The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was founded by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (Shrila Prabhupada) in the West in 1966. ISKCON belongs to Gaudiya (refers to Bengal) Vaishnavism, a devotional tradition based on the teachings of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
The precepts and practices of ISKCON were taught and codified by the 15th century saint and religious reformer Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1532), his brother Nityananda Prabhu and six of his principle associates, the Goswamis of Vrindavana (Sanatana, Rupa, Jiva, Gopal Bhatta, Raghunatha Dasa and Raghunatha Bhatta.
The Bhagavad-gita was first put into writing about 5000 years ago. The Gita is the principal scripture of The Hare Krishna Movement™ Organization. Its origins are more than 5000-years-old.
Shri Chaitanya, whom devotees recognize as a direct incarnation of Krishna, gave a powerful impetus for a massive bhakti (devotional) movement throughout India. Under his direction hundreds of volumes on the philosophy of Krishna consciousness were compiled. Many devotees followed in the preceptorial line of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu including, in the 19th century an outstanding Vaishnava theologian, Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914) who brought Krishna consciousness to a modern audience.
Bhaktivinoda’s son, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami (1874- 1937), became the guru of Shrila Prabhupada (1896-1977) and instructed him to spread Krishna consciousness in the West.
ISKCON’s history includes a disciplic succession (sampradaya or guru parampara). It draws its legitimacy from its place in a succession of spiritual teachers and disciples (parampara). There are four major disciplic successions, and ISKCON belongs to the Brahma-Gaudiya-Madhva (referring to Madhvacharya [A.D. 1239-1319]) sampradaya, founded by Lord Krishna Himself. The other three are called the Shri (referring to the goddess Laksmi) Sampradaya, the Rudra (referring to the god Shiva) Sampradaya and the Kumara (referring to the four Kumaras [celibate sages] Sampradaya.
There are many branches to the Brahma Sampradaya. ISKCON belongs to the Brahma-Gaudiya-Madhva lineage founded by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the 16th century.