Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!
For a better reading you can see the below embedded document in full screen by cliking the fullscreen mode button below:
No More Cattleraising on the Planet of the Trees by Dandavats
Yesterday I was with some devotee friends for Thanksgiving and we were discussing Bhagavad-gita. I was telling them about something I had read that morning about the significance of the phrase “evam viditva” in 8.28. In the Purport, Srila Prabhupada said that this phrase (which literally means “thus having understood”) refers to having understood the instructions of Lord Krishna in Chapters 7 and 8 by hearing from devotees.
Therefore, verse 8.28 refers specifically to devotees who have understood Chapters 7 and 8, that such yogi-devotees are not bereft of the results of pious karma, austerity, sacrifice, charity and Vedic study, but have surpassed all those practices.
I was downstairs and looking for a Bhagavad-gita to read for my friends, so I went into the downstairs guest bedroom and only had a 1972 edition there. When I opened it up to read the passage . . . it was not there!
That started us discussing the editing issue. I went upstairs and printed those pages of the transcript from which the Purport to Chapter 28 was prepared. Sure enough, the passage was in Srila Prabhupada’s original dictation, but got cut out of the 1972 edition. I do not know why it was cut from the Purport. Probably a newbie editor could not understand it and decided it would be better to just scrap it.
I am very grateful that the BBT saw fit to have the unabridged Gita revised in 1983 in order to more faithfully reflect what Srila Prabhupada had typed and dictated.
The 1972 edition is a wonderful, transcendental book, but the 1983 edition is more faithful to Srila Prabhupada’s intention and is thus more wonderful.
The “original” is what Srila Prabhupada typed or dictated. I would be happy to read that original, because I am familiar with Srila Prabhupada’s accent and use of English. However, for mass publication Srila Prabhupada wanted his books to be perfect, with good grammar, spelling, punctuation, free from mistakes, and therefore he engaged some of his disciples as editors, including Hayagriva, Satsvarupa Maharaja, Jayadvaita Swami, etc.
The 1983 edition, when compared to the original manuscripts and transcripts, is really much closer to Srila Prabhupada’s original intention. Yes, it is different from the 1972 edition. It is closer to Srila Prabhupada’s original.
Bravo to Lalitanatha prabhu for such an article well done. He takes us through the Rascal Editor conversation step by step to bring us to the conclusion of what Srila Prabhupada wanted for his books – that they be free from mistakes. And that the editors who failed in that attempt were tagged as rascals by His Divine Grace, and the term didn’t apply to all editors, as the anti-edit devotees carelessly assert. What we saw in the conversation is Prabhupada entrusted other editors namely Jayadvaita Swami, Satsvarupa Maharaja and Bhakti Prema Maharaja to go back and fix the mistakes the “rascal editors” made. So there’s no doubt from the early history of book publication in 1968 until 1977 Prabhupada consistently gave the same mandate to his editors that his books had to be free from mistakes. Lalitanatha prabhu also along the way wonderfully clears up misconceptions and misinterpretations of what Srila Prabhupada said regarding the editing.
Unfortunately as the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. So the editing controversy will persist mostly due to a lack of education on the matter. But for devotees willing to apply an objective study to the book changes, they can find, as this article proves, there is convincing evidence for it. And included in that evidence is Srila Prabhupada’s support for it. Go to bbtedit.com to apply your objective study. Going there simply to look for faults won’t bring about the desired objective result.
A quote from Rupanuga Prabhu ACBSP 66 “There is nothing confidential when it comes to Srila Prabhupadas books”.
Since Rupanuga prabhu is clearly mentioned in this paper and Ramesvara Prabhu is being used to support post samadi editing of Srila Prabhupada’s bublished books
“They are the last instructions I every received about editing from Srila Prabhupada and they confirmed that proper editing was to be continued.” (6) from an email conversation between Ramesvara and Jayadvaita Swami on September 30, 2013,
it is only fair that we are also aware that this is not all Ramesvara had to say to the BBT editors back in 2013. As a matter of fact he also said this and more to say .
With Rupanuga’s full permission this is now being released.
“The “Responsible Publishing” (RP) paper has either a significant
misleading or a significant historical inaccuracy. There are sites
which claim to list more than 5,000 changes. Certainly there were
thousands of changes. The RP paper states that every change to the
translations was reviewed and approved by the Trustees, leading
ISKCON devotees, the CBC, etc. Later the RP cites or implies in its
endorsements that all the changes were approved. Of course, NO
ONE other than the editors ever saw back in 1981 or 1982 ALL the
As for the changes to the translations, ultimately there was a 5-
member GBC / BBT committee charged with the approval, including
Satsvarupa, Hridayananda, Bhagavan, Harikesa and myself. For
myself, I have always admitted that my great failure as a trustee
was not carefully reading every proposed change, and instead,
relying on the endorsement of Hridayananda and Satsvarupa- along
with Jayadvaita. I only reviewed examples of changes that seemed
to be excellent- such as the paper itself includes. I know that in
talking years ago with others on that committee, that they also
admitted performing only a cursory review of the proposed
changes, being similarly impressed with the dramatic, obvious and
excellent samples of proposed changes in a summary paper that
No one back then did their job or acted with full responsibility for
what they were endorsing. l assure you that NO ONE on that
Committee ever even asked to see all the changes, and we would
have been astounded to have learned in 1981 or 1982 that there
were thousands, maybe more than 5,000 changes.
I lazily assumed that the work done on manuscripts as close to the
original as possible was the only thing that mattered. I failed to
consider all the other Prabhupada instructions, the ramifications for
making changes if they didn’t ultimately change the meaning; the
effect of changes that in some cases loses the flavor of the Gita we
had been studying for 10 years, and most importantly, that breaks
the etiquette of changing a Sampradaya Acaraya’s books after His
disappearance and opens the “change door” for possible future
other changes over the decades and centuries to come.
The RP paper implies that the changes were carefully reviewed and
approved throughout the leadership of the BET, CBC and ISKCON. I
am certain that by interviewing all the leaders of that time, we
would find most guilty of the same mistake that i made.
It is true to state that the leaders of ISKCON at the time endorsed
However, it is overtly misleading to state or suggest that the
leaders actually performed a careful review. And getting back to the
fact that there are thousands of changes, no leader, including the
BET Trustees, was ever shown every single change. No one! That is
the sad historical fact…
Your forever aspiring servant,
Ramesvara dasa” April 2013
” As I wrote to Sriman
Vaisesika Prabhu. if the changes were limited to
obvious omissions or obvious corrections, and did not
Include tweaking with little or no discernible change in
meaning, we might not have had to continually deal
with this controversy.
This is the great dilemma for the BBT- how can you be
sure that there would never be changes in future
generations approved by BBT Trustees and made by
future generations of BET editors? Where is the
absolute moment where the change door is slammed
closed forever? Because if that door isn’t absolutely
closed, the entire future of the Hare Krsna Movement
and of Srila Prabhupada’s mission is at risk.
There are other valid spiritual editing issues to
consider than just those illustrated by the good
examples and explanations given in the booklet.
Playing devil’s advocate- suppose someone wanted to
write a 50 page booklet exclusively listing every
instruction Srila Prabhupada every gave about the
disease of changing, and include verses and purports
about Vaisnava literature, even if imperfectly
composed, bringing about a revolution in the
misguided lives of the people living in materialistic
civilizations, and then added a few letters such as
rascal editors”, aded Prabhupada’s instructions about
the etiquette of not changing a coma in the books of a
great departed Acarya, and finally threw in a few
Prabhupada quotes about how his whole mission could
be ruined by making changes ot his books. And
suppose in such a book, all the instructions from Srila
Prabhupada on responsible editing were omitted, so
that it was completely one sided…
The problem with the “Responsible Publishing” paper is
that it is simply not the entire body of instruction, and
it‘s critics point out that it is one-sided and obviously
leaves out many of Prabhupada’s cautionary
instructions against unnecessary change,
Several years ago (before I found the 1978-1979
Lilamrita memory transcripts) I took every change in
the 2nd Chapter and put them in 3 columns: (i)
obviously valid, (ii) needed further clarification to
understand thejustification, and (iii) seemed to add
little or nothing, other than a tweak- compared to the
original edition, and therefore seemed unnecessary.
I spent days discussing this with Sriman Dravida
Prabhu, which was very helpful as we looked at the BET
site that explains every change, to especially clear up
questions from my second category. But I have to tell
you, that after looking carefully at the reasoning
behind the changes listed in the 3rd column with a
completely open mind= I move very few (if any) out of
that category. And the entries in that column
represented about 1/3 of the total changes made to
that chapter. That analysis with Dravida Prabhu left me
with my deepest concern: if the changes didn’t have
substantial merit but were made anyway, then
regardless of the justification of “making it better” the
door, the “change disease” as Srila Prabhupada called
it, had been dangerously opened for anything to
happen in the future after we are all long gone.
That concern naturally should haunt every BBT Trustee
who takes the duties of a trustee in the fullest sense
that Srila Prabhupada intended – as fiduciaries to
protect the precious main asset of the Trust, Srila
Prabhupada’s books. The Lilamrita interviews I found
tell of Srila Prabhupada’s direct instructions regarding
the size of the books, the artwork to be kept in the
books, etc. – things that have already been changed so
many times in the past 20 years, without
understanding of Prabhupada’s orders, that it makes
the “official” opening of this “change” door more
ominous for the future, in ways we can’t even imagine.
As I’ve written to Sriman Vaisesika Prabhu, his is a very
complicated issue, and an absolute position has to be
reached so that before we die, we know that within the
BET and ISKCON there could never again be one single
change, for any reason, ever made to Srila
I beg to remain your eternally aspiring servant in the
service of the BET,
ramesvara dasa” April 2013
It wasn’t until over thirty years later, in 2012, when Ramesvara happened to be visiting the Archives, that he was shown a drawerful of transcripts – his recorded interviews. Subsequently, during a series of telephone conversations he related how he was astonished to discover instructions given him as a BBT Trustee by Srila Prabhupada, instructions he had forgotten about completely. He mentioned how there were some “really heavy” directions regarding changes to the books. Later he showed the transcripts to a senior BBT editor, whose reaction after reviewing them was, “This is trouble”, and advised Ramesvara to send copies to the BBT Trustees (which he intended to do anyway). In this connection, Ramesvara related how a year earlier, he had met with the same editor to discuss editorial revisions made to the second chapter of the original 1972 Gita when it was published in 1983. After a very lengthy discussion, the editor would not admit any extraneous changes except a few, which he placed in a category of it “Didn’t make any difference”, or “It really didn’t matter”. (Of course the question is, then why do it? Since the basic principle is, after all, arsha-prayoga.)
After reading articles published on the Net, such as “Where Angels Fear to Tread”, “It’s Your Call”, etc., all critical of the current BBT revision policies, and asked his opinion about all the essays, Ramesvara replied, “Great!” There were a number of conversations with Ramesvara prabhu, during which it became clear that he was another constructive critic of the revision policies. The mood of these conversations persisted after he accidently discovered the transcripts. In fact, he admitted with serious regret that he had failed his responsibility to review the revised Gita before it was published in 1983, and that another Trustee at the time had since admitted to him that he hadn’t either, and also suspected the same about the other Trustees.
At this point, one may ask why such important directions given by Srila Prabhupada and included in those interviews were not followed or implemented after he disappeared in 1977? How is it they were forgotten about? The answer is that Ramesvara maharaj became embroiled in the chaotic times after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, a period of ISKCON history rife with quarrel, hypocrisy and strife, affecting all of the devotees one way or another. The weight of four stars on his shoulders’ epaulets – sannyasi, GBC, BBT Trustee and guru – proved problematic, as it did for others of similar rank. Nevertheless, Ramesvara’s reputation remains as a most consistent emblem of enthusiasm for publishing and distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books and he was certainly an inspiration for many devotees.
Yet another question may be asked: “Why should the transcriptions of Ramesvara das’ interview be accepted as authentic or authoritative? Because Ramesvara kept copious notes, a diary, and a list of questions for his meetings with Srila Prabhupada, which were frequent. Srila Prabhupada spent time in Los Angeles, his Western Headquarters and primary location of the BBT. When Ramesvara das joined the Movement he had been a lifetime celibate, with a sharp memory, quick intellect and unbounded energy and enthusiasm, all of which Srila Prabhupada expertly dovetailed to the maximum.
The only substantial questioning regarding the BBT editing presented from the quotes by Ramesvara prabhu is the editing to the art work. There is evidence Srila Prabhupada did not want the art work changed in the books, which included not omitting art from the books. Otherwise it’s seen Ramesvara prabhu agrees with a sampling of two thirds of changes to the second chapter of the 72 Gita, while the other third seemed like unnecessary tweaking. And so he expressed his concern how such tweaking can carry on perpetually into the future. However, there is a plan intact to freeze the books after Jayadvaita Swami and Dravida prabhu have completed their life’s service. Also the present editing through Prabhupada’s vast literature is only for minor touch ups, since the bulk of the work is completed. Dravida prabhu explains such editing here on this link: http://youtu.be/RH3SvcNVKg8
The “change disease” is often used as a scare tactic regarding the editing of Prabhupada’s books. But if there are mistakes found in Prabhupada’s books, it is pure sentiment to believe the mistakes should be left there as a misrepresentation of Prabhupada. The encouraging thing about Ramesvara prabhu’s report is he took the time to discuss with Dravida prabhu why changes were made in the section they discussed. If devotees would look for such explanations many of their doubts can be removed.