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Hare Krishna Transformed

E. Rochford

Publication Year: 2007

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.

Published by: NYU Press

TItle Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

Even though I have studied the Hare Krishna movement for more than thirty years, I could not have written this book without the contributions of many people. Most important, of course, were the many Hare Krishna devotees who graciously gave their time to further my research interests. It has been a wonderful...

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pp. 1-15

It is the end of July 1991 on the Westside of Los Angeles. The park is teeming with visitors. Besides the usual number of families picnicking and kids throwing frisbees and riding bikes, a large gathering of perhaps 150 young men and women are enjoying the summer day as well as one another’s company...

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1. Growing Up

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pp. 16-51

In 1968 Dasa was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a liberal college town considered by some as the “California of the Midwest.” Before they met in college in 1966, both Dasa’s parents were interested in Eastern and Native American religious traditions. They married one year later. Both were products of the counterculture, leaving their college studies to protest the Vietnam War...

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2. Family, Culture, and Change

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pp. 52-73

Movement culture is an area of study that has been largely neglected by investigators of new religions (Rochford 2007), a surprising oversight for a number of reasons. First, some scholars (Dawson 1998:159; Robbins and Bromley 1992) argue that the principal significance of new religious movements is cultural, that they are laboratories of social experimentation and cultural innovation...

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3. Child Abuse

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pp. 74-96

Religion and child abuse, “‘perfect together’ . . . and mutually attractive,” so concluded Donald Capps in his 1992 presidential address to members of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Mutually attractive even though religion has often vigorously defended the rights of children, including condemning child abuse and neglect...

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4. Public Schooling and Identity

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pp. 97-114

Richard Niebuhr (1929) noted long ago that the process of educating the young plays a determinative role in the development of religious communities, especially sectarian ones. In being attentive to the educational requirements of children, the fundamental character of the religious enterprise changes in the direction of secularization. The result is that “as generation succeeds generation...

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5. Women’s Voices

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pp. 115-138

The question of women’s place in religion is long-standing and controversial (Daly 1985). On the one hand, women fill the churches, do much of the work of maintaining congregations, and are largely responsible for socializing children to religious values and practices. Yet on the other hand, in most of the world’s religious traditions, women are excluded from formal religious...

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6. Male Backlash

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pp. 139-160

A male backlash often is created in religious organizations when women gain cultural and organizational power allowing them to successfully challenge prevailing gender norms (Nesbitt 1997:113). Such challenges effectively “confront head-on men’s sense of owning the organization”...

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7. Moving On

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pp. 161-180

Researchers of social movements often assume that defection and schism rob a movement of its energy and vitality. Gamson (1975: 101–3) went so far as to argue that factionalism is the major cause of movement failure. Yet this view of failure confuses the conceptual difference between movement organizations and movements...

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8. Hindus and Hinduization

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pp. 181-200

Asian immigrants are changing the religious mosaic of North America (Min and Kim 2002), as religion for them serves as both a means of integration into American society and an institutional support helping maintain their ethnic identities (Leonard et al., 2005; Warner and Wittner 1998; Williams 1988). For Indian immigrants, their traditions and cultures as well as their religions...

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9. World Accommodation

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pp. 201-217

An important if underdeveloped topic in the study of new religions is the factors that influence their development over time (Bromley and Hammond 1987; Rochford and Bailey 2006; Stark 1996; Wilson 1987). Such an oversight is especially conspicuous given that new religions are susceptible to rapid and dramatic changes that promote organizational transformation (Barker 2004)...

Appendix 1. Commitment, Involvement, and Leader Authority Measures

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pp. 218-225

Appendix 2. Data Tables

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pp. 226-228


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pp. 229-252


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pp. 253-256


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pp. 257-274


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pp. 275-284

About the Author

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pp. 285-286

E-ISBN-13: 9780814769072
E-ISBN-10: 0814769071
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814775783
Print-ISBN-10: 0814775780

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Families -- Religious aspects -- International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
  • Hindu converts -- United States.
  • Hinduism -- United States.
  • Krishna (Hindu deity) -- Cult -- United States.
  • International Society for Krishna Consciousness -- History.
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