This data was last updated on 3 July 2018.
History: It was in Boston that Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the world-wide spiritual leader and founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), first set foot on Western soil in 1965. Although his final destination was New York City, Srila Prabhupada decided to take a walking tour of Boston before moving on. Upon seeing the materialistic culture of American society for the first time, he prayed to Sri Krishna for the deliverance of the West while at Boston’s Commonwealth Pier. After establishing ISKCON in New York's Lower East Side, Srila Prabhupada sent disciples to major cities throughout the world. The Boston chapter of ISKCON was established in 1968 by the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, and soon became one of the largest ISKCON centers in the early years of the Hare Krishna movement. In April of 1969, Srila Prabhupada visited the newly established ISKCON Temple (then located in Allston, Mass.). During this visit, he imparted Brahmanical initiation to both men and women of Western origin for the first time, which was considered revolutionary by traditional Hindus. ISKCON Press, the movement's first publishing group, was created during this period for the printing and distribution of transcendental literature. Srila Prabhupada referred to book distribution as “the heart of the Krishna Consciousness Movement.” In 1973, the community moved to its present location at 72 Commonwealth Avenue. Disciples of Srila Prabhupada renovated the existing brownstone building to create a Temple and monastic community. This same building has been their home for almost twenty-five years. Although the Temple community has continued to grow in recent years, ISKCON of New England has begun to focus more on “boiling the milk,” or encouraging the spiritual growth of current devotees rather than focusing predominantly on expanding the membership base.
Description: The ISKCON of New England Temple is located amongst residential brownstone buildings in Boston. The first floor of the Temple consists of a large central space where devotees meet for services. This room also contains the Temple’s main altar, paintings of Krishna and other Deities, and a statue of Srila Prabhupada. There is also a smaller room on the first floor which serves as the Sacristy, or Pujari Room, where clothing and other items used in the Temple throughout the year are stored. The second floor of the Temple includes a lounge, a bathroom, a conference room, and office spaces. The third and fourth floors are residential quarters for the Temple’s monastics. The basement holds a licensed kitchen, which is used to prepare food for Deity offerings and for the Temple community. A second, smaller room in the basement stores the books that the Temple distributes throughout the community.
Activities and Schedule: ISKCON offers a weekly Sunday worship service, Wednesday evening service, Friday night kirtan (devotional singing), as well as weekly mantra meditations on Tuesdays and scriptural study programs on Saturdays. The residing monastics observe a daily morning service, and the Temple conducts seven aratis (worship ceremonies) and darshans (viewing of deities) throughout the day. Deity darshan is also available all day Saturday and Sunday. Additionally, the Temple encourages members to meet regularly for home satsang (religious association) throughout the New England region. During the year, the Temple also hosts celebrations and festivals including the advent days of Radha and Krishna, and other major holidays. All events are free and open to the public.
Outreach: In addition to hosting groups of visiting students at the Temple on an ongoing basis, ISKCON provides weekly educational programs for college students at MIT and Tufts University. The Temple also conducts large-scale book distribution through Sastra Dana, a project that places Srila Prabhupada’s books in libraries, schools, hotels, hospitals, correctional facilities, stores, and coffee shops.
Considerations for Expansion: With the continued expansion of the ISKCON community in the greater Boston area, the existing Temple often proves to be too small for celebrating major festivals and holidays. Given that the Temple is located within a busy district in Boston, parking has also become a challenge. Temple leaders are currently exploring several potential solutions to this issue, while encouraging home satsang, where families host worship services at their homes with the participation of Temple priests and monastics.
Leadership: The Temple president of ISKCON of New England serves as head priest, pastor, and preacher. The twelve resident monastics at the Temple are responsible for the upkeep of the building, administrative work, liturgical services (including Deity worship and kirtan), and food preparation. Each resident is responsible for a number of areas of service throughout each day. Several members of the Temple also have leadership roles in various areas, such as Sastra Dana and home satsang.