it is a very unclean habit.


4) No gambling. It creates envy, anger, and fear unnecessarily.


Besides these four fundamental regulations. Of course, it may be difficult to follow them, but it is very important to go about it gradually.


Chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa in a set of rosaries, or 108-tied beads, is prescribed. There are no fast or slow rules in chanting, but sixteen is a minimum goal. Like with the regulative principles, it is also a good idea to go slowly on this and work your way to sixteen.


Eating has regulations. Devotees must offer the food to God before accepting it. God really does not need food, for He is self-sufficient. But, when devotees cook food with love, God will surely accept. In this way of love, practicing on how to offer food is a very big step. Also, if God eats it, all hidden karma will go away, and His mercy will be imbedded into the food. Hence, the food is known as "prasada" or "Lord's mercy."


Do devotees do idol worship?


If one was to take the question literally, yes devotees worship statues of God and His devotees. From the mentality and intention standpoint, devotees do not worship idols. God is indeed very merciful that He allows us to worship Him through His images, whether they are in statue form or picture form. Of course, the statue or picture has to be a true representation of the personality represented. Otherwise, that picture or statue is not authorized. A good analogy to help one understand this is by looking at a mailbox. Anyone can throw anything into the mailbox. If a mailman finds the envelope with the the right weight, proper addressing, and the properly stamped envelope, then he or she will accept this and deliver it. If these things aren't there, then this is not considered mail and the mailman will reject it. Likewise, it is important to have authorized images of Kṛṣṇa or His devotees, as these images are non-different from Him.


Devotees also worship devotees of the Lord, as they have offered their lives in worship and service of the Lord. They are considered exemplary people who are worthy of respect. They are not considered God, but they are as good as God. In the same respect, the spiritual master is worshipped along with God, although the spiritual master is not God. Before worship of God, worship of spiritual master is always very important; by the spiritual master's grace, one can understand God.


In a Kṛṣṇa temple or a devotee’s house, there will be an altar of Lord Kṛṣṇa and His eternal consort, Radharani in the center. Radha and Kṛṣṇa are the enteral couple and the highest amongst all. To the right or left a picture of Lord Caitanya and His associates are placed. The picture of the disciplic succession from Bhaktivinoda Thakura to Srila Prabhuapda is placed. If one found a spiritual master, the picture of the spiritual master is placed in conjunction to the rest of the disciplic succession. This is a very simple altar. Of course, altars may vary, but this is the generic altar.  Here is where chanting takes place, where devotional songs are sung, where food is offered, where reading spiritual literature takes place, where any spiritual activity with Kṛṣṇa is taken place.


Please check out the temple room page of this website.


What books do you read and what hymns do you sing?


There is not only single book which sings glories and teachings of Kṛṣṇa and His devotees. There is a numerous amount which may take lifetimes to understand. However, the most basic ones which are read most commonly are the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, and Caitanya Caritamrta. Bhagavad-gita is a section of a bigger epic known as the Mahabharata. The Bhagavad-gita, or Gita for short, is a conversation in the battlefiled between Kṛṣṇa and his friend, Arjuna, which covered the most confidential spiritual topics. The ultimate conclusion is that surrendering everything and devotion and love for the Lord is the highest path. Bhagavad-gita, in general, covers the fundamental principles of spiritual life. Srimad-Bhagavatam takes a closer look at devotional service as well as pastimes of the Lord and His devotees in various events. Unlike Bhagavad-gita which only consists of 700 verses, Srimad-Bhagavatam is a very huge book which is about 10,000 verses! Caitanya Caritamrta is the lifestory of Lord Kṛṣṇa's most recent incarnation as Lord Caitanya and His pastimes. Prabhupada has translated these three books with details translations and explanations. He has also written other books on Vedic literature and Kṛṣṇa Consciousness.


There are numerous songs that devotees sing about Kṛṣṇa, His forms, and His devotees. You can find a good handful of such hymns, prayers, and songs in the Lyrics Page of this webpage.


If you are interested in the songs sung at an ISKCON or Gaudiya Vaisnava temples, please click on the


What is Kṛṣṇa Consciousness in a Nutshell?


Besides the name of this page, Kṛṣṇa Consciousness is about "loving, serving, remembering, and spreading Kṛṣṇa." Lifestyle is all about chanting, dancing, and eating prasadam. Simple living is higher thinking. Lastly, "chant Hare Kṛṣṇa and be happy!" For more information, please click one of the links from the KKSongs Links Page for more information. Hare Kṛṣṇa!


(1896 – 1977)

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Founder Acarya of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)



UPDATED: June 4, 2017