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Srila Prabhupada on BBT Publication, Book Distribution & Free Speech

Saturday, 10 December 2011 / Published in Blog thoughts / 2,664 views

Radhananda Dasa:

A few days ago there were accusations against ISKCON gurus for writing books and also against the BBT and ISKCON for allowing publication and distribution of the same. This article is a rebuttal of all the allegations made there.

Contention: BBT should be publishing only Srila Prabhupada’s books

Rebuttal: Srila Prabhupada during his manifest presence allowed BBT to publish books by his disciples

  1. The Hare Krsna Cook Book: Recipes for the Satisfaction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead

Author(s):Krsna Devi Dasi

Publisher:The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

Publication date:1973

This book was published by the BBT in 1973 during Srila Prabhupada’s manifest presence, which suggests that Srila Prabhupada approved the publication of books authored by his disciples.

  1. Srila Prabhupada specifically asked Svarupa Damodara Maharaja (brahmacari at that time) to write a book on The Scientific Basis of Krishna Consciousness which was published by the BBT.

“That is the perfection of life. I have therefore asked our chemist friend, Dr. Swaroop Damodara das Brahmacari to refute the theory that life comes out of matter. This is not the fact, rather, matter comes out of life. We have discussed this point very broadly and Swaroop Damodara is convinced that everything comes from life, Krsna – aham sarvasya prabhavo/ mattah sarvam pravartate. [Bg. 10.8]. So, I’ve asked Swaroop Damodara to invite Ramananda Rao to come and join him to present this revolutionary theory to the learned advanced scientists. We know it certainly that matter comes out of life. Simply we have to present this thesis in chemical, technological words. Svarupa Damodara has already written one small booklet, “Krsna Consciousness, Purely on a Scientific Basis.” 

(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Niranjana, Brooklyn, May 21, 1973)

Some of the existing classics that will be lost if BBT were to relinquish the publication rights because they were not authored by Srila Prabhupada:

  • Cantos 11 and 12 of Srimad Bhagavatam by Hrdayananda Dasa Goswami, et al.

  • “The Forbidden Archaeology” by Michael Cremo

  • A commentary on “Brhad Bhagavatamrta” by H.G. Gopiparana-dhana Dasa

  • “Sri Vyasa-puja” – collection of offerings to Srila Prabhupada by devotees published every year

  • Mechanistic and Nonmechanistic Science”, by Richard L. Thompson

  • Divine Nature, by Michael Cremo, Mukunda Goswami

  • Vaisnava Verse Book: A Compendium of Vedic Verse, by Rohininandana Dasa

Contention: Fulltime devotees / brahmacaris should only be distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books

Rebuttal: Srila Prabhupada during his manifest presence allowed full time devotees to distribute books authored by his disciples along with distribution of Srila Prabhupada’s books.

Ramesvara reading the BBT publications to Srila Prabhupada:

Ramesvara: 487,000 Perfection of Yoga, 263,000 Krsna Consciousness Is Authorized, 10,000 cook books, Hare Krsna Cook books, 4,000 Gopal coloring books,

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Room Conversation on 1976 Book Scores — January 16, 1977, Calcutta

Three of the books mentioned above are not authored by Srila Prabhupada. That they were printed in the thousands means that full time ISKCON devotees must have distributed them. Srila Prabhupada didn’t express disapproval. Indeed, he specifically instructed that these BBT printed cookbooks (authored by Krsna Devi Dasi and published by the BBT) be distributed by full time ISKCON devotees:

Srila Prabhupada called me and said, keep a book. I get many ideas, write them down and consult with management.  He outlined a plan for book distribution here in Bombay: Saturday and Sunday, a sankirtana party from 5 to 8 p.m., girls with selling carts on the beach. Also, reprint small books,
go door to door, girls selling cook books, make good connection with the people.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => I70: 3.  Krsna is Everywhere  January 1 – August 30,

Contention: ISKCON Gurus who want to distribute their books should start their own movement / temples without any support or backup of ISKCON’s name and resources

Rebuttal: Srila Prabhupada didn’t want his disciples to ever leave ISKCON. This was one of his last instructions. Srila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to write books, he allowed BBT to publish them and had full time devotees distribute books authored by his disciples as shown above.

More quotes Srila Prabhupada wanting his disciples to write:

The first duty of a person in the renounced order of life is to contribute some literary work for the benefit of the human being in order to give him realized direction toward self-realization.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.2.5

“You ask one question about the nature of books I want you to write as my disciples; on this point, Krsna consciousness is not limited. Persons like all of the Gosvamis wrote so many books, Visvanatha Cakravarti, and all the acaryas wrote books, and still I am writing books. Similarly, also my disciples will write. So any self-realized soul can write unlimited books without deviating from the original ideas.” (Letter to Satsvarupa, February 28, 1972)]

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Poetic License

“By writing according to our realization we become more and more convinced and all doubts are destroyed.”

(Srila Prabhupada letter, 75-11-15)

“Everything is there in our books; so learn it and put in your own way by reproducing. You are also materially well-educated so reproduce what I have taught in your own language. These things are new thoughts in your western countries, everyone will be interested. Writing is also required. Let it be published first in our BTG, then sometimes they may be printed into books also.”

(Srila Prabhupada letter, 72-5-1)

“Realization means you should write, every one of you, what is your realization. What for this Back to Godhead is? You write your realization, what you have realized about Krishna. That is required. It is not passive. Always you should be active. Whenever you find time, you write. Never mind, two lines, four lines, but you write your realization. Sravanam kirtanam, writing or offering prayers, glories. This is one of the function of the Vaisnava. You are hearing, but you have to write also. Then write means smaranam, remembering what you have heard from your spiritual master, from the scripture.”

(Srila Prabhupada lecture, 72-14-8)

Apart from the above quoted generalized contentions, there were accusations and libelous remarks against H.H. Bhakti Vikasa Swami

Accusation: H.H. Bhakti Vikasa Swami forces his disciples to distribute his books

Rebuttal: An excerpt from an email titled “one million” from H.H. Bhakti Vikasa Maharaja:

“Please go on reading and distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books, and mine also may be read and distributed as auxiliaries to Srila Prabhupada’s books.”

The use of word ‘may’ suggests that distributing books of his holiness is recommended as an “optional” activity auxiliary to distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books.

Libel: Women line up to wash H.H. Bhakti Vikasa Maharaja’s feet

Rebuttal: This was the slanderous remark against H.H. Bhakti Vikasa Maharaja along with a link to a web-album that had cherry-picked pictures of a vyasa-puja ceremony. This is what was actually conveyed: Women (implication being they were alone and not accompanying their husbands) were assembling to wash feet of his holiness (implication of physical contact).

Here are the actual facts that need to be noted:

  • Women were accompanying their husbands and the men were actually performing pada-puja by taking the lead as can be seen in the pictures

  • Since men were actually washing the feet, you will not find a single picture where women are actually touching the feet of his holiness

  • Pictures of brahmacaris performing pada-puja were purposefully omitted by the accuser

  • Pada-puja ceremony comprises only a small part of the vyasa-puja

  • Also purposefully omitted were pictures of nagar-sankirtan and public programs which are also a part of vyasa-puja ceremony of his holiness, where hundreds of Srila Prabhupada’s books are distributed

  • Though the malicious act of publishing these cherry-picked pictures was performed, the accusers didn’t mention about or upload audio recordings of sravanam and kirtanam that goes on during vyasa-puja celebrations

  • Listen to any of the vyasa-puja lectures of his holiness and you will find that he always explains that guru doesn’t accept any personal honor but passes it on to his guru and in this way to Krsna and that one who accepts personal honor is surely condemned to hell. Here is a link to one of his vyasa-puja lectures.

It is unfortunate that these cherry-picked pictures and remarks were published not just because the libelous accusation was baseless but also due to the fact that it was a private email conversation with no specific directive from the accuser to publish them. The libelous remark is offensive not only to his holiness but more so to the women who are accused.

Since nobody spoke up against the libelous publication, it suggests that there is an appetite among certain class of readers for such low-class imaginative stories, which shows how degraded the current state of affairs is within that community.

Those who are unhappy about ISKCON and it leaders can freely publish their rants on internet forums, but where do devotees like me go whose spiritual life is almost ruined by reading baseless and libelous rants against his spiritual master?

Extremity can be found at both ends. On one end, we have the extreme case of countless devotees being abused they vent their frustration and lodge complains on internet blogs. But in this libelous publication extremity was at the other end – some frustrated person rants out libelous comments against a sincere sannyasi who is at no fault, the comments are published and hundreds of readers of a certain class enjoy reading such content and thus try to make good all wrongs that were done to them.

If one introspects this issue he can realize that this insanity and abuse of free-speech.

Srila Prabhupada on “Relgious Freedom” & “Free Speech”

In the below conversation the Ambassador is making a case to the effect that since “religious freedom” is an extension of “free speech” – everyone should be allowed to practice whatever faith they like, under the assumption that everyone is free to speak whatever they like (even if untrue). Srila Prabhupada strongly disagrees with this idea and insists that government should also check and verify if someone who is claiming to be a Hindu for instance, is properly following as per the Hindu standards. Simply allowing people to subscribe to a particular faith is not enough. The authorities should check if they are doing it nicely.

Ambassador: Your Eminence, I agree, but I think the duty of the government primarily is to provide conditions in which gifted people, spiritual people like you, leaders like you, can function. More than that, if the government does, it might probably even corrupt the religious… I don’t know. Like an umpire in a game, you know, or something… Provide the conditions, provide the conditions for free speech. Not like Moscow, you know, where it is…

Prabhupada: No. That is… Just like you have got the Commerce Department. Government has got. What is the duty of the Commerce Department? The government must see that the trade enterprise, common share, or industrial enterprise, they are doing nicely, properly. The government issuing license. They have got supervision. They send sometimes, what is called, inspectors? Education. Say, for education. There is educational inspector, school inspector. They go see that the students are properly being educated in that school. Similarly, government should have expert men in the government to see that the Hindus are acting like Hindu, Muslims are acting like Muslim, and Christians are acting like Christian. The government should not be callous about religion. They may be neutral that whatever religion you profess, government has nothing to do. You do nicely. But it is the government’s duty to see that you are doing nicely, you are not bluffing. That is government’s duty.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Room Conversation with Indian Ambassador — September 5, 1973, Stockholm

The same is applicable for Free Speech. Everyone might have rights towards Free Speech, whether they support current ISKCON policies/leaders or if they are against it. But it is the publisher’s duty to see if they are presenting their stance nicely, “not bluffing”. That is publisher’s duty.

A Victim of Free Speech,

Radhananda Dasa

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