Published on March 22nd, 2022 | by bhaktisiddhartha-dasanudas | Full size image6
Book Changes: A Dangerous Precedent
There is no precedent in our sampradaya for posthumous, unapproved changes to an acarya’s books. If a devotee needs to clarify a previous acarya’s work for the understanding of his contemporaries, he writes a separate tika and appends it to the original work, leaving the previous acaryas’ commentaries unchanged. This is the accepted practice in the Gaudiya-sampradaya.
I have been a devotee since 1967, and joined ISKCON in Miami in 1971. In 1974 I served as a proofreader for Srila Prabhupada’s Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila Vol. 6, 7 & 8, and as comprehension editor on Antya-lila, Vols. 2 & 3. From 1980 to 2000 I worked as a technical editorial consultant in the IT field, writing and publishing many articles, books and websites on technical subjects. I also published many temple newsletters and fund-raising pieces at ISKCON temples from Bombay to Chicago. More recently I published my own books on spiritual subjects: Here Be Wisdom, Sri Visnusahasranama, Sri Nrsimhasahasranama, The Book of Gethsemane, and Search for the Absolute Truth. At present I am editing some of Srila Narayana Maharaja’s translations of the books of the Six Gosvamis. So I do have some acquantance with literary work.
I find Jayadvaita’s attitude inexplicable. In spiritual life, if many senior devotees and Godbrothers make critical comments about our service, we are duty-bound to accept them politely and consider them seriously, in light of the fact that we know that we are imperfect and full of flaws. Jayadvaita’s arrogance is rather non-devotional. He belittles his critics and uses ad hominem arguments against them. He refuses to acknowledge that he may have any fault at all. This arrogance is not the soft-hearted, humble attitude of an advanced devotee.
Jayadvaita conveniently overlooks the second definition of bowdlerizing, which is extant in any fine dictionary, especially the Oxford unabridged edition, which is the standard dictionary Srila Prabhupada used in his literary work. Perhaps Jayadvaita is unaware of this fact, and referred to a less complete dictionary. Besides denoting expurgation, bowdlerizing can also refer to any unauthorized editing, especially to alter the doctrine or philosophy expressed by a work. This usage certainly applies to Jayadvaita’s Gita, in which he has altered the original meaning of many passages.
Then he compares his editorial work with Srila Vyasadeva’s division of the Vedas. Please, we all know that Vyasadeva is an incarnation of God, and all of us are neophytes. But that is no excuse for being unaware of the standards of our sampradaya. There is really no precedent in our sampradaya for posthumous, unapproved changes to an acarya’s books. If a devotee needs to clarify a previous acarya’s work for the understanding of his contemporaries, he writes a separate tika and appends it to the original work, leaving the previous acaryas’ commentaries unchanged. This is the accepted practice in the Gaudiya-sampradaya. One wonders from Jayadvaita’s attitude whether he considers himself bound by the literary conventions of the Gaudiya-sampradaya, or fancies himself an independent authority.
This controversy is a prime example of what can happen when we detach ourselves from regulation by superior authorities, and adopt the ascending method of attempting to attain self-realization by our own efforts. While the original edition of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is was produced under the author’s careful personal guidance, Jayadvaita worked independently without the benefit of accepting the personal guidance of a self-realized pure devotee. The difference in tone and contrast in content is self-evident.
Just as a raging forest fire cannot be extinguished except by a downpour of mercy rain, we cannot realize Krsna consciousness except by the mercy of previous authorities, the perfectly self-realized acaryas. Although Jayadvaita has sung this hymn every morning since he joined ISKCON, it appears not to have sunk in, since he relied on his own strength instead of approaching senior Gaudiya Vaisnava authorities for advice and guidance in preparing his Gita.
In my experience, Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is is a rich, multidimensional work, its satisfyingly substantial paragraphs resonating with poetic language and redolent with the fragrance of carefully guarded references to the adi-rasa, or Krsna’s pastimes of conjugal love. There is one confidential conversation that Srila Prabhupada had with Srila Sridhar Maharaja during the period of his household life, where Srila Prabhupada reveals his realization of these veiled esoteric references in Bhagavad-gita.
Jayadvaita’s work not only completely misses, and in fact obscures this recodnite point, but also his edition of the Gita reads very flat, as if it were a technical work on philosophy instead of a disciple’s sensitive rendition of an ecstatic devotional poem. While there is everything to be said for clear phrasing and standardized terminology in an analytical work, Jayadvaita’s Gita is far the less for his editorializing. No matter how acceptible it may be to scholars and the general public, bhakti covered by jnana or karma is not accepted as pure devotional service by authorities in our line.
In the final analysis, we must judge by the results. Srila Prabhupada left us an expanding preaching field with booming book distribution. Twenty-five years after his apparent disappearance, book distribution is devastated. After so many scandals, the general public regards even the words ‘Hare Krsna’ with disdain. Srila Prabhupada presided over a dynamic, expansive worldwide association. But now ISKCON has shrunk to the point where there are more deities than devotees at many centers, and recently the North American temples declared bankruptcy. How would Srila Prabhupada respond to this news?
The original edition of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is convinced many people, myself included, that ISKCON was a serious, spiritually-empowered movement with a philosophy that is at once ecstatic and profound. During the time that Jayadvaita’s edition of the Gita has been distributed around the world, we have seen a dramatic deflation of everything Srila Prabhupada worked for and achieved. I think this is sufficient evidence to convince any clear-thinking persion that the general trend in ISKCON, of which Jayadvaita’s Gita happens to be a prime example, has been against the thrust of Srila Prabhupada’s original intention.
Fortunately, by the arrangement of Krsna, Srila Prabhupada’s original Bhagavad-gita As It Is is again in print. We will see how well Jayadvaita’s changed edition fares in the open marketplace against the original empowered, authorized and approved work. It would be far more honest if Jayadvaita would just publish his editorial work under his own name. He is a fine editor; he’s just not a pure devotee on the level of Srila Prabhupada. His edition reflects this fact clearly, but from his comments and attitude, one wonders if he realizes this fact.
For further information on the changes the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) is making to Srila Prabhupada’s books please go to:
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga,
Hare Krishna. What is the proper way to dispose of bogus unauthorized edited/changed gitas? I have several changed ones and now only use His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada’s original bona fide 1972 edition. Thank you for your guidance.
Hare Krishna Ram
I really don’t know… I wouldn’t like to distribute them to anyone else… I have no idea actually…
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!
Prabhu, I wanted to ask a very important question. Now, I am making articles for my friends to read. Actually I am just collecting statements, translations and summaries from Srimad Bhagvatam, rearranging the statements to present them in the form of a story, and sending it to them. I am not adding much on my own.
My question is that whether what I am doing is allowed. I am actually not knowing whether I can touch Srila Prabhupada’s books. I know that I am never going to touch anything in Srila Prabhupada’s books to change anything, but if I take statements from it, rearrange them and form a booklet or article of my own, is it OK?
Ever since the book change issue, I am not understanding what I can do and should not? Could you kindly tell me exactly about it.. I am of course, not going to change anything in the books. But sometimes to make the story short, and come out in a sequence to send to my friends, I have to rearrange it, and delete and add some words to get the grammar right…But I have seen you criticizing people for having changed SP’s books on the excuse of grammar.
I am practically confused. In short, to send articles to my friend, am I allowed to do it, since I can’t include the entire 3-chapter long (and sometimes 8) story to them.
It’s something like what they used to do in BTG.
May I perhaps, send you such an article on the life of Ajamila to ask exactly what I want to. If I am not allowed to do this, I will never in my life touch Srila Prabhupada’s books to make an article or for any other purpose.
Please enlighten me on what I am allowed to and what not. Am I allowed to make articles?
Please forgive me if I am on the wrong side…
Hare Krishna Rukmini
Yes. Do not worry. Of course your articles to friends are allowed. You are allowed to rearrange what is in Prabhupada’s books and add extend some bits, etc. As long as you do not go outside the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. If you start mixing in your own ideas that is no good. But you can present what you have heard from Srila Prabhupada and arrange it in a nice way and send it out to your friends. That is completely OK.
We can not change Prabhupada’s books and the whole point of our preaching is to get our friends to read Srila Prabhupada’s books of course. But we can create articles by taking various things from various places in Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Of course crooked people can misuse this and just select the things from Prabhupada’s books they like and leave out the things they don’t like. That is bad of course. We have to present Srila Prabhupada’s teachings in full and as it is. But you are doing that so it is very good.
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!
Hare Krishna Madhudvisa Dasa Prabhuji!
Please accept my humble obeisances. ALL GLORIES TO SRILA PRABHUPADA! ALL GLORIES TO YOUR EXCELLENT SERVICE TO SRILA PRABHUPADA!
In India, for (original) book distribution, what would be the best and economical source to get books, for example in the eastern side. Should I just order for international shipping of Book Distribution Jump-Start Megapack from KrishnaStore.com and start distributing?
Aspiring to serve you and Srila Prabhupada more and more!
Hare Krishna Prabhu
In India the best way to get Prabhupada’s original books is from ISKCON Bangalore [they have Prabhupada’s original books available] and BBT [they have original Bhagavad-gita As It Is available and small books like Beyond Birth and Death and Perfection of Yoga that are still the same as the original books. You can order from KrishnaStore.com but it would be more economical for you to get locally in India from ISKCON Bangalore or BBT in Mumbai.
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!