ISKCON belongs to the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya (denomination or tradition), a monotheistic tradition within Vedic or Hindu culture. Hindu culture is vast, and the term encompasses numerous theologies, philosophies religious traditions and spiritual cultures. Thus, dialogue with Hindu traditions has been difficult for many seeking such dialogue. There are no official representatives of Hinduism, as the term Hinduism does not imply a single spiritual tradition. This statement therefore is representative of Hindu culture and religion as ISKCON, as a Vedantic, monotheistic Vaisnava tradition.
In this statement and in the elaboration of this statement, we present our response to the current global need for relationships among world faiths. ISKCON is the first global Vaisnava movement and as such accepts the responsibility to interact with host communities with respect and sensitivity. Consequently this document serves as a statement of purpose to other faith communities and to ISKCON's members.
When A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), the founder and acarya of ISKCON, first registered ISKCON as a legal entity in New York in 1966, he stated that his primary aim for the movement was: 'To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all peoples in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.'
In pursuance of this aim, members of the Hare Krsna movement value charity, non-violence, spiritual education, moral thought and action, devotion and service to God.
We further value qualities such as humility, tolerance, compassion, cleanliness, self-control, simplicity, steadiness, knowledge, honesty and personal integrity.
We value and respect the right to life of all other living things, be they human, animal, aquatic or plant life. We value the environment and our natural resources as being the God's property, which we have a responsibility to respect and protect.
We recognise the institution of the family to be an essential element in maintaining social stability. We consider respect for parents, teachers and government representatives important for maintaining a stable society. Respect and protection for elders, women, children, weak and dependent living beings, and persons dedicated to the welfare of others and to the service of God are also important elements in the development of a healthy and secure society.
We understand that many spiritual, altruistic and humanely inspired people share these principles and values. We respect and value any tradition or culture trying to practice, maintain and develop such qualities and behaviour.
Srila Prabhupada's mission is further elaborated in his pranama mantra, in which it is stated that he came to deliver the Western countries from godlessness. Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1836-1914), a revered Vaisnava acarya, explained that the enemy is not other religions, but atheism. The mission of Srila Prabhupada and the sampradaya (or religious tradition) he represented, promotes both morality and practices that support the development of individual and social spirituality, but it raises a challenge to atheistic and materialistic principles and values.
For a missionary movement a dialogue with those who may not share the same spiritual or religious views may seem a contradiction in purpose. Gaudiya Vaisnava teachings support dialogue and co-operation with other religious traditions. Conversion in Vaisnava tradition depends on the assumption that Krsna, not the missionary devotee, is Isvara, the controller.
Gaudiya Vaisnavism recognises religious diversity as a normal and healthy symptom of social expression. Historically members of our tradition have been in contact with members of other faith communities since the time of Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534), although systematic attempts at dialogue with other faiths began only with Bhaktivinode Thakura (1838-1914).
Relationships of trust can develop from sincere dialogue among people of faith. These relationships can inspire religious people from all traditions to work together to establish theistic conclusions that will lead to a God-conscious ethos in our modern world. Thus, dialogue and respectful working relationships with other faith communities are consistent with ISKCON's mission and important for social harmony.
In the 1950s Srila Prabhupada confirmed this approach in an appeal to the leaders of the world's religions: 'Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and the members of the other sects that have convincing faith in the authority of God must not sit idly now and silently watch the rapid growth of a Godless civilisation. There is the supreme will of God, and no nation or society can live in peace and prosperity without acceptance of this vital truth.'
While cherishing our own spiritual culture and working to proclaim our faith in Krsna in Vrindavana, we consider it inappropriate and unbecoming for a Vaisnava to try and attract people to the worship of the Supreme by denigrating, misrepresenting, or humiliating members of other faith communities. In relation to this, Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written: 'But it is not proper to constantly propagate the controversial superiority of the teachers of one's own country over those of another country although one may, nay one should, cherish such a belief in order to acquire steadiness in a faith of your own. But no good can be affected to the world by such quarrels.' Srila Prabhupada also discusses this in his purports in Srimad-Bhagavatam: 'Another important point mentioned in this connection is anindaya[avoiding blasphemy]-we should not criticise others' methods of religion. A devotee, instead of criticising such systems, will encourage the followers to stick to their principles .'
Vaisnavas strive to inspire and enhance the relationship between the Lord and His devotees. In this attempt, devotees meet others whose approach to the Supreme is different in their flavour of worship, variegatedness in service and expression of love. During a public lecture in 1969, Srila Prabhupada stated, 'Everyone should follow the particular traditions or sampradaya, the regulative principles of your own religion. This is required as much as there are many different political parties, although everyone is meant to serve one country'. Thus, diversity is accepted, but not to the exclusion of unity. Religions do not have to become homogeneous or merge together, but they can develop respectful and practical relationships with one another. With this understanding, ISKCON does not have a mission to proselytise members of other faiths.
ISKCON does see it as its mission to accept with open arms any sincere soul who declares a need for spiritual shelter and guidance. There is a definite missionary spirit in Vaisnavism and Hinduism, but its practice is not governed by an exclusivist conversion model. From a Gaudiya Vaisnava perspective, we work not at 'conversion' but spiritual development. Therefore 'conversion' is an individual experience, a personal spiritual journey, a journey that transcends religious institution and sectarian affiliation. Conversion models that depend on exclusivist demands of affiliation may often do so without considering the Lord's supremacy, independent in truth.
Through dialogue, people of different faiths and traditions can work together to share principles and areas of concern. Together they can then engage their individual spirituality in addressing such problems as war, violence, moral decline, crime, intoxication, poverty and hunger, social instability and environmental degradation.
Through dialogue, theistic people and those engaged in the pursuit of the Absolute Truth can encourage one another to be more true to their own practice. Many traditions prescribe the disciplines of self-control, sacrifice, austerity and charity for developing spiritual enlightenment but we all need encouragement and inspiration in our endeavours. To fulfil the requests of our spiritual teachers and to provide good example to society, we need to encourage one another to be faithful to the principles of our own traditions.
Dialogue offers a challenge of faith to devotees of every tradition. This challenge is a necessary and welcome part of spiritual life in a multi-faith world. Such dialogue can help strengthen the faith and character of individuals, the integrity and vision of institutions and the support and appreciation of those who expect enlightened spiritual leadership. Thus dialogue can lead to a profound realisation of mission, in the broadest sense of the term.
In common with many followers of Vedantic tradition, devotees of Krsna distinguish between Krsna consciousness, or pure love of God, and what is commonly understood as religion. In his introduction to Bhagavad-gita, Srila Prabhupada explains:
Sanatana-dharma does not refer to any sectarian process of religion. It is the eternal function of the eternal living entities in relationship with the eternal Supreme Lord.The English word religion is a little different from sanatana-dharma. Religion conveys the idea of faith, and faith may change. One may have faith in a particular process, and he may change this faith and adopt another, but sanatana-dharmarefers to that activity which cannot be changed.
Vaisnavas regard Krsna consciousness or sanatana-dharma as non-sectarian, although those practising sanatana-dharma may individually attach themselves to specific religious traditions. Love of God is defined for Vaisnava devotees in Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavat Purana) 1.2.6  and Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.1.11. Srila Prabhupada also writes, 'We do not advocate any sectarian religion. We are concerned to invoke our dormant love for God. Any method that helps us in reaching such a platform is welcome.' In his commentary on Rupa Goswami's Upadesamrta, Srila Prabhupada further elaborates:
In all parts of the world, however downtrodden human society may be, there is some system of religion.When a religious system develops and turns into love of God, it is successful. (p. 44) 
Vaisnavism therefore recognises the inherent spirituality of all living beings and their individual relationship with the Supreme Lord, known by many names. Vaisnavism maintains that each individual's satisfaction is to be found in service to the Supreme, and 'such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self' (Bhag.1.2.6). Without such service, we seek enjoyment elsewhere and worship demigods, great persons, natural phenomena or idols, according to taste and circumstance.
The Lord consistently recognises and maintains His relationship with the individual soul and recognises our attempts to know and understand Him, even though imperfectly or improperly performed. Krsna asks the individual soul, 'Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear' ( Bg. 18.66). Therefore, He emphasises that a personal exchange between Himself and the individual soul is superior to any institutional or sectarian claim to His favour.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu left only eight written verses, called the Sikastakam. The fourth of these verses reads:
One should be more tolerant than a tree, more humble than a blade of grass and one should be ready to offer all respect to everyone and yet expect no respect for oneself. In such a humble state of mind one can glorify and serve the Lord with pure devotion.
This verse leaves no doubt about the standard of humility, respect, and devotion expected from a Vaisnava who is surrendering to Lord Krsna with a pure heart. The term, 'offering all respect to everyone' can of course apply directly to people of other faiths. It is incumbent on devotees of the Lord to offer all respect especially to people sincerely trying to love and serve God. Such respect, tolerance and humility form the basis of proper Vaisnava relationships.
The eleventh canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam describes three progressive stages in the development of spiritual relationships: neophyte (kanistha), mature(madhyama) and advanced (uttama). The Bhagavatam presents these developments as a universal phenomenon to be seen among devotees of every religious tradition. The neophyte usually expresses the sentiments of fanaticism and exclusivism. The neophyte does not know how to behave when in the assembly of devotees. He or she cannot correctly distinguish between a devotee and a non-devotee and cannot be effective in dialogue regardless of the tradition to which he or she belongs. Srila Prabhupada warns, 'but if someone is a dogmatic and a blind follower then avoid to discuss [sic] with him.'
The mature devotee, very much concerned with proper relationships, can recognise devotees of God by their qualities and sentiment, and does not judge them by religious affiliation. Where devotion is manifest, he or she recognises a devotee. The mature devotee will recognise devotion to God by the presence of any of the nine devotional processes outlined by the Vaisnava authority Prahlada Maharaja. Srila Prabhupada has stated that although two of these nine processes, namely hearing spiritual sound (sravanam) and chanting the name of God(kirtanam), are specifically recommended as the most effective methods of spiritual practice for this age, each of the nine remains effective in every age. When mature, a devotee develops the mature vision necessary for sincere and trusting relationships with members of other faith communities.
The advanced stage of faith, the uttama platform, brings transcendental realisation. The advanced devotee sees all living beings as eternal servants of Krsna and treats them as such. He or she will have no interest in sectarian designations of race, caste, sex or religion and will renounce all worldly and materialistic association, in favour of associating with those dedicated to pure devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Vaisnavism recognises that spiritual or religious life essentially pertains to a personal and individual relationship between an eternal individual soul and the eternal Supreme Soul. Though a devotee performs various services that may please the Lord, the Supreme Lord grants spiritual realisation and pure devotional love by His own sweet will. Thus, adherents of Vaisnavism reject the idea that any one religion or organisation can hold a monopoly on the truth or a relationship that is governed solely by the Lord. Vaisnavas accept that Krsna, or God, is free to enter into loving exchanges with whomsoever He wishes, without considering colour, caste or creed.
The following principles will help members of ISKCON in approaching members of other faith communities. The principles are given here in a condensed form and require careful consideration.
Various articles from the ISKCON Communications Journal:
Contemporary Theological trends in the Hare Krishna Movement: A Theology of Religions
Dr. K. Knott. Vol. 1, No. 1
Religion and Religions
Ravindra Svarupa Dasa Vol. 1, No. 1
Christian and Jewish Responses to ISKCON: Dialogue or Diatribe?
John A. Saliba SJ Vol. 3, No. 2
Hinduism Vaishnavism and ISKCON: Authentic traditions or Scholarly Constructions?
Gavin Flood Vol. 3, No. 2
The Four Principles of Interfaith Dialogue and the Future of Religions
Kenneth Cracknell Vol.4, No.1
Hinduism and Interreligious Dialogue
Daniel Acharuparambil OCD Vol. 4, No.2
Dialogue with ISKCON: A Roman Catholic Perspective
John A. Saliba S. J Vol. 4, No.2
The Everlasting Soul: A Vaishnava-Christian Conference
Judsome Trapnell Vol. 6, No.1
Krishna Consciousness and Other Faiths
Shubhananda Dasa in the ISCKON Review Vol. 4, 1986
Krishna and Christ: ISKCON's Encounter with Christianity in North America
By Steven J. Gelberg (Subhananda Das) in Hindu-Christian Dialogue: Perspectives and Encounters, edited by Harold Coward, Orbis Books: Maryknoll, NY, 1989
Encountering God: From Bozeman to Banares
Diane L. Eck, Beacon Press: Boston, 1993
Justice Courtesy and Love: Theologians and Missionaries Encountering World Religions 1846-1914
Kenneth Cracknell, Epworth Press, 1995
Hindu and Christian in Vrindavan
Klaus Klostermaier, SCM press: London, 1969
Global Ethic for Global Politics and Economics
Hans Kung and Karl-Joseph (eds.) Kuschel SCM press: London
Guidelines on Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologies
Geneva, WCC, 1979 - Seminal document, in use in World Council of Churches (WCC) member churches since the WCC Central Committee, Kingston, Jamaica, 1979.
Towards a New Relationship: Christians and People of Other Faith
Kenneth Cracknell, London Epworth Press
God Has Many Names
John Hick, London and Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1980
Many Personal Experiences are recounted in this book.
Faith in the Midst of Faiths: Reflections on Dialogue in Community
Samantha J. Stanley, Geneva, World Council of Churches, 1977
The Faith of Other Men
Wilfred Cantwell Smith, New York and San Francisco, Harper and Rowe, 1963 and 1972
Images of Eternity: Concepts of God in Five Religious Traditions
Keith Ward, London, Darton, Longman Todd, 1987
Christianity and World Religions: Paths of Dialogue with Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism
Hans Kung et al., London, Collins, 1987
The Trinity and the Religious Experiences of Man
Raimundo Panikkar, London, Darton, Longman and Todd; Maryknoll, New York, Orbis Books, 1972
Towards a World Theology: Faith and the Comparative History of Religion
Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Philadelphia, The Westminster Press, and London and Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1981
Christian Theology and World Religions: a Global Approach
Frank Whaling, Basingstoke, Marshall Pickering, 1986
Preparation for Dialogue
Paul D. Devanandan, Bangalore, CISRS, 1964
The Unknown Christ of Hinduism: Towards an Ecumenical Chistophany
Raimundo Panikkar, London, Darton, Longman and Todd, 1981
Truth is Two-Eyed
J. A. T. Robinson, SCM Press, 1979
Robinson spent six months in 1976 travelling in India, Hong Kong and Japan undertaking Hindu-Christian dialogue, and his reflections are valuable.
The Seven Purposes of ISKCON
At Home with People of Other Faiths
(Co-operatively developed by the Northern Ireland Interfaith Forum and the ISKCON Interfatih Commission)
At Home with People of Other Faiths is an initiative to encourage practical opportunities for interfaith dialogue between religious denominations. The idea is to facilitate anyone who wishes to arrange a gathering of members of their own faith and members of a denomination of another faith in the secure and comfortable environment of their own home. The objectives of such gatherings are:
These meetings are not services of worship or opportunities to proselytise
The following are suggested guidelines for participants of home interfaith meetings. These guidelines aim to make your meeting a friendly, enjoyable and enriching learning experience.
And remember, you don't need to know anything about another's faith to sit with them and listen.
Note: The Northern Ireland Interfaith Forum was formed in 1993 and aims to promote friendship and mutual understanding across the spectrum of religious and ethnic life in Northern Ireland, and to encourage charitable purposes for the community as a whole.
The ISKCON Interfaith Commission was formed in 1995 to offer members of the Vaishnava community direction and guidance in developing relationships with people of other faiths.
At Home with Other Faiths has developed as the result of co-operation between the NIIF and the IIC.
 The seven purposes of ISKCON, as penned by Srila Prabhupada, are reproduced in full in Appendix 1.
 A pranama mantra is a mantra (or prayer) of respect and glorification. It is traditional for disciples of a spiritual teacher or holy person to chant a pranama mantra specifically composed for their glorification. The second of Srila Prabhupada's pranama mantras offers the following praises:
'I offer respectful obeisances to you, the servant of Sarasvati Goswami [the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada], who are preaching the message of Lord Caitanya and who are delivering the Western countries of voidism and impersonalism.'
 Thakur, Bhaktivinode, Sri-Caitanya-Siksamritam, Madras, India: Sri Gaudiya Math, 1983, p. 9.
 Thakur, Bhaktivinode, Light of the Bhagavat, Madras, India: Sri Gaudiya Math, 1983, p. 20
 Thakur, Bhaktivinode, Sri-Caitanya-Sikshamritam, p. 7
 Bhaktivedanta Swami, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 4.22.24, purp.
 In this connection Srila Prabhupada has written, 'It doesn't matter which set of religious principles one follows: the only injunction is that one must follow them strictly . Whether one is a Hindu, a Mohammedan or a Christian, one should follow one's own religious principles.' Bhag. 5.26.15, purp.
 Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1987, p.18, also see pp. 19symbol 150 \f "Sanskrit-Garamond" \s 10-20
 'The supreme and eternal occupation [ para dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.'
 'When first-class devotional service develops, one must be devoid of all material desires, knowledge obtained by monistic philosophy, and fruitive action. The devotee must constantly serve Krsna favorably, as Krsna desires.'
 Letter to Rupanuga Dasa, 3 June 1968.
 To understand this development of religion, both individually and collectively, one may study Vaisnava philosophy in terms of the Karma, Jnana and Bhakti paradigm. The fundamentals of this perspective are well presented by Ravindra Svarupa Dasa, in his article 'Religion and Religions', ISKCON Communications Journal, 1993.
 Sri Siksastaka, verse 3. These verses are reproduced in Songs of the Vaisnava Acaryas, Juhu, Bombay: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1991, pp.22-25
 Bhag. 11.2.47 purp.
 Letter to Toshana Krsna Dasa, 23, June 1970
 Bhag 11.2.46
 To illustrate this point Srila Prabhupada has observed that, 'There is no difference between a pure Christian and a sincere devotee of Krsna.' Room Conversation, Bombay, 5, April 1977.
 Bhag. 7.5.23-24
 Srila Prabupada has explained what is meant by realisation. 'Personal realisation does not mean that one should, out of vanity, attempt to show one's own learning by trying to surpass the previous acarya. He must have full confidence in the previous acaryas and at the same time he must realise the subject matter so nicely that he can present the matter for the particular circumstance in a suitable manner.' Bhag. 1.4.1 purp.
Srila Prabhupada has also outlined the basic knowledge a preacher must have to convey his message. One must understand that the Lord is '. the Supreme enjoyer, that He is the proprietor of everything, and that He is the best well-wisher and friend to everyone.' Bhag. 7. 6. 24 purp.
 Bhaktivedanta Swami, Caitanya Caritamrita, Madhya Lila, Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1990, 17. 195