The World Goes Back to Godhead
Posted August 6, 2007
Back to Godhead magazine was Srila Prabhupada's first step towards fulfilling his Guru's order to preach Krishna consciousness in English. Now, years later, his disciples have taken his beloved magazine and brought it beyond the English-speaking market, just as he did with his books and teachings. With last year's Vyasa Puja book reporting over 90,000 copies printed in Europe and 600,000 in India, it's been a slow but sure success.
BTG has been published in many Indian languages, including Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, and Gujarati since the early seventies. But when former editor Jayadvaita Swami established offices in Mumbai in the early nineteen-nineties, he took things to the next level. "The offices bustle with energy," says Murari Gupta, writer at Bhagwad Darshan, BTG's Hindi branch, "And our staff are varied and dedicated."
It's an understatement. Try Shyamananda Dasa, editor of the English edition, who also translates Prabhupada's books into Marathi and fulfills temple president duties. Or Vamsi Vihari Dasa, who triples as proofreader, translator and writer, while moonlighting as pujari and flower decorator.
But Marathi edition Jao Devacha Gao, or "Go back to the abode of God," has possibly the most colorful staff in its sole member Vrindavan Kishor Dasa, translator, writer, and yes, national gold medalist gymnast.
BTG's Indian editions only have 32 pages compared to the US edition's 63. But audiences receive twice as many issues, and respond with enthusiasm.
"We set up a BTG stall at Nasik Kumbha Mela in 2005," Murari Gupta says. "Unfortunately, people were more interested in a loin clothed yogi doing complex yoga right beside us. But when we announced over our PA system that Bhakti yoga was the highest and could instill love of Godhead, the yogi himself took a copy, put it on a stand in front of him, and continued doing his performance.
Immediately, people started buying BTG, and by the end of the day we had distributed 10,000 copies. Through- out the whole event, we distributed 50,000 copies."
While Bhagwad Darshan was rising in India, Meditarranean BBT Trustee Madhusevita Dasa was launching Ritorno a Krishna, or "Back to Krishna" in Italy.
Since few people in the country could speak English, he, along with current editor Nimai Pandita Dasa, saw a need and decided to fill it. The 48 page magazine mainly reproduces articles from the North American edition, but the staff's determination pushed them to continue even when that magazine ceased publication between 1991 and 1994.
"We were the only BTG in print in the world then," Nimai Pandita beams proudly. "Ritorno a Krishna has been published for almost twenty years without interruption, and we intend it to stay that way for much longer."
The bi-monthly magazine now sells 2,000 copies per issue, and remains a beacon of Krishna consciousness in Europe.
A local Hare Krishna magazine was always at the center of preaching in Hungary. But when Manorama Dasa took over as editor, he wanted to integrate it with the BBT and named the magazine Vissza Istenhez - Hungarian for "Back to Godhead."
In an attempt to refresh BTG and make it more relevant, Manorama employed a professional graphic designer, had a local artist repaint the original logo, and created themed topical issues. These proved very popular, allowing readers to learn about a subject in depth and from many different angles.
BTG Hungary's content is also completely original, borrowing little or nothing from the North American edition. Instead, it features articles from local devotees, and aims them at an external audience.
"They're mainly introductory, for people interested in spirituality but with no deep Vedic knowledge," says Manorama. "We hope that our magazine will inspire them to read Srila Prabhupada's books, where they can deepen their knowledge."
The magazine is also very popular with devotees because it can teach them how to present a topic, and is a valuable preaching tool. Which leads to yet another unique quality of BTG Hungary - most, if not all, of the copies printed are distributed on the street. And that's impressive; considering that they print 10 to 20,000 copies per issue, and 60-80,000 copies per year.
This success is largely due to national management's treating BTG as a fully integrated part of ISKCON Hungary, rather than an isolated department. This year, local leaders introduced a new level of ISKCON membership that co-ordinates all preaching efforts and includes BTG subscriptions for every member.
Manorama believes that this kind of cooperation is the key to success. "Every BTG edition is successful in its own way," he acknowledges. "But imagine what would happen if all our resources were combined and coordinated?"
Prayer for Pranada Dasi
We ask all our friends and supporters to please say a prayer for Pranada Dasi, co-chair of Friends of the BBT. After many operations throughout her life, she is now seriously ill with a condition that includes chronic fatigue and an increased heart rate among many other worrying symptoms. She will soon be undergoing tests in hopes of diagnosing her condition.
Pranada has worked with the BBT since 1985. From Back to Godhead magazine to book distribution to seven years with Gita Nagari Press to her current positions as BBTI corporate officer and Krishna.com co-manager, Pranada has always shown incredible enthusiasm and dedication to Prabhupada's BBT mission.
"BBT is my life; it's who I am," Pranada says.
We all offer our love and prayers to Pranada. May Lord Krishna keep her
healthy and happy so she may continue engaging in His eternal service.