“Hare Krishna” brings to mind, for many, the conspicuous Hare Krishna devotees, who first hit the streets of Western cities in the 1960s and 1970s, dancing and chanting with drums and cymbals, wearing saffron dhotis or colourful saris, and selling Bhagavad Gita As It Is and other books. These devotees were members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. ISKCON was the first organised Vaishnava group to make a large impression outside of India. Now a number of such Vaishnava groups are proactively preaching within the Western world, such as the Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mission and other lineages of the Gaudiya Math.
From a theological perspective Hare Krishna devotees are classified as practitioners of Bhakti Yoga. They are also referred to as Gaudiya Vaishnavas because they follow a line of gurus descending from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who appeared in Bengal (Gauda is an old name of Bengal). Vaishnavism comes under the general banner of being a Hindu religion.
Most serious ‘Hare Krishna’ practitioners live according to strict rules. For example, initiates take vows to abstain from all forms of recreational drugs and intoxicants (including caffeine), from eating meat, fish and eggs, from gambling, and from all sexual relations except for purposes of procreation within marriage. For non-initiates how many of these rules to follow is left to one’s own discretion, but these four ‘regulative principles’ remain the agreed standard to aim towards.
Article released under GNU license from Wikipedia – Hare Krishna