Back to Godhead
Published on September 21st, 2017 | by Harmonist staff11
The following article was written in 1944 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as an explanation for his motivation and reasoning for starting his publication Back to Godhead. It demonstrates his deep spiritual faith as well as his considerable awareness of the world around him. It also sheds light on his spiritual affiliations at the time and his sense of his spiritual authorization, if you will, to begin the publication. For these reasons, it is a significant historical document.
Humanity, having forgotten itself to be the offspring of the Godhead, has forsaken its constitutional nature. It has misidentified with everything non-godly and therefore merely animates a material existence conducted by the mind and the senses. Human society is largely concerned only with its material coverings of the gross body and the subtle mind but cannot see itself for what it is. This is nescience, darkness. Man, having designated himself with his vehicular body and the finer elements of mind and ego etc., like the motor car driver who has identified himself wrongly with the motor car itself, has manufactured a civilization which is self-contradictory and in self-denial.
In the darkness of nescience, man is fascinated with the mechanism of the gross body, just like a boy who is fascinated with the mechanism of the motor-car. But he does not understand that without a driver any amount of mechanical arrangement of the motor-car or the human body cannot move either of them even by an inch.
This is actually the civilization of nescience or illusion that has turned civilization into militarization. This militarization in softer language is nationalization. There is no meaning to a fight where the parties fight only for the matter of different colored dresses. We must come to an understanding of humanity beyond the bodily designation or colored dresses.
Back to Godhead is a feeble attempt by the undersigned—under the direction of His Divine Grace Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada, the celebrated founder and organizer of the Gaudiya Math activities—to promote human relations centered on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That there is a great and urgent need of a literature like this is keenly felt by the leaders of all countries and the following statements support this premise.
Some time back a bold statement by the Metropolitan of India in the form of Moral and Spiritual Re-armament movement was published in the Hindusthan Standard, in which the reverend Bishop declared that “India guided by God can lead man back to sanity.”
The President of the United States of America in a message to the Senate stated that, “The underlying strength of the world consists in the moral fiber of citizens. A program therefore of moral re-armament for the world cannot fail to lessen the dangers of armed conflict. Such moral re-armament, to be most highly effective, must receive support on a world-wide basis.”
The Ex-president of the United States of America, Mr. Herbert Hoover, sent a message in a citizen’s meeting in New York which included the following words: “What the world needs today is to return to sanity and moral spiritual ideals. At the present moment, nothing so concerns mankind.”
Some 236 members of the British House of Commons jointly affirmed that spiritual principles, which are the common heritage of all people, are more fundamental than any political or economic issue. They also strongly affirmed that there is an urgent need to acknowledge the sovereign authority of God in home and nation to establish that liberty which rests on the Christian responsibility to all one’s fellowmen and to build a national life based on usefulness, unity, and faith.
Sir Stafford Cripps, the Lord Privy Seal of Britain, in a meeting of Christians sometime in the month of September 1942, said that the Kingdom of God would be accomplished through the divine power of love, and he declared that, “the tasks before us are, first so to conduct ourselves as individual Christians that in spite of the difficulties of our surroundings, we may work towards the establishment of the Kingdom of God throughout our country and the world, and second, so to influence and change our social, economic, and political environments as to encourage both ourselves and others to take to the Christian way of life.”
The horrors of the war are pinching everyone in the world, and a statement of Mr. Windel Wilkie after his return from Russia tells the story of all other countries in the world. He stated that “Five million Russians have been killed, wounded, or gone missing. At least sixty million Russians are slaves in the Russian territories controlled by Hitler. Food in Russia this winter will be scarce, perhaps worse than scarce. Fuel will be little known this winter in millions of Russian homes. Clothing except for the army and for essential war workers has nearly gone. Many vital medical supplies just do not exist.”
What is true for the Russian people is also true for other people, as we Indians are feeling the same scarcity, the same want, and the same disgust. The disgust of the war is well summarized by the Foreign Secretary of Britain, Mr. Anthony Eden, who said, “This time we have to finish the job properly. We will not tolerate this business every twenty years. When the job is finished we must see that they cannot start it again. That is the will of the nation and the united nations.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury in his recent broadcast in London said, “In every quarter of earth men long to be delivered from the curse of war and to find in a world which has regained its peace and respite from the harshness and bitterness of the world they have known till now. But so often they want the Kingdom of Heaven without its King. The kingdom of God without God. And they cannot have it. Our resolve must be back to God. We must make plans for the future for peace amongst nations and for civil security at home. That is quite right enough and it would be wrong to neglect it. But all our plans will come to ship-wreck on the rock of human selfishness unless we turn to God. Back to God, that is the chief need of England and of every nation.”
And recently Sir Francis Younghusband while speaking at World Congress of Faiths said, “Now religion is everywhere attacked brutally, we look to India, the very home of religion, for a sign.” Sir Francis pleaded that India, by her example, might show the world how religion can be the most potent of all uniting forces in the conduct of human affairs.
Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the great Hindu philosopher, addressing a crowded public meeting in Calcutta, recently observed:
At a time like this when there is poverty, malnutrition of body and mind, when many people do not know what it is to have a cooked meal, or to lie on soft bed, when millions of homes turn into homes of hunger and prisoners of poverty, religious men will have to address themselves to the task of removing them.
Today the world is noisier, more controversial, and violent. There is more hope and more uncertainty, more aspirations and more frustration. And the years that intervened (from the last war) showed the bankruptcy of any spiritual value. The Versailles Treaty, the League of Nations, and the Disarmament Conference failed because they had not the background of public opinion to sustain them. This war, when it would be won, would prove to be the breeding ground of other wars if the peace was not saved. It could happen only if powerful nations ceased to take pride and glory in their possessions which were based on labor and tribute of other weaker nations. This perhaps was what Sir Harcourt Butler meant when he said that the principles of Hinduism contained the essential elements for the saving of world civilizations.”
In another meeting, the same philosopher pointed out, “We have to defeat tyranny in the realm of thought and create a will for world peace. Instruments for training the mind and educating human nature should be used to develop a proper social outlook without which institutional machinery is of little use.”
These psychological movements of the leaders of all countries combined with the orders of my Divine Master Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada have led me to venture to start a paper under the above name and style: Back to Godhead, which implies all the words that we intend to say in this connection.
India has been politically subjugated for the last one thousand years, but very few have been able to exploit her spiritual resources up till now. Politically India may ask all foreigners to quit the shores of India, but spiritually she never asked any body to do so nor she will do so even now. She will rather invite all the so-called foreigners to come and exploit the spiritual resources of India’s advancement and this transcendental exploitation will not only enhance the glory of India but will also enrich the glory of the whole world for unity, faith, and humanity.
It may not be out of place to mention herein that His Divine Grace Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada, just before his departure from this mortal world, wrote me a letter from Puri dated the 3rd December 1936, directing me towards my duty in fulfilling his mission in the world for propagating the religion of divine love as propounded by Lord Chaitanya. In the course of writing that letter, he wrote the following lines amongst other things:
I am fully confident that you can explain in English our thoughts and arguments to the people. This will do much good to yourself as well as your audience. I have every hope that you can turn yourself into a very good English preacher if you serve the mission to inculcate the novel impression to the people in general and philosophers of modern age and religiosity.
And when I was consulting my well-wishers and friends who are able to help me in this great adventure, all of them encouraged me in this connection. His Grace Sripad Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaja, the preacher-in-charge for the Western countries appointed by His Divine Grace who has recently returned from London preaching work to his headquarters, very kindly sent his blessing from Sri Nityananda Gaudiya Math in his letter dated the March 15, 1943, offering the following words among other things: “I know that His Divine Grace used to admire your intelligence and it was his earnest desire that the world outside be benefited through your writings in English.”
Under the circumstances since 1936 up to now, I was simply speculating whether I shall venture this difficult task, and that without any means and capacity; but as none has discouraged me including late Professor Nishikanto Sanyal and Sripad Ananta Vasudev Prabhu (now Puri Maharaja), I have now taken courage to take up the work. The late Professor Sanyal used to encourage me always by publishing my articles in his “Harmonist” and sometime back he wanted to give me the charge of the paper which I could not accept due to personal considerations. But at the present moment, my conscience is dictating me to take up the work although the difficulties are not over for the present situation arising out of war conditions.
I wish that everyone who is enlightened and educated of all nationalities may take active interest in this publication for wide circulation, as this paper will contain only the transcendental messages of the great savants of India and especially of Lord Chaitanya, the Godhead incarnate who descended for the deliverance of all fallen souls in the present age. My duty will be simply to repeat in the “Back to Godhead“—just like an interpreter—what I have heard from and what I have been ordered to deliver by my great spiritual master His Divine Grace Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada. Nothing will be manufactured by me by my mental concoction. Such words will descend as transcendental sound, and when they are given proper reception by the aural channel, surely they will act like medicine to carry all back to home and back to Godhead.
It is proposed that at least part by part issues of this literature shall be published every year and the subscription is fixed up at Rs. 6/- per annum in India or fifteen shillings per annum abroad. The writers of this paper will be mostly those who have dedicated their lives, resources, intelligence, and speeches for the service of the Absolute Personality of Godhead and for the welfare of all entities. The readers will, therefore, derive the highest amount of benefit by their association if they will simply sacrifice a little time for the service of Godhead as will be directed in this paper from time to time. Surely they will go back to Godhead and the present rotten world will be transformed into the Kingdom of God as they will learn to acknowledge the sovereign authority of God in home and outside.
The subject matters delineated in the pages of Back to Godhead may seem to be very dry in the beginning as the messages are from a different sphere altogether, but still we have to give attention to the messages if we really mean to cure the disease of nescience and go back to Godhead. Sugar-candy is never sweet to those who are suffering from a disease of the bile. But still, sugar-candy is the medicine for bilious patients. The taste of sugar-candy will gradually be revived if the bilious patient goes on taking sugar-candy regularly for the cure of the disease. We recommend the same process to the readers of Back to Godhead.
Godhead is one without a second and all living entities are his eternal, subordinate, and transcendental servitors. Realization of this transcendental relation will be the attempt of this paper and therefore there is no bar for any one in the world, irrespective of color, creed, and nationality, to go back to Godhead.
Abhay Charan De,
Editor and Founder.
It is interesting to note that at the time of writing this Prabhupada had some regard for Ananta Vasudeva, who later more or less denounced Gaudiya Math. I believe that by 1944 Ananta Vasudeva had a large following and was seen by most as the successor to Bhaktisiddhanta Saraaswati Thakura. Professor Sanyal, who is also respected in this article, ended up following the ideas of Ananta Vasudeva. Both of them ended up disappointing Prabhupada, Sridhara Maharaja, and many others.
But then Prabhupad denounced GM and established ISKCON. Persons on the other side thought of him of same way. You then went away from ISKCON and pursue your spirituality alone with your disciples and people interested to know more. That seems to be the best way (although others will always judge).
Organized religion of any kind kills the soul of spirituality. For people’s sake I hope persons like you won’t be involved with any institution.
I do not entirely disagree with what you have written but there is a difference in what Ananta Vasudeva did and what Prabhupada or others like myself did. I preferred no to go into that here out of respect for him as a person and devotee despite my strongly disagreeing with his position. To his credit he made some very good points about institutions, but in my opinion he reached the wrong conclusion about his guru. But my sense is that he is now among us and spiritual life ultimately goes on regardless of mistakes. Hence my respect.
People always have opinions. Similarly to you own, other people will observe your move and understanding behind your decisions and find them inappropriate for this reason or that. Many will argue you don’t follow the steps of your gurus, because (for example) you live a more secluded, modern expression of babaji-style life beyond institution than your predecessors who strongly opposed such a thought. Then who is right?
There’s no more relative thing in this world that constantly touts about “absolute” and “truth” than religion. Maybe in that way, by stumbling upon every rock on the road, it shows us the truer and more beautiful nature of the absolute, which is able to reconcile all differences that exist within and amidst our own realities.
It is interesting as people just show how SP denounced SSM for supporting Ananta Vasudeva. SP also did not have that much problem with him initially!!
I guess people do not pay attention to it because Prabhupada said later very strong words against him.
I was wondering about it that perhaps Prabhupada did not know Ananta Vasudeva personally and knew his story only from some other people and therefore was later so extremely negatively disposed towards him. But on the contrary he seemed to like Lalita Prasad although it was well known that he was against the way Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati preached. Personal relationship sometimes gives totally different perspective.
A smart Westerner will always stay away from arguing with or about traditional Indian religion and personality issues. Because everything is already multiplied by a factor of infinite and hells, heavens, gods, demigods, angels, devils etc. are involved in their quarrel and disagreement. It’s a part of exaggeration so common to that culture, which (no wonder) has such a wonderful mythology. So whenever you hear stories like that, divide everything by one million at least, to get a picture we in the West can better comprehend.
To understand what West is, what western thinking and religion is and what Indian religion is (Dharmic traditions), what Indian thinking is and how it differs from the west, please read the book BEING DIFFERENT from Rajiv Malhotra. You can really understand and appreciate the Dharmic traditions better and also understand better the people following it.
The last point you said –
This is so typical of a western mind. This is explained in this book. Western mind, because of its simplistic models of religion/life/world, cannot comprehend complexity and ambiguity. Unable to comprehend, West simply calls it Chaos. In fact, there is no equivalent word for Chaos in Sanskrit. The author explains that such a environment is a cognitive overload for the western mind. This is all discussed in this wonderful book. Please read.
It is fascinating to observe the changes a great saintly personality undergoes in their life. Srila Prabhupada in 1944 was not the same Srila Prabhupada in 1966, nor was SP in 1966 the same as SP in 1977.
Fascinating indeed! Being connected with the dynamic, ever-evolving Absolute makes for dynamic, ever-evolving saintly people.
Reading this brings me some hope because it shows that there is a heritage of common respect for all faiths that was emanating from our sampradaya at a most tenuous time in world affairs. This article seems to also put into perspective the awareness of the leadership of the Western religious preachers that India could set the example for the whole world. In that vein, the “Back to Godhead” vernacular makes so much sense and it is still imperatively relevant for the collective karma of humanity (if one can factor into it ‘guilt by association’ from the admixture of the karmic bystanders’ support of the karmic exploiters and warmongers). That being accepted, it is an unfortunate coincidence that ‘Back to Godhead’ fits so well with the Western Judeo-Christian idea of falling from grace. Do we have any empirical evidence that adopting this preaching strategy was more effective than its alternative in the West? Frankly, most people who I know that are former Christians were primarily turned off by the doctrine of original sin, which precipitates a “fall from grace”. The book SriGopal Das mentions does look to be a very interesting exploration for somebody new to Indian and Hindu spiritual culture and history. It is available as a Kindle edition.