It would be interesting to know whether Steven Rosen included in his book, all the remarks that Srila Prabhupada made about Hinduism. The Krishna Consciousness Movement is not a Hindu movement; that’s clearly the message we get from Srila Prabhupada’s various statements on the subject.
What is also surprising is that our leaders (GBC and temple presidents) have made official statements — at various times — alluding a clear connection between the Sankirtana Movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Hinduism. I wonder where do they that from?
Hinduism — the way it is presented by the Hindus themselves — is strikingly and unmistakably polytheistic and pantheistic, which are considered inferior forms of theologies among Western theologians. Actually, Vaishnava theology also considers such forms of theologies inferior to the exclusivity and monotheistic of bhakti.
I wonder what’s the benefit of the tendency to keep mingling Hindusim with the Krishna Consciousness Movement?
Of course, ykd108 is correct to point out that Srila Prabhupada made it clear that the Krishna consciousness movement is not preaching the Hindu religion -- but why stop there? In fact, Srila Prabhupada made it equally clear that the movement is not preaching any sectarian religion; Krishna consciousness, he boldly reminded us, is trying to share pure love of God (a supra-religious, transcendent, universal goal). As far as theological statements go, that is both accurate and powerful.
From a historical and sociological standpoint, however, it is just as accurate to identify the movement as representing the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya, a monotheistic faith with roots in what is commonly known as Hinduism. Thus it is entirely possible (and legitimate) to speak about our philosophy as being both non-sectarian or non-religious (in an absolute context), and being one of the "traditions [that] collectively constitute the numerically largest portion of the Hindu world" (in the -- dare I say, mundane -- relative context).
In expressing his fear of the "mingling Hindusim" [sic] monster that lurks beneath ISKCON's bed, ykd108 inadvertently highlights one (of several) reasons that devotees do need to participants in the Hindu world. "Hinduism" ykd108 informs us "...is strikingly and unmistakably polytheistic and pantheistic." And lest we fault him for this generalization, he quickly points out that this snapshot of the religion is "the way it is presented by the Hindus themselves." And that is precisely the problem. For who are "the Hindus" that ykd108 refers to? And by what process were they invited to be the unequivocal spokespersons for Hinduism? Surely, there are more than a few Hindus -- for example, my dear Sri Vaisnava friends (who follow Sripada Ramanujacarya’s teachings faithfully and also identify themselves as Hindus) -- who would beg to differ. Certainly, educated and realized ISKCON devotees -- folks like Satyaraja Prabhu, for example -- could do amazing service for Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya by introducing people to the beautiful and theologically indefensible traditions of monotheism and devotional service within that vast Hindu culture.
But ykd108 seems content to surrender the task of defining Hindu to stereotype-fed indologists and an impersonalist elite (for instance, Swami Vivekananda and his neo-Vedantic progeny). Tragically, our consolation prize is the opportunity to bask in the conviction that "Vaishnava theology also considers such forms of theologies inferior to the exclusivity and monotheistic of bhakti" [sic], which puts us in the company of Western theologians (who, by the way, will likely still think of us as Hindus).
I think we can do better.
I truly believe that we can (and must) describe our tradition in an articulate, honest, and accurate way: by acknowledging the Vaisnava faith in its proper context, and by humbly sharing what makes being a follower of Lord Caitanya the most wonderful, unique, sublime process.
It may not always be easy, but to do any less -- even in the name of safeguarding the exclusivity of bhakti -- would constitute the real compromise.