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Toilets at the Establishment of the Hare Krishna Movement

International Society for Krishna Consciousness

What many people simply call the Hare Krishna movement is, more formally, the International Society for Kirshna Consciousness, a relatively new Vaishnava spiritual movement within Hinduism, more specifically in the Gaudiya Vaishnava (or Chaitanya Vaishnava) movement.

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Vaishnava Beliefs

Vaishnavism in general is monotheistic, one of the major branches of Hinduism, worshiping the one true Deity or the Supreme Personality of Godhead known as Vishnu, sometimes addressed as Krishna or Narayana. The Rigveda describes Lord Vishnu as the Supreme Deity. The Rigveda is the oldest Vedic religious text, composed roughly 1700-1100 BC during the late Bronze Age, and is one of the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language.

Gaudiya Vaishnavism or Chaitanya Vaishnavism is a Vaishnava movement arising in the 1500s in the Gauḍa region, today's Bengal and Bangladesh. It is based mainly on the Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavata Purana plus other scriptures including the Upanishads. Its traditional origins lie in a series of spiritual masters or gurus, believed to have originated with Brahma himself.

Some Christians, despite their concept of the Trinity and three incarnations of the one true Godhead, have a very hard time seeing this as monotheism. But that is literally how this belief defines itself. Part of the difficulty is due to the number being much larger than just three. Another is probably linguistic, although that's as silly as saying that the French can't be Christians because they worship this mysterious Dieu, and don't even get them started about the Russians and their pagan Bog which they go so far as to spell Бог in their crazy alphabet.

Anyway, the Vaishnava view is that there is just one Supreme God, a concept referred to in Sanskrit as Svayam Bhagavan or "The Lord Himself". The many forms of Vishnu are incarnations of the one Supreme God or Svayam Bhagavan, who is Krishna the purnavatara or complete manifestation, the source of all Avataric incarnations of God. With the name Krishna meaning "He who is all-attractive", it is the "fullest" description as it contains all of God's aspects such as all-powerful, all-loving, supremely merciful, and so on. Compare this to the Christian concept of God the Creator, God the Father, God the All-Powerful, God the All-Loving, and so on. The identification of Krishna as the complete manifestation of God comes from the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10:

1 The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Listen again, O mighty-armed Arjuna. Because you are My dear friend, for your benefit I shall speak to you further, giving knowledge that is better than what I have already explained.
2 Neither the hosts of demigods nor the great sages know My origin or opulences, for, in every respect, I am the source of the demigods and sages.
3 He who knows Me as the unborn, as the beginningless, as the Supreme Lord of all the worlds — he only, undeluded among men, is freed from all sins.
4-5 Intelligence, knowledge, freedom from doubt and delusion, forgiveness, truthfulness, control of the senses, control of the mind, happiness and distress, birth, death, fear, fearlessness, nonviolence, equanimity, satisfaction, austerity, charity, fame and infamy — all these various qualities of living beings are created by Me alone.
6 The seven great sages and before them the four other great sages and the Manus [progenitors of mankind] come from Me, born from My mind, and all the living beings populating the various planets descend from them.
7 One who is factually convinced of this opulence and mystic power of Mine engages in unalloyed devotional service; of this there is no doubt.
8 I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.
9 The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.
10 The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.
11 To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.
12-13 Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala and Vyasa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.
14 O Krishna, I totally accept as truth all that You have told me. Neither the demigods nor the demons, O Lord, can understand Your personality.
15 Indeed, You alone know Yourself by Your own internal potency, O Supreme Person, origin of all, Lord of all beings, God of gods, Lord of the universe!
16 Please tell me in detail of Your divine opulences by which You pervade all these worlds.
17 O Krishna, O supreme mystic, how shall I constantly think of You, and how shall I know You? In what various forms are You to be remembered, O Supreme Personality of Godhead?
18 O Janardana, again please describe in detail the mystic power of Your opulences. I am never satiated in hearing about You, for the more I hear the more I want to taste the nectar of Your words.
19 The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Yes, I will tell you of My splendorous manifestations, but only of those which are prominent, O Arjuna, for My opulence is limitless.
20 I am the Supersoul, O Arjuna, seated in the hearts of all living entities. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings.
21 Of the Adityas I am Vishnu, of lights I am the radiant sun, of the Maruts I am Marici, and among the stars I am the moon.

22 Of the Vedas I am the Sama Veda; of the demigods I am Indra, the king of heaven; of the senses I am the mind; and in living beings I am the living force [consciousness].
23 Of all the Rudras I am Lord Siva, of the Yakshas and Rakshasas I am the Lord of wealth [Kuvera], of the Vasus I am fire [Agni], and of mountains I am Meru.
24 Of priests, O Arjuna, know Me to be the chief, Brihaspati. Of generals I am Kartikeya, and of bodies of water I am the ocean.
25 Of the great sages I am Bhrigu; of vibrations I am the transcendental om. Of sacrifices I am the chanting of the holy names [japa], and of immovable things I am the Himalayas.
26 Of all trees I am the banyan tree, and of the sages among the demigods I am Narada. Of the Gandharvas I am Citraratha, and among perfected beings I am the sage Kapila.
27 Of horses know Me to be Uccaihsrava, produced during the churning of the ocean for nectar. Of lordly elephants I am Airavata, and among men I am the monarch.
28 Of weapons I am the thunderbolt; among cows I am the surabhi. Of causes for procreation I am Kandarpa, the god of love, and of serpents I am Vasuki.
29 Of the many-hooded Nagas I am Ananta, and among the aquatics I am the demigod Varuna. Of departed ancestors I am Aryama, and among the dispensers of law I am Yama, the lord of death.
30 Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada, among subduers I am time, among beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda.
31 Of purifiers I am the wind, of the wielders of weapons I am Rama, of fishes I am the shark, and of flowing rivers I am the Ganges.
32 Of all creations I am the beginning and the end and also the middle, O Arjuna. Of all sciences I am the spiritual science of the self, and among logicians I am the conclusive truth.
33 Of letters I am the letter A, and among compound words I am the dual compound. I am also inexhaustible time, and of creators I am Brahma.
34 I am all-devouring death, and I am the generating principle of all that is yet to be. Among women I am fame, fortune, fine speech, memory, intelligence, steadfastness and patience.
35 Of the hymns in the Sama Veda I am the Brihat-sama, and of poetry I am the Gayatri. Of months I am Margasirsha [November-December], and of seasons I am flower-bearing spring.
36 I am also the gambling of cheats, and of the splendid I am the splendor. I am victory, I am adventure, and I am the strength of the strong.
37 Of the descendants of Vrishni I am Vasudeva, and of the Pandavas I am Arjuna. Of the sages I am Vyasa, and among great thinkers I am Usana.
38 Among all means of suppressing lawlessness I am punishment, and of those who seek victory I am morality. Of secret things I am silence, and of the wise I am the wisdom.
39 Furthermore, O Arjuna, I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being — moving or nonmoving — that can exist without Me.
40 O mighty conqueror of enemies, there is no end to My divine manifestations. What I have spoken to you is but a mere indication of My infinite opulences.
41 Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendor.
42 But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe.

They believe that consciousness is part of the soul, which is eternal and distinct from its current body. Souls captivated by Maya or the illusory nature of the world are repeatedly reborn in accordance with the laws of karma and individual desire.

The ultimate aim is bhakti or devotional worship in its purest form. This is based on the chanting or singing of Krishna's names.

Gaudiya Vaishnavism began gaining some Western converts starting around 1900 in the United States, and then in the 1930s in England.

Chanting in Tompkins Square Park and the Establishment of ISKCON

Abhay Charan De was born in 1896 in a suburb of Calcutta. He studied at the local Scottish Church College, where he was a member of both the English Society and the Sanskrit Society and graduated in 1920 with majors in English, philosophy and economics. In 1922 he first met the man who would be his spiritual master and guide, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who asked him to spread the message of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in English.

In 1950 Abhay Charan De owned a small pharmaceutical business, was married and had children. He then adopted the lifestyle of a vanaprastha or pious mendicant. In 1959 he took sannyasa or the vow of renunciation, took the sannyasa name of Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, or, in Sanskrit, अभय चरणाऱविनढ भकिवॆढानत सवामी परभुपाढ. He then became a traveling Vaishnava monk.

For what it's worth, Toilet Guru seems to be शौचालय गुर  or shauchalya guru in Hindi.

In 1965 he obtained free passage on the cargo ship Jaladuta, possessing only a suitcase, an umbrella, about eight U.S. dollars worth of Indian currency, some dry cereal, and several boxes of books. He arrived in New York City in September, 1965, and began looking for followers and teaching.

Hare Krishna elm tree in Tompkins Park in New York.

The Hare Krishna Elm in Tompkins Square Park.

On October 9, 1966, Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his followers, including Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, sat beneath this large American elm (Ulmus americara) tree in Tompkins Square Park and held the first chanting session of the Hare Krishna mantra, also known as the Maha Mantra or "Great Mantra", complete with cymbals, tambourines and other percussion instruments, plus dancing, going on for two hours or more.

This was the founding of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, often abbreviated as ISKCON.

This Hare Krishna mantra or Maha Mantra became important in the 15th century, but only became well known outside India starting with the establishment of ISKCON or the Hare Krishna movement. The mantra is based on three Sanskrit names for God in the vocative case, in which a noun identifies the person being addressed. That is, it is an expression of direct address. The idea is that the mantra says God's names to God. The names are:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

हरॆ कृशण हरॆ कृशण
कृशण कृशण हरॆ हरॆ
हरॆ राम हरॆ राम
राम राम हरॆ हरॆ

Hare or हरॆ which could be another name of Vishnu meaning "He who Removes Illusion" or it could refer to "the energy of God" according to Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Krishna or कृशण referring to God himself, meaning "He who is All-Attractive." (the Devanagari script isn't coming out correctly for this one)

Rama or राम referring to God himself, meaning "He who is the Source of All Pleasure."

The mantra is repeated, as mantras are, either out loud (a practice called kirtan), softly to oneself (or japa), or silently, thinking the mantra repeatedly without vocalizing it. Sankirtana is street chanting with dancing.

Public toilet in Tompkins Park in New York.

Public toilets in Tompkins Park.

Tompkins Square Park, the site of this chanting, lies between Avenue A and Avenue B on its west and east, and 7th Street and 10th Street on its south and north in the Alphabet City section of what is now called the East Village in Manhattan. It opened as a park in 1850, and has been the site of a number of uprisings through the years. Immigrants protesting unemployment and food shortages were attacked by police in 1857.

The Draft Riots of 1863 were the largest civil insurrection in the United States. The riots started when working-class men, primarily ethnic Irish, protested how wealthy men could pay a $300 commutation fee to hire a substitute and avoid being drafted to fight in the American Civil War. This turned into race riots with white rioters attacking blacks, ransacking and destroying public buildings, and burning the Colored Orphan Asylum at Fifth Avenue and 44th Street to the ground.

New York City Parks and Recreation stainless steel toilet.

Standard issue New York City Department of Parks and Recreation stainless steel toilet.

The Tompkins Square Riot of 1874 started with a demonstration by over seven thousand unemployed workers. About 1,600 policemen were deployed and forcibly ejected the crowd from the park.

In 1877, five thousand people gathered in the park to listen to revolutionary Communist speeches, and then fought with the National Guard troops sent to disperse them.

The park was a little quieter for the next century, until the 1960s and demonstrations against the Vietnam War. And, of course, the Hare Krishna chanting.

By the 1980s the park was a high-crime area, a center for drug dealing and heroin use, and a large encampment of homeless people. Police attempted to clear the homeless encampment out of the park in August 1988, leading to a riot.

The park was closed to the public for a little over a year from early June 1991 until late July 1992, primarily for restoration but also to keep the homeless out of the park and to reduce neighborhood tensions. The public toilets, post-renovation, are seen above from the outside and at right on the inside. These toilets would have been used by the earliest followers of Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada when he was teaching in the park.

The original Hare Krishna temple was established on Second Avenue between East 1st and 2nd Streets. It is now just north of the BP gas station on the corner with East 1st Street. The Catholic Worker headquarters is down East 1st Street just past the gas station, giving the block a countercultural vibe.

Hare Krishna temple in New York.

The original Hare Krishna temple on Second Avenue between East 1st and 2nd Streets.

Looking north on 2nd Avenue past the Hare Krishna temple in New York.

Looking north on Second Avenue past the original Hare Krishna temple.

With ISKCON established in New York, Bhaktivedanta Swami started a second center in San Francisco. He then traveled with his disciples through America, popularizing the movement through sankirtana or street chanting.

A group then went to England, where they soon came into contact with George Harrison. He spoke at length with Bhaktivedanta Swami, eventually becoming a member of ISKCON, and incorporated the mantra into his music, most prominently My Sweet Lord. Harrison also assisted Ringo Starr with writing his song It Don't Come Easy using part of the mantra in the lyrics.

Allen Ginsberg was still involved in the movement, or at least interested and on its fringes. He appeared on the 1968 album Tenderness Junction by The Fugs, chanting the mantra.

Bhaktivedanta Swami kept traveling, and chanting, and writing an enormous amount. He translated a large volume of classic Vedic scripture into English, accompanying the translation with commentary. Bhagavad-Gita As It Is is the most prominent of these.

The four legs of Dharma or natural law, the behaviors necessary for maintaining the natural order, are;

Bhaktivedanta Swami prescribed four "regulative principles" for his followers as the basis for their spiritual life and maintenance of the four legs of dharma:

Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada died in India in 1977.

If you're still reading, you would probably like to continue next to the Hindu toilet rituals and regulations from the Manusmṛti.