A brief description of the historical background
of the Hare Krishna movement
The Hare Krishna movement in its contemporary form is rooted in the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition of Bengal. Philosophically though it can be traced back at least 5000 years to the time when Krishna was present on earth, and even further, since Vaishnavism, meaning the worship or Visnu, or Krishna, has existed in some form or other in human society since time immemorial.
Krishna re-appeared 500 years ago as the great Bengali saint Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534) in Navadvip, West Bengal. Bengal is also known as Gauda-desa, from which the term Gaudiya Vaisnavism is derived. Caitanya Mahaprabhu defined for the culture and lifestyle also found in the modern day Hare Krishna movement.
The original wisdom at the heart of this lifestyle was first given to Lord Brahma, the demigod of creation in the universe, by Krishna, at the onset of creation billions of years ago. Subsequently this knowledge was transmitted via the oral tradition from master to disciple in an unbroken chain, until it was written down 5000 years ago by the great sage Krishna-Dvaipayana Vyasa. Until his time there was no need for books. Since humans were significantly more spiritually advanced thne, and as a result had considerably better memory than people today, the knowledge could be given orally without loss. 5000 years ago the age of Kali began – the present of four universal ages, where the spiritual potency of human beings decay, and as a result it was necessary to write down the Vedic knowledge in order to keep it accessible for humanity. Owing to the unbroken chain of disciplic succession, the central Vedic texts have been preserved in their original form.
Gaudiya Vaisnavism and Krishna Consciousness was brought to the west by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He initiated disciples across the globe, who continue to distribute these teachings to this day.