How to join ISKCON to become a Member and Practice Devotion?
Actual Question from THREE devotees (Name hidden):
“Dear sir. You are my revered siksha guru. Through you, I like to join in iskcon. Is it easy to join or any rules. As adviced by you, I will help iskcon being a grahastha and I will not allow my wife and girl child to suffer. But, I want to practice Krishna bhakti. Please guide me how to join iskcon. Thank u”
Hare Krishna. I want to join iskcon although I’m practicing devotional service at my home. Chanting hare Krishna in my fingers count. I’m a student right now and i know my parents might not allow me to join iskcon, attend kirtan parties, put tilak, wear tulsi beads (kanthi mala), chanting on japa beads etc etc. I’m currently in my hometown and here there is no iskcon temple as well. But I think when I’ll start earning it might easier to convince them for my spiritual journey by the grace of Krishna. But I want some suggestions regarding this from you and please guide me further for the same.
I want to join ISKCON. How to join ISKCON?
First, my appreciations that you have the determination not to allow your family to suffer. Every devotee should learn how to balance the family and devotion. They should not run away from their family to serve Krishna unless there are genuine reasons or unless they seriously desire so. Devotion can be followed as a grahastha also.
(After coming to devotion, I hate and avoid non-devotee family and others that makes them angry. What to do? READ HERE!)
Here, I have to admit a fact. Different people have different opinions about ISKCON. I too had come across such views. Of course, there may be some problems or politics here and there, because such things can not be avoided in any forum where there are hundreds of devotees / persons.
I am of the firm opinion that if we concentrate only in the devotional practices without a desire to be considered as a ‘big devotee’, we will have no issues in any sathsangha or forum. This is the GENERAL GUIDELINE to avoid any issues in any forum of people.
If we remain as a last bench devotee without the desire of any positions there, we can have a wonderful time there. But, we should seriously concentrate in learning the secrets of developing the devotion to Krishna.
I never desired or tried or asked for any position there. That is why, I never faced even a single issue in ISKCON in my many decades of association there. Only because I observed the activities of devotees from the last bench, I am able to write the unbiased, balanced views ‘as it is’ about any topic. Only a good observer can be a good writer.
(ISKCON ARATI SONGS – MANGAL & SANDHYA ARATIS WITH MEANING! READ HERE!)
Only if we expect something in life, we will get upsets in life. Therefore, even in devotional service, I have no expectations. Be with the devotees, encourage and help them as far as possible, watch their activities, learn from them, do some services, come back and take care of your other activities to live keeping Krishna in mind. This is the best formula that worked out for me for a peaceful following of devotion.
I had the fortune of joining ISKCON even in my early twenties when my youthful thoughts were at their peak. After joining, I started to review my activities and started making me a responsible guy.
You must consider ISKCON as Gurukul to learn about Krishna Consciousness and to perform possible services to the Lord and His devotees (Bhagavad Sewa as well as vaishnava sewa). There should be no other purpose. Learn, improve and get the mercy of a guru and thereby the mercy of Krishna.
If your parents object serious following of devotion as you said in your message, do the following three till you become free:
(1) Chanting whenever possible;
(2) Following four regulative disciplinary principles – No meat, No Gambling, No intoxication and No Illicit relations.
(3) Read as much books possible about Krishna regularly.
(How to follow Krishna Consciousness in an irresponsible family? READ HERE!)
It is very easy to associate with the devotees of the ISKCON as they are always available to guide you at their temple and in the forums.
However, you can’t get the opportunity to stay and serve on the first day itself. If your services and devotional growth impresses the temple manager/ president, he may allow you to stay there. Otherwise, you should serve as a congregation member.
Here are some basic details of the available options:
TO BE A VISITING CONGREGATION MEMBER
No qualifications are required, except a determination that you will follow all the rules and regulations of being a member. A desire to know about and practice Krishna Consciousness. You should behave decently inside the temple. Thats all.
TO BE LIFE PATRONS (LIFE MEMBERSHIP)
You will have to make some ONE TIME donation fixed from time to time to be a Life Patron. You will be given a set of Srimad Bhagavatham and other books of Srila Prabhupada free if you become a Life Patron (You can also join without these books for a reduced amount). You can also stay in any of the worldwide ISKCON centres and honour Prasadam there for 3 days per year per temple, based on availability of space and with prior intimation. I too am a Life patron of the ISKCON.
(How to take some services in ISKCON Temples? READ HERE!)
SIKSHA STAGES IN ISKCON
The Siksha Program is a system for encouraging the congregation by recognizing their chanting and spiritual standards. It is a great way to help congregational devotees consolidate and increase their spiritual practices. It also offers a system to identify those who are serious about advancing in Krishna consciousness. The Siksha Program Series has five levels, gradually leading to initiation.
(1) SRADDHAVAN: Chanting at least one round of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra every day and reading Srila Prabhupada’s books.
(2) KRISHNA SEVAKA: Chanting at least four rounds of chanting daily, refraining from meat-eating, believing in Lord Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and avoiding grossly immoral acts
(3) KRISHNA SADHAKA: Chanting at least eight rounds and practicing sadhana-bhakti by worshipping Krishna at home and eating only Prasadam. Refraining from intoxication, meat-eating, gambling and extra-marital sex.
(AFTER COMING TO DEVOTION, I HATE MARRIAGE AND LIKE TO SETTLE IN THE TEMPLE. CAN I DO SO? READ HERE!)
(4) SRILA PRABHUPADA ASRAYA: Following the four regulative principles, Regular and serious sadhana, chanting 16 rounds daily.
(5) SRI GURU ASRAYA: Practicing Srila Prabhupada Asraya standard for a minimum of six months, with additional faith in and surrender to a present ISKCON initiating spiritual master. This Stage will be explained as the next stage below.
The Siksha levels are awarded to deserving candidates at a special program, usually on a festival day in the temple, and a certificate is usually awarded by the Temple President to the devotee who has achieved the appropriate level of advancement. If the temple is convinced, some deserving devotees may be exempted from the sequence of siksha levels and they can directly get a higher level of siksha if they are continuously and convincingly following the rules.
The program series aims to give congregational devotees gradual recognition and encouragement on the path towards achieving the standards required for initiation in ISKCON.
(My Parents do not allow me to go to ISKCON. What shall I do? READ HERE!)
NEXT STAGE: TAKING SHELTER FROM GURU
First you have to take Sikshas for One round, 4 rounds, 8 rounds and 16 rounds and then upto Sri Guru Asraya from your local temple presidents. When you remain chanting 16 rounds for atleast one year and are regular to the temples, you may choose a bonafide guru of your choice and approved by the GBC (Governing Body Commission) of ISKCON and take shelter to him, if he is convinced with your service and you have a natural inclination to accept him. If you do not have a natural inclination to accept a guru at this moment, wait for some period and take the shelter when you are ready.
HARI NAM DIKSHA – INITIATION FROM A GURU
Taking the SHELTER itself is NEARLY equal to having accepted that guru and hence taking formal HARI NAM DIKSHA is just a formal confirmation of our having taken the shelter of that guru. After 6 months of taking shelter, you can get initiated by the guru of your choice from whom you got the shelter.
(Why Only ISKCON says Vishnu as Avatar and Krishna as Source? READ HERE!)
Taking diksha is a new birth to us. That is why, we take some vows and are given a new name related to Krishna and vaishnavas. In that new birth, you should avoid all the offences that you were doing before and also follow the recommendations of your guru.
I took First Initiation (Hari Nam Diksha) as I am doing the Preaching service that requires the strength of the Guru Parampara to be effective in producing the results.
BRAHMANA DIKSHA (Second Initiation)
For the devotees in general, the first initiation (Hari Nam diksha) is enough. However, If you like to perform Poojari services to the deities of Krishna or to organize the preaching programs or to start a center/temple of ISKCON in your area, you must be initiated as a Brahmana by the same guru (provided he is alive, or to another guru of your choice). After that, you can take part in the direct sevas to the deities of Lord, if the temple president chooses to engage you.
If you have no idea to take part in the direct sewa to the deities, THERE IS NO NEED FOR BRAHMANA DIKSHA. The Harinam Diksha itself is sufficient to get eligible to go back to Krishna if we follow all the diksha rules and develop Krishna Prema.
(How to regain my faith in ISKCON as I left ISKCON after Prabhupada left? READ HERE!)
Therefore, take Brahmana diksha only if it is required to perform any of your services in the temple.
I did not take Brahmana Diksha as I have no idea to take direct sewa as I am fully engaged in the Preaching service, as it has been my Naturally assigned duty by Krishna since the year 2011.
These are just preliminary details. For more details about how to join ISKCON, contact your nearest “Official” ISKCON Centre or any Namahatta centre or any “Devotee house program co-ordinators”. They will guide you. You can undergo Krishna Consciousness even while doing your studies, job, business , etc.
So, Live for Krishna. Spend your rest of life meaningful and get permanently relieved from this painful material world.
All the best for a successful devotional life.
After reading these guidelines about how to join ISKCON, also read my other articles on BALANCING YOUR LIFE AND DEVOTION because you should not take extreme emotional decisions without compelling reasons affecting your parents, career, studies and family. I have given some links in this article itself here and there.
(Do we compulsorily need the association of devotees to love Krishna more (though not available)? READ HERE!)