CHANGES IN SRILA PRABHUPADA'S ORIGINAL BOOKS
Disciples speak out against unauthorized book changes
Post-samadhi Editing Protocols
Post-samadhi editing must be done according to a specific protocol. It needs to be stated on the book that it was post-samadhi edited, by whom, what was edited, and the date. The problem with the new Gita is that it not only lacks this informations, but it also has Prabhupada’s signature as if it was his original version, even though he never asked for this new edition nor approved it.
Editing something in Prabhupada’s books can only be done if the following is verified:
1. The change must not violate the principle of arsa prayoga.
2. The change must be done
a. on the basis of a direct order or,
b. the change must be shown to be permitted, and/or
c. approved after it is done.
3. The change must not be needless (Prabhupada did not want needless changes).
4. We must be 100% sure (there must absolutely no doubt) that Prabhupada wanted this specific change (a principle of caution must be observed).
We know the proper protocol for post-samadhi editing never has been followed by BBT International. In addition to this: can anyone show me just one change in Prabhupada’s books made post-samadhi that does not violate at least of the above points?
If just one change in the 1983 edition violates just one of the above points, then that change is offensive and a sign of disloyalty to Prabhupada. I have not seen one change in the 1983 edition that was true to all the above points. I therefore consider the 1983 edition as being offensive and disloyal to Prabhupada.
Some devotees make few wrong observations. One of them is that the 1983 unauthorized edition is the first draft. That is wrong. There is a huge difference between the first drafts and the 1983 edition. Thousands of large and small differences.
Someone wrote: “Sure enough, the editor was just changing it back to the original draft, written by Srila Prabhupada.” This is also not correct. There are certainly places were BBT International have not changed back to the first drafts. For example, the word eternal has been taken out of verse 2.18, even though Prabhupada referred back to this word in his lectures in this specific verse. There are several such examples. Also, Prabhupada never asked the editors to go back to the drafts and use these to edit his Gita again.
When he approved the 1972 edition of the Gita he called it “The Complete Edition” and “The original manuscript” which shows that all previously made drafts were now discarded as material to be used in the book –at least without his instruction, permission or later approval (none of which were ever given except for two or three examples like cattle raising and cow protection).
So to change the 1972 “Complete Edition” back to the so called “original manuscripts” which are actually only drafts is to override thousands of editorial decisions and approvals made by Prabhupada. Remember that it was also Prabhupada’s editorial decision to use Hayagriva as editor. So to override Hayagriva’s decisions (many of which were made in close consultation with Prabhupada and the rest approved by Prabhupada before publishing) is also to override Prabhupada’s editorial decisions.
Shouldn’t Prabhupada be the final decision-maker on this? Did Prabhupada want his first drafts published like this (yes, no, maybe?) Did he want another book explaining all the faults in his 1972 edition? (yes, no, maybe?) Or did he prefer us to stick to the arsa prayoga principle and simply overlook the transcendental faults due to our love for Prabhupada as our eternal well-wisher and master? (yes, no, maybe?)
It’s all guesswork—and we ought not make editorial decisions based on guesswork. Why not just read the 1972 edition which Prabhupada approved, loved and lectured from for five and a half years and make progress in spiritual life without getting entangled in finding faults with the Sampradaya Acarya.
—Ajit Krishna dasa
When Lord Krishna garlanded Prabhupada
After Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, Patita Pavana dasa asked if I’d like to assist Satsvarupa’s Lilamrita project by interviewing people in India who had known Srila Prabhupada. One of them was Acarya Prabhakar Mishra, Prabhupada’s first disciple. Acarya Prabhakar Mishra was clean-cut, well-behaved and articulate. His demeanor impressed me. He held a M.A. and PhD and was a very cultured Sanskrit scholar and teacher.
In Jhansi, Prabhupada had told Acarya Prabhakar. “I met you because I saw you in a dream and I knew that I was supposed to come here.” Prabhupada and he would do bhajan together. They’d hold Rathayatra festivals and they’d have programme in villages in the area.
Acarya Prabhakar said that on Sri Krishna Janmashtami in 1954, he had to go to Delhi. When he returned to Jhansi, he took a little rest, woke up at 1:00 am and heard Srila Prabhupada ecstatically playing mridanga in the temple room. Prabhupada was chanting in total bliss. Acarya Prabhakar went upstairs and saw Srila Prabhupada bouncing around the temple room performing kirtan. Prabhupada was wearing a kadamba flower garland that went all the way down to his feet. Kadamba flowers are very rare in Jhansi and when they are available they are usually the size of a golf ball. But the ones Prabhupada was wearing were big, the size of tennis balls. And he said that the atmosphere right down to the atoms in the room was not material, aprakrita.
The place was surcharged with the fragrance of the heavenly planets. Acarya Prabhakar wanted to ask Srila Prabhupada, “Where did this garland come from? It is not available from the market.” But Srila Prabhupada would not answer. His Divine Grace just kept on performing kirtan, bouncing round the room and chanting. The next morning Acarya Prabhakar asked Srila Prabhupada, “Where did you get the garland, why did it have such a rich fragrance, and why were you feeling so blissful?”
Srila Prabhupada told him, “I was chanting to Krishna and feeling some love for Him. And He appeared and gave me this garland. I went to touch His feet and He disappeared. Because of that I was dancing around the temple room.” Srila Prabhupada was crying.
Acarya Prabhakar was very believable and I felt that what he told me was valid. He also said that sometimes Srila Prabhupada’s mood was to perform kirtan intensely. He would chant on and on and on for three days straight. We hear that sometimes he wouldn’t eat for long periods, especially near the end of his manifest lila, but remarkably in Jhansi, he was doing kirtan for a long period of time without eating or sleep…
“As you are remembering our old meeting days on the Second Avenue, when I first started my lectures there, similarly I also remember the incidents and speak to so many friends and disciples. So our meeting was Krishna’s desire. Apparently it was accidental but actually it was Krishna’s plan…” (Los Angeles 18 November, 1968.)
Srila Prabhupada wrote this to Hayagriva. This was not long after they had met and Hayagriva started editing Bhagavad Gita As It Is. Editing and being able to ask the author if this was what he intended. Or listening to Srila Prabhupada speak. To listen to his words.
It’s not an accident
In a lecture in Los Angeles on the appearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, Srila Prabhupada wept openly as he told the devotees that they had all been sent here to assist him by his Guru Maharaj. It is not an accident that Srila Prabhupada’s style of writing from the early Srimad Bhagavatams was a flowery British English which is derived from the poly syllabic Mediterranean languages.
It is not an accident that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur sent Srila Prabhupada —Hayagriva who was a writer and ardent admirer of the early American transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau who wrote in a similar poetic style. It is not an accident that Srila Prabhupada spent hours pouring over the drafts, the paintings, etc editing and adjusting everything so it was just right. None of these things are accidents, the pastimes of the pure devotee are transcendental.
Unfortunately some people have a mundane view of the spiritual master’s activities and think that they can improve on what is already perfect even if there are some so called discrepancies. Even if the verses are imperfectly composed they are transcendentally potent nonetheless.
Does Jayadvaita Swami have any absolute evidence in writing from Srila Prabhupada that approves every single change that he makes? Unless Jayadvaita Swami was sent here personally by Sri Krishna for this purpose or is taking dictation from the Supreme Lord then his adjustments are simply speculation or personal preference.
Jayadvaita Swami was not invited into the editing process by Srila Prabhupada. One good reason could be Jayadvaita Swami’s writing style. Jayadvaita Swami favors the short choppy English form influenced by the Viking languages which is used more for business and common literature like magazines and newspapers. This was his style at BTG and that is not acceptable for poetic scripture. Jayadvaita Swami’s problem is he just doesn’t get it. The disciples of Srila Prabhupada want that he should leave the books alone!
He has taken a very slim one vote margin of the GBC to fix some typos to changing the entire meaning of the texts. Without Srila Prabhupada’s personal presence to confirm the changes he is making, from old tapes and drafts which have not been accurately cataloged, he cannot be sure that Srila Prabhupada did not already reject those versions in favor of what is already in the book. What we are absolutely sure of is that Srila Prabhupada approved of each book that was printed after extensively reviewing it.
Therefore whatever has been signed off on by Srila Prabhupada while he was here on the planet cannot be changed, period. You may add an errata or addendum in the back of the book if you have some serious concerns but the actual texts and purports themselves must not be adjusted in any way. To do so is to insult Srila Prabhupada, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur by doubting their transcendental plan. To do so is to insult Sri Krishna as the Supreme arranger.
To do so without a mandate from Sri Guru and Gouranga is to place your own speculation above the Supreme Lord and His Divine emmisaries. Without the Nitya Siddha Pure Devotee present to confirm the changes we are allowing the mental speculation of one man to destroy the absolute nature of the most important scriptures for the next 10,000 years. Jayadvaita Swami leave the books alone!
The unrivalled perfection of a masterful translation
Now to let us see how a purely devoted disciple of His Divine Grace approached the translating and editing process. After Srila Prabhupada’s departure there is a little known pastime, that will not remain so after this letter goes in this book, where Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj helped to reveal the unrivalled perfection of Srila Prabhupada’s masterful translation of Bhagavad-gita.
Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj was given the service by Srila Prabhupada of translating all of his books into the Oriya language. Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj was a great scholar who could write and speak in five languages, Oriya, Hindi, Bengali, English, and Sanskrit. He got his degree in English from the University with a minor in Sanskrit. I lived with Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj in the same room for nearly three years.
He translated Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita with the greatest love and devotion and attention for detail. Because of his vast command of languages He was able to notice little details that others may have overlooked. One thing that was a cause of great transcendental concern for him was the fact that when Srila Prabhupada translated a word from Sanskrit to English it would not be the same if Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj translated the Sanskrit word directly to Oriya.
In other words the English word that Srila Prabhupada used to explain the Sanskrit word had an entirely different meaning than the Oriya word that would normally be used as a translation of this same Sanskrit word. Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj was concerned that in translating the literal English into Oriya, many Pandits and scholars would complain that this was not an accurate translation.
Since Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj did not want to change one single word of his beloved Spiritual Master’s books but at the same time be able to defend the scholarships of his Guru Maharaj beyond the shadow of a doubt, He devised a plan for writing down all of the so called contradictions in a list until he completed the entire work. Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj then went to a small village to see the now retired Sanskrit professor who had taught him Sanskrit in college.
This man was considered one of the foremost authorities on the Sanskrit language in India having one of the largest personal libraries on the subject, including one of the best collections of Sanskrit to English Dictionaries. Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj knew that this Scholar’s grasp of Sanskrit to English translation would provide him with the evidence he needed to prove the authority of Srila Prabhupada’s work.
After about ten days, Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj returned to the little mud hut that we lived in with the Sanskrit professor in tow. The Sanskrit professor introduced himself (I apologize but unfortunately I cannot remember his name) and began glorifying His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada’s masterful translation work. The professor told me that he started studying Sanskrit when he was five years old, now in his late 70′s he had been studying the language for over 70 years.
He told me how on the first review of his dictionaries he could not find the translations that Srila Prabhupada had made from Sanskrit to English, but he said that Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj kept encouraging him to keep looking, assuring him that he would find the translation if he looked long and hard enough. The professor said he would have given up, if it were not for Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj’s insistence that his Guru Maharaj had been accurate and that if he looked hard enough he would find it.
Then the professor told me that he found each and every translation that Srila Prabhupada had made. The professor told me that these translations that your Guru has made are the most obscure and brilliant explanations of these words from Sanskrit to English that he had ever seen. The professor admitted that with all of his education and training he could not have thought of these obscure and brilliant meanings that so perfectly expressed the inner truths of the mysteries of the Bhagavad-gita.
The professor then said having seen this translation work of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada he was convinced that Srila Prabhupada was the greatest Sanskrit scholar in the history of civilization and must have been directly enlightened by the Supreme Lord Krishna to accomplish this work.
There is so much to learn from this pastime. The first thing of course is that no one is qualified to edit one single word of Srila Prabhupada’s books! Unless he is on the same level as His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada and since it is pretty obvious Jayadvaita Swami is not, then he should leave the books alone!
Now some may say how do we know he is not and the answer to that is the second important lesson that we learn from this pastime. Unlike Jayadvaita Swami who has changed the words of his Spiritual master’s books in order to meet with the approval of scholars and professors. The pure devotional attitude of Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj was to elevate the professor by engaging him in devotional service and then bring him up to a spiritual platform so that he could get the mercy of Srila Prabhupada.
Instead of acting like editor and scholar Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj teaches us how to protect and defend the honor of the Spiritual Master through his pure devotional mood. Jayadvaita Swami’s erasing the words of our Divine Master Srila Prabhupada and replacing them with his mental speculations reminds me of the story when the Mayavadi scratched out the name of Krishna in the book and replaced it with the word Brahman.
Krishna eventually appears before him with scratches on His face, and the Mayavadi realizes his folly and surrenders to the Lord. Srila Prabhupada’s books are his transcendental body. How much longer are we going to sit back and let his books be abused? If Srila Prabhupada were here and some one was abusing him would we stand by idly and watch it happen? NO! Why do we continue to allow Jayadvaita Swami to abuse our Spiritual Master’s books?
Can we not stand up in the pure devotional mood of Srila Gour Govinda Maharaj and defend the Honor of our Spiritual Master? Let us all work together to restore Srila Prabhupada’s books to their pristine and uncontaminated glory. Then let us distribute those books again and preach the pure devotional service of the Lord to the innocent masses yearning to be free of the shackles of maya.
Let us enter the arena of the material world proclaiming the glories of the Lord with the absolute conviction that we can only benefit everyone we meet with the highest good. If any demoniac persons try to stop us then we should proudly proclaim like the Christians of old being attacked by the lions in the Roman coliseum that we are the servants of the Lord and our spiritual master and we are fearless.
Editing Prabhupada’s books is the most serious issue
These books, Srila Prabhupada’s original 1972-1977 publications, are his life’s work, his labor of love, and his gift to Humanity. “The law books for the next 10,000 years,” he often said.
These original books are not, as one leader claimed, “ritvik books.” They are Srila Prabhupada’s most cherished service to his Guru Maharaj, books that he painstakingly translated and carefully coddled to the point of perfection, and then printed for all the world to benefit.
These books were written and published long before the word “ritvik” ever became a word in our vocabulary. There was no ritvik or non-ritvik philosophy in 1972-1977 —tearing apart his ISKCON. There was only Srila Prabhupada and his determination to give the world Krishna consciousness in the form of his glorious books.
These original books printed in the early 70’s are the same books that changed our hearts, and turned us from meat-eating karmis to aspiring devotees. And these same books made thousands upon thousands of devotees. Every senior disciple knows this. And every one of us, senior or junior, has a debt to Srila Prabhupada for this glorious gift, his legacy in the form of his writings, his lectures, his letters, his conversations, and whatever instructions came from his lotus mouth. We need to remember that whatever came from him, is purely transcendental.
In his Srimad Bhagavatam, 4.20.25, Srila Prabhupada explains:
“Although when a pure devotee speaks, the articulation of his voice may resemble the sound of this material sky, the voice is spiritually very powerful, because it touches the particles of saffron dust on the lotus feet of the Lord.”
“As soon as a sleeping living entity hears the powerful voice emanating from the mouth of a pure devotee, he immediately remembers his eternal relationship with the Lord, although up until that moment he had forgotten everything.”
Srila Prabhupada spoke his books into a dictaphone, and he often said that Krishna actually dictated them. How can we as conditioned souls be so impertinent as to think we can in any way improve upon, alter, change or correct such writings —without him present in this world to approve our so-called improvements?
These original books were lauded by scholars as well as religionists. They were praised by everyone, without any suggestions for massive editing or changes.
It is our duty as disciples and grand disciples of Srila Prabhupada to protect and secure his legacy, lest his books fall prey to future misquotes, misinterpretations, and misleading mistakes that endanger their very existence. Better they should have a few typos than result in a future change of philosophy, as with the Christian Bible, written and rewritten innumerable times.
The book editing issue is a very serious one, perhaps the most serious issue in ISKCON today. I have seen the attractive and seemingly authentic BBTI website promoting these book changes, but most of it is propaganda, and a lot of it is based on speculation of what took place in the past. It is most unfortunate that this has occurred, as it endangers everything Srila Prabhupada came to this world to do. He often said “I came from Krishna loka to write some books.”
So many times, Srila Prabhupada commanded “Don’t change anything!” But this instruction, given repeatedly by him, has been glossed over by so many elaborate, and often untruthful, explanations and excuses.
The very real danger is that his books could be lost in the course of time, as some changes lead to more changes, and “tinkering” is the disease of the Western world. Srila Prabhupada complained about this “Westerner change disease” often, and there is ample recorded evidence that he did not want his books changed after he left this world. He did not even want them changed while he was present here with us!
We cannot “tinker” with the works of great Acaryas. And Srila Prabhupada is the great Acarya of this Kali Age, the “Senapati Bhakta.” How can we dare to second-guess such a great personality?
The excuse for this massive editing (more like a rewrite of his books) is that the books will be “more correct and thus more appealing to scholars.” However, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Posthumous editing is not respected by the Western scholarly community (see Dr. John Trimble, famous for his “Writing with Style”) nor is it respected or approved of by the Gaudiya Vaishnava scholarly tradition. The opinions of such famous Western scholars such as Dr. John Trimble, and the opinions of famous Gaudiya scholars, have not been included in the BBTI website —because they are not favorable.
So the reasoning for doing this massive edit is flawed, that is: “to make the books more acceptable to scholars…” By doing such illegitimate posthumous edits, Srila Prabhupada’s books have actually lost credibility with the scholarly community. There is factual proof of this.
I have discussed this posthumous editing matter with Dr. John Trimble, a noted scholar and perhaps one of America’s leading English and writing educators at the University of Texas at Austin. He explained that posthumous editing is frowned upon in the scholarly community, and even has a name: “bowdlerizing” which has the connotation of bastardizing an author’s works.
Are Steinbeck’s and Hemingway’s novels posthumously edited —even though they often have words in them that are no longer considered socially appropriate? NO. And if an author is in fact posthumously edited, the editors’ names are clearly placed on the cover, and the title page describes the date of edit as well as the number of edition.
If for some reason an author’s works are posthumously edited, it is a rule in the publishing industry that the work is no longer considered to be only the author’s work, but an edited version of it. Thus it is required that the editor’s name be printed on the cover as well, along with information inside the book as to the date of edit and number of edition. This has not been done by BBTI.
Instead, BBTI has simply placed Srila Prabhupada’s name on the covers of posthumously edited books, as if it is entirely his work and he has signed off on it. And more outrageously, BBTI has even inserted Srila Prabhupada’s 1971 signature in books printed in 1983 and later! This is both unprofessional and unethical.
The rule is that the public must know up-front that the book has been edited and/or abridged by “John Doe.” Srila Prabhupada was very careful to follow the rules of publishing. Why does BBTI consider themselves above such accepted protocol, and thus present an edited version, done posthumously, with Srila Prabhupada’s 1971 signature —as if he were here to authorize the edits? In educated circles, this is not only considered unscholarly; it is considered criminal.
I also researched whether such posthumous editing is acceptable in our Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. To find out whether this is done in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, some years ago I approached H. H. B. V. Narayana Maharaja with questions about this matter. He told me this was never to be done. It is disrespectful to the Acarya, and shows a lack of correctly understanding the principle of “arsa-prayoga.”
“Arsa-prayoga” is the spiritual concept that whatever a saintly person has written or spoken, it is to be accepted as perfect, and is never to be challenged or changed. He also commented that the posthumously edited books “have lost Swamiji’s voice.”
According to Pradyumna Prabhu, Srila Prabhupada’s Sanskrit scholar and editor who traveled with him extensively for many years, the term “arsa-prayoga” means “the usage of the sages.” “It usually refers to irregular grammatical constructions which are normally considered to be mistakes, but because spoken or written by a sage are to be accepted as correct. Arsa is a word derived from “rsi” or “sage”. This is exactly what we are dealing with here.
Other scholars have also been approached regarding the impropriety of this method of posthumous editing. They have all been in agreement that the editors’ names should be clearly printed on the books’ covers, and the date of edit and number of edition should be written on the title page therein.
So long as Srila Prabhupada was present, he had his editors working under him, and he oversaw everything. From start to finish. Both the text as well as the art work was done under his direct supervision.”
I personally met Srila Prabhupada in early January of 1967, and at that time, Hayagriva was in San Francisco working daily with Srila Prabhupada, editing his Bhagavad-gita As It Is, as well as other books and articles. He had come from New York to the budding San Francisco temple, to continue his editing work with Prabhupada there. He had already been working closely with Srila Prabhupada, then known simply as “Swamiji,” ever since meeting him on a New York street corner in the summer of 1966. Srila Prabhupada immediately engaged Hayagriva, then Professor Howard Wheeler, in editing his writings only days after meeting him in 1966.
Hayagriva later lived with us in 1968 (Srila Prabhupada was in Los Angeles at that time) and daily he and Srila Prabhupada hashed out final details of editing. The two of them worked on Srimad Bhagavatam as well as the Bhagavad-gita. The Gita was being readied for printing in late 1968, just before I was sent to Hawaii by Srila Prabhupada in January of 1969.
In 1968, while traveling with Srila Prabhupada as his servant and secretary, I did the cover for the first Macmillan edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the lavender paperback. On the cover of that first Gita was my drawing of Lord Vishnu, —which was originally the Universal Form, drawn under Srila Prabhupada’s direct guidance. However, Macmillan removed the extra arms and faces of the Universal Form, turning it into the four armed Form of Lord Vishnu.
Macmillan also condensed Srila Prabhupada’s already edited Gita down to a much smaller version. They insisted on this for financial reasons.
Srila Prabhupada was not happy with Macmillan’s decision to shorten his Gita to such an extreme. He was satisfied with the entire work at that time, the work that he and Hayagriva had polished and readied, and wanted the whole thing printed. However, Macmillan did not want so much repetition, as it would increased printing costs, and they were unsure of the market value of the book.
At that time, Srila Prabhupada told us that he wanted the repetition. He said it was necessary for proper instruction and understanding of the Gita, especially for newcomers to Vedic philosophy.
But MacMillian wanted to save money. Thus the small lavender Bhagavad-gita As It Is was printed. And Srila Prabhupada accepted it; it was his “foot in the door.” And he often said, “a blind uncle is better than no uncle,” a Bengali saying that means something is better than nothing.
However, Srila Prabhupada still wanted his complete Gita printed at that time —in 1968. It simply could not be done due to finances. Later on, in 1972, when his complete Bhagavad-gita As It Is was finally published, he was very happy with it —so happy that he used to sit in his room and read it every day, exclaiming with amazement that “Krishna has written these books!”
Yes, he read his own books daily, and he spoke from that original Gita for over six years. He gave lectures on nearly every verse, yet he requested only a few changes, such as the planet of the “trees,” to the planet of the “pitris,” “cattle raising” and a couple of others. We are all familiar with these since they have been held up and waved around like dead rats by BBTI editors, attempting to justify the editing of his Gita. And had only those few changes been made, perhaps this controversy would never have occurred.
However, the problem is this: BBTI did not simply edit the books and make simple typo or Sanskrit corrections; rather, they edited Srila Prabhupada’s books and made sweeping changes, over 5000 of them in the Bhagavad-gita alone, and changed the “writer’s voice” that had been so artistically created by Srila Prabhupada and Hayagriva working together.
Srila Prabhupada warned his editors against “interpolation,” yet this is exactly what has been done to his divinely transmitted and divinely authorized writings.
Had BBTI made only a few simple typographical corrections, the million dollar court case defending BBTI’s posthumous versions —a court case that was lost by the BBTI —and that BBTI carefully never mentions— would probably never have happened. Just to defend these posthumously edited books, BBTI spent well over a million dollars. Does anyone really think Srila Prabhupada would have approved that expenditure?
Srila Prabhupada often exclaimed that Hayagriva had been “sent by Krishna to make my books nice.” Hayagriva was, after all, a college professor of English literature since 1964, specializing in the poetic works of the Western transcendentalists —Blake, Merton, Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, and so on. He had also studied Buddhist sutras, Plato, Saint Augustine, and Hindu books on theology.
In 1965, Professor Wheeler traveled to India in search of a guru, having been inspired by some of his Indian college professor friends. He went seeking a spiritual teacher, being attracted by India’s sacred legacy. He returned from India disappointed, not having found his spiritual master. However, only a few months later, by the divine hand of Providence, he met Srila Prabhupada, on a street corner in New York. Professor Wheeler immediately became one of the Swami’s first students. The Swami entrusted him with editing his writings soon after meeting him.
Srila Prabhupada, then known simply as “Swamiji” engaged Hayagriva in editing and typing his Srimad Bhagavatam, and Bhagavad-gita As It Is, only days after meeting him. Does this sound a bit like a special-made-to-order gift from Krishna? An editor who is already well-educated and well-versed in English literature, especially poetic transcendental literature! Srila Prabhupada seemed to think so, as he often praised Hayagriva’s poetic talents and editing abilities.
Hayagriva helped Srila Prabhupada, using his writing talent, to craft a beautifully flowing Bhagavad-gita in the English language. Certainly, a few Sanskrit translation errors should be corrected, but that’s not what we’re talking about. Rather, the entire Bhagavad-gita’s “poetic writer’s voice” has been lost, and often translations have been clumsily re-edited, losing the poetic ring of the original version. Bhagavad-gita means “song of God.” It is intended to be poetic and flowing. Srila Prabhupada achieved that poetic flow with Hayagriva’s help.
But the real danger is: where does it stop? BBTI is continuing to edit and re-edit Prabhupada’s books even now. Already, there are at least six editions of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, all bearing the author’s name “His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami” on their covers. How many editions will exist in 50 years, all bearing the same name on the cover, along with the 1971 signature of Srila Prabhupada? From a publishing viewpoint, this is nothing less than a nightmare.
Another important consideration is that Jayadvaita Swami, a 20 year old high school dropout, met Srila Prabhupada in the early 70’s, whereas Hayagriva, an established college professor, had already been working with Srila Prabhupada as his editor since the summer of 1966.
Srila Prabhupada gave Hayagriva the service of editing his work at a time when devotees had extensive daily access to Srila Prabhupada. Devotees were able to engage in long discussions with him on anything and everything. So there were hours, days, and years of editing interchange between Srila Prabhupada and Hayagriva long before Jayadvaita Swami ever came into the picture.
If you study Hayagriva’s book, “The Hare Krishna Explosion,” written from diaries long before the “book editing issue” ever surfaced (and long before Jayadvaita Swami or Dravida became devotees —even before BBTI was formed) you will see that Hayagriva was spending hours daily with Srila Prabhupada doing his editing work, from the summer of 1966 in New York, then in San Francisco in 1967, and continuously thereafter. There is ample historical evidence of this.
Jayadvaita Swami, for some reason, ignores this and claims that Hayagriva spent little time with Prabhupada editing his books. This is simply not true. The fact is that Jayadvaita Swami wasn’t there yet. I was. I am an eyewitness to the elaborate editing conversations that took place in 1967, 1968, and 1969.
From December of 1967 to January of 1969, I was living with and traveling with Srila Prabhupada, along with my husband Goursundar, going with him from city to city. Besides typing transcriptions of Srila Prabhupada’s writings, my service was cooking, cleaning, maintaining the household and the simple Deity worship, and taking dictation of Prabhupada’s letters, typing them, and in between that, doing artwork.
In 1968, my husband, Goursundar das, and I met with Macmillan executives in New York to discuss the cover picture for Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is. We were very involved with the whole process, and that first Gita, the lavender paperback, was printed only a few months after I left for Hawaii in January of 1969.
In late 1968, just prior to my departure for Hawaii, Hayagriva visited us in Los Angeles, staying with us for several weeks, and sleeping on the living room floor of Prabhupada’s apartment. The two of them were working daily on the final polishing of the manuscript for the Macmillan Gita, as well as other publications such as the Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Srimad Bhagavatam, and also the Nectar of Devotion. I was daily transcribing Prabhupada’s tapes of Nectar of Devotion and Caitanya-caritamrta. Srila Prabhupada would speak into the dictaphone in the early morning hours, and after breakfast, would hand me the tapes to transcribe. This was my service.
Meanwhile, Hayagriva was spending whole days in Srila Prabhupada’s room, discussing the necessary edits. They often even took their meals together, as the discussions were non-stop. Hayagriva had only a limited time for his visit, as he was still teaching as a college professor at that time.
It was also during that visit that Srila Prabhupada married Hayagriva to Shama dasi.
All this took place in December of 1968, the year the final edit of the Gita was done. So it was done to Srila Prabhupada’s satisfaction at that time. Even there may have been some typos, it met with his approval. This is important for everyone to understand.
While living with Srila Prabhupada for those fourteen precious months, I also composed and drew the five line drawings for the forthcoming Teachings of Lord Caitanya. Srila Prabhupada actually designed those illustrations and literally watched over my shoulder while I drew them. He loved to watch the artists’ work.
Earlier in 1968, at our apartment in San Francisco, I was working on the cover of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Srila Prabhupada would come shuffling down the hall. (the houseshoes I gave him made shuffling sounds so I could always hear him coming!) He enjoyed watching the artists at work and spent much time working with both artists and editors; his books were his priority. He supervised every aspect of them.
My job at that time was transcribing his tapes for Nectar of Devotion and Caitanya-caritamrta, while my husband, a Sanskrit and Bengali scholar, was transliterating Caitanya-caritamrta. Goursundar was also giving Srila Prabhupada oil massages daily, to improve his health, and going on walks with him. At home, the two of them discussed philosophy as well as the forthcoming Caitanya-caritamrta.
Srila Prabhupada read Caitanya-caritamrta daily, and sometimes commented that his Guru Maharaj also read it daily in his later years. This multi-volume set of books, Caitanya-caritamrta, so cherished by Srila Prabhupada, has also been severely edited by BBTI; many changes were made without any legitimate reason. This should not have happened.
My point is this: Srila Prabhupada directly oversaw the drawing for the cover of his Bhagavad-gita As It Is as well as the five drawings for Teachings of Lord Caitanya. These five original illustrations, designed by Srila Prabhupada himself, were later removed from his Teachings of Lord Caitanya by the editors of BBTI. The editors decided to “make improvements” by replacing the original drawings. However, Srila Prabhupada complained about this, and so the drawings have been reinstated as far as I know.
So the point here is that Srila Prabhupada oversaw every aspect of his book production. He oversaw the editing just as carefully as the artwork. There is some erroneous idea that BBTI has promoted that Prabhupada spent little time with Hayagriva and that he did not closely watch over the work of the editors or artists. I was there, and I did not perceive this to be true.
Srila Prabhupada watched us from the outside and from the inside as well. He knew everything that was going on in our hearts and minds, and clearly indicated this many times. He also guided our hands in our artwork as well as the editing work. His mystic opulences were not promoted, or even discussed or understood, but trust me, he was fully in charge of all our activities.
Now, so many years have passed. Jayadvaita Swami seems to think this book issue is a “political controversy.” And it seems to have become so. BBTI finances him to travel around the world, from temple to temple, with his presentations on why the books have been edited and changed so drastically.
I have no personal dislike or antagonism for Jayadvaita Swami, or for Dravida. We were always friends. But this issue is one that we cannot agree upon, because it is clearly a disregard for Srila Prabhupada’s platform as Acarya.
The Bhagavad-gita As It Is has been changed so drastically that it no longer even sounds like the same book. Now, I am not saying it is useless; I think every devotee should get both copies and compare them.
But everyone should also understand that the original 1972 Gita is the one that Srila Prabhupada sat in his room and read daily. The original 1972 Gita is the one that made devotees all over the world. The original 1972 Gita is also the one that Srila Prabhupada spoke from. He gave lectures and quoted from this original 1972 Gita on many many occasions —for over six years!
Are we to also edit his spoken lectures? Or are we to appreciate that his transcendental voice is coming from a realm far beyond our minds, far beyond this universe? Are we to accept Srila Prabhupada as being the “Senapati Bhakta” sent by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself? Or are we to relegate him to a lesser position?
When Jayadvaita Swami came to visit Hawaii several years ago, in 2003, I had a darshan of Srila Prabhupada in my temple room. In that brief darshan, Srila Prabhupada ordered, “I want you to speak!”, indicating that he wanted me to speak out about the book changes to Jayadvaita Swami.
My first response was “I don’t wanna…” (who wants such a difficult service?) Srila Prabhupada’s response was commanding: “You have to, that is my order… they will listen to you!” At that point I agreed, what else could I do?
I then educated myself more thoroughly on the whole issue, and subsequently several discussions were held at the Honolulu temple, where a number of other senior disciples came to voice their grievances and opinions as well. Those discussions were taped and later transcribed and found on www.arsaprayoga.com. Now they are on other websites, one known as www.bookchanges.com and other places as well. These discussions give a clearer picture of the changes and the ramifications of changing the Acarya’s writings.
Since then, I have also studied the 1997-1998 lawsuit that cost the BBTI over a million dollars to defend the edited books —a lawsuit that was lost, and that BBTI is careful never to discuss or mention. It was a huge and embarrassing loss to the BBTI. Jayadvaita Swami should have resigned after that lawsuit, but strangely enough, some of his Godbrothers wanted him to stay (?)
Let me add here, that the BBTI lawyers’ defense argument labeled Srila Prabhupada as a “worker for hire” and therefore according to this legal concept, his books belonged to BBTI and could be edited however they pleased. This argument, albeit only a legal agenda, is clearly offensive, a very serious “Vaishnava aparadha.”
In spite of this spiritually distasteful argument, BBTI lost the case anyway. (The judge didn’t buy it.) The BBTI lost the case in spite of hiring the very costly and prestigious international copyright law firm, Coudert Brothers.
As a result of this court ruling, a “license to print” Srila Prabhupada’s original 1972-1977 books was given to a small group of Srila Prabhupada’s senior disciples. It is due to this “license to print” that Srila Prabhupada’s original books are now back in print. These precious books, so dear to our Spiritual Master Srila Prabhupada, were out of print for over twenty years! If not for this court case, perhaps they would have remained out of print forever!
Perhaps here we may stop to consider the “blade of grass theory” —not a blade of grass moves without the will of the Lord!
My motive is not political nor is it sentimental. I am simply following my Gurudev’s orders. He could foresee this sort of thing would happen, due to the “Westerner’s change disease.”
The important thing to consider here is Srila Prabhupada’s perspective. What would he want us to do in this situation. Srila Prabhupada was most concerned about the loss of his gift to the world —his books. Therefore he constantly cautioned against changes of any sort. It is not that the books are completely lost now, with this edit. But they will continue to be edited, and changed, and changed again, and the editors that come after Jayadvaita Swami and Dravida are gone will surely have new and different ideas. And in due course of time, the pure teachings will be lost.
Krishna tells Arjuna in the Gita that He gave this knowledge to the Sun god, but it was lost in the course of time. The same thing can happen if we allow this book editing issue to go unchecked. There is no end to it.
Srila Prabhupada’s communication to me is that this is the single most important issue. And that every one of his faithful disciples should speak out on this issue, whether it is “politically correct” or not. And whether we are criticized or not. It really isn’t about Jayadvaita Swami or any other particular person. It is about keeping Srila Prabhupada’s teachings intact for the future welfare of mankind.
Two hundred years from now, when scholars are researching this great movement, and they find thirty editions of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, all different, yet all bearing Srila Prabhupada’s 1971 signature, how will they even know which edition is the original and authentic one?
They will know only by the statements that we, Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, leave behind. We, his disciples, are now his voice in this world.
Therefore, it is our duty, to be faithful to our Guru, to speak out to defend his books, even it it makes us unpopular or “politically incorrect.”
Amazingly, some respected ISKCON leaders have been known to criticize these original books, calling them “ritvik books.” Yet those same leaders became devotees from reading those original books! And those books existed long before the ritvik movement ever began. There is no relation whatsoever. The books stand alone, as Srila Prabhupada’s gifts to the world.
This BBTI propaganda is not actually coming from Jayadvaita Swami or the BBTI; it is the undercurrent coming from the Kali Chela, those energies that are working diligently to infiltrate and destroy this great movement launched by Srila Prabhupada. His was a movement launched with a handful of sincere American teenagers who loved their “Swamiji”, and continue to love him, more than life itself.
Dear Devotees, please don’t take all this lightly; do your own research, offer your own prayers to Srila Prabhupada, and then decide what is right. Don’t simply parrot the propaganda that BBTI is spreading to try to make it sound all right. As a disciple, you and I and every one of us has a duty to Srila Prabhupada, to his legacy, to safeguard his valuable teachings for the generations of devotees to come. This is the most serious issue facing us today. And this is our most important duty.
Misconceptions are circulating about the authorship of his Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s books. Is Srila Prabhupada simply an “author for hire” as designated by BBTI and did he “intend” that all his books should be revised post-samadhi?
Did Srila Prabhupada intend that BBT should claim the copyrights to his work in order to make the changes?
Is there in fact any of Srila Prabhupada’s own writing style in any of his books or were all these books written by his editors?
To establish exactly why, when and how the book changes started we need to look at more than just the BBTI Edit website and YouTube explanations. We need to look at everything that Srila Prabhupada said and wrote about his books. We need to consider whether or not we believe that Srila Prabhupada translated, wrote edited and published his books and intended them to stay as he wrote them, with corrections made only to spelling and grammar.
We also need to look at whether or not Srila Prabhupada was satisfied with the editing done by one of his first disciples, Hayagriva.
Srila Prabhupada’s many letters to Hayagriva tell us that He was in complete control and that he was in fact, impressed and happy with the editing work in progress. Please refer to the chapter “Authorization” where you find the letters in chronological order.
In contrast, the so-called editing of his books, without his knowledge and consent is really rewriting by hidden co-authors.
Srila Prabhupada is an extraordinary author unsurpassed in history because he translated, wrote, edited, published, and distributed millions of books worldwide.
He trained hundreds of disciples to assist him in this monumental work.
Srila Prabhupada created his own publishing house, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT). He created his own distribution system of temples, the Life Membership program and book distributors who developed innovative methods to distribute books. He engaged millions of people in producing, distributing and receiving his transcendental books, and thus engaged them in the pure devotional service of Lord Caitanya’s movement.
Srila Prabhupada was a published author before he reached America. In India, without help, he translated, wrote, edited, published and distributed the three volumes of Srimad Bhagavatam, First Canto, the paperback Easy Journey to Other Planets, and many issues of Back to Godhead magazine. He wrote a second manuscript for the Bhagavad-gita to replace his first one which had been stolen. He recognized the difficulty in presenting transcendental knowledge in a foreign language.
In the preface to each volume of Srimad Bhagavatam, he appealed to the readers: “I must admit my frailties in presenting Srimad Bhagavatam, but still I am hopeful of its good reception by the thinkers and leaders of society on the strength of the following statement of Srimad Bhagavatam (1.5.11): tad-vag visargo… ‘On the other hand, that literature which is full with descriptions of the transcendental glories of the name, fame, form and pastimes of the unlimited Supreme Lord is a transcendental creation meant to bring about a revolution in the impious life of a misdirected civilization. Such transcendental literatures, even though irregularly composed, are heard, sung and accepted by purified men who are thoroughly honest.’”
Once he arrived in America, he took opportunities to correct his “irregular composition.” He gave a large stack of papers, his Bhagavad-gita manuscript, to his disciple, Hayagriva dasa, who had a Masters degree in English. The two of them worked closely together to edit and prepare the manuscript for publication in the United States.
A complete system to write and publish
Srila Prabhupada’s published letters reveal an amazing system which he organised to accelerate his writing. He controlled every aspect from beginning to end. And he trained his disciples to assist him in various ways. He dictated translations and purports which his disciples transcribed.
He corrected and edited those transcriptions which were then sent to other disciples for more editing. He edited the Sanskrit synonyms or provided them himself. He proofread manuscripts and final drafts. He gave specific instructions regarding illustrations, number of pages, size, paper, binding, covers, printing and costs. He examined the printed books to see if they had been printed properly. He noted his satisfaction and dissatisfaction. If necessary, he ordered corrections for a subsequent printing. Amazingly, he did all this work using personal meetings and regular postal mail while traveling around the world!
Srila Prabhupada wrote letters to convey his instructions and answer questions. Excerpts demonstrate his direct involvement in training and correcting his disciples’ work. He wrote his books by dictating the translations and purports which were transcribed. “I have received the transcription of tape #16. You are doing very nicely and improving your editorial capability.” (Letter to Satsvarupa, July 29, 1969.)
“Pradyumna and Shyamsundar will be sending you regularly completed transcriptions of my translation work by post… and because I am here, if they have questions, I can answer and make the final proofreading, and this will expedite everything.” (Letter to Jayadvaita, May 15, 1971.)
His disciples had difficulty producing quality translations and Sanskrit synonyms even in later years, thereby forcing Srila Prabhupada to do the work himself. “The translations… I am not using. There is some fault. I am doing the translations.” (Letter to Radhaballabha, Sept. 26, 1975.)
“Yes, because no one else can do them, I shall do the Sanskrit synonyms.” (Letter to Jayadvaita, Feb. 18, 1972.)
“From yesterday night I have begun adding the synonyms as it doesn’t save very much time to have the synonyms.” (Letter to Radhaballabha, Oct. 20, 1975.)
“I will have to see personally what are the mistakes in the synonyms and also how you intend to correct them. I was not satisfied with the corrections that were made before. I saw some changes which I did not approve. Nitai may correct whatever mistakes are there, but the corrected material must be sent to me for final approval.” (Letter to Radhaballabha, Jan. 5, 1976.)
Synonyms were missing for 25 chapters of the Srimad Bhagavatam, so he provided them. “I have begun this work and the first tape of synonyms, tape no. 6, was sent to Pradyumna today. This work will take at least one month to complete.” (Letter to Jayadvaita, Feb. 18, 1972.)
Sometimes he provided the synonyms within the Letter: “So far your question, the synonyms are as follows: sattvam – the mode of goodness; rajas – the mode of passion..” (Letter to Jayadvaita, July 3, 1971.)
Srila Prabhupada’s solution to the Sanskrit editing problems was to train his disciple, Pradyumna dasa. “I am very much glad that Pradyumna is now with me for teaching him correctly this Sanskrit editing work. After he has become well-trained that will be a great relief to me and it will benefit everyone by increasing the flow of our books and literatures.” (Letter to Jayadvaita, May 15, 1971.)
Srila Prabhupada also trained his disciples in editing the English and preparing the manuscripts for publishers, including basic proofreading. As always, he reviewed their work and made necessary corrections. “Regarding your second point, all incarnations should be proper nouns and therefore capitalized. It does not matter whether they are Visnu-tattva or jiva-tattva, saktavesh-avatar or plenary expansion.” (Letter to Jayadvaita, July 12, 1970.)
“…you have got 31 only out of 33. I think some of the brackets are not counted. So if the parentheses are removed from “intoxication” and “impotency” and they are also counted, the total of symptoms will come to 33. Simply add commas…” (Letter to Jayadvaita, Jan. 30, 1970.)
Srila Prabhupada supervised his editors; he reviewed their work, including the final manuscript.
“Regarding the corrections you have sent, this kind of changes is admissible. There is no harm.” (Letter to Radhaballabha, Sept. 21, 1975.)
“I have received your letter dated May 26, 1972, along with the blue-print copies of Bhagavad-gita As It Is from Macmillan Company. It is very nice. So I shall be looking forward to seeing the entire manuscript and book sometime around first July, 1972.” (Letter to Jayadvaita, May 28, 1972.)
Srila Prabhupada gave instructions and reviewed the art work to illustrate his books. “The sketches are all alright as they are. Please go ahead and make the paintings.” (Letter to Jadurani, Jan. 5, 1976.)
For Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, he wrote, “The art paintings are very, very good. Everyone likes them, and I know they have worked especially hard. The photographs are also wonderful. He has done nicely, the boy Bhargava.” (Letter to Radhaballabha, Sept. 26, 1975.)
Other examples include the illustrations in the Seventh Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam (1st printing, 1976) which comply with his instructions. “2. There should be no effulgence around Prahlad. Hiranyakasipu should not be shown with a pipe. He was a non-smoker. 4. To illustrate Prahlad being protected when he is thrown off the cliff, there should be a semi-visible Krishna waiting below, as if to catch.” (Letter to Radhaballabha, Feb. 3, 1976.)
Srila Prabhupada determined the layout of his books and other publishing details. He wanted high quality publications. “Regarding 6th Canto, Nitai has just yesterday sent off Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8 and next week he expects to send off Chapters 9 through 13. This will be sufficient for you to publish one volume.” (Letter to Radhaballava, Sept. 21, 1975.)
Regarding a decrease in the printing quality of Back to Godhead magazine, he wrote, “The color is not at all good. It is not attractive, and not as good as Dai Nippon. The standard quality of Dai Nippon must be maintained. On what consideration is the printer being changed? In my opinion, no one can print better than Dai Nippon. Why is the plan changed without my consent? We cannot change the quality of printing for the matter of a little change in the price. This printing is not approved by me. I am sending copies of this letter to all BBT trustees for necessary action.” (Letter to Radhaballava, Sept. 22, 1974.)
Srila Prabhupada was a prolific writer –he translated and wrote faster than his disciples could edit and publish. Although he was one person and they were many, they could not keep up with him. For example, he pressured his disciples for years to publish the eighteen volumes of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. The manuscripts were written, but the editing, illustrations, and publication progressed slowly. The first published volume appeared in 1973. A year later, another volume was published. He overcame BBT’s lethargy in 1974 by forcing the Los Angeles temple into a marathon to prepare the books. And he personally stayed there to assist the editors. By his efforts, the entire Sri Caitanya-caritamrta was finally published in 1975.
Other books took longer. In 1972 he ordered the publication of a paperback based on recorded conversations. “I think we are just now typing up the tapes of those conversations we held in Mayapur, and we shall be publishing them as a book. It will be called Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers.” (Letter from Srila Prabhupada to Bob Cohen, June 16, 1972, reprinted in the book.)
Five years later, the small paperback was published and ready for distribution.
Srila Prabhupada’s system of book distribution relied on three integral parts –his temples, his book distributors, and the Life Membership program. The temples were the regional centers for book distribution. They organized the local distribution and provided all the needs for the book distributors and support persons (managers, pujaries, cooks, etc.), who lived in the temples. The temple activities were organized so that the book distributors could devote all their energies to distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books and preaching.
“There is no doubt about it, to distribute books is our most important activity. The temple is a place not for eating and sleeping, but as a base from which we send out our soldiers to fight with maya. Fight with maya means to drop thousands and millions of books into the lap of the conditioned souls. Just like during war time the bombs are raining from the sky like anything.” (Letter to Ramesvara, Aug. 3, 1973.)
Srila Prabhupada devised the Life Membership Program as a scheme to publish and distribute books in India, and to expand it to America and other countries. “Here in India our program is going on very nicely. Especially we are making so many life members. That program is so important that we are getting money, supporters and distributing our literature all at the same time.” (Letter to Damodara, March 5, 1971) “…on this book distribution scheme of life membership. 50% is utilized for reprinting books and 50% is utilized for increasing the number of centers. I think the same program may be vigorously introduced in your country and that will be a great success.” (Letter to Rupanuga, Feb. 19, 1971.)
It is clear that Srila Prabhupada was the author of his books, and the editors were his assistants. Also, he fully controlled the editing and publishing process. For his books, he determined the content, meaning, purpose, audience, style, illustrations, binding, paper, publication dates, etc. So why do some, including some BBT editors, erroneously claim that Srila Prabhupada did not really write his books? Why do they mistakenly refer to “Hayagriva’s Bhagavad-gita” instead of “Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita?” The answer is that they confuse writing with editing.
Factually, editing is not writing because editing polishes something already written. First the author writes, and then the editor edits. First, Srila Prabhupada wrote the translations and purports for Bhagavad-gita, and then Hayagriva edited them. Writing creates the content, meaning and purpose. Editing polishes that work to make it more presentable to the readers, but editing does not change the author’s meaning and purpose. Srila Prabhupada created the transcendental content of his books. He conveyed the meaning of Krishna consciousness within the Vaishnava parampara (disciplic succession). And he imbued his books with the purpose to spread Lord Caitanya’s mercy all over the world. Srila Prabhupada’s books contain his potency to transform sincere readers into pure unalloyed devotees. To assist him, Hayagriva polished the Bhagavad-gita manuscript by correcting the irregular composition without changing Srila Prabhupada’s meaning and purpose. Editing differs from writing because the editor suggests changes and consults with the author for approval. Hayagriva proofread the Bhagavad-gita manuscript. Proofreading is the process of finding and correcting errors in spelling, conjugation, capitalization, grammar, syntax, italics, etc. as well as conformity to the publisher’s format (font size, margins, indentations, footnotes, etc.)
Hayagriva also suggested other changes to the manuscript. Like a good editor, he discussed the changes and asked for Srila Prabhupada’s approval of them. Other disciples acting as editors followed the same approval process with other books. It is clear that Srila Prabhupada wrote his books and that Hayagriva and other disciples edited them.
Another misconception is that Srila Prabhupada’s books can be edited without his knowledge and consent. This is erroneous because, as explained above, editing requires discussions and approval from the author. And the author makes the final decisions about what is published. Therefore, no editing can occur especially after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance (in 1977) because he is no longer available for consultation. The only exceptions would be found in his orders for specific changes to specific books. Regarding the unfinished Srimad Bhagavatam, he personally trained and assigned only Pradyumna dasa to finish the translations and purports.
Still another misconception is that Srila Prabhupada gave orders to change his published books after his disappearance. No evidence exists to support this claim. In fact, he gave many orders not to change his books. “Yes, there is no need for corrections for the First and Second Cantos. Whatever is there is alright.” (Letter to Radhaballabha, May 4, 1976) Regarding the Bhagavad-gita manuscript prepared for the 1972 Macmillan publication, he wrote, “So far changing the working of verse or purport of 12.12 discussed before, it may remain as it is.” (Letter to Jayadvaita, March 17, 1971) Apparently Srila Prabhupada rejected Jayadvaita’s suggestions in favor of leaving the manuscript “as it is.” Yet three words in that purport were changed for the unauthorized 1983 revision.
Those familiar with Srila Prabhupada’s management understand that he would have given important orders to change his published books to the BBT trustees, the GBC members, and Pradyumna, his highly qualified translator. So why are there no orders from Srila Prabhupada to his important leaders? Why would he grant permission to rewrite his Bhagavad-gita to devotees who were not important leaders before his disappearance?
What is so-called editing that is independent from Srila Prabhupada’s order? Factually, it is not editing, it is rewriting of his books. The so-called editors are acting like authors. They are really co-authors because they are rewriting books written by another author, i.e., Srila Prabhupada. And, they are really hidden co-authors because they rewrite his books while hiding behind the good name of his Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The hidden co-authors present their own translations and opinions hidden within Srila Prabhupada’s books.
In contrast, honest co-authors always publish their names, and sometimes they describe their individual contributions. In any case, their readers understand that two or more authors wrote the book. A famous example of co-authoring is a book about grammar and writing, The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (Fourth edition, 2,000 published by Longman Publishers). In it, White explained his role as co-author and his changes to Strunk’s original book. White also claimed credit for writing the section on style.
Changes to the books
The problem of hidden co-authors even occurred during Srila Prabhupada’s physical presence. Some disciples deviated from the honest relationship between Srila Prabhupada as author and the disciples as editors. Such persons changed his manuscripts and printed books without his permission and knowledge. After discovering these unauthorized changes, Srila Prabhupada strongly chastised the persons involved and demanded the removal of the changes. For example, during a Srimad Bhagavatam class, Nitai dasa read a manuscript translation which contained unauthorized changes.
Nitai: “At the time of death, Ajamila saw three awkward persons… his small child, Narayana, was playing a little distance off, and with tearful eyes and great anxiety, he called the name of his son very loudly three times, ‘Narayana, Narayana, Narayana!’”
Srila Prabhupada: Is there “three times?”
Nitai: It said in the manuscript. The manuscript said “three times.”
Srila Prabhupada: Who said in the manuscript? There is no three times. Not “Narayana” three times. One time, “O Narayana,” that’s all. So did I say “three times?” No, it is not said here. You should correct it. Once, “O Narayana,” that’s all. There is no reason of calling three times. There is no mention here. Once is sufficient. (laughter) …Uccair ajuhava, very loudly, “Narayana!” Like that. That’s all. Uccair ajuhava akulendriyah. So you edited it? Not yet?
Srila Prabhupada: So you should keep at least what is there.
(Transcription of recorded lecture for S.B. 6.1.28-29, Philadelphia, July 13, 1975.)
Despite his continual efforts to rectify and train his editors, they continued to make unauthorized changes. By June of 1977, Srila Prabhupada expressed his doubt that his leading editors would follow his order to remove over 100 changes to the Sri Isopanisad and publish it as the original (1969) printing.
He said, “It is a very serious situation. You write one letter that ‘Why you have made so many changes?’ And whom to write? Who will care? All rascals are there! Write Satsvarupa that ‘This is the position.’ They are doing anything and everything at their whim. The next printing should be again to the original way.”
(Conversation with with Srila Prabhupada and Yasoda-nandana, June 22, 1977.)
After Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, the hidden co-authors made major changes to Bhagavad-gita As It Is (1972 edition). A major change is the language, the writing style, of the Bhagavad-gita translations. For example, Srila Prabhupada originally published (1972 edition), Chapter 7, verse 24 as “Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” In contrast, the hidden co-authors (1983 revision) rewrote the verse as “Unintelligent men, who do not know Me perfectly, think that I, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, was impersonal before and have now assumed this personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is imperishable and supreme.”
The stark contrast between the two versions clearly indicates that they were written by two different authors. Srila Prabhupada wrote the original version, and the hidden co-authors wrote the later version. Other Bhagavad-gita verses in the rewritten, 1983 edition display similar changes. The hidden co-authors substituted a lower level writing style not intended for college educated readers. Therefore, the change in writing style indicates a change in audience, the intended readers. Srila Prabhupada wrote for a college-educated, more intelligent audience; whereas, the hidden co-authors wrote for a less intelligent audience. The co-authored Bhagavad-gita (1983 revision) is not suitable for college classrooms.
But Srila Prabhupada’s plan differed: “…our propaganda should be going on for drawing attention of the educational institutions to accept our books at least in the religious courses.”
(Letter to Satsvarupa, Nov. 2, 1973.)
“I am so glad to learn that you are having nice success in placing my books in the libraries and in schools and colleges. I am sure that this will revolutionize the thinking of thoughtful men of your country as well as the students and the professors and the ultimate end will be to save the world from the clutches of material illusory activities which is now causing havoc everywhere” (Letter to Karandhar, Sept. 13, 1970).
Why do the hidden co-authors claim to be better translators and commentators (purport writers) than Srila Prabhupada? What are the hidden co-authors doing when they change the philosophy and preaching plans in Srila Prabhupada’s books? What is their purpose?
The hidden co-authors usurp Srila Prabhupada’s property, his books, by making changes not authorized by him. They seize and hold his books by force without the spiritual right to do so. The hidden co-authors force changes without any order to do so. They blatantly disobey his direct order to maintain the books as originally published. They use BBT money and diplomacy to defeat opposition to their usurpation. The hidden co-authors behave like squatters who forcibly and unlawfully take over someone’s property and use it for their own purpose.
The hidden co-authors mislead the devotees and the innocent public by publishing their own opinions under Srila Prabhupada’s good name. What is their purpose? They are acting like hidden founder-acaryas because they rewrite sastra (Vedic scripture) intended for the next 9500 years. Because they reject Srila Prabhupada’s order to maintain his books as published, they freely inject their own opinions. The proper behavior of a disciple or follower is to follow the spiritual master’s order.
Srila Prabhupada explained: “Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has stated that the order of the spiritual master is the life and soul of the disciples. As a man cannot separate his life from his body, so a disciple cannot separate the order of the spiritual master from his life. If a disciple follows the instruction of the spiritual master in that way, he is sure to become perfect.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.24.13, 1974, 1st printing.)
On the basis of this instruction, sincere devotees have the duty and the right to reject all co-authored changes to Srila Prabhupada’s books. We must follow Srila Prabhupada, not the hidden co-authors because he can liberate anyone who follows him.
Srila Prabhupada wrote: “Not a single person in the West became Krishna conscious before the Krishna consciousness movement was founded. But when the same Bhagavad-gita was presented as it is through the disciplic succession, the effect of spiritual realization was immediately manifested.”
(Srimad Bhagavatam, 4.22.19, 1978, 2nd printing.)
By following Srila Prabhupada, we can make spiritual progress and preach Lord Caitanya’s movement all over the world. And Srila Prabhupada, through his Prabhupada-vani – his books and teachings, can take anyone back home, back to Godhead.
—Krishna Kripa dasi
Arsa prayoga and Shakespeare
The question as to whether the writings of the acarya may or may not be revised by his disciples after his disappearance is answered by the rule of “arsa prayoga.”
This principle states that one should not see mistakes in what the spiritual master has written or think that his writings may be changed to make them more effective or politically correct. To preserve his teachings in their originally published form is the way by which the acarya is honored, and to do otherwise is to dishonor him. That is the rule of “arsa prayoga,” a principle that devoted followers of a bona fide spiritual master must adhere to without deviation.
The rationale for changing Srila Prabhupada’s books was based on a series of false arguments, many of which were defeated by Srila Prabhupada himself, as this article will show. To justify their actions, the BBT editors created the illusion that Srila Prabhupada’s books were defective and in need of extensive editing even though they knew His Divine Grace had never authorized anyone to revise his books after his disappearance. Subsequent to his departure, they conveniently overlooked the principle of “arsa prayoga” and proceeded to do exactly what Vaishnava tradition strictly prohibits.
It was by the distribution of transcendental literature that Srila Prabhupada hoped to introduce Krishna consciousness to people everywhere. For those who saw the movement spread from city to city and from country to country, it was clear that the original version of Srila Prabhupada’s books was full of spiritual potency and did not require to be changed in any way for his words to act upon the hearts of the conditioned souls.
Srila Prabhupada himself never doubted that his books would bring about a revolution in consciousness and induce people throughout the world to take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His transcendental vision was revealed in the following letters, all of which refer to the original version of his books.
“I am glad to learn that you are having nice success in placing my books in the libraries and in schools and colleges. I am sure that this will revolutionize the thinking of the thoughtful men of your country as well as the students and professors, and the ultimate end will be to save the world from the clutches of material illusory activities which is now causing havoc everywhere.” (Letter to Karandhara dated 9-13-70.)
“If we introduce these books in all of the bookstores, schools, colleges, libraries and everyone’s home, our religion will be the only religion in the world very soon.” (Letter to Krishna Bamini dated 1-4-72.)
“We have got a great mission to fulfill, and these books and magazines are the torchbearers of Truth which can save the world.” (Letter to Ksirodakasayi dated 1-3-72.)
Srila Prabhupada’s books, then, should be thought of as a permanent legacy meant to be shared and enjoyed by generations of devotees everywhere. His purpose in writing was to reestablish religious principles and, ultimately, to revive every conditioned soul’s dormant love of God. These transcendental literatures were Srila Prabhupada’s gift to the world and proof of his empowerment by Krishna.
Judging from the statements made above, His Divine Grace seemed totally convinced that the books he had published, if distributed widely enough, would deliver the entire world from the darkness of ignorance. Therefore, there was no reason to believe that, to fulfill his mission, his books would have to undergo another round of editing, what to speak of the complete overhaul concocted by the BBT editors.
Our guideline in Krishna consciousness is that the only duty of the disciple is to faithfully execute the order of the bona fide spiritual master. If a disagreement arises over how to best serve the guru, the issue can generally be resolved by following whatever course of action the spiritual master had specifically recommended in his direct instructions to his disciples. In a room conversation that took place in Paris in 1976, Srila Prabhupada elaborated on this point, and his explanation soundly defeats virtually all of the arguments presented in favor of changing his books.
Excerpt from a room conversation taking place in Paris, France on August 5, 1976:
Hari-sauri dasa: Sometimes there’s some discrepancy, two parties, that may both want to serve but they have different ways, different ideas how to execute the same order, so there may be some disagreement.
Srila Prabhupada: “Service means you must take order from the master. Otherwise, it is mental concoction. Actually the servant requests, “How can I serve you?” So when the master orders, “You serve me like this,” then you do that, that is service. And if you manufacture your service, that is not service. That is your sense gratification. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah.
You have to see how he is pleased. Now if he wants a glass of water and if you bring a nice glass of milk, you can say, “Milk is better than water. You take it.” That is not service. He wants water, you give him water. Don’t manufacture better thing.”
After Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, and without his consent, the BBT editors took it upon themselves to re-edit his books, making thousands of unnecessary changes in an attempt to improve their wording and style. But, as Srila Prabhupada stated above, without his order, their service was a concoction. They were offering him milk when he had asked for water. He wanted them to follow the rule of “arsa prayoga”, but they decided to manufacture a better thing. So, according to the spiritual master, their editing was not service at all, but sense gratification.
Srila Prabhupada often insisted that he did not want his disciples to spend a great deal of time on editing work. He was also not very concerned with literary style. On one occasion, His Divine Grace said,
“We are not meant for presenting any literary masterpieces.”
And in the following letter, he gave further instruction to his book production staff with regard to their editorial and proofreading services:
“We have to do things now very dexterously, simply we have to see that in our book there is no spelling or grammatical mistake. We do not mind for any good style, our style is Hare Krishna, but still, we should not present a shabby thing. Although Krishna literatures are so nice that, even if they are presented in broken and irregular ways, such literatures are welcomed, read and respected by bona fide devotees.” (Letter to Satsvarupa dated 1-9-70.)
Unless the BBT trustees felt that Srila Prabhupada’s books had been shabbily presented in the past, they had no right to tamper with them. While it is not our philosophy to print errors, it should be remembered that spiritual subject matter is transcendental to all mundane considerations and remains potent despite mistakes in grammar, spelling, etc.
As soon as Srila Prabhupada was satisfied with the standard of presentation of his books, he adamantly warned the BBT staff that further changes should not be made. He said it would be considered an offense for them to even think there were mistakes in his books. When it was brought to Srila Prabhupada’s attention in 1977 that significant changes had been made to his books without his approval, he instructed the directors of the BBT that their next printing should be again to the original way.
The editors were well aware how averse Srila Prabhupada was to making changes, especially once a book had been published. How, then, could they act so boldly against his wishes, daring to change everything, and so soon after his physical departure? If Srila Prabhupada ever spoke of making improvements, he was referring to the quality of the printing only and was not suggesting that changes be made in the text of his books.
When Srila Prabhupada first examined the 1972 Macmillan Gita, for example, he said it did not meet our Vaishnava standard. He was disappointed with the quality of the paper, the binding, the color work and so on. These are the things he wanted improved. As far as the text was concerned, he said that nothing should be added or subtracted.
“There is no mistake, he is mistake”
Let me first offer my prostrated obeisances unto the lotus feet of that supreme swan-like devotee of the Lord, our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, by whose mercy the fallen souls of Kali Yuga may taste the sweetness of the narrations of the pastimes of the Lord and His pure devotees. As the bona fide representative of Sri Vyasadeva, he composed a mountain of transcendental literature to enlighten the entire human society, explaining even the most confidential truths regarding Vaishnava philosophy.
His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada displayed all of the symptoms of an empowered jiva soul, working tirelessly to distribute the transcendental message of love of Godhead throughout the world. It is therefore the duty of his followers to preserve the legacy and protect the honor of such a great spiritual personality whose every moment was dedicated to the spreading of Krishna consciousness.
To guarantee that his teachings would not be forgotten in the oblivion of time, Srila Prabhupada created the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and, assisted by his disciples, he astounded the academic community with his literary output. What follows is a brief account of Srila Prabhupada’s struggle with the BBT staff to keep the final version of his books intact by resisting what he called the “American disease” of always wanting to change things. As will be seen from the letters and conversations cited in this article, Srila Prabhupada would finally insist on an “absolutely no change” policy based on the principle of “arsa prayoga”.
That unwanted changes were being made to his books came to his attention as early as 1975, and it quickly became a pressing matter. In a letter to the production manager of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, Srila Prabhupada expressed his alarm that changes he had not approved were appearing in print.
“I will have to see personally what are the mistakes in the synonyms and also how you intend to correct them. I was not satisfied with the corrections that were made before. I saw some changes which I did not approve. Nitai may correct whatever mistakes are there, but the corrected material must be sent to me for final approval.” (Letter to Radhaballabha dasa dated 1-5-76.)
Srila Prabhupada never gave anyone carte blanche to make revisions in his books. This letter confirms that any changes to his books would require his personal approval before being printed.
A few months later, the issue of change was raised again by Radhaballabha dasa regarding the text of several volumes of the Srimad Bhagavatam which were soon to be reprinted. Srila Prabhupada advised him, “There is no need for corrections for the First and Second Cantos. Whatever is there is all right.” (Letter of 5-4-76) Seeing how persistent his BBT managers were to implement change in the text and presentation of his books, His Divine Grace wrote again to Radhaballabha dasa in August, 1976, this time more firmly:
“Do not try to change anything without my permission.”
Srila Prabhupada consistently stated that he did not want anything to be changed unnecessarily. Any changes they thought would be an improvement in the text would require his written authorization.
The most serious violation of this instruction actually came years later, after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, when BBT personnel decided to print a new version of the Bhagavad-gita. It is a well known fact that His Divine Grace never authorized anyone to re-edit the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. If Srila Prabhupada ever intended to make changes in the Gita, the ideal opportunity for him to say so came in a room conversation that took place on February 24, 1977 in Mayapur. On that occasion, Radhaballabha dasa was describing how the upcoming printing of the Bhagavad-gita was going to require so much paper that it would take seventy-six train cars to transport it (1.5 million copies).
Srila Prabhupada absolutely did not suggest making any corrections before this largest printing ever of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. In fact, and to the contrary, in a discussion that took place three days later, he established a definitive “no change” policy that he wanted applied henceforward to all of his books. The tendency to want to make corrections was now a very serious problem, and Srila Prabhupada dealt with it.
The transcribed conversation of February 27, 1977 presented below clearly indicates that Srila Prabhupada would never have approved of anyone changing the final edited version of his writings, even after his disappearance. In this exchange, His Divine Grace states that for a disciple to see mistakes in his production-ready finished manuscripts was a bad habit that had to be given up.
Even though the one correction his disciple Jagannatha dasa wanted to propose would not have changed the wording of the verse, Srila Prabhupada warned that to make any change whatsoever was “strictly forbidden”. As a servant of his spiritual master, Radhaballabha dasa was obliged to accept Srila Prabhupada’s instruction that the text should be left exactly as is and that making corrections should never be contemplated.
To further enlighten his disciple, Srila Prabhupada explained the rule of “arsa prayoga”, that whatever the acarya has given, it should be accepted. The tendency to think oneself sufficiently qualified to correct one’s authority is not only a breach of Vaishnava etiquette, but an offense in the service of the spiritual master.
If one continues to see mistakes that he thinks need to be corrected, Srila Prabhupada says, “He is the mistake.” Due to his incomplete understanding, Radhaballabha dasa reasoned, “So if we think there is some mistake, we should just forget about it?” Srila Prabhupada corrects him again, saying that one should not even think his authority has made a mistake.
His opinion was that since Jagannatha dasa tended to see mistakes in the writings of the acarya, he was an irresponsible man who could not be relied upon. Srila Prabhupada then made his final point, that our true purpose is not served by becoming so-called scholars able to find errors in the books of the spiritual master, but by becoming advanced in devotion to Krishna. Radhaballabha dasa finally got the point, that Srila Prabhupada was establishing the rule of “no corrections anywhere” once a book was submitted to his department for publication.
Room Conversation of 2-27-77, Mayapura:
Radhaballabha dasa: Now Jagannatha had some questions on corrections in the book. In verse twenty-eight it says, “Then he worshiped Sri Krishna, the essence of all Vedas, with this hymn.”
Srila Prabhupada: Where it is? Brahma-samhita?
SP: What is that?
RBD: So it says, “Then he worshiped Sri Krishna, the essence of all Vedas, with this hymn.”
SP: Where it is?
RBD: It’s verse twenty-eight, “Then he worshiped Sri Krishna.” So Jagannatha said it should be, “Then he worshiped…”
SP: No, no. Jagannatha cannot correct. That bad habit he must give up.
RBD: So we should just leave it exactly.
SP: Oh yes. You should not be more educated.
RBD: He wasn’t changing any of the words. He was just…
SP: Nothing of the… This should be strictly forbidden.
RBD: So no corrections. That makes it simple.
SP: They can divide the synonyms. That’s all.
RBD: Synonyms. So even…
SP: That is his tendency, to correct. That’s very bad. He should not do that.
RBD: So I’ll just forget this, then.
SP: The system is: whatever authority has done, even there is mistake, it should be accepted.
SP: Arsa prayoga. That is ha… He should not become more learned than the authority. That is very bad habit.
RBD: He was always wondering how he should think. So I’ll tell him that. He thinks, “If I think I see a mistake, what should I think?” I’ll tell him what you just said.
SP: He cannot see mistake. He is mistake (laughter). That is being done by this rascal. I don’t want. And the Hayagriva has…, the Easy Journey, he has changed so many things. That… He is now bad character. You should not maintain him.
Later, in the same conversation:
SP: So Jagannatha should be strictly advised not to become very learned to correct authorities. No.
RBD: I think that the instruction you gave will help him very much about even if he thinks there is some mistake, just forget about it.
SP: He is mistake. He should not think his authority mistake.
RBD: He didn’t know what he should do. He didn’t know…
SP: So why he should be given this business. He’s such irresponsible man. He should not be given any responsible work. Our first business should see how he is advanced in devotion. We don’t want so-called scholars.
RBD: Jagannatha was somewhat affected by Nitai, but he’s…
SP: I know that.
RBD: I think he understands what the problem was. I think he understands what his problem was, and that’s why he won’t do anything without asking you.
SP: Don’t allow him to do anything.
RBD: Well, now that this system of no corrections anywhere, that makes it very simple. Then he can’t do anything. I don’t think he wants to either. It makes it more simple for him. It makes him very uncomfortable.
SP: No corrections.
Six weeks later, Srila Prabhupada was listening to the notes and resolutions of a meeting held by the BBT trustees. He was generally pleased with the decisions that had been made, but at one point he interrupted the reading to make a recommendation of his own. He wanted them to include in their list the following admonition:
“And every time Radhaballabha changes something, that should be stopped. He is very much inclined to change something. This practice should be stopped.”
Srila Prabhupada was assigning to the BBT trustees the duty of safeguarding his books from being changed in the slightest by anyone who had not been specifically ordered to do so.
The principle of “arsa prayoga” was again referred to on June 22, 1977 when Srila Prabhupada was in Vrindavana, India. In the middle of a reading of the Srimad Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada objected when he heard the synonym that was given for the word “sadhu”. The word-for-word translation said, “it is relevant,” but Srila Prabhupada said, “No. ‘Sadhu’ means ‘devotee’.” The editors had changed his translation, and he found this unacceptable. He spoke as though he had been betrayed by a dangerous element within his movement. His authority was being minimized by his own disciples to whom he had entrusted his most lasting contribution: his books. A number of devotees present voiced their objection to the production staff’s practice of deleting entire sections from certain books, and they mentioned discrepancies they had found in the Sanskrit to English translations. Literally hundreds of changes had already been made in the text of Srila Prabhupada’s books from one printing to the next and the devotees testified that the potency was not the same.
Srila Prabhupada asked for suggestions from his senior men to resolve this dilemma and they offered their advice. After hearing various proposals, Srila Prabhupada’s conclusion was that, “The next printing should be again to the original way.” He then ordered his secretary to contact the GBC man he wanted to entrust this matter to in Los Angeles where the press was located. “So you bring this to Satsvarupa. They cannot change anything.”
Drawing from these letters and conversations, we can gain some insight into Srila Prabhupada’s struggle to keep his books as they were. One should rightly conclude that he would never have approved of the wholesale changes that were made by the BBT editors after his disappearance. He would have expected the BBT trustees to resist on his behalf.
The unnecessary and unauthorized changes in the Bhagavad-gita alone number more than four thousand, so where is Srila Prabhupada’s signed approval for such changes to be made? And where are the rave reviews of the revised edition from scholars and professors praising the editors for having improved the original version of the Gita published by their spiritual master? We do not expect to see any testimonials from these mundane personalities glorifying the “revised and enlarged” edition of the Gita. After all, which scholar would approve of having his own writings altered after his physical demise?
The adulteration of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is was the first major milestone in the BBT’s refusal to follow the rule of arsa prayoga (the unholy practice of dishonoring the acarya), a program which reached its zenith when they declared in court that Srila Prabhupada was simply a writer hired by ISKCON to compile the Vedic classics.
We do not know what kind of apology can be made by the BBT’s editors and trustees at this point, but it is our humble opinion that the best way to make amends for past transgressions would be to accept Srila Prabhupada’s instruction that “the next printing should be again to the original way.”
Editing instructions are in his own books
Srila Prabhupada gives very specific instructions to Jayadvaita Swami in a letter (referenced at the end of this article) not to change his books, specifically Bhagavad-gita 12.12.
Unfortunately Jayadvaita disregarded this direct order from Srila Prabhupada and with full knowledge that Srila Prabhupada specifically ordered him not to change the verse or the purport he went ahead and changed it anyway.
One devotee noticed Jayadvaita Swami’s direct disregard for this personal instruction and questioned him as to why he went against the clear and direct order of his spiritual master. (Jayadvaita’s reply is also included at the end of this article for your reference). In Jayadvaita’s letter he says that Srila Prabhupada’s words “make no sense” and are “obviously erroneous” but if this is the case then he must also change the multitude of other places where Srila Prabhupada used this so-called “erroneous” phrase that “makes no sense” to him.
I am no scholar, nor have I been trained in the ever changing materialistic and mundane laws of grammar. But I have a very strong fidelity to Srila Prabhupada. So out of curiosity I looked up how many times Srila Prabhupada used the (according to Jayadvaita —obviously erroneous “regulated principles” —a term that makes no sense —must be forever preserved, and not revised to the usual and sensible “regulative principles,”) phrase “regulated principles” and it turns out that Prabhupada used this “obviously erroneous” term on a regular basis. In his books, classes, letters and conversations, a multitude of times.
I will now list below for your reference just a very few of the many places where Srila Prabhupada very sensibly used the words “regulated principles”:
One who can control his senses by practicing the regulated principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord and thus become free from all attachment and aversion (Bg 2.64.)
My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulated principles of Bhakti yoga. In this way you will develop a desire to attain to Me (Bg 12.9.)
As mentioned in the previous verses, there are two kinds of devotional service: the way of regulated principles, and the way of full attachment in love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Because a bona fide spiritual master is a representative of Krishna, if he bestows any blessings upon his disciple, that will make the disciple immediately advanced without the disciple’s following the regulated principles. Or, the regulated principles will be easier for one who has served the spiritual master without reservation.
Injunctions of the scriptures are meant not to encourage the eaters of animals, but to restrict them by regulated principles.
The process of Krishna consciousness is the process of training these senses through regulated principles.
(Raja-Vidya Chapter 4 Knowledge by Way of the Mahatmas, Great Souls.)
It is stated in Bhagavad-gita that if one executes the regulated principles of Krishna consciousness carefully, it is certain that he will reach the supreme destination in his next life.
(Krishna Consciousness, The Matchless Gift Chapter 2 Getting Out the Material Mire.)
Regarding Pyari Mohan, Ramacarya, and Nanda devi dasi taking second initiation, if you recommend, that’s alright. But now they must keep very clean and never break the regulated principles.
(Letter to: Trai - India 4 March, 1973.)
Now they must always follow the regulated principles, such as 16 rounds at least each day, attending Mangala Arati, etc. and gradually they will come to the stage of spontaneously loving Krishna.
You also have my permission for the second initiation of Sikhandi dasi and you can obtain an initiation tape and instructions from Karandhar in Los Angeles. Now, keeping very clean, she must never break the regulated principles.
(Letter to: Sukadeva - Calcutta 4 March, 1973.)
Now you can be an ideal householder and one of our Society’s leaders, so kindly follow the regulated principles strictly.
(Letter to: Turya - Calcutta March 8, 1973.)
Devotees there or visiting must follow our regulated principles under your direction or they need not stay.
(Letter to: Tejiyas - Calcutta 15 March, 1973.)
Therefore we have the four regulated principles at the very beginning of practicing devotional life.
(Letter to: Sarvamangala - Bombay 6 November, 1974.)
Anyone who is unwilling to follow our regulated principles, you should not live or associate closely with such a person.
(Letter to: Kusa - Honolulu 3 February, 1975.)
Make sure that everyone is pure by following the four regulated principles and chanting at least 16 rounds daily. Without these things, there is no spiritual life.
(Letter to: Sri Govinda - Honolulu 6 February, 1975.)
This instance of Jayadvaita Swami changing the word “regulated” to “regulative” is a really good example of a completely unnecessary change which is, in this case, directly against the orders of Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada gave a direct order “So far changing the working of verse or purport of 12.12 discussed before, it may remain as it is.” Again Srila Prabhupada chooses these words As It Is, the exact same title he chose to place on his presentation of the Bhagavad-gita “As It Is”. So now with the hundreds upon hundreds of changes Jayadvaita has made to Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita can we still say that it is As It Is? This is a question we must all ask ourselves.
When Jayadvaita Swami says: “the obviously erroneous ‘regulated principles’ —a term that makes no sense”, we must know that this is his opinion only, and it differs with Srila Prabhupada’s. It is a major problem that every time something doesn’t make sense to Jayadvaita Swami he must change it till he can understand it. This is not the behavior of a disciple. “One can become perfectly successful in the mission of his life if he acts exactly according to the words he hears from the mouth of his spiritual master.” This acceptance of the words of the spiritual master is called srauta-vakya, which indicates that the disciple must carry out the spiritual master’s instructions without deviation. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura remarks in this connection that a disciple must accept the words of his spiritual master as his life and soul.” (Cc Adi 7.72.)
But then he gets particularly obnoxious by saying sarcastically “lest we stand in defiance of Srila Prabhupada’s sacred order.”
In other words, Prabhupada told him not to change anything in the verse or the purport, but rather than stay on the safe side, he ridicules Prabhupada’s choice of words and even the notion that Prabhupada’s orders are something other than sacred.
This disregard to his guru’s direct personal instruction is simply an offensive attitude that completely disqualifies him from any ability or empowerment to do the editing work that he was once trusted by Srila Prabhupada to do.
Now let us read further into the purport and examine things more. Did he stop there, or did he continue to change that which he was specifically instructed not to? The second thing we will find is a small change (but still a disregard for the clear order of his guru): A comma was moved, and then farther along we will see the word “ksatriyas” was added, an “a” was changed to “the” and “later” was changed to “last” some words were moved around and the word “state” was changed to “stage”. So one may claim that these are all small changes and are not drastically changing the philosophy. Okay, fine. Then why change it?
What if we feel that every word Srila Prabhupada has said that doesn’t make sense to our conditioned imperfect mundane mind and senses should be changed? What if we find something Srila Prabhupada said, or is in his books, that may not make sense to the materialistic naradhama’s who are less than sudra’s and are impersonalistic demons and so-called scholars and philosophers of Kali yuga? Then should those words be changed also?
But what if we feel that the words of Srila Prabhupada are sacred and not to be simply deleted and replaced with the ever changing whims and mental speculations based on the changing mundane laws and intellect of a conditioned soul and their society (or as I call it “suiciety”)? It really doesn’t matter what we feel in this regard, if you agree or disagree, or what other devotees think. It is all irrelevant. The fact is that Srila Prabhupada never said that his books should be edited after his disappearance, for any reason.
On the contrary Srila Prabhupada said:
Prabhupada: The system is: whatever authority has done, even there is mistake, it should be accepted.
Prabhupada: Arsa prayoga. Arsa prayoga is a Sanskrit word meaning complete acceptance of what is left by the authorities, as it is, without any change at all. That is ha… He should not become more learned than the authority. That is very bad habit… Why finish it? Whatever is done is done. No more…
Radhaballabha: Well, now that this system of no corrections anywhere, that makes it very simple. Then he can’t do anything. I don’t think he wants to, either. It makes it more simple for him. It makes him very uncomfortable.
Prabhupada: No corrections.
(February 28, 1977, Mayapura.)
So unless one is self-realized, there is practically no use writing about Krishna. This transcendental writing does not depend on material education. It depends on the spiritual realization. You’ll find, therefore, in the comments of Bhagavatam by different acaryas, even there are some discrepancies, they are accepted as Arsa prayoga. It should remain as it is.
(Srimad Bhagavatam 7.5.23-24 - Vrindavana, March 31, 1976.)
“I know that these rascals are doing. What can be done? How they can be relied on?… It is starting. What can I do? These cannot… These rascals cannot be educated. Dangerous. Little learning, dangerous… alteration. That is his business. That is American business. They take that always. What can I do?… So how this? How to stop this?… Very serious feature. It is not possible for me to check, and they are doing all nonsense, freedom. (pause) What to do?
It is very serious situation… So you… What you are going… It is very serious situation. You write one letter that “Why you have made so many changes?” And whom to write? Who will care? All rascals are there… They are doing anything and everything at their whim.” The next printing should be again to the original way. So write them immediately that “The rascal editors, they are doing havoc…So what to do? They cannot change anything. So on the whole, these dangerous things are going on. How to check it?… So they are doing very freely and dangerously.”
(June 22, 1977, Vrindavana.)
When Jayadvaita Swami was questioned by Govinda dasi (on January, 19, 2003) on whether or not he ever even once got the order from Srila Prabhupada that he should edit Prabhupada’s books after his disappearance Jayadvaita confessed: “I never got an explicit word from Srila Prabhupada to do this work at an explicit time.”
What is important is what Prabhupada wants, what Prabhupada orders and he orders “No corrections” and “they cannot change anything” and there is no one anywhere, even Jayadvaita, who can dispute this. But he has made thousands of completely needless changes. And he will continue to do this because that is his disease.
The changing of the words that Srila Prabhupada approved of is only one side of the story. The other side is the mood that the act of changing the acarya’s works creates. And as far as I can tell this has an equally damaging effect at the roots of our once great society we call ISKCON. This damage is going on a more subtle level, so many devotee’s may not catch it.
For it is not a change to anything one may see, like words in books, but to something that Srila Prabhupada, our acarya’s and the goswami’s worked so hard to establish. It is a change to the mood and basic philosophical understanding of how Krishna consciouness works and was given to us faithful followers of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. It is a lack of respect and fidelity to our acarya:
“One should have complete faith in the guru, who helps the disciple make progress in spiritual life. As soon as the disciple thinks independently, not caring for the instructions of the spiritual master, he is a failure (yasyaprasadan na gatih kuto ‘pi)” (S.B. 8.17.1). So weather we deviate one millimeter or one mile the result is the same, deviation!
“There is a proverb, hira and khira. Hira means diamond and khira means cucumber. It has no value, a few cents. And diamond is very valuable. But if some, somebody steals khira, he’s also criminal, and one steals hira, he’s also criminal. The punishment is equal. If he says: “I have stolen one khira. What is the value of it?” But by law, he’s criminal. Never mind.”
(Morning Walk - April 26, 1973, Los Angeles.)
So by Jayadvaita Swami’s saying “Lest we stand in defiance of Srila Prabhupada’s sacred order. This is a point of view with which I respectfully disagree.” Clearly reveals his attitude and lack of respect for Srila Prabhupada, for everything Srila Prabhupada says is sacred! It is not for the disciple to choose what the guru says is sacred and what is not! This is a slap in the face of Srila Prabhupada.
“Although one may be well versed in the transcendental science, one should be careful about the offense of maryada-vyatikrama, or impertinently surpassing a greater personality. According to scriptural injunction one should be very careful of transgressing the law of maryada-vyatikrama because by so doing one loses his duration of life, his opulence, fame and piety and the blessings of all the world.”
So does this mean that if someone is once designated as an authorized person and to be trusted, then he must always be authorized and trusted, no matter what he does after that point of being authorized? Could it be possible that someone can go from being authorized and trusted to being unauthorized and untrustworthy?
—Prahlad Nrsimha dasa
Where angels fear to tread
The editors of the 1983 revised Gita did not believe that they actually interpolated philosophy or style. Their idea was to improve both translations and purports by transposing and clarifying portions of old manuscripts, etc. existing prior to the one finally submitted to Macmillan in 1972. Truly, many of the grammatical, spelling, format and historical inaccuracies corrected in the revision would have been approved by Srila Prabhupada himself had he been consulted.
Be that as it may, Srila Prabhupada never instructed anyone to use a procedure of re-visiting and researching old manuscripts or dictations to revise future printings of his first editions. On the other hand, recordings made from 1972 until 1977, six years, demonstrate how Srila Prabhupada often personally read excerpts from the Gita in classes, room conversations, engagements, etc. Many times he also instructed devotees present to read aloud as he listened. There is no evidence indicating that he ordered extensive revisions for the next printing. As the current chief editor wrote; “To my knowledge, Srila Prabhupada never asked us to re-edit the book.”
(Letter to Amogha lila, July, 1986.)
Interestingly enough, none of the scholars, educators, professors and other reviewers of the Gita called for it either. From 1972 until 1983 we don’t find requests from professionals for a revision to a higher standard. Nor do we hear any demand from devotees in general for such a thorough revision. In fact, the editors state in “A Note About the Second Edition” found in the BBT revised editions: “Yet their effort to publish Srila Prabhupada’s work was a success, and the Bhagavad-gita As It Is has become the standard edition for scholars and devotees around the world.” Still, after eleven years of documented success, the Gita was extensively re-worked. Why? What is the reason?
The editors continue their explanation: “For this second edition, however, Srila Prabhupada’s disciples had the benefit of having worked with his books for the last fifteen years. The English editors were familiar with his philosophy and language, and the Sanskrit editors were by now accomplished scholars. And now they were able to see their way through perplexities in the manuscript by consulting the same Sanskrit commentaries Srila Prabhupada consulted when writing Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The result is a work of even greater richness and authenticity… In places the translations, though already correct, have been revised to come closer to the original Sanskrit and Srila Prabhupada’s original dictations…”
The editors are claiming the benefit of 15 years work, which would mean 1968 until 1983, the year of the revision. However, the value of those benefits is uncertain, because in June, 1977 Srila Prabhupada severely chastised the editors for changes to his Isopanisad and Bhagavatam. He described the editors as rascals (a term he usually reserved for atheists, material scientists and politicians), and called them “dangerous” at least six times in ten minutes of discussion. Just five months before his disappearance, Srila Prabhupada made this a major issue for the Society.
The same basic issue came up in 1983 and has continued more or less for the last 25 years. But for us, now, who will decide who is right and who is wrong? One side says “responsible editing,” the other says “irresponsible, unauthorized, etc.” But who is right and who is wrong? Who will decide?
So now we must come to the point of reason. Is it reasonable to conclude that just five or six years after deserving that 1977 chastisement, editors could have emerged as “accomplished scholars” –by 1983? One editor escaped chastisement. Still, isn’t six years a short time for everyone to turn up as “accomplished scholars?” But even if all the editors had been studying Sanskrit for 30 years by 1983, is it plausible that such editors could be able to dive into the superexcellent depths of Sanskrit revelation, and come up with an understanding of it’s complexities—the same complexities—understood by previous acaryas? Was this the prerogative of such disciples, that they could be “able to see their way through perplexities in the manuscript by consulting the same Sanskrit commentaries Srila Prabhupada consulted when writing the Bhagavad-gita As It Is.” Is it possible?
And further, “In places the translations, though already correct, have been revised to come closer to the original Sanskrit…” Here the implication is that the editors in 1983, whoever they were, thought they could interpret the original Sanskrit texts comparatively as well as Srila Prabhupada himself, or at least well enough to put their new realizations in his book under his name. And, that they could understand the same complexities understood by previous acaryas (presumably Sridhar Swami et. al.) simply by using the same Sanskrit commentaries Srila Prabhupada used. Is this credible? Is it reasonable to conclude that such editors were capable of producing “a work of even greater richness and authenticity?” Or that translations “already correct” could have been revised to even more correctness by them? Was all this perfection really possible by 1983?
Maybe, if they had received authorizations and blessings from Srila Prabhupada in 1977 before he disappeared, but that didn’t happen. It is known from that recorded conversation of June, 1977, that when Tamal Krishna suggested to Srila Prabhupada Jayadvaita check any changes before reprinting, Srila Prabhupada countered: “But they are doing without any authority!” In other words, no need for Jayadvaita to become an inspector of changes because nobody was authorized to make such changes in the first place! Tamal had already said to Srila Prabhupada: “Your original work that you’re doing now, that is edited by Jayadvaita. That’s the first editing.” Srila Prabhupada had answered, “He is good.” So Srila Prabhupada, in the midst of all the turmoil, made it clear that he was satisfied with Jayadvaita’s work. Yet a “first editing” is entirely different from re-editing an already finished or printed work, which is what the others were doing. Srila Prabhupada never authorized anyone, including Jayadvaita or Pradyumna to do that with the Bhagavad-gita then or in the future.
The extent of Srila Prabhupada’s disappointment in this matter can not be underestimated. He said, after being informed of the changes in the Isopanisad, “I know what these rascals are doing. What can be done? How they can be relied on?” And later, “It is starting. What can I do? These cannot…These rascals cannot be educated. Dangerous. Little learning, dangerous… What can I do? Ultimate it goes for editorial…”
In the 3rd Canto (3.4.26), Srila Prabhupada writes, “Although one may be well versed in transcendental science, one should be careful about the offense of maryada-vyatikrama, or impertinently surpassing a greater personality. According to scriptural injunction one should be very careful of transgressing the law of maryada-vyatikrama because by so doing one loses his duration of life, his opulence, fame and piety and the blessings of all the world. To be well versed in the transcendental science necessitates awareness of the techniques of spiritual science.”
At this point the significant question emerges: Has maryada-vyatikrama, impertinently surpassing a greater personality, occurred in the process of editing and reprinting Srila Prabhupada’s books? It certainly had by 1977, according to the momentous June 22nd room conversation about changes to the Isopanisad and Srimad Bhagavatam. Six years later, considering the exaggerated claims in the “Note About the Second Edition” and the extreme content-editing of the text, it appears to have occurred again in the 1983 “Revised and Enlarged” version of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Vaishnava etiquette demands that Srila Prabhupad’s disciples, grand-disciples, et. al. always think themselves fools in front of Srila Prabhupada. But, unfortunately, sometimes some of them forget that, and dare to rush in where angels fear to tread.
“Our editing is to correct grammar and spelling errors only, without interpolation of style or philosophy.”
(Srila Prabhupada, February, 17, 1970.)