Gita Changes Online Soon

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By the BBT
Would you like to see all of the changes made to the purports of Srila Prabhupada’s 1972 Bhagavad-gita As It Is? The BBT will soon be putting them all online.
When the revisions for the second edition were made, they were made directly on a copy of the first edition of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is. After the second edition was published, this original copy was somehow misplaced.
About three years ago, Dravida Dasa found it in a trunk in San Diego. More recently, that copy has been digitized, and this is the copy that will soon be online.
In this copy, you’ll be able to see all the changes made to the purports and the word-for-word meanings (The translations were done separately, not in the book itself).
Jayadvaita Swami has added annotations, sometimes briefly explaining the reasons for what he did but mainly giving the text of the original manuscripts.
Matsya Avatara Dasa, from Gopiparanadhana Prabhu’s Sanskrit school in Govardhana, has added comments to explain some of the changes made to the word-for-word meanings.
The book will be published online in installments, chapter by chapter, as PDF files. (Adding the notes takes time, so publishing the chapters in installments means you’ll get to see the first chapters sooner.)
The chapters should start appearing within a week or so. The BBT will broadcast the site details as soon as the first installment goes online.

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1 Suresh das

What would be helpful, besides just showing the changes, is to indicate why they were made. Nobody is going to quibble about grammatical errors and misspellings, but a change to the philosophical meanings is what most devotees worry about. Sometimes a slight change, even one word, can completely change a meaning. Questions remain, is it right to make changes to an author’s original work without his permission?

Since your method of self realization consists of hearing from authorized sources, in the chain of disciplic succession, there is a fear that by changing the books, you might be in some ways cutoff.

Comment posted by Suresh das on August 2nd, 2009
2 sarvo

I always ask the complainers what they will do about the translation of Srila Prabhupada’s books into other languages. They never seem to have an answer.

Comment posted by sarvo on August 5th, 2009
3 Locanananda dasa

Here’s a question for Sarvo:

An earlier manuscript of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is was stolen from Srila Prabhupada’s personal belongings. If that earlier manuscript were found, what do you think should be done with it? Should it be edited and published? Should the existing BBT edition of the Bhagavad-gita be re-edited to include points made in the earlier manuscript that do not appear in the current revised edition? And what about translating it into other languages? Should that be undertaken. Or should it just be ignored?

This is not a challenge. It is a question that arose when I read your comment above.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on August 6th, 2009
4 pustakrishna

As a pesonal secretary of Srila Prabhupad in 1976, I want to explain to you how the books were translated. Srila Prabhupad dictated in the early hours (say from 1230 am or 2 am until about 4-430 am) each day. The books he used to translate from were in Bengali including the word for word and the translations and commentaries that he used. We were working on the 7th. canto and the lila of Nrsinghadeva and Prahlad. Later that morning, I would listen to the tapes. I typed them out personally. I knew how to read Devanagari, and used a Devanagari edition of the Srimad Bhagavatam to follow the word for word so it could be typed properly checking of course with what he spoke. They I typed in Srila Prabhupad’s translation, word for word, the translation and the purport. I did not change a thing. If there was something that I could not follow or understand, then I would sit with Srila Prabhupad and ask him what he said since the tape was not always clear. This is how it was done. Srila Prabhupad had confidence in his English editors to make the text readable for the public.

Srila Prabhupad’s intent of course should never be changed. The BBT at the time of Srila Prabhupad’s presence pleased Srila Prabhupad so greatly. The artists also worked so hard to make paintings for the stories of the Bhagavatam and the Chaitanya Charitamrita. The books rolled out quickly one after another. Srila Prabhupad was visiting Johannesburg in South Africa when Ramesvara (who Srila Prabhupad was very greatly pleased with) sent him the 5th Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam, hot off the press. He was so very pleased. You will notice the orange and white tiles on the floor of our rented house we used for an ashram in Yeoville, Johannesburg.

I would encourage people not to get too caught up on small changes, so long as the original concept is not lost. I think that Srila Prabhupad had confidence in his servitors, so much so to send them all over the world on his behalf, and to edit and print the books as well. That is my understanding of “my” Srila Prabhupad. Go forward, saranagrahi…Hare Krishna. Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on August 8th, 2009
5 varahanarasimha

Dravida Prabhu has explained to me in details about some of the changes, and they make sense.Still there is a statements to the effect that after an acarya leaves his socalled mistakes are not edited, this is confirmed by Lord Caitanya in his discussion with Kesava Kasmiri ( who is actually Nimbarka Acarya that appeared to have darshan of Lord Caitanya in His manifested lilas)

Comment posted by varahanarasimha on August 10th, 2009
6 Locanananda dasa

The active principle of spiritual life is the order of the spiritual master. Before undertaking a revision of Srila Prabhupada’s books, I would have first wanted to know whether there had been an order to do so. The answer to that question is a resounding “No.” In fact, we know Srila Prabhupada’s policy during his lifetime was that no changes could be made to his published works without his approval.

It is true that Srila Prabhupada said it is not our philosophy to print mistakes, which means that changes made simply to improve the style of writing are not justifiable. I do not believe any scholar in the world has expressed approval of the BBT’s massive editing of Srila Prabhupada’s original Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The wording of more than 500 verses has been revised. In the scholarly world, any change made to a sacred text is supposed to be annotated and explained. This has not been done by the BBT, to the detriment of its reputation within the worldwide community of religionists, philosophers and teachers
of the subject.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on August 17th, 2009
7 Locanananda dasa

Yes, Varahanarasimha prabhu — The principle of arsa prayoga was enunciated by Srila Prabhupada who said that the acaryas are honored by not changing what may appear to be mistakes in their writings. He also told a disciple that if you think you see a mistake,
you are the mistake. (His exact words)

Another thing Srila Prabhupada told devotees was that we should avoid controversy.
If you search “avoid” and “controversy” on the VedaBase or Folio, you will find references that relate to the editing of his books and other transcendental literature.

I would add that even if a revision makes sense, that does not mean anyone was authorized by Srila Prabhupada to make revisions when he would no longer be here to approve them. More specifically, no authorization is given in the BBT Trust document permitting changes to be made to his books when he would no longer be physically present.

Again, I am proposing that to be contemplated, a revision must first of all be necessary to convey the correct philosophical understanding. The revision should then be annotated with footnotes or endnotes, particularly if the BBT has any regard for the opinion of the scholarly community. This system of annotation was also suggested by Hrdayananda Maharaja.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on August 18th, 2009
8 Akruranatha

To respond to Locanananda’s questions in #3, my own opinion is that if the earlier, stolen manuscript were found today, it should be published by Bhaktivendanta Archives as an historical document for researchers and for its historical significance. I do not think it should be published for mass distribution in multiple languages. We already have the BBT edition for that.

As for the larger controversy, I prefer the newer editions. My position has always been, if there are specific differences in meaning to discuss, let us discuss them and become enlightened about them. Otherwise, I find it divisive and “controversial” to try to undermine the value of the books that are currently being distributed by ISKCON devotees by raising a blanket attack on the sincerity and the guru bhakti of those involved in the editing and publishing. They are very valuable conduits of Srila Prabhupada’s mercy.

Locanananda, you say there was no order to revise the books. I have seen original BBT Trustee meeting minutes authorizing the major editing of the unabridged Gita. Granted, the project was authorized after Prabhupada’s departure, but the authorization was made by those Prabhupada had trained and selected to preserve his legacy and his “brhat mrdanga” preaching.

The actual editing was done, I am convinced, with good motives. Editors restored whole sections of Prabhupada’s purports that were obscured or deleted by less competent publishers and editors.

Devotees like Jayadvaita Swami are very qualified to accomplish the editing according to Prabhupada’s desires, and the cries of alarm that Srila Prabhupada’s teachings are being distorted are not well-founded. Those who are serious students of Prabhupada’s books and sincere, long-time followers of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions have almost unanimously found clarification rather than distortion of Prabhupada’s teachings in the newer editions.

As for the point about proper etiquette and arsa prayoga, we can have legitimate disagreements about whether Prabhupada’s concern for high standards in the mass-distributed books takes precedence. The earlier editions do still exist, and the Archives…

Avoiding controversy and “if you think you see a mistake, you are the mistake” may apply with equal or greater force to the devotees who criticize the current BBT editions.

What we really need most of all is unity and cooperation for successful preaching, not quarrels over who is more loyal to Prabhupada’s wishes.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on August 18th, 2009
9 varahanarasimha

Dear Locananda Prabhu
Please accept my humble obaisences
All glories to Srila Prabhupada
I am at present distributing some of the older version of Sril Prabhupadas books, as I see no
fault in them.They made me a devotee.This is also what one GBC and sannyasi expressed to me.There is 2 sides to this argument and it is very complicated to make everyone happy.In my humble opinion the BBT should kindly print both ,the edited and the older versions then everyone will be happy.Why fight over such an issue.The important thing is the books get distributed .I have had lenghty discussion with both Dravida Prabu and Rupanuga Prabhu, I respect both and place their lotusfeet on my fallen head.
In my humble opinion the BBT should print both and let devotee distribute what they like.
This will solve all tensions and make everyone happy.Srila Prabhupada often said Sarva Sukhino bhavantu:” Let everyone be happy in KC”.
The main thin is these books get distributed and Srila Prabhupada many time asked every member in ISKCON to distribute his books.
Your humble servant
Payonidhi das

Comment posted by varahanarasimha on August 19th, 2009
10 Locanananda dasa

One thing I think devotees should keep in mind when evaluating the procedures followed by the editors who revised Srila Prabhupada’s books is that Srila Prabhupada authorized Hayagriva prabhu to refer to other editions of the Bhagavad-gita when deciding how to best express various ideas with clarity and force.

To make revisions in the Bhagavad-gita by returning to the original dictation and manuscript renders null and void Srila Prabhupada’s authorization to consult other editions of the Bhagavad-gita.

To explain this point with added precision, kindly consider Chapter 10, verse 38 of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The original version says, “Among punishments, I am the rod of chastisement.” The revised edition says, “Among all means of suppressing lawlessness, I am punishment.” The wording of the two editions is completely different. So which of the two would Srila Prabhupada have actually approved?

In the purport of that verse, the original edition says, “When miscreants are punished, the rod of chastisement represents Krishna,” but the revised version states , “When miscreants are punished, the agency of chastisement represents Krishna.”

So in both the verse and purport, the phrase “rod of chastisement” has been removed because it was not in Srila Prabhupada’s original dictation. But how can it be discarded if Srila Prabhupada authorized Hayagriva to take such elements from other sources and incorporate them into the Bhagavad-gita As It Is?

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on August 20th, 2009
11 Suresh das

What has been very helpful for me, at another website I frequent, is the editors don’t just show the changes that have been made to Srila Prabhupada’s books, comparing the old text with the new text side-by-side, but they also show why the changes are significant, and how even minor changes have altered the philosophical meaning and purport. This would be really helpful to the devotees, at the BBT proposed website, especially for a lay-reader such as myself, with very limited education in philosophy. It is very interesting, in the book “Sri Brhad Bhagavatamrta” to see alternate purports, by other Sampradaya Arcaryas, that Srila Prabhupada purportedly referred to, in the writing of his commentaries.

Comment posted by Suresh das on August 20th, 2009
12 Locanananda dasa

I would like to submit an excerpt from ISKCON’s original copy of the contract with MacMillan to publish the unabridged Bhagavad-gita As It Is.

V. The Author shall revise the first and subsequent editions of the work at the request of the Publisher and shall supply any new matter necessary from time to time to keep the work up to date. If the author shall neglect or be unable to revise or supply new matter at a time and in a form satisfactory to the Publisher, then the Publisher may engage some other person or persons to do so. When such revisions are not made by the Author, the Publisher shall cause such fact to be evident in the revised subsequent edition. The Publisher shall have all rights in connection with all subsequent editions that the Publisher is entitled to in the original work.

On the contract, these words were added in the margin to point V. and were meant to be included in the final agreement: “only with the consent of the author.”

The agreement with MacMillan gave the Publisher the right to edit subsequent editions of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is if the Author would not be able to do so, in other words, due to incapacity or death. But the Publisher would be obliged to clearly indicate changes made to subsequent editions not personally initiated by the Author.

I was just asking myself why it was that Srila Prabhupada wanted to get the Gita out of MacMillan’s control and into the safe hands of the BBT. It is now obvious to me that his purpose was to preserve the Bhagavad-gita As It Is and protect it from future editing without his consent.

According to this contract, the Publisher would have to indicate all changes from the original with footnotes, endnotes or by use of an errata list. What is essential is that changes be presented in a way that the reader would not falsely assume they were instigated by the author himself but would understand they were introduced by the editor. That is the scholarly way of updating a writer’s published work after his lifetime.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on August 22nd, 2009
13 Madhavananda Das (Orissa)

My thanks to Pustakrishna and Akruranatha Prabhu’s for their wise and heartfelt comments.

To me it’s a non-issue.

If someone prefers Hayagriva Prabhu’s editing (that Srila Prabhupada complained about), then read those issues. As far as I understand the editions are still available for distribution.

Personally, I have faith in Jayadvaita Maharaja, Dravida Prabhu and the other dedicated devotees of the BBT. I would like to read what Srila Prabhupada originally said, as is being restored to us by Jayadvaita Maharaja.

Hayagriva Prabhu is a special soul who no doubt pleased Srila Prabhupada in many ways, but I see no reason to immortalize the changes he made such as “Planet of trees” (that’s a -little- weird), instead of Srila Prabhupada’s original “Planet of pitris”; or “cattle raising” (that’s what they do in Texas) instead of Srila Prabhupada’s original “cow protection”.

As Pustakrishna Prabhu has pointed out, even the most bitter critics should admit that the essence has not been changed. So what’s the problem? There are always people who are looking for conspiracy theories and for them this is an exciting thing to jump on. It sounds pretty bad, “They changed Prabhupada’s books!” I wish that such people would act with a little more faith and trust in Srila Prabhupada’s chosen editors and carefully examine the changes.

Srila Prabhupada’s books are the basis in so many ways: they are the basis of our philosophy, the basis of much of our individual spiritual lives, they are the financial basis of our ISKCON society, and they are the basis of our preaching etc etc.

Right or wrong, publicly attacking the “new” editions (which are actually the original editions) will simply destroy our society.

Again, if someone doesn’t like the “new” editions, read the old ones. I haven’t heard of anyone trying to ban Hayagriva Prabhu’s edit. There are hundreds of millions of copies in people’s homes, used book stores, and libraries around the world. They are also on the folio.

Where is the conspiracy? Let’s stop killing ourselves and get on with the preaching!

Comment posted by Madhavananda Das (Orissa) on August 24th, 2009
14 Locanananda dasa

I, too, think of those godbrothers who have done the editing work as dear friends, and I would never question their devotion to guru. That affection has nothing to do with determining whether revising Srila Prabhupada’s books without his approving the changes and without annotation was the right decision. It is my contention that however experienced the editors may be, Srila Prabhupada, the author of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, should have had the last word before any changes were made in the text itself. After his lifetime, when he was no longer present to give that approval, editors must show that all corrections were made at their discretion and proper annotation and explanation should be provided. That would be the way to honor the acarya, by observing the principle of arsa prayoga.

Here is an excerpt from a letter written by Srila Prabhupada to one of the editors of Bhagavad-gita, now His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami, concerning a revision he had suggested to His Divine Grace:

“I have dictated the missing purports from Chapter IX and they are set enclosed herewith. So far changing the working of verse or purport of 12:12 discussed before, it may remain as it is.” ( Letter to Jayadvaita 3-17-71)

So it is not that every revision recommended by Jayadvaita Maharaja was approved by Srila Prabhupada. That being said, once again, I would agree that obvious mistakes should be corrected if it is necessary for the reader to correctly understand the philosophy, but that it should be undertaken using proper annotation so as not to give the impression the changes were instigated by the author himself, but rather by the editor after the author’s lifetime.

Varahanrsimha prabhu, I do not believe the question is how to make everyone happy, but rather how do we fulfill the purpose of the spiritual master while preserving his legacy and reputation. If we do that, everyone should be happy.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on August 24th, 2009
15 Madhusudana

It seems that what Locanananda is asking is not too “off base.” Why not make the judged changes, whether obviously grammatically incorrect or bring in the original manuscript version, BUT have them all annotated so that it is clear what is being changed? That seems reasonable; both in the scholarly sense as well as for the reference of devotees.

Comment posted by Madhusudana on August 25th, 2009
16 varahanarasimha

I like to share the nice reply I got from Dravida Prabhu about this matter:
Prabhu, I won’t be able to spend too much time on this, but here are a few comments.

Prabhupada said many things to many devotees concerning editing his books. Of course there must not be any “interpolation of philosophy,” and of course Prabhupada’s style must be adhered to as closely as possible, but the editors had to do more than correct grammar and spelling. Here’s a sample from the Krsna book, at the beginning of chapter 11:

[tape] When the two twin trees, Yamalarjuna, fell down on the ground, making a sound like falling of thunderbolts, all the inhabitants of Gokula, including Nanda Maharaja and other cowherds men, immediately came to the spot. They were very much astonished to see how the two great trees fell suddenly and began to inspect what might be the reason of their falling down. But without finding any cause of their falling down, they were puzzled. They also saw child Krsna was bound up by the ropes of Yasoda mother with the wooden mortar and began to think how this could be done. Must have been caused by some demon. Otherwise how it was possible?

[1970 ed.] When the twin arjuna trees fell to the ground, making a sound like the falling of thunderbolts, all the inhabitants of Gokula, including Nanda Maharaja, immediately came to the spot. They were very much astonished to see how the two great trees had suddenly fallen. Because they could find no reason for their falling down, they were puzzled. When they saw child Krsna bound up to the wooden mortar by the ropes of Yasoda, they began to think that it must have been caused by some demon. Otherwise, how was it possible?

[1996 ed.] When the twin arjuna trees fell to the ground, making a sound like the falling of thunderbolts, all the inhabitants of Gokula, including Nanda Maharaja, immediately came to the spot. They were very much astonished to see how the two great trees had suddenly fallen. Because they could find no reason for their falling down, they were puzzled. When they saw child Krsna bound up to the wooden mortar by the ropes of Mother Yasoda, they thought that it must have been caused by some demon. Otherwise, how was it possible?
————

Comment posted by varahanarasimha on August 25th, 2009
17 varahanarasimha

continued:
Certainly anyone can see that more than “grammar and spelling” were adjusted by the first editors. If the book were being edited today, one might include “other cowherd men” after Nanda Maharaja, but I don’t think it’s essential, and the editors did a pretty good job, as they did throughout the K book. All I did for the 1996 ed. was add “Mother” before Yasoda (who could argue with that?) and make “began to think” into “thought”. Someone might argue with the latter, but is it really worth arguing about?

The point is that Rupanuga Prabhu fails in his attempt to reduce the editing mission to “grammar and spelling” based on one instruction from Prabhupada, while ignoring other instructions, such as,

“Prabhupada said that if there is one mistake in one book, then you spoil the whole book. Murder the whole book. So also besides Sanskrit errors, there have been many, many English errors also, which are very obvious, just like these two above-mentioned errors [in the Second Canto], so Prabhupada has been emphasizing lately about the great need for making our books free from errors. ‘What’s done has been done,’* [Pradyumna’s footnote: *Srila Prabhupada] but now we should try to do two things: make sure that errors like these won’t occur again, and start a listing of past mistakes in each book so that we can correct them when they are reprinted.” (Letter from Pradyumna dasa to Jayadvaita dasa, Sept 1972)

Comment posted by varahanarasimha on August 25th, 2009
18 Nirmala Krishna Das

Hare Krishna

Please accept my humble obeisance

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Actually saying I have no qualification whatsoever to comment on such issues. But as I was reading devotees’ comments, I felt some inner realization which, with all your permission would like to pen down.

If we see more than 95% of devotees became devotees from reading HDG Srila Prabhupada’s books. Even today it’s continuing. When I read Srila Prabhupada’s books I feel His presence. It’s the same with everyone. I am sure. The sincere disciples of His Divine Grace gave their lives for this mission. Their goal was only to please Srila Prabhupada. And if there was any whimsical changes done on Gita or any Prabhupada’s books, then if Srila Prabhupada was not pleased, am sure the books would have not given the same result. But we see it’s giving tremendous results. This is Guru Parampara. If not connected and if the chain would have been broken then there would have been negative results.

I feel we should stick to Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and follow sincerely keeping Krishna in centre. As Kali Yuga progresses, things are not going to be very palatable, so rather than worrying about petty things should focus more on our sadhana and please the Vaishnavas. Please forgive me, if I had committed any offence knowingly or unknowingly. Hare Krishna. Thank you.

Comment posted by Nirmala Krishna Das on August 26th, 2009
19 Suresh das

In the 1972 McMillan version of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, the 4th Chapter Verse 34 states:
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.”

In the newer BBT version it changes the verse to read “the self-realized souls (plural) can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.”

This has always bothered me, in reading the two versions, only because I was wondering who the self-realized souls are that the book is referring to? If someone buys or receives the newer BBT version of Bhagavad-Gita, and inquires who the self-realized souls are, who do you refer them to?

Comment posted by Suresh das on August 27th, 2009
20 Akruranatha

Haribol Madhusudana Prabhu, PAMHO. The idea of producing a huge, annotated critical edition might be something that could be done for serious students of the editorial process, but that certainly is not the book I would like to distribute to the public.

Preaching is the essence. We are trying to distribute Prabhupada’s books so that innocent people all over the world can come in contact with Prabhupada’s pure sound vibrations and become devotees of Krishna.

The books for mass distribution should be well edited, as Prabhupada desired.

A “critical edition” with thousands of footnotes would not only be too big and too expensive to practically produce, but it would be bewildering and distracting to the average first-time reader.

If someone who has a problem with the BBT edits wants to fund the production of such a critical edition, I am sure the BBT would have no objection publishing one for academic purposes (not for mass distribution). In fact, that is in keeping with what the BBT is doing by making Jayadvaita Swami’s original notations available on BBTedit.com.

But that would not be the book anyone would believe should be mass distributed. Is it?

We have to remember, the BBT deserves credit for continuing to publish thousands of books every year. It is easy to sit in an armchair and criticize, but our sacred duty is to continue the preaching mission by making regular BBT remittances so that more books can be produced. Often we find that an important English book like Nectar of Instruction or even Krishna book is not currently in stock. The BBT needs to be supported by vigorous book distribution and remittances.

Otherwise, the whole issue of editing will become moot, if there is insufficient money to keep the books in print.

Anyway, I have not gone through BBTedit.com yet. I look forward to viewing all the materials and explanations that are there. Hopefully this presentation by senior devotees should put this controversy to rest. Personally, I was convinced years ago.

I respect the feelings of the devotees like Rupanuga or Locanananda or Govinda Dasi who feel that some of the poetic charm and force of Hyagriva’s orotund phrasing has been lost, but I respectfully disagree with their view that Prabhupada is not pleased with the BBT edits. I believe wholeheartedly that Srila Prabhupada wanted his books for public distribution to be revised and edited by qualified devotees so as to present the finest possible version to the public.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on August 27th, 2009
21 Akruranatha

In response to #19 by Suresh:

Even in the original version, the word-for-word of upadeksyanti, jnaninah and darsinah are given as plural, I think. (I seem to have replaced my original version at the moment).

At any rate, Krishna actually expressed this as plural, and the idea that there is only one self-realized soul, seer of the truth, initiating spiritual master, is obviously not correct, inasmuch as our disciplic succession contains so many, Brahma, Narada, Madhvacarya, Madhavendra Puri, Jiva Goswami, Bhaktisiddhanta and so on.

[Granted, as “transparent via media”, all spiritual masters are considered representatives and manifestations of the original Servitor Godhead, Lord Nityananda Balaram, but that is a different topic. The fact that there are a plurality of bona fide spiritual masters should not be controversial.]

Whether someone buys the older version or newer version, they may still inquire as to who the self-realized souls (or “soul”) are. That, of course, is a very important inquiry which is not resolved by whether the verse translation says “soul” or “souls”.

I would direct any sincere inquirer to the Nectar of Instruction. In verse one, we learn that only a “goswami” or master of the senses (whether householder or renunciant) is qualified to make disciples.

In the Purport to Text Five (of NOI) are many other relevant instructions, including: “When a neophyte devotee is actually engaged in devotional service by the order of the spiritual master, he should be accepted immediately as a bona fide Vaisnava. Out of many such Vaisnavas, one may be found to be very seriously engaged in the service of the Lord and strictly following all the regulative principles, chanting the prescribed number of rounds on japa beads and always thinking of how to expand the Krishna consciousness movement. Such a Vaisnava should be accepted as an uttama-adhikari, a highly advanced devotee, and his association should always be sought.”

Prabhupada’s books are full of descriptions of how to recognize bona-fide spiritual masters. First of all the gurus should be surrendered to their own gurus and always engaged in devotional service, without any tinge of envy or desire for personal honor. The gurus should be fully conversant with the science of Krishna consciousness and capable of conveying that knowledge to the bona fide disciples and guiding them so they may advance.

[Yes, not only the gurus but also the disciples must be bona fide.]

Comment posted by Akruranatha on August 27th, 2009
22 varahanarasimha

here is more from Dravida Prabhu about editing:
or
“In this way I have read the book sporadically, not very minutely. I think it should be gone through once more very carefully and all the mistakes that are still existing there should be corrected. If the books are printed with spelling mistakes and other mistakes, that will be a discredit for our publication. So please see that editorial work is done very nicely.” (Letter to Brahmananda, 22 April 1970)

To see what the editors needed to do to bring forth Prabhupada’s books as we know them today, consider this prose passage from the Fifth Canto (5.22.2):

[Prabhupada’s dictation:] “Sukadeva Goswami answered: My dear king, it is exactly like the big wheel which is moving and along with him the small ants which have taken shelter of the big wheel, they are also moving, that is to say, the big wheel is moving toward northern side, the small ants also moving towards that side. Similarly, with movement of the big orbit, the small stars appear to be moving along with it, so when passing through the Dhruvaloka and Sumeru mountain, the small ant-like stars also move like that. So with the movement of the sun and other small planets and stars which have taken shelter of the big orbit moves in the same direction, therefore, it sometimes appears to be moving differently in different directions.”

[Printed book:] “Sri Sukadeva Gosvami clearly answered: When a potter’s wheel is moving and small ants located on that big wheel are moving with it, one can see that their motion is different from that of the wheel because they appear sometimes on one part of the wheel and sometimes on another. Similarly, the signs and constellations, with Sumeru and Dhruvaloka on their right, move with the wheel of time, and the antlike sun and other planets move with them. The sun and planets, however, are seen in different signs and constellations at different times. This indicates that their motion is different from that of the zodiac and the wheel of time itself.”

Extensive editing by Pradyumna Prabhu and then Jayadvaita Swami, with Prabhupada’s approval, produced the final translation. A little more than grammar and spelling, I’d say.

Comment posted by varahanarasimha on August 27th, 2009
23 Locanananda dasa

The present discussion is not about conspiracy theories. It is not an attempt to show one editor’s work superior to another’s, and it is definitely not an attempt to undermine the preaching of the Krishna consciousness movement. Looking to the future, concerned devotees want to know whether the sale of two different versions of the same sacred text will have a positive or negative influence on the spreading of this movement. They are concerned about how to best preserve the legacy of Srila Prabhupada’s written word.

I have been pointing out some of the irregularities in the rationale to authorize book changes as well as in the procedures followed to revise Srila Prabhupada’s books after his departure. I think these are serious defects that will hinder their acceptance by the scholarly community.

I would like to suggest that the GBC take another look at the issue of book changes, beginning with the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. This is our most important scripture. Of all the Vedic literatures the Bhagavad-gita is most authoritative, having been spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. I believe there should be only one complete edition of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is that we distribute and also study and give class from. The revised version with its many thousands of alterations will most likely not stand the test of time I’m afraid, and will always be challenged by those who think a new edit based on the first dictations and manuscripts was not approved by Srila Prabhupada. It is a controversy that should be settled by using common sense and by depending on the Lord in the heart for guidance.

As a sort of blending of the two approaches to this issue, I am suggesting that the original Bhagavad-gita As It Is be reviewed to see what corrections are absolutely necessary in order to communicate a clear and error-free understanding of the philosophy to the reader. In scholarly fashion, all revisions should be annotated to show that it was not the author who initiated them. I think this will be done eventually, but it will require strong leadership and the blessings of the spiritual master and the vaisnavas upon those who step forward with courage to correct this inebriety within our society.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on August 27th, 2009
24 varahanarasimha

continued:
In conclusion, there cannot be “A Scientific Method for Evaluating Editorial Changes to Srila Prabhupada’s Books”, because editing is not a strict science. It is misguided to just count the changes and then conclude that a big number means the editors failed, are in maya, and Prabhupada is displeased. Each change has to be evaluated independently, and each book has to be evaluated independently, and the editors were the ones trusted to do the evaluating. If they broke that trust and went overboard, then they were removed from the service, like Hayagriva. But Srila Prabhupada trusted Jayadvaita Swami and Pradyumna Prabhu.

As for TLC, I told Rupanuga Prabhu that I’ve gone over the TLC carefully and fixed the mistakes that Hayagriva made in his revision of 1974. In some cases we’ve restored text from the 1968 printing. He probably won’t be happy with the result, because I kept most of Hayagriva’s revisions.

All the time I have for this now.

Your servant,
Dravida dasa

PS: Concerning “small conchshells” for “gunja,” this we regarded as a case of arsa prayoga, honoring the acarya by not fixing a mistake (see rascal editors conv.). We have to judge which “mistakes” of the acarya to fix and which to leave. The Surya-siddhanta authorship by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati we thought was significant enough to fix, the “small conchshells” we thought wasn’t. Another “mistake” we consistently fixed was Prabhupada’s quoting, in his purports, of Skrt verses from the Gita. For instance, he would quote 4.9 as janma karma me divyam yo janati tattvatah. In the books it was always adjusted to janma karma ca me divyam, etc. We thought Prabhupada would want to have the verse he quoted in his purports conform to the text of the Gita.

(I had asked why not at least edit the tranlation in the CC like Antya lila 6.287

After saying this, Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu again bestowed His mercy upon Raghunätha däsa by giving him a stone from Govardhana Hill and a garland of small conchshells.
(what is offered to Govardhana is small garland of Gunjaberries)

Comment posted by varahanarasimha on August 27th, 2009
25 Locanananda dasa

(continued from the previous comment)

From the Introduction to the Bhagavad-gita As It Is: In this present day, man is very eager to have one scripture, one God, one religion and one occupation. So let there be one common scripture for the whole world–Bhagavad-gita. And let there be one God only for the whole world–Sri Krishna. And one mantra only–Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. And let there be one work only–the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

One scripture, two complete editions? I don’t think that is what Srila Prabhupada intended. So let there be one common scripture embraced by all devotees — Bhagavad-gita As It Is — in one edition that gives all respect to the original text and annotates corrections made by the editors without sacrificing the book’s scholarly appeal. All in my humble opinion.

Your servant,
Locanananda dasa

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on August 27th, 2009
26 varahanarasimha

the answer to Suresh Prabhus question is found at http://www.bbt.info/informatio.....2#GRE_4.34

I am copy/pasting it here as it is one of our most important slokas learn:
4.34: Surrendering to the spiritual master

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tatt va-darsinah

tat—that knowledge of different sacrifices; viddhi—try to understand; pranipatena—by approaching a spiritual master; pariprasnena—by submissive inquiries; sevaya—by the rendering of service; upadeksyanti—they will initiate; te—you; jnanam—into knowledge; jnaninah—the self-realized; tattva—of the truth; darsinah—seers.

Published editions Original manuscript
[Translation]

Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because he has they have seen the truth.
Just try to know the truth of all these by approacing self realised spiritual master with all submission, enquiries and rendering service unto Him. Such learned self realised spiritual master initiates knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.

Comment

Since this verse is so important to us, this revision has generated a great deal of comment and inquiry.

As you can see, the revision has its basis in Srila Prabhupada’s original manuscript. Srila Prabhupada begins in the singular and ends in the plural. So does the revised translation.

Of course, Srila Prabhupada has his singular and plural in the same sentence—his subject is singular, his verb plural—and this transgresses English grammar. So I made the first sentence singular, the second plural.

The revision also lines up with the Sanskrit. The words upadeksyanti, jnaninah, and tattva-darsinah are all grammatically plural.

But isn’t there a hidden agenda here? Am I not trying to dilute the authority of the spiritual master?

Simply: no.

Comment posted by varahanarasimha on August 27th, 2009
27 Madhavananda Das (Orissa)

Regarding comment #19: Suresh Prabhu asks, “If someone buys or receives the newer BBT version of Bhagavad-Gita, and inquires who the self-realized souls are, who do you refer them to?”

Prabhuji, not to be challenging, but your question makes me wonder, if someone purchases the older edition of the Gita and reads the singular “self-realized soul”, and asks you who that is, who do you refer them to?

The only important difference that I can see between singular and plural, in the old and new versions is that perhaps someone may think that the singular refers to Srila Prabhupada, ie: that he is the only self-realized soul.

I don’t know if you are suggesting that idea or not, and I realize that this is controversial for some, but sastrically, logically, why should we think that Srila Prabhupada was the last self-realized soul? Is Krishna broke now? He doesn’t have anyone else he can send? Or did Srila Prabhupada fail and not make any self-realized souls?

Since it takes one to know one, if someone can confidently say that there are no self-realized souls present, then logically the person making that assertion must himself be a self-realized soul.

Comment posted by Madhavananda Das (Orissa) on August 28th, 2009
28 Suresh das

Madhavananda Prabhu,

In the statement I made regarding self-realized souls mentioned in the revised “Bhagavad-Gita As It Is”, Chapter Four, Verse 34; I am not asserting that Srila Prabhupada can be the one and only Sampradaya Acharya and pure devotee of the Lord (self-realized soul). I am also not stating that there might not be many pure devotees possibly existing within in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness today, who can also see God directly and converse with Him, just like Srila Prabhupada stated many times that he could. This particular verse and purport do not discuss what is meant by a self-realized soul; however the purport does state that “the Lord therefore advises us to approach a bona fide spiritual master in the line of disciplic succession coming from the Lord Himself”.

We know from history that there is not always a qualified person or persons who can assume the post of Sampradaya Acharya, coming in the line of disciplic succession from the Lord Himself. Sometimes there is no person qualified to occupy the post of Brahma, Indra, Vivasvan, or Manu as an example. Between the times of the Sampradaya Acharya Srila Vyasadeva, 5000 years ago, up to the time of Srila Madhvacharya (Madhva), there is no person listed in the Brahma Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya (shown at end of Introduction to “Bhagavad-Gita As It Is”). Approximately 4250 years past before a pure devotee and self-realized soul was qualified to lead your Sampradaya disciplic succession as a bona fide spiritual master.

Since the editing of Srila Prabhupada’s books is going on, and if there may not actually be any pure devotees, who are actual self-realized souls, and who are qualified to assume the role of Sampradaya Acharya, at this time, within ISKCON, after Srila Prabhupada, the “Bhagavad-Gita As It Is” might be further edited to read “just try to learn the truth by approaching an advanced devotee, who is acting as a representative of an actual self-realized soul”. That way the mission can go on, you are still speaking the truth, and we are still acting as bona fide representatives of Sri Krishna’s Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, without watering down, or compromising the philosophy.

Comment posted by Suresh das on August 29th, 2009
29 Akruranatha

I would like to say that Locanananda deserves a lot of credit for the way he expresses his disagreement with BBT policy. He does not believe the devotees involved have evil motives, a conspiracy, or are hopelessly bewildered by maya. He just disagrees with them. Bravo.

We need to have a tradition of having a “loyal opposition” within ISKCON, rather than being unable to accommodate differences of opinion. In a movement this big, there are going to be a lot of issues upon which reasonable, good devotees can and will disagree. We cannot afford to have an “all or nothing” attitude about a lot of these issues.

Prabhupada used to use the old Italian “bundle of sticks” example, that if we stick together we will be strong. I would say further that we have to stick together in spite of our recognition that there may be some major disagreements on certain very important issues. In fact, we probably can’t stick together if we are too inflexible about issues like this one.

We have to be able to see that many good devotees who are worthy of working with and calling our comrades just do not see eye to eye with us on certain points. We may not know how they can see it differently when it seems so obvious to us, but nevertheless we should acknowledge that it is not because they are insincere, or lacking in faith, knowledge, devotion, realization, and dedication to the cause.

I would like to think that, given time and consideration, Locanananda will come over to my (and the BBT’s) way of thinking, and I am sure he thinks that if we consider the issue and his arguments very carefully, the BBT trustees and many other devotees will come over to his way of thinking.

But the reality is we may talk and pray and think about this issue for a long time (and we should), and still end up simply agreeing to disagree. And that is okay.

We just are not going to be a monolithic society with complete consensus on every minor issue or even on some major ones. How we deal with our differences will have a big effect on our ability to expand in influence and succeed in cooperative preaching as Prabhupada desires.

In this case, it is easier for me because I agree with those who have the power to call the shots. It is up to devotees like Locanananda, who disagree with the position of the authorities (in this case, the BBT Trustees), to set the example of how to disagree with grace and patience and dignity. I am glad he is setting such a good example.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on August 29th, 2009
30 Madhavananda Das (Orissa)

Regarding Akruranath Prabhu’s comment #29 sadhu sadhu! I heartily agree, in my humble opinion Lochananda Prabhu’s mood is exemplary of real Vaishnava behavior. Although, I may not agree with his understanding, I found his comments thoughtful and dignified.

Your comment about the need for “loyal opposition” within ISKCON also resonates with me. Although such opposition may not always be convenient to smooth antiseptic prophylactic management, it is necessary for a healthy progressive Vaishnava society. Diversity is our strength. We should not be afraid of devotees respectfully questioning things or even disagreeing with the “accepted norm”. There is already one Taliban, the world doesn’t need more.

Thanks again Akruranath Prabhu.

Comment posted by Madhavananda Das (Orissa) on August 30th, 2009
31 Madhavananda Das (Orissa)

Regarding Suresh Prabhu’s reply to me in comment #28:

Thanks Prabhuji for making your mood clear. I hope I wasn’t too aggressive in my question.

Regarding your concern that there may be a time when there is no self-realized soul present. I think that there may be different understandings about this, more than one of which may be correct, depending on one’s angle of vision.

I would say that there is no question of the absence of pure devotees. They are always, and necessarily present. Only due to our defective vision we may not be able to recognize them. There is a nice verse in this regard:

saṁsāro vaiṣṇavādhino devā vaiṣṇava pālitāḥ
ahaṁ ca vaiṣṇavādhinas tasmāt śreṣṭhās ca vaiṣṇavāḥ

[Krishna said] “The universe is dependent on the presence of the vaiṣṇavas. All the demigods are nourished by the vaiṣṇavas (and thereby cannot exist without their presence). Indeed, I the Supreme Personality of Godhead cannot exist without the vaiṣṇavas, therefore vaiṣṇavas are the topmost persons in this world. — Padma Purāṇa, kriya yogasāra khanda 2.81

This verse offers proof that just as Krishna is always present there must always be a pure devotee present — somewhere. It there were not someone present then this universe would not exist.

However, the association of such elevated devotees is not something that can be gained by our tiny endeavor, because it’s not possible for conditioned souls to see who is genuine and who is not. The only hope that we have is the mercy of Krishna. Krishna wants us to have sādhu-saṅga more than we do. We should chant Hare Krishna and cry in our heart and he will send us such saṅga. There is a beautiful statement from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta:

“At the dawn of our spiritual life we sincerely and with complete submission and self-surrender pray to God for receiving the protection of Sad Guru. The Supreme Lord, perceiving our earnestness and devotion with a view to guide us on the true path, will send a real guru to us. Otherwise it is impossible for us to find Sad Guru by our own fallible energy. If we guide ourselves by our own energy we shall come across the pseudo-gurus and being caught hold of by them by their temporary pleasing manners, run down to hell.” — Harmonist p. 139 Vol. XXVII, No. 5. Oct 1929.

Personally, I don’t like to preach to people to come to any particular person. I preach that they should cry in the heart and Prabhupada and Krishna will send a sadhu-guru.

Comment posted by Madhavananda Das (Orissa) on August 30th, 2009
32 Suresh das

What I really appreciate about Bhakti-yoga is that it is a transformational process. Who we were in the past is not necessarily who we may be at the present, or even in the future. It may be extremely difficult for many of Srila Prabhupada’s original disciples to accept, respect, recognize, or serve their god-brothers or god-sisters who are now in positions of initiating gurus, what to speak of the role of the Sampradaya Acharya. At least on my part, there are often feelings of anger, envy, fear and doubt. It is just the nature of my materialist conditioning, as well as memories of previous experiences. It is also very difficult to recognize a geniune pure devotee and self-realized soul. There may be no universally accepted standard for this designation. Of course no one can argue with a glowing halo around your head (which speaks volumes) and is almost impossible to fake.

Comment posted by Suresh das on August 30th, 2009
33 Akruranatha

Suresh Prabhu, you write:

“Since the editing of Srila Prabhupada’s books is going on, and if there may not actually be any pure devotees, who are actual self-realized souls, and who are qualified to assume the role of Sampradaya Acharya, at this time, within ISKCON, after Srila Prabhupada, the ‘Bhagavad-Gita As It Is’ might be further edited to read ‘just try to learn the truth by approaching an advanced devotee, who is acting as a representative of an actual self-realized soul’.”

I am pretty sure you are being facetious here, but your comment suggests that the BBT’s policy is just to rewrite Bhagavad-Gita whimsically according to whatever an editor thinks is philosophically correct.

That is a complete misunderstanding of the editing process. It is not that anyone has given carte blanche to the editors to substitute their own words and thoughts for Prabhupada’s or to bring the books more in line with contemporary ideas. What they are doing is correcting editing mistakes of earlier editors, to bring the books in line with what Srila Prabhupada actually spoke and intended.

The reasons for the changes in the verse translation and the Purport to B.G. 4.34 are explained in several of the video clips in BBTedit.com. It had nothing to do with bringing the Bhagavad-Gita more in line with ISKCON’s philosophy about initiation. It had to do with bringing the current Bhagavad-Gita into line with the transcripts of Prabhupada’s original dictation, which also happened to be in line with the actual (plural) Sanskrt words spoken by Krishna.

As for whether anyone is qualified to act as “Sampradaya Acarya,” and whether there are any self-realized souls in present-day ISKCON who can converse directly with God, that is a change in subject I am not directly addressing here (I am happy to see Madhavananda’s responses).

[I will say I do not think it is fair to conclude that there were no pure devotees in the Brahma sampradaya for 4,250 years. Vyasa had other disciples besides Madhvacarya (e.g., Suta Goswami), but Vyasa still resides at Badrinath and he directly instructed Madhvacarya there, hence the apparent “gap”.]

But back to the subject of editing, I hope everyone agrees that the current edition’s translation and Purport of 4.32 does not express any different philosophy than the earlier edition, and that both versions are in line with the conclusions about parampara that Prabhupada expressed over and over again in many places.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on August 31st, 2009
34 Akruranatha

Responding to Locanananda’s argument in comment #12:

I have not seen the whole MacMillan contract, but the paragraph quoted by Locanananda seems to be boilerplate included in a publisher’s contract to deal with the kind of works that have to be brought up to date from time to time through the publications of “revised and expanded editions.”

For example, law books go through many editions to take into account changes in statutes or precedents coming down since the prior editions. (It is not uncommon for a law treatise to be published in a tenth or fifteenth revised edition). Science books are periodically revised to take into account more recent advances. Social commentaries often include expanded editions dealing with more recent current events. Business books are often revised to incorporate new case studies or to follow the continuing story of a particular enterprise.

The MacMillan contract was almost surely not created from scratch and custom made for the Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, but was one of the publisher’s standard contracts used for all kinds of books, hence the language about revised editions.

Locanananda writes:

“According to this contract, the Publisher would have to indicate all changes from the original with footnotes, endnotes or by use of an errata list.”

Again, I have not reviewed the whole contract, but the paragraph he has provided (Roman Numeral V) says nothing about footnotes, endnotes or errata lists. The contractual language in question is: “When such revisions are not made by the Author, the Publisher shall cause such fact to be evident in the revised subsequent edition.”

A fair construction of that language would be satisfied if the publisher simply identified that the revisions were not made by the author, e.g. “By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, with revisions to the Third Edition by ____”

Of course, Srila Prabhupada did not want to leave it up to MacMillian’s discretion to revise the book without his consent and to choose perhaps some nondevotee professor or swami to carry out such adulteration of his work.

In practice and with other books (Srimad Bhagavatam, for instance), Prabhupada did approve the revised editions edited by his faithful disciple Jayadvaita Swami, without even bothering to go over all the changes Jayadvaita Swami had made (and without errata lists, etc.)

I do not see this contract as a valid argument that footnotes, endnotes, errata must be published.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on August 31st, 2009
35 Suresh das

It is a question I have had, but do not know the answer to - why did approx. 4250 years pass between Srila Vyasadeva and Madhva, in the list of Sampradaya Acharyas of the Brahma Gaudiya Sampradaya (disciplic succession). I don’t mean it as a challenge, but actually just as a question, and not knowing whom to ask, I put it in here, because it seemed to fit.

I never said there were no pure devotees present over the period between approx. 5000 years ago, when Srila Vyasadeva is listed as a Sampradaya Acharya and the time of Madhva Acharya, approx. 4250 years later. I stated there were no Sampradaya Acharyas who come in between Srila Vyasadeva and Madhvacharya. It seems Akruranath Prabhu is implying that because Srila Vyasadeva was still living during the time of Madhvacharya, that this is the reason for the missing acharyas. Aren’t Lord Brahma and Narada Muni still alive even today? There were many great pure devotees present during the time of Lord Krishna, 5000 years ago, but they are not included in the list of acharyas of the disciplic success descending from Lord Brahma either, including Maitreya Muni, Vidura, Uddhava, Maharaj Yudhisthira, Srila Sukadeva Goswami, Suta Goswami, etc. The Sampradaya Acharya position must be very great and rarely found in human society.

Madhavananda Prabhu stated “I don’t know if you are suggesting that idea or not, and I realize that this is controversial for some, but sastrically, logically, why should we think that Srila Prabhupada was the last self-realized soul? Is Krishna broke now? He doesn’t have anyone else he can send? Or did Srila Prabhupada fail and not make any self-realized souls?”

My reply was that there may be more self-realized souls coming, as well as pure devotees, but a personality who is great enough to be considered a genuine Jagatguru does not have to come along immediately after Srila Prabhupada disappeared. Indeed such a person might not come again for thousands of years. However there could be many self-realized souls, spiritual masters, and pure devotees who may be currently present, or may come in the future.

At any rate, back to the topic, the new website seems very well prepared, and will be a welcome addition for the devotees.

Comment posted by Suresh das on September 1st, 2009
36 Akruranatha

Suresh Prabhu asks:

“It seems Akruranath Prabhu is implying that because Srila Vyasadeva was still living during the time of Madhvacharya, that this is the reason for the missing acharyas. Aren’t Lord Brahma and Narada Muni still alive even today? ”

My point is as follows: In our line of succession coming from Madhvacarya, the immediate predecessor in the line was Vyasadeva, and his immediate predecessor was Narada Muni. The “gap” of some 4,000+ years is not because the gurus between them were not important enough to be mentioned, but because Madhvacarya did not study with Vyasa until long after Vyasa had studied with Narada Muni. Such a gap is possible when gurus in the line have extremely long lifespans.

But I do agree that Suresh’s overall point may be valid: There may be “gaps” in the disciplic succession from Madhvacarya forward as listed in the beginning of the Gita due to only the prominent acaryas being mentioned. (I don’t know).

The thing about disciplic succession is, it tends to fan out like a tree (as described in Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi Lila). The tree from Lord Caitanya has many branches. The branch coming through Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada, and A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is very prominent because of the amazingly successful preaching and reform work of those great acaryas.

But we should consider that there may be pure devotees in Lord Caitanya’s sampradaya in Orissa who trace their disciplic succession through, say, Syamananda Pandit and an entirely different line of gurus going forward from there.

I also agree with the overall point that Srila Prabhupada was an amazing and rare great world acarya and also was Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, a very important branch of the Caitanya tree. He did not want or expect ISKCON to be led by one prominent “Sampradaya Acarya” after his demise, but explicitly wanted his senior disciples to cooperate for pushing on ISKCON’s preaching under auspices of the GBC.

I would also agree that, in the years following his departure, some of his disciples who began initiating disciples of their own tried to imitate his majestic authority, to the detriment of themselves and others. (They had no other model and, yes, some were afflicted by maya and prone to serious blunders and falldowns). Thankfully, ISKCON seems to have weathered those challenges.

But we should all agree, none of this has anything to do with the editing of B.G. 4.34.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on September 2nd, 2009
37 Locanananda dasa

Disciples of the most empowered spiritual master in the world, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, worship every word contained in his books. Even if there is a sentence that is awkwardly constructed, they do not become distracted and think the book must be corrected before it can act to transform people’s lives and awaken their love for God. Srila Prabhupada referred to his prolific literary output as “Krishna’s miracle.” How can Krishna’s miracle be full of mistakes?

Srila Prabhupada once objected to Hayagriva’s complaint that Rayarama’s editing work was not as good as his own, and Srila Prabhupada reprimanded him, saying that his godbrother was surrendered to the spiritual master and he was therefore fully qualified to produce transcendental literature.

If we are quick to change the words that have been approved for publication by Srila Prabhupada, we should realize we are tampering with the faith of devotees who worship those books. Take a look, for example, at the Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 2, verse 13. This is one of the key verses for preaching Krishna consciousness. In the original edition, describing the change of body, it is said that “the self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” The purport of that verse also mentions the characteristics of the self-realized person. Srila Prabhupada heard this verse read aloud to him many times and never asked that it be changed. But the editors, going back to the earliest manuscript or dictation decided to replace “self-realized soul” with “a sober person.” “A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.”

Srila Prabhupada said one should edit for clarity and force, but this is an example of how clarity and force have been sacrificed by going in the backwards direction rather than accepting the published edition as final. I do not know how the decision was made to bring in the term “self-realized soul,” but can anyone claim it is philosophically incorrect? Then why should it be changed? Can anyone refute that Hayagriva brought this to Srila Prabhupada and that Srila Prabhupada accepted it as an improvement over the original dictation? How can you nullify any editing Srila Prabhupada himself may have specifically approved?

When one considers how a devotee’s faith and understanding hang on every printed word coming from the spiritual master, like pearls of nectar, making changes in those words may become a perilous journey full of controversy.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on September 4th, 2009
38 Locanananda dasa

I have gone over the new BBT website and found it to be a thorough but one-sided explanation of the reasoning behind the revision of Srila Prabhupada’s books. One thing that came to my attention right away was that the GBC body had not been not involved in the decision-making process concerning book changes. They were informed that the endeavor would be undertaken by the BBT editors, but no vote was taken and, for all intents and purposes, they had no say in the matter.

I therefore must again call into question whether the editing of Srila Prabhupada’s books was properly authorized. It may be true that editing done one book at a time in Srila Prabhupada’s presence was not a matter that involved the GBC, but to make thousands upon thousands of changes after Srila Prabhupada’s lifetime without GBC approval seems to indicate that their authority was circumvented.

What is the relationship supposed to be between the BBT and the GBC? The following is
an excerpt from a conversation that took place on 3-27-75 between Srila Prabhupada and members of the GBC:

Tamal Krishna Maharaja: The BBT is separate from ISKCON for legal purposes, but the management of it is done by the GBC.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That’s nice.

In other words, the BBT is part of ISKCON, although it is a separate legal entity. In terms of management, it is therefore under the GBC. That same year, the GBC was deciding whether to move ISKCON Press from New York to Los Angeles. The decision was not made by the BBT trustees. I would think that the GBC should also have had the last word when it came to revising Srila Prabhupada’s books, since that was one of the most important managerial decisions ever to be made. I fully believe the GBC has the authority to ask that the issue be reviewed in order to resolve the controversy that for several decades has surrounded the question of changing Srila Prabhupada’s books.

The BBT editors’ new website has presented one point of view, their own. Many disciples of Srila Prabhupada do not agree with that point of view, and although I am not speaking for anyone other than myself, I believe there are just as many who are opposed to the changes as are in favor of them.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on September 4th, 2009
39 Locanananda dasa

In reading over the many topics addressed on the BBT edit website, I found an explanation as to why there are no letters from scholars praising the revised books. The reason given was that no one on the BBT staff has tried to gather them, and I wonder why that is. If the BBT policy is to continuously update its publications, why not also gather more current letters from professors who are recognized as authorities in the field today.

When I was in France in the 1970’s, I was doing Sankirtana in Aix-en-Provence where there is a well-known university. A professor approached me on the street and asked for one of each of the books I had, in English and French. He gave me his name and contact
information. A short time later, our BBT department contacted him and he submitted a letter gloriously praising Srila Prabhupada’s books. His name was Jean Varennes, and his comment was included on the dust jacket of the French Bhagavad-gita As It Is.

Again on travelling Sankirtana, this time in Lyon, we heard that a famous thinker named Lanza del Vasto was speaking to a large assembly that evening. We went to the gathering and presented him with a set of Srila Prabhupada’s Krishna books in English.
We later met with him in his apartment and, looking at the back cover of the Krishna Book, he commented that Srila Prabhupada had a beautiful head and that he would like to meet him the next time he came to France. He also said he had seen us chanting in New York and London. We spoke a little philosophy and then had a kirtana in his room. Lanza del Vasto had also been an associate of Gandhi. An excerpt from his letter of appreciation was included on the dust jacket of the French Bhagavad-gita, right below Jean Varennes.

The reason why I mention this is to show that it doesn’t take a tremendous effort to get these letters. It doesn’t even have to be made a top priority, but if you want to know whether there is support from the academic community, it is essential that you do so. I would think that the BBT trustees would have consulted with scholars from outside of ISKCON to see what their reaction would be to the idea of an editorial overhaul. After all, it was the academic community they wanted to impress. It appears that that step was never taken, neither has any effort been made to communicate with the scholars who gave praise to the original edition of Srila Prabhupada’s books. I wonder if the BBT staff will post an explanation as to why this was never done.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on September 4th, 2009
40 Locanananda dasa

Devotees around the world are questioning the necessity of making so many changes in the wording of Srila Prabhupada’s books. This is because there is evidence that Srila Prabhupada was consistently resisting efforts to make such revisions during his lifetime.

Srila Prabhupada made it clear from the very beginning what his editorial policy would be. In a letter to Satsvarupa dated 12-23-67, he wrote:

“I also do not like too much editorial work. This too much editorial work on Gitopanisad has created some misunderstanding between editorial staffs. Anyway, in future, one man should edit it and be sufficient for our printing. And I do not want that Lord Caitanya’s Teachings should be edited again and typed again and waste time in that way…. The book should be printed immediately without waste of time. That is my desire.”

The evidence points to Srila Prabhupada wanting to minimize the editorial work. There is no evidence of him having said we will look over the books for further editing somewhere down the road when we have time on our hands. He said it is not our intention to produce a literary masterpiece. Our writing style is “Hare Krishna.” And even if some of the composition is not perfectly structured, those who are honest and sincere will appreciate his written word and benefit.

The description Srila Prabhupada gave of the books he published after coming to the West was that they were “qualified to be distributed unlimitedly.” Even the Bhagavatams printed in India in the early 1960’s were declared a “great contribution to the salvation of mankind” by that country’s President. But what has been said of the revised editions? That we would like to know.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on September 4th, 2009
41 Akruranatha

Locanananda has raised a number of points in Nos. 37-40 for our consideration and, presumably, to get some feedback.

I am not a spokesman for the BBT and what follows are only my own personal rsponses, point by point:

Regarding #37:

1. No one thinks the older editions could not change people’s lives, but the newer editions also change people’s lives. Don’t you agree, Locanananda Prabhu?

The important thing to remember is that Prabhupada’s original dictations and manuscripts of those dictations were also worthy of worship, word for word, and bad editing resulted in loss of a lot of *those* miracles, which have been restored in the newer versions, especially in Purports to Bhagavad Gita As It Is. I hope Locanananda Prabhu agrees we should not lose those gems for all time just because an editor goofed.

As for awkwardly constructed sentences and grammatical errors, of course the books are potent in spite of those things, but Srila Prabhupada did express his wish that the books be edited into good clear English. The original First Canto Prabhupada brought from India was wonderful, but Prabhupada wanted them to be edited nicely. The BBT trustees worked with Prabhupada and understood his desire for them to continue polishing the English grammar. Even after the First Canto had been revised, Prabhupada approved Jayadvaita’s later revisions.

Unfortunately the BBT did not at first do a good job of explaining the post-1977 revisions to the devotees, and an atmosphere of unwarranted distrust arose among some devotees. I am glad to see a better communications effort by the BBT at this time.

2. The anecdote about Prabhupada chastising Hayagriva for criticizing Rayarama (assuming it happened), may have been more an instruction about faultfinding than about editing. The devotees who criticize later editors might do well to heed the same advice.

3. The concern about tampering with faith of devotees also cuts both ways. Many devotees still do not understand that the editing was done to restore Prabhupada’s words and meanings. Some propagate rumors or promote fear that the revisions were done whimsically or with disloyal intent. I know Locanananda is not in this category, but such slander of sincere devotees also undermines the faith of the uninformed. At least everyone should be clear that nothing remotely like that has been going on. The revisions restore what Prabhupada himself said, that had been obscured by bad editing.

(To be continued…)

Comment posted by Akruranatha on September 7th, 2009
42 Akruranatha

Point by Point Response to # 37 (continued):

4. I understand how some devotees might prefer Hayagriva’s “self-realized soul” in 2.13, or “rod of chastisement” in 10.38 to Prabhupada’s original dictations. It is more a concern about poetic style or “voice” than philosophical clarity. In 10.38 “danda” does really have the literal meaning of rod. In 2.13 “dhira” more literally means “sober.” In either case, the philosophical meanings aren’t significantly different and the real issue is one of poetic style. Personally, I think some devotees who memorized the old “Hayagriva” verse translations prefer them that way because they were used to the more dramatic (or purple, depending on how you look at it) style. Devotees can reasonably differ about these things, but everyone should understand that the revised version is closer to Prabhupada’s original dictations.

5. The main “controversy” seems to come from an atmosphere in which some devotees seek to call into question the loyalty of the editors and obscure the fact that what they were doing was restoring Prabhupada’s words which were lost or corrupted by bad editors. Locanananda Prabhu, if your concern is for the tender faith of the sentimental and less scholarly devotees, you should join the BBT in at least explaining that, however much you prefer some of Hayagriva Prabhu’s rhetorical flourishes in the old translations, the revisions were done to bring the text closer to Prabhupada’s original words.

Responses to # 38:

1. The BBTedit.com website does not pretend to present all sides of the controversy. It is frankly promoting the BBT’s views, and appears intended to dampen the controversy by educating devotees about facts which have been obscured by critics of the BBT. I hope this controversy can now be finally put to rest.

2. It may be accurate to say the GBC was not consulted before the BBT *began* revising the Gita. The website does clarify that Kirtanananda brought the matter to a GBC vote in 1983, but the GBC voted in favor of publishing the revised version. The website goes on to say that while Govinda Dasi and Gupta Das have written on the internet that the revisions were approved in the GBC by only one vote, Gupta was merely repeating what Govinda Dasi said, and Govinda could not substantiate the statement. While it is certain that the GBC voted to publish the revised edition, there does not seem to be any reliable evidence of the specific vote count.

(To be continued…)

Comment posted by Akruranatha on September 7th, 2009
43 Akruranatha

Response to #38 (continued):

3. Locanananda’s quotation about the BBT being separate from ISKCON for legal purposes but managed by the GBC is interesting, but inconclusive. The trust document signed by Prabhupada did not say the BBT was to be managed by the GBC, although half the book revenues were to be used by the Trustees for ISKCON’s benefit. In practice the BBT has not been “managed” by the GBC, and serious questions as to its legal separateness could be raised if it were. The GBC manages ISKCON, the trust’s beneficiary. I would agree some sort of GBC influence exists (for example, if a Trustee were excommunicated from ISKCON by the GBC for apostasy or moral turpitude, that would argue in favor of his removal as BBT Trustee, IMHO.)

[Moving the press and the devotees who work there from one ISKCON temple community to another was a decision that involved ISKCON in many ways. Editorial policy seems more exclusively in the province of the BBT.]

[Interestingly, the GBC voted last year in favor of including footnotes to explain certain shocking, “politically incorrect” statements in Prabhupada’s books, but the BBT asserted its independent power to overrule that GBC decision. It seems the BBT is more conservative than today’s GBC about fidelity to Prabhupada’s words.]

My (uninformed) impression is that the GBC has no intention of attempting to assert authority over the BBT’s editorial decisions, but if it did today it would again approve the revised editions.

Response to #39

1. Getting new endorsements from scholars probably was not a concern because the existing endorsements were just fine and did not need to be updated. When a translation comes out in a new language I imagine there might be some utility in getting a scholarly endorsements in that language (or do they just translate the existing endorsements?) The revised English editions did not need new endorsements.

2. I do not think it fair to say, “After all, it was the academic community they wanted to impress.” Of course they want the books to be well received in the academic community (as did Prabhupada), but mainly they want to make the books that are distributed to the public be as well edited as possible. I am sure the real motive was first and foremost to please Srila Prabhupada. Some devotees may have a different idea of what would please Prabhupada, but it is not fair to ascribe some other motive to the editors of the revised editions.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on September 7th, 2009
44 Akruranatha

Response to #40

1. In the 12/23/67 letter to Satsvarupa it seems the two main concerns Prabhupada expressed were, (a) not to create misunderstanding between editorial staffs, and (b) not to waste time.

Regarding wasting time, in 1967 it was important to get the books published and distributed immediately, even in somewhat unpolished form. After 1977 there was more time (not to mention more skill) to carefully restore the words Prabhupada had lovingly dictated, which had been lost through inexperienced and slipshod editing and transcription.

Regarding creating misunderstandings between devotees, those who continue to beat the drums of protest against the revised editions are creating larger scale misunderstandings between devotees than anything that went on in 1967 between editorial staffs. Does Prabhupada want this?

2. Can anyone seriously doubt that the current revised editions of Prabhupada’s books are “qualified to be distributed unlimitedly”? Locanananda Prabhu, please consider. Surely you are not suggesting that the revised editions are not full of power to transform readers into devotees of Krishna. Surely you are not saying that they do not express Prabhupada’s realizations and ecstasies. Surely you do not contend that they are not “qualified to be distributed unlimitedly.”

What has been said of the revised editions? I hear devotees and scholars and members of the public praising them all the time. Don’t you?

What would you like to be said of the revised editions? Wouldn’t Srila Prabhupada be pleased to hear that they are being well received, that they are bringing enlightenment to millions of people throughout the world, that new devotees are joining every day and increasing their understanding of Krishna by hearing from these editions of Prabhupada’s books?

That is what I hear and see every day, in the temple and on the street corners. The revised Gita has been distributed for a quarter century already. It is clearly very powerful and very pure. Aren’t you please to hear and see that?

[One thing is, the new orange-covered English Gitas from the L.A. BBT have margins that are too narrow. I am told it was a mistake and will be corrected in the next printing.]

Comment posted by Akruranatha on September 7th, 2009
45 Locanananda dasa

To illustrate my point about scholarly approval, I would like to present a statement made by Dr. S. Shukla, Asst. Professor of Linguistics at George Washington University. Praising Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is, he wrote:

“A deeply felt, powerfully conceived and beautifully explained work…. I have never seen any other work on the Gita with such an important voice and style. It is a work of undoubted integrity…. It will occupy a significant place in the intellectual and ethical life of modern man for a long time to come.”

This quote is taken from an advertisement in the Back to Godhead magazine from August, 1985. The comment by Dr. Shukla was in praise of the original Bhagavad-gita As It Is, and his letter gave great pleasure to Srila Prabhupada. Funny how his comment is being used to advertise the BBT’s revised Gita as if that were the edition Dr. Shukla was praising.

So what we have here is a credibility gap. We know how important the opinion of scholars
was to Srila Prabhupada when it came to his books. He even authorized a publication that would be devoted exclusively to the many letters he had received from scholars. But we have no letter from any member of the academic community (outside of ISKCON) showing approval of the revised books. That means in more than twenty-five years the BBT has not gotten even one scholar to express support for its editorial policy
of changing Srila Prabhupada’s published works.

Of course, this is only my humble opinion, but I would say that if you are advertising the revised Gita, you should be able to present a letter like the one above from Dr. Shukla praising the edition you are actually advertising, considering the extent to which the editors made changes in the original.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on September 8th, 2009

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