Book Changes

Published on February 15th, 2009 | by Rupanuga das


Where Angels Fear to Tread

The editors of the 1983 revised Gita did not believe that they actually interpolated philosophy or style.*Their idea was to improve both translations and purports by transposing and clarifying portions of old manuscripts, etc. existing prior to the one finally submitted to Macmillan in 1972.Truly, many of the grammatical, spelling, format and historical inaccuracies corrected in the revision would have been approved by Srila Prabhupada himself had he been consulted.

Be that as it may, Srila Prabhupada never instructed anyone to use a procedure of re-visiting and researching old manuscripts or dictations to revise future printings of his first editions.On the other hand, recordings made from 1972 until 1977, six years, demonstrate how Srila Prabhupada often personally read excerpts from the Gita in classes, room conversations, engagements, etc.Many times he also instructed devotees present to read aloud as he listened.There is no evidence indicating that he ordered extensive revisions for the next printing.As the current chief editor wrote; “To my knowledge, Srila Prabhupada never asked us to re-edit the book.”( letter to Amogha Lila, July, 1986 ) .

Interestingly enough, none of the scholars, educators, professors and other reviewers of the Gita called for it either.From 1972 until 1983 we don’t find requests from professionals for a revision to a higher standard.Nor do we hear any demand from devotees in general for such a thorough revision.In fact, the editors state in “A Note About the Second Edition” found in the BBT revised editions: “Yet their effort to publish Srila Prabhupada’s work was a success, and the Bhagavad-gita As It Is has become the standard edition for scholars and devotees around the world.”Still, after eleven years of documented success, the Gita was extensively re-worked.Why?What is the reason?

The editors continue their explanation: “For this second edition, however, Srila Prabhupada’s disciples had the benefit of having worked with his books for the last fifteen years.The English editors were familiar with his philosophy and language, and the Sanskrit editors were by now accomplished scholars.And now they were able to see their way through perplexities in the manuscript by consulting the same Sanskrit commentaries Srila Prabhupada consulted when writing Bhagavad-gita As It Is.The result is a work of even greater richness and authenticity… In places the translations, though already correct, have been revised to come closer to the original Sanskrit and Srila Prabhupada’s original dictations…”

The editors are claiming the benefit of 15 years work, which would mean 1968 until 1983, the year of the revision. However, the value of those benefits is uncertain, because in June, 1977 Srila Prabhupada severely chastised the editors for changes to his Isopanisad and Bhagavatam. He described the editors as rascals (a term he usually reserved for atheists, material scientists and politicians), and called them “dangerous” at least six times in ten minutes of discussion. Just five months before his disappearance, Srila Prabhupada made this a major issue for the Society.

The same basic issue came up in 1983 and has continued more or less for the last 25 years.But for us, now, who will decide who is right and who is wrong?One side says “responsible editing,” the other says “irresponsible, unauthorized, etc.”But who is right and who is wrong?Who will decide?

So now we must come to the point of reason.Is it reasonable to conclude that just five or six years after deserving that 1977 chastisement, editors could have emerged as “accomplished scholars” –by 1983?One editor escaped chastisement.Still, isn’t six years a short time for everyone to turn up as “accomplished scholars?

”But even if all the editors had been studying Sanskrit for 30 years by 1983, is it plausible that such editors could be able to dive into the superexcellent depths of Sanskrit revelation, and come up with an understanding of it’s complexities—the same complexities—understood by previous acaryas?Was this the prerogative of such disciples, that they could be “able to see their way through perplexities in the manuscript by consulting the same Sanskrit commentaries Srila Prabhupada consulted when writing the Bhagavad-gita As It Is?Is it possible?

And further, “In places the translations, though already correct, have been revised to come closer to the original Sanskrit…” Here the implication is that the editors in 1983, whoever they were, thought they could interpret the original Sanskrit texts comparatively as well as Srila Prabhupada himself, or at least well enough to put their new realizations in his book under his name.And, that they could understand the same complexities understood by previous acaryas (presumably Sridhar Swami et. al.) simply by using the same Sanskrit commentaries Srila Prabhupada used.Is this credible? Is it reasonable to conclude that such editors were capable of producing “a work of even greater richness and authenticity?

”Or that translations “already correct” could have been revised to even more correctness by them?Was all this perfection really possible by 1983?

May be, if they had received authorizations and blessings from Srila Prabhupada in 1977 before he disappeared, but that didn’t happen.It is known from that recorded conversation of June, 1977, that when Tamal Krsna suggested to Srila Prabhupada Jayadwaita check any changes before reprinting, Srila Prabhupada countered: “But they are doing without any authority!”In other words, no need for Jayadwaita to become an inspector of changes because nobody was authorized to make such changes in the first place!Tamal had already said to Srila Prabhupada: “Your original work that you’re doing now, that is edited by Jayadwaita.That’s the first editing.”Srila Prabhupada had answered, “He is good.”So Srila Prabhupada, in the midst of all the turmoil, made it clear that he was satisfied with Jayadwaita’s work.Yet a “first editing” is entirely different from re-editing an already finished or printed work, which is what the others were doing.Srila Prabhupada never authorized anyone, including Jayawaita or Pradyumna to do that with the Bhagavad-gita then or in the future.

The extent of Srila Prabhupada’s disappointment in this matter can not be underestimated.He said, after being informed of the changes in the Isopanisad, “I know what these rascals are doing.What can be done?How they can be relied on?”And later, “It is starting.

What can I do? These cannot…These rascals cannot be educated.Dangerous.Little learning, dangerous…What can I do?Ultimate it goes for editorial…”

In the 3rd Canto (3.4.26), Srila Prabhupada writes, “Although one may be well versed in transcendental science, one should be careful about the offense of maryada-vyatikrama, or impertinently surpassing a greater personality.According to scriptural injunction one should be very careful of transgressing the law of maryada-vyatikrama because by so doing one loses his duration of life, his opulence, fame and piety and the blessings of all the world. To be well versed in the transcendental science necessitates awareness of the techniques of spiritual science.”

At this point the significant question emerges: Has maryada-vyatikrama, impertinently surpassing a greater personality, occurred in the process of editing and reprinting Srila Prabhupada’s books?It certainly had by 1977, according to the momentous June 22nd room conversation about changes to the Isopanisad and Srimad Bhadavatam.Six years later, considering the exaggerated claims in the “Note About the Second Edition” and the extreme content-editing of the text, it appears to have occurred again in the 1983 “Revised and Enlarged” version of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Vaisnava etiquette demands that Srila Prabhupad’s disciples, grand-disciples, et. al. always think themselves fools in front of Srila Prabhupada.But, unfortunately, sometimes some of them forget that, and dare to rush in where angels fear to tread.

* “Our editing is to correct grammar and spelling errors only, without interpolation of style or philosophy.”( Srila Prabhupada, 02/17/70 )

For more information on the changes to Srila Prabhupada’s books please refer to:

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8 Responses to Where Angels Fear to Tread

  1. Hrishikesh says:

    Hare Krsna Prabhu,
    Are the books on the website authorised. Because I have downloaded some books of Thakura Bhaktivinoda and was greatly disturbed after reading the books. It doesnot comply as told by Prabhupada about his life and his teachings. Most disturbing was the Krishna Samhita and autobiography of Bhaktivinoda. I wanted to know more about him and ended up with confusion. Are these books also heavily edited? Do the Gaudiya math also do the same thing as the BBTi authors are doing nowadays i.e. Book Changes?

    • No. These books are NOT authorized.

      Since Srila Prabhupada has left his body in ISKCON and since Srila Bhaktsiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada left his body in the Gaudiya Matha the members of the Gaudiya Matha and ISKCON have published thousands and thousands of totally bogus, completely unauthorized books.

      Writing transcendental literature is only possible for a pure devotee of Krishna. When an ordinary devotee imitates a pure devotee of Krishna and tries to write transcendental literature it comes out very badly and can not help anyone else advance in Krishna consciousness.

      Therefore you should be very careful only to read Srila Prabhupada’s books.

      Everything is in Srila Prabhupada’s books. You should not feel that you will miss anything if you spend your whole life simply studying Srila Prabhupada’s books. Rather if you do this you will get everything. You will become a pure devotee of Krishna. And that is the real point.

      So my advice is strictly only read Srila Prabhupada’s books.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  2. Ashwin S says:

    Dear Madhudvisa prabhu,

    If in a span of 30-40 years there has been so much of unnecessary editing in SP books,how can one believe the originality of the revealed scriptures coming from Vyasadeva given the fact that there exists possibility of these changes going unnoticed.For example we hear about Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya presenting a verse Mukti-pada as Bhakti-pada in CC.Of course he was a devotee of the lord and had no intentions of presenting his own theory.But I cite this incident to show that there still exists a possibility.If English words can be changed to suit someone’s personal views,why not Sanskrit?If there incidents could happen in less than 50 years of time why not in 5000 years?If people strictly stick to the disciplic succession then there would be no possibility of changes.But Iskcon under Prabhupada’s leadership was very much under the disciplic succession and still somehow his books are currently being changed after his departure.Can you say for sure this has not taken place in the past? Vedas are taken to be authentic,but are the verses authentically presented without unauthorized changes?And if one cannot physically confirm such changes how can we take them as reliable?


    Ashwin S

    • Hare Krishna Ashwin

      Yes. This changing always happens. What happens is the empowered personality of Krishna Himself personally appears and sets everything up correctly and then in time everything is lost and then there is a need for Krishna to appear again and reestablish things correctly or send His pure devotee to do this.

      What we have is correct and authentic through the disciplic succession. We are trying our best to preserve the original books of Srila Prabhupada but there is no guarantee that in the future the things will not be changed.

      But that does not matter for us now. Now we have full access to the original teachings of Srila Prabhupada so now we should take full advantage of this and become pure devotees of Krishna ourselves and preach.

      The nature of the material world is time destroys everything. So in time so many bogus things are introduced into every spiritual tradition and soon the original meaning and the original ideas become lost.

      Practically now in ISKCON almost all the original ideas Srila Prabhupada established for ISKCON have been lost. But it does not matter because we have Prabhupada’s original books and all the original ideas are there and we can read Prabhupada’s books and know everything perfectly and correctly.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  3. Jarle says:

    Hare Krishna
    All Glories to Srila Prabhupada
    All this is new to me. I have been distributing the 1986 Second Edition Revised and Enlarged copys og Bhagavad Gita as it is. Is that not bona fide after all? The divine nectar of distributing Prabhupada’s books is certainly felt everytime someone takes a book and gives some donation. And in the evening in the reading hours it is like the Shatras are talking to me instead of me reading them. How could this be possible if they were not bona fide any longer?
    help me understand
    your servant
    Bhakta Jarle

    • Hare Krishna Jarle

      The unauthorized changes in the “Revised and Enlarged” Bhagavad Gita As It Is are certainly not authorized. But surely there is still some spiritual benefit from reading the changed book. However the authority of the book has been completely destroyed. Prabhuapda did not request the changed, Prabhupada did not approve of the changes, and this opens the door for continuious changes to Srila Prabhuadpa’s Bhagavad Gita every time BBT print it. So I would strongly recommend you switch to distributing Srila Prabhuapda’s original books which are now being published by Krishna Books Inc. and you can purchase these from the wholesale books section at

      There is no need to distribute the “Revised and Enlarged” edition of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita As It Is any more because now Srila Prabhuapda’s original Bhagavad Gita is available to book distributors in a very beautiful edition at very reasonable prices.

  4. 2/18/2009

    Dear Prabhus,

    Oh yeah..the change thing.

    First and foremost, my dear prabhus, I’ll state here that I hardly qualify for sage–or even devotee–status. I’m your typical joe-schmo, for heaven’s sake, a true–praise God–survivor of the ‘higher consciousness’ era of the 1960’s, and thank God I did survive it. And, yeah, I was one of those ‘part-time devotees’ who loved to come to Sunday Feast (prasad ki JAI), chant some rounds when I wasn’t caught up in other ‘priorities’, and so forth. So you’ve got the picture. That’s Bhakta Raj prabhu das..and I can only pray to God and Spiritual Master that at least in the years that followed I’ve made some progress and deflated at least some of my ego-gone-wild.

    That having been said–and not in the mode of pretended humility, simply telling you honestly who I am–and who I pray I may one day become through The Lord’s grace–I’d like to comment briefly on the book changes, for that is our purpose in this blog. Although I was not–nor am I now–any authority on the Vedas..I’ve got to say that when I saw those changes start to take place–including so many other changes, it just devastated me. I’d long been struggling with some problems that I won’t elaborate on here, except to say they totally stopped what devotional service I was then able to muster together on a dime. However, with all the madness then going on in my life, at least I’d had something to hold my proverbial house-of-cards together. Now that seemed to be falling apart at the seams, and perhaps like many of us in those days, I simply didn’t know whether to turn left or to turn right. Srila Prabhupada gave us simple, easily-understandable writings (scripture and literature) to read, and for the life of me I couldn’t imagine why anyone would change even one word of it. One of favorite mini-booklets was ‘The Transcendental Teachings of Prahlada Maharaj’, and even that had been tampered with!

    I think what I’m getting at is that perhaps Maya may be suggesting to me that well, Raj prabhu, what do you think gives you right to complain about any changes when you’re such a rascal? Thank you, Maya–and I don’t mean that sarcastically. I mean, what a gift to inspire me to get right to the very point I was clumsily trying to make! Sure, I’m a rascal! Sure I’m fallen! And that is all the more reason for a person in my status to have the real item to read! My God! I’m fighting for my spiritual life here–don’t now give me or any other devotee with spiritual issues something watered down to read; we need the real deal, do we not?

    Be well & God bless.

    your most unworthy servant,

    Roger ‘Raj’ Leonard
    (Bhakta Raj prabhu das)

    “The ‘best’ religion is the religion
    that teaches one to love God.”

  5. Aspiring Devotee says:

    Yes, it is the most unfortunate thing: meddling with the works of a Vaishnava Acharya – Srila Prabhupada.

    Every conditioned soul’s return back to home back to Godhead depends on submissively obeying the authorities – Srila Prabhupada in our case (indeed not obeying authority – Sri Krishna, based on our tiny independence on a big misunderstanding, is the root cause of our fall from His association; what we observe in this case is simply an extension of original ignorance).

    Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental books are indeed the words of Sri Krishna fully spiritually potent to reinstate us in our constitutional position – that of His beloved servant. In this way Lord likes to glorify His dear devotees such as Srila Prabhupada – these are some of the mysteries things Lord does, which is inconceivable as far as non-devotees are concerned. All of Srila Prabhupada’s books are his devotional service to Sri Krishna and special mercy for every one of us – the most fallen conditioned souls. One who knowingly hinders our access of these great books is doing a greatest disservice to all – Srila Prabhupada & Krishna inclusive. So, everyone’s spiritual life is at risk now.

    So one who gives Srila Prabhupada’s instructions As it is, with no adulterations, immediately qualifies for Srila Prabhupada’s mercy and indeed that of Sri Krishna. These are all the subject matters very well explained in Srila Prabhupada’s books. So why is it hard to follow? Just a little bit of service attitude to Srila Prabhupada, which gives immeasurable transcendental mercy in return. So what is the loss?

    Hare Krishna & beg for forgiveness if I’ve offended any devotees.

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