Sometimes referred to as the "kitchen religion", ISKCON, or the Hare Krishna Movement, believes the art of cooking is a sacred experience. The preparation and eating of food should be based on principles of compassion, non-violence and balanced living. Thus, Krishna devotees advocate a lacto-vegetarian diet, strictly avoiding meat, fish and eggs.
The Bhagavad-Gita further declares that one who lovingly offers his food to God according to scriptural guidelines becomes freed from sinful reactions, or karma. Stopping animal killing reduces our collective karmic debt, and thus helps alleviate the horrors of war which so plague the modern world.
More than just practicing a vegetarian diet, ISKCON members actively promote vegetarianism. Krishna devotees have authored many highly acclaimed cookbooks, including the bestselling Higher Taste Vegetarian Cookbook, with more than a million copies in print. As early as 1992, Yamuna Devi was awarded the James Beard Award for Best International Cookbook for her classic vegetarian text Yamuna’s Table. And, Australian-born chef Kurma Dasa has not only authored several cookbooks, but his popular "Cooking with Kurma" series was aired on public television stations around the world.
In addition, there are nearly 100 Hare Krishna restaurants around the world including New York, Los Angeles, New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Rome, London, Lima, Buenos Aires, Nairobi, Sydney and Melbourne. ISKCON temples also host vegetarian cooking classes, and millions have been exposed to, and encouraged to adopt, a vegetarian diet at ISKCON temples’ weekly Sunday Feast programs.
Several ISKCON farm communities like the Gita Nagari farm in rural Pennsylvania and Bhakti Vedanta Manor outside London produce cruelty free or ahimsa milk, ensuring that no cows, calves or bulls are slaughtered in the production of milk, but are instead treated with respect, love and care.
Yoga is more than just a physical exercise. The word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit root Yuj which means to link up with, or combine. Bhakti is derived from the Sanskrit word bhaj, which means – loving service. Bhakti-yoga means to connect to the Supreme by means of loving devotional service.
The Bhagavad Gita, the core spiritual text for ISKCON, describes variety of yoga practices. Among them are karma-yoga (the practice of conscious action), jnana-yoga (philosophical study and contemplation), and hatha-yoga (the practice of yoga-asanas and breathing exercises).
Today, some yoga practitioners consider the physical benefits of yoga to be the end in themselves. But according to the traditional yoga systems, physical exercises are just one step on path of God realization. The Gita ultimately prescribes bhakti-yoga (the path of dedication and love) as the culmination of other yoga practices. Bhakti-yoga focuses on developing our dedication, service and love for the Divinity, Lord Krishna.
The path of bhakti-yoga is developed through a variety of activities. These include mantra meditation, or the chanting of the names of God. The chanting is done either individually on beads (japa) or in community by chanting mantras accompanied by music (kirtan). The study of sacred texts such as the Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, associating with like-minded spiritual aspirants, eating sanctified vegetarian food, and living in a way that upholds the principles of truthfulness, mercy, austerity, and cleanliness, are all core practices for a life of follower of bhakti.