Cults: The Hare Krishna Essay, Research Paper
The form of deviance being studied is cults, particularly the Hare Krishna. Krishna is a popular Hindu god and is the inspiration of many cults. Prabhupada came to America in the 1960’s and founded the Hare Krishna movement. He was sent to America by his guru to spread the word of Krishna when he was 70 and attracted a following of young hippies disillusioned with material goods. But failed to attract a larger population because this behavior is viewed as deviant by most of society.
There are different varieties of cults, the Moonies, the Children of God, Eckankar and Scientology are but a few. Basically, there are two main types of cults, those with Christian based beliefs, and those with Eastern Religion based beliefs.
Typically, people who engage in the form of deviance are overwhelmingly Anglo-American, over 80% of those who join the Hare Krishna are white. Most are single when they enter, and at the time of their joining are not gainfully employed. Most have their high school diploma, are under the age of 30, come from middle and upper-middle class families, and most come from Protestant or Catholic backgrounds. As children, most attended church weekly with their families. Many may incorrectly assume that the people who join cults are in search of support of all kinds. The parents of these members, however, tend to be well off financially and able to properly support their children. Many members associate themselves with a highly authoritarian cult that emphasizes enthusiastic religious devotion. They are in search of group support and family values that lacked in their childhood. This is viewed as deviant behavior because they find conventional ways unsatisfactory to their lives, and instead find unorthodox means to fulfill their needs.
People engage in this form of deviance in temples. The temples are adorned with statues thought to be the incarnation of Krishna in a material form. Theses deities have to be dressed and dusted every morning and they are bathed in a liquid made of rose water, milk and cow urine. After the statue is bathed, it is considered to be an honor to drink the liquid. They engage in deviance in these temples because that is where the action is accepted and cannot be looked down upon by society; in the temples it is accepted and even honored to act accordingly.
People join the Hare Krishna because they may feel alienated, frustrated, or deprived in some way. Some may be in the search of meaning in their life and find the answer within the Hare Krishna organization. Others, such as George Harrison, may find the organization as a means to escape drug abuse. Many are attracted to the Hare Krishna because of their philosophy, which they say is logical and to a certain extent scientific. Members also join because of other members. The friendliness and accepting nature of the other members is another large reason why so many join the cult. Also, many earlier members were attracted by the charismatic leader, Srila Prabhupada.
The sixties and seventies were a time of social discontent among the young population in America. People began to redefine themselves and became unsatisfied with things about themselves. This left room open to explore other avenues of fulfillment, such as cults. The Krishna search for more meaning in institutions than America has to offer. People joined the Krishna because it was tied to the counterculture revolution in America, people thought that by joining the cult, they would obtain an increased knowledge of themselves and their environment.
The Hare Krishna is the most total institution of all other cults. With other cults, the members simply accept the belief and practice it. Members of the Hare Krishna, however, must proceed through four steps before they become a full follower. After these four steps are finished, the members are the same as everyone else in the cult who have gone through the steps. The first step is the pre-initiation stage where the member is taught the cult’s philosophy over a six month period while taking part in temple life, at this point the member must prove him/herself. The second stage is initiation. Once the member is considered suitable, the temple president gives the new member a Sanskrit name during a fire ceremony. At this stage a string of beads is given to the member that he must wear until he dies. Brahmin is the third stage where members can receive a second rite where they are given a secret mantra to be chanted three times a day. At this stage the men may also receive a thread to wear across their chest. The final stage is the Sannyasa which is more special as only a few members achieve this stage. They must make a life long vow to celibacy, poverty, and preaching.
Access is restricted to visitors when they come to the temple. This prevents their friends and families from intruding on the grounds where this deviance is taking place. Denial of access prevents people form the outside from looking down on the deviant behavior. The members also live on different compounds, separated by sex, with the children separated from their parents when they are five years old to go live with their spiritual teacher. An example of how rigid a total institution the Hare Krishna organization is are eight basic rules that members of Hare Krishna must abide by, they are:
1. He must chant 16 rounds of prayers a day
2. He cannot eat meat, fish, eggs, onions or garlic
3. Sexual contact is only acceptable between married couples once a month for the purpose of reproduction, not enjoyment.
4. He cannot take part in any activities which promote the slaughter of animals.
5. He must at all times wear the sacred beaded necklace, paint his body with a mixture of clay and water, shave his head except for a top of section.
6. He must rise early every morning, take a cold shower and offer a ceremony which involves the burning of incense and recitation of a prayer.
7. He must not gamble.
8. He cannot smoke, drink, or take any drug.
The men also have to wear robes, called dhotis. The women wear robes which even cover their head called saris. Members also wear beaded necklaces to show their status in the faith. These articles identify them as different from the rest of society because they dress differently than others.
Another example of how rigid the Hare Krishna’s are is the schedule of their day, although their days may vary, most days in the Hare Krishna faith go like this:
3:00A.M. Get up and have cold shower, get dressed.
4:00A.M. Go to temple, personal chant.
5:00A.M. Temple service
6:00A.M. Study hour to read their Scripture
7:30 A.M. Breakfast
8:00 A.M. Chores
10:00 A.M. Raise money in the community, with a break for lunch.
6:00 P.M. Meal
7:00 P.M. Study
8:15 P.M. Hot milk
9:00 P.M. Rest
Of Hare Krishna members, 80% are under the age of 25 upon entering the organization. Only 20% of members are of a visible minority. Less than 22% of members have a degree in school beyond their high school diploma. This may be due to the young age at which the members join the group, many may join before even going to college. The parents of members of the Hare Krishna on average make more than $30,000 dollars a year, so members come from financially stable backgrounds. Members are also overwhelmingly Protestant or Catholic by 68% compared to the other main religions.
The values of the Hare Krishna are expressed in their utter devotion to their god Krishna. The fact that they chant so often a day and even give their children to another member to watch them grow show their complete devotion to their god. The fact that they take so much care in preparing their sacred beaded necklaces and in washing the deities also shows how devoted they are. In their eyes, god comes before anything.
The belief system of the Krishna faith is different from other religions. The Krishna, for example, believe that Jesus was not God, but that he was a devotee of Krishna visiting form another planet. They also believe that Krishna is the highest of Hindu gods, the Lord and the Absolute Truth who has had many incarnations. They believe that the Bible and the Koran are genuine scriptures but have been distorted over the years in their many translations; instead it is the Hindu Scriptures which are authoritative. They also believe that the life that one leads in this life determined the form that your soul will take in reincarnation. They believe that salvation lies in complete devotion to Krishna, and that any actin done for Krishna is not bad as Krishna is above good and bad.