Godhead Is Light

Ever since Srila Prabhupada launched Back to Godhead magazine in 1944, the logo on the cover has contained essentially the same elements in the same configuration. The motto above the logo has also been there since the beginning: “Godhead is light. Nescience is darkness. Where there is Godhead there is no nescience.”

These words paraphrase a verse by Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami in his Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 22.31):

krishna—surya-sama, maya haya andhakara
yahan krishna, tahan nahi mayara adhikara

“Krishna is compared to sunshine, and maya is compared to darkness. Wherever there is sunshine, there cannot be darkness. As soon as one takes to Krishna consciousness, the darkness of illusion (the influence of the external energy) will immediately vanish.” Here Srila Prabhupada translates andhakara (literally “blind-making”) as “darkness,” and for his BTG motto he translated it as “nescience,” which the dictionary defines as “lack of knowledge; ignorance.”

Srila Prabhupada’s purpose in starting Back to Godhead was to rescue readers from the darkness of ignorance and deliver them into the light of real knowledge – into the understanding of reality as it is. One of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers, Jati Sekhara Prabhu, recalls that he himself was present when their spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, asked Prabhupada to create a magazine with this aim and even suggested the title Back to Godhead.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was a powerful, dedicated preacher of Krishna consciousness. Like all pure devotees of Lord Krishna, his heart ached to see the suffering of the souls in the material world. Srila Prabhupada was filled with the same depth of compassion, and he knew that the only remedy for everyone’s suffering is to bring them into the light of Krishna consciousness, or pure devotional service to Krishna. Although we are eternally part of Krishna and therefore, like Him, naturally blissful, we suffer because of our illusion that we exist independent of Him. Because we’re fully convinced that we are the body and mind we currently possess, we must suffer the endless miseries related to them.

Just as the sun can never experience darkness, Krishna can never experience suffering. Logically, we souls too, as parts of Krishna, should be immune to suffering, but as mentioned in Srimad-Bhagavatam and elaborated upon by Srila Jiva Goswami in his Sandarbhas, Krishna empowers His material energy to do the seemingly impossible, including covering the intrinsic blissful quality of the soul.

But Krishna also provides for the removal of that covering of illusion – by His pure representatives in this world who deliver the transcendental knowledge He has revealed in the Vedic literature. Srila Prabhupada always emphasized that what he was presenting in Back to Godhead and the books he wrote was authorized by Lord Krishna and His pure representatives. In a meeting with Back to Godhead staff in Boston in 1969 he instructed: “It is a very important thing, Back to Godhead. If our movement is going to be recognized as a scientific God-conscious movement, then this Back to Godhead will be referred to as authorized scripture. Therefore, we have to prepare it in an authorized way.”

The authors and editors of Back to Godhead take this instruction to heart, and we strive to always faithfully serve Srila Prabhupada’s mission of destroying the suffering born of ignorance with the unfiltered light of pure transcendental knowledge.

– Nagaraja Dasa