Why are Hare Krishnas so peaceful

Society & Religion - The Krishna followers - where are they actually?

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Founded in the 1960s, the Hare Krishna movement hit the nerve of the times. The followers in their orange Indian robes were often out and about in Switzerland - singing, selling books and biscuits. They have now disappeared from the cityscape. A search for clues.

It is noon in the temple of Hare Krishnas on the Zürichberg. A conch shell sounds through the whole house. However, it does not call for lunch, but for worship, called puja.

The temple has been in the city of Zurich since the 1980s. The former banker's villa was left to the then very young Krishna followers, dilapidated as it was. A lot has happened in the movement since then: there have been scandals, families have broken up, and the word sect has been mentioned again and again.

From 60 to 6 full-time members

Meanwhile, you can hardly see them anymore, the Krishna devotees dressed in India. “Yes, yes, we still exist,” laughs Christoph Truttmann, alias Krishna Premarupa Das. But only a few people would still live as monks or nuns in the temple. They are already fully occupied with the maintenance of the house and the daily tasks.

"The majority of the Hare Krishnas today consists of parishioners who lead a normal life, work, have a family and do not always have time to go singing on the street," said Truttmann.

In the beginning there were around 60 people who lived in the temple in Zurich. Today there are only 6 full-time members. «At the beginning you had the belief that you can achieve anything. A great enthusiasm was palpable, there was eager preaching and missionary work », says Christoph Truttmann.

His spiritual name Krishna Premarupa means "servant of embodied love for Krishna". And everything in the movement revolves around this love for Krishna, this god from the Hindu world of faith. And about the chanting of the mantra, the prayer «Hare Krishna». Through singing the individual can be released from the eternal cycle of rebirth.

Communicate, not convert

Today the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) - as the movement is called - no longer acts with the same missionary zeal as it did at the beginning. It has changed fundamentally. The religious scholar Frank Neubert, professor at the University of Bern, has researched these changes. He says: "The ISKCON was decried as an evil sect for a long time, but from my point of view it has managed to exist as an established religious community and to stay out of the debates about dangerousness and sect." This was made possible through reforms within the community.

“From the 1990s onwards, people began to communicate with the public, to present beliefs without wanting to convert anyone straight away. The intensive cooperation with Indian migrants all over the world has also created more acceptance », says the religious scholar Neubert. The Krishna temple in Zurich was the very first Hindu temple in Switzerland.

From the west back to India

This cooperation with the migrants has brought the Hare Krishnas an astonishing success today, as Frank Neubert observes: “The largest growth market for ISKCON is currently India. From an Indian perspective, this religious movement is coming back to India from the west - and for many Indians it embodies a kind of purer form of religiosity. "

Nevertheless, in America and Europe, ISKCON faces similar challenges as other religious communities: There is a lack of young people. “Few are willing to take part in such a movement full-time today. Spirituality is consumed, just like other things », explains temple president Christoph Truttmann.

But the congregation today, with many families and congregation members who lived outside, is rich in a different way: "It is nice to see how we can maintain and advance the temple together." For example, they cook at festivals, organize seminars, open days and get involved in interreligious dialogue.

The youthful vigor of the orange-clad monks or simply Indian-clad nuns from the Zürichberg may have subsided a bit. But now the Hare Krishnas have become an integral part of the religious landscape of the city of Zurich.

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  • Commentary by Hanspeter Müller, Bern
    Hare-Krishna is a sect-like association. More on this at www.infosecta.ch. In this sense I do not understand this program. Neither this topic nor the problematic treatment of women and children are included. The whole thing sounds more like a commercial than a critical inventory.
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
  • Comment from W.Ineichen, Luzern
    When it comes to religion, people are very inventive.
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
  • Commentary by Hanna Berger, 4057 Basel
    We don't need this sect in Switzerland!
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
    1. answer from Heinz Büchner, Oshima
      And which sect or religion do we "need"? And who, please is "we"?
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. answer from Charly Ball, Zurich
      Disagree at all !! I fondly remember the times when these peaceful people on the street were handing out - very good - free biscuits. Who is still doing that today ???
      Agree agree to the comment
    3. answer from Hans Knecht, Torny
      Free biscuits that were supposedly mixed with poppy seeds or other drugs, which had the side effect that the appearance of these people was associated with beautiful feelings.
      Agree agree to the comment
    4. Show answers

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