After taking initiation from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada was contributing to his spiritual master’s mission by donating money as he was doing earlier, but now he wanted to do more to please his spiritual master. He could not give up family commitments and take sannyasa. He wrote to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura in December 1936 humbly asking if he could offer some more direct service. He received a reply on December 31, 1936.
His spiritual master had already passed away two weeks before the letter arrived. Srila Prabhupada opened the letter. To his astonishment, the letter reiterated the same order he had been given in 1922 when he had first met his spiritual master: You try to preach whatever you have learned from me to the English-speaking people of the world. That will be good for you and for the people to whom you preach. That is my instruction to you. Srila Prabhupada took this as the final order from his spiritual master. He decided to make it his life’s mission.
In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, continued assisting Gaudiya math in its work and in 1944, started Back to Godhead magazine. This magazine was dedicated to persuading the general public that material life was not the only reality, and that they should be preparing themselves for the real goal of life, which was to return back to the spiritual world and rejoin their original loving father, Sri Krishna. Maintaining the publication was a great struggle. Single-handedly, Srila Prabhupada wrote the material, edited it, typed the manuscripts, checked the proofs and even distributed the individual copies.
In 1944, during second world war, there was an acute shortage of paper and the Government of India refused to sanction paper for printing the Back to Godhead magazine. Srila Prabhupada wrote thrice to the Government asking permission for the continuance of publication of the magazine, and the third attempt was successful. The Government sanctioned papers for publishing Back to Godhead magazine.
Most of the people were not interested in spiritual life. Even his wife and other family members had little or no interest in his mission. Srila Prabhupada started spending more and more time away from home trying to carry out his preaching duties. With great effort he established a center in Jhansi called The League of Devotees, but the members were not very active and later he had to close it down.
Srila Prabhupada decided to retire from family life and move to the holy land of Vrindavana, the place where Lord Krishna displayed His childhood pastimes. He lived in a very humble and austere way in the historic medieval temple of Radha Damodara. He had no income now, and thus ate little, wore old cloth and spent years in deep study and writing. He did not care for his own comforts. He collected money only to print books.
In 1959, he took sannyasa and a year later he started his work on a multi-volume annotated translation of the eighteen-thousand verse Srimad Bhagavatam. He also wrote a book Easy Journey to Other Planets. As the years passed, he formulated a plan to spread the chanting of Hare Krishna throughout the world.