Beginning of Back to godhead magazine
In the midst of these calamities, Abhay felt more than ever the need to propagate Krishna consciousness. He had something to say to the war-weary citizens of the world, and he longed for a more effective forum-a publication of some kind, a way to present the world's crises through the eyes of scripture in the same bold style as had his spiritual master. There was no shortage of ideas, and he had been saving money from his business for this very purpose.
Yet how could he dare produce such a journal when even learned sannyasis, senior disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, were not. He never considered himself a great scholar among his Godbrothers. Although they called him kavi and now Bhaktivedanta, as a grihastha he wasn't expected to take the lead or publish his own journal.
But times had changed. The English journal The Harmonist had not been published since before Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's passing away. Now almost a decade had passed, and the Gaudiya Math had been too busy fighting in court to consider preaching. Long gone was the tireless spirit that for ten consecutive years had produced the daily Nadiya Prakasa. No longer were four separately located printing presses pumping out transcendental literature under the direction of Bhaktivinoda Thakura's empowered son; the presses had been sold by Kunjavihari. Times had changed. The Gaudiya Math was only fighting, while the nondevotees were killing each other in a world war.
From his front room at 6 Sita Kanta Banerjee, Abhay conceived, wrote, edited, and typed the manuscript for a magazine. He designed a logo, a long rectangle across the top of the page. In the upper left-hand corner was a figure of Lord Caitanya, effulgent with rays of light like rays from the sun. In the lower right were silhouettes of a crowd of people, in darkness but groping to receive light from Lord Caitanya. And between Lord Caitanya and the people, the title unfurled like a banner-BACK TO GODHEAD. In the lower right corner was a picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati seated at his writing, looking up thoughtfully as he composed. Above the logo ran the motto "Godhead is Light, Nescience is darkness. Where there is Godhead there is no Nescience." Below the logo were the following lines:
EDITED & FOUNDED (Under the direct order of His Divine Grace Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada) By Mr. ABHAY CHARAN DE.
Abhay had already gained some printing experience in connection with his business, and after completing the manuscript he brought it to Saraswaty Press, the best printers in Bengal. He also hired an agent, Calcutta's prestigious booksellers Thacker, Spink and Company, who would take responsibility for distributing the journal to bookstores and libraries, including outlets in several foreign countries.
But when he went to buy paper, he met with government restrictions. Because of the war and the subsequent paper shortage, they wanted to assay what he had written in terms of the national needs; during this time of world crisis, an ordinary citizen's religious newspaper was hardly top priority.
Abhay's request for paper was perfunctorily denied, but he persisted. He appealed that using paper to print the teachings of the Personality of Godhead was not a waste and not untimely in the present troubled atmosphere. Finally he obtained permission to print his first edition of Back to Godhead, a forty-four page publication.
Abhay Charan greeted his readers by defining his motto: "Godhead is Light, Nescience is darkness." When man forgets that he is the son of Godhead and identifies himself with the body, then he's in ignorance. He's like a man who's very concerned with the automobile's mechanism yet with no knowledge of the driver.
The defect of the present day civilisation is just like that. This is actually the civilisation of Nescience or illusion and therefore civilisation has been turned into militarisation. Everyone is fully concerned with the comforts of the body and everything related with the body and no one is concerned with the Spirit that moves the body although even a boy can realise that the motor-car mechanism has little value if there is no driver of the car. This dangerous ignorance of humanity is a gross Nescience and has created a dangerous civilisation in the form of militarisation. This militarisation which, in softer language, is Nationalisation is an external barrier to understanding human relations. There is no meaning in a fight where the parties do fight only for the matter of different coloured dresses. There must be therefore an understanding of human relation without any consideration of the bodily designation or coloured 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 organiser of the Gaudiya Math activities-just to bring up a real relation of humanity with central relation of 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 will help much in the procedure.
It was 1944, and Abhay specifically addressed the crisis of world war. The world's political leaders were expressing their disgust at their people's suffering and scarcity. After four years of fighting, costing millions of human lives, the second world war within twenty years was still scourging the earth. Although the end was in sight, leaders expressed not so much happiness and hope as weariness and uncertainty. Even if this war ended, would there be yet another war? Had man not yet grasped the vital lesson of how to live in peace?
Abhay quoted the Archbishop of India: "India guided by God can lead the world back to sanity." He quoted the President of the United States: "A programme, 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." He mentioned former President Herbert Hoover, who had affirmed that the world needs to return to moral and spiritual ideals, and he quoted a resolution by the British House of Commons affirming that spiritual principles are the common heritage of all people and that men and nations urgently need to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. He quoted Wendell Willkie, who, after his return from Russia, had reported millions of Russians killed, wounded, or missing in the war and millions more suffering from a winter of terrible scarcity and subjugation.
"What is true for the Russian people," Abhay wrote, "is also true for other people, and we Indians are feeling the same scarcity, the same want, and the same disgust." He quoted Britain's foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, who had been filled with lamentation and indignation at the miseries of war. He quoted the Archbishop of Canterbury:
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, 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 make plans for the future for peace amongst the nation 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.
He also quoted Sir Francis Younghusband of Britain: "Now that religion is everywhere attacked brutally, we look to India, the very home of religion, for a sign." And finally he quoted Sir Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan:
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 labour 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 civilisations.
And in another quote from Dr. Radhakrishnan, Abhay offered a statement he also used as one of the mottoes of the magazine:
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 develope a proper social outlook without which institutional machinery was of little use.
Abhay expressed his confidence that the spiritual resources of India could be used by everyone, not only to enhance the glory of India but to benefit the whole world.
Next he told how he had come to begin Back to Godhead magazine-how he had written a letter two weeks before the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and how his spiritual master had instructed him to preach 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 have discouraged me... I have now taken courage to take up the work... 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.
Abhay stated that his paper would contain only the transcendental messages of the great sages of India, especially Lord Caitanya, and that his duty would be simply to repeat them, just like a translator. He would not manufacture anything, and so his words would descend as transcendental sound for guiding people back to Godhead. He admitted that the subject matters of Back to Godhead, being from a totally different sphere of consciousness, might seem dry to his readers, but he held that anyone who actually gave attention to his message would benefit.
Sugar-candy is never sweet to those who are suffering from the 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."
Abhay focused on presenting the timeless message of the Vedas, but in the context of current crises. In his essay "Godhead and His Potentialities," he presented Vedic evidence and logical arguments to explain the transcendental nature of Godhead and the individual souls, both being deathless, blissful, and full of knowledge. Because men have forgotten and neglected their vital connection with God, they can never be satisfied in the material world, which is temporary and beset with unavoidable miseries. As spiritual souls, everyone is eternal by nature, and therefore everyone tries to avoid the onslaught of distresses and dangers, which come one after another. But the material body is meant for suffering and ultimately for destruction.
The exodus of the residents of Calcutta to other places out of fear of being raided by the Japanese bombs, is due to the same tendency of nondestructible existence. But those who are thus going away, do not remember that even after going away from Calcutta saved from the raids of the Japanese bombs, they are unable to protect their bodies as non-destructible in any part of the material universe, when the same bodies will be raided by the bombs of material nature in the form of threefold miseries.
The Japanese also-who are threatening the Calcutta people with ruthless air-raids for increasing their own happiness by possession of lands-o not know that their happiness is also temporary and destructible as they have repeatedly experienced in their own fatherland. The living beings, on the other hand, who are designed to be killed, are by nature eternal, impenetrable, invisible, etc. So all those living entities who are threatened to be killed as well as those who are threatening to conquer are all alike in the grip of the "Maya" potency and are therefore in the darkness.
Abhay wrote that never by their own devices could men escape the conditions of destruction. So many world leaders were seeking relief from the war, but all were useless, because their attempts for peace were within the material conception of life. Their attempts were like attempts to alleviate darkness with darkness; but darkness can be removed only by light.
Without light, any amount of speculation of the human mind (which is also a creation of the material nature) can never restore the living entities to permanent happiness. In that darkness any method of bringing peace in the world... can bring only temporary relief or distress, as we can see from all creations of the External Potency. In the darkness non-violence is as much useless as violence, while in the light there is no need of violence or non-violence.
Abhay did not deal exclusively with the war. In "Theosophy Ends in Vaishnavism," he criticized the shortcomings of the fashionable ideas of Theosophy, which the followers of Madame Blavatsky had popularized in India.
In "Congregational Chanting," he upheld the scriptural prediction that the sankirtana movement of Lord Caitanya would spread to every town and village on the surface of the earth.
From this foretelling we can hope that the cult of Samkirtan will take very shortly a universal form of religious movement, and this universal religion-wherein there is no harm in chanting the Name of the Lord nor is there any question of quarrel-will continue for years, as we can know from the pages of authoritative scriptures.
The central theme of Back to Godhead was clearly the order of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. In its cover with its picture of a thoughtful Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, in its "Dedication," in its statement of the magazine's purpose, in its handling of issues, its analysis of Theosophy, its prediction of the spread of sankirtana-in its every aspect, the theme of Back to Godhead was the order of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.
There were also four shorter essays by other contributors, including Bhaktisaranga Gosvami.
An advertisement on the back cover highlighted
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And a second major work: Lord Chaitanya, in two parts, totaling one thousand pages. Neither of these manuscripts was actually near completion, but Abhay was expressing his eagerness to undertake such large works on behalf of his spiritual master.