One of the Means to the Way
In a 1956 letter to Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the president of India, Srila Prabhupada wrote, “The aim of life should be to make a sincere effort to go ‘Back to Godhead’ but contrary to this, the tendency is to go back to hell or in the cycle of evolutionary animal life as it is described in the 16th chapter of Bhagavad-gita.
“Please therefore save them from the great falldown. Believe me or not, I have got the clue of going ‘Back to Godhead’ just after leaving my present material body and in order to take along with me all my contemporary men and women of the world, I have started my paper “Back to Godhead” as one of the means to the way.
“Please do not think of me as wonderful or a mad man when I say that I shall go ‘Back to Godhead’ after leaving my present material body! It is quite possible for everyone and all of us.”
When Prabhupada wrote this letter, he was struggling alone in India, and nearly a decade would pass before he would incorporate the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in New York with the help of a small group of followers. But from the 1920s, when his spiritual master instructed him to spread Krishna consciousness in the English-speaking world, and especially from the time he started publishing Back to Godhead in 1944, Prabhupada always yearned to deliver “all my contemporary men and women of the world.” And soon after achieving some success in the USA, Canada, and England, he began sending disciples all over the world to deliver Krishna consciousness to non-English-speaking countries.
Despite his desire to take as many people as possible with him back to Godhead, Prabhupada knew that it would be a difficult task. He wrote in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.17, “The Lord is more anxious to take us back into His kingdom than we can desire. Most of us do not desire at all to go back to Godhead.”
Prabhupada’s first challenge, then, was to convince his readers that “Godhead,” meaning in this context the kingdom of God, was a place we should all aspire to attain. Throughout his early Back to Godhead articles, and then throughout his books, lectures, and other means of communicating his message, Prabhupada strove to inspire us to want to attain the eternal, spiritual kingdom of God. And the place he described, by presenting clear information from the Vedic scriptures, was not just some nondescript “kingdom of God”; it was Goloka Vrindavana, the sweet home of the all-attractive Sri Krishna.
Because Prabhupada was filled with love for Krishna, his words about Krishna and Krishna’s eternal home naturally awaken within us the desire to serve Krishna there. I chose here to use the phrase “serve Krishna” rather than “enjoy with Krishna” because while it is true that the endless joy we fail to achieve in this world can be found only in the company of Krishna, it’s important to remember that ultimately the key to attaining Krishna is not to desire to enjoy with Him, but to desire to serve Him. And it is in awakening our innate longing to serve Him that we find the greatest happiness and fulfillment.
Srila Prabhupada started Back to Godhead to inspire us to use this life to return to our service at Lord Krishna’s lotus feet.
- Nagaraja Dasa