An Open Letter to the BBT on ISKCON Book Changes

Subject: An Open Letter to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
Date: Sun, 08 Mar 1998 12:17:23 GMT

Dear BBT Trustees,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

“This movement is being supported just by literature. So in this
way we can flood the whole world with Krsna consciousness and then
there’ll be a change. If we want to see a change in the world,
then we have to distribute knowledge of Krsna in this way.”
(Srila Prabhupada Room
Conversation 701213rc.ind)

I am writing this letter to request you to seriously consider the following question: “Should Srila Prabhupada’s books be changed or not?”

I’m not talking about correcting real typos and Sanskrit errors.

Should we make significant changes which alter the meaning of text in books which have already been edited by editors chosen by Srila Prabhupada and completely approved of and personally used by Srila Prabhupada on a daily basis for his personal reading and giving classes from?

Should such changes be made secretly by the BBT without informing the devotees that the books have even been changed, and perhaps without even informing the GBC and other leaders in ISKCON?

Should such changes be made completely at the discretion of the BBT editors without any requirement they justify the changes they have made, or even document them?

Many devotees are completely against changing even a word of the original published books of Srila Prabhupada, and that is fine by me and most other devotees also. I’m quite happy with all of Srila Prabhupada’s books as they were originally published and personally approved of by Srila Prabhupada.

I have read all of Srila Prabhupada’s original books many times and the effect they have had on my consciousness is very nice. They are certainly very potent as Srila Prabhupada approved of them.

If we continue to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books as he personally approved of them they will continue to make new devotees and thus the Krishna consciousness movement will automatically expand. There is no doubt about that at all.

“This new BTG is done very nicely. The printing is very beautiful
and I thank you very much for doing such a nice job. I am very
glad to hear you have printed 100,000 copies of this magazine. Now
give them to everyone. Also I am very happy to hear the other
books will be coming out very soon. If you can finish
Bhagavad-gita As It Is in Spanish and show me at the Mayapur
festival that will be very sublime. Please print as many books as
possible, this is my real pleasure. By printing these books of our
Krsna Conscious philosophy in so many different languages we can
actually inject our movement into the masses of persons all over
the world, especially there in the western countries and we can
literally turn whole nations into Krsna Conscious nations. Thank
you for representing me there in LSS by stressing the importance
of attendance to the morning and evening programs and following
all of the spiritual practices. This is wanted. Without these
things there is no devotional life. And by your example many
others will also become strong.”
(Srila Prabhupada’s letter to
Hridayananda Maharaja 74-12-21)

Many devotees, however, in principle, are not opposed to correcting real typographical and Sanskrit errors in the original books.

The thing which concerns me and most other devotees is not the actual correction of real typographical errors in the English and Sanskrit in the original printed books, but the “revision and enlargement” of the books.

More than 70% of the Bhagavad-gita translations and more than 70% of the purports have been changed. In many cases the meaning of the new text is substantially different from the meaning of the original text approved by Srila Prabhupada. We have made a small list of some of these changes at:

Even though Jayadvaita Swami has made literally thousands of changes to the Bhagavad-gita and most of them appear completely unnecessary, he says in his July 1986 letter to Amogha Lila Prabhu:

>First: To my knowledge, Srila Prabhupada never asked us to re-edit
>the book.
>As you know, and as we kept in mind while doing the work, Srila
>Prabhupada staunchly opposed needless changes.

There are so many substantial changes. It is no longer the same book as the one Srila Prabhupada personally approved of and used himself at all. Jayadvaita Swami himself calls it the “Revised and Enlarged” edition.

Of course we have written to Jayadvaita Swami and asked for his explanation, as you know, many devotees have done that over the years, but he always replies with the same letters [one to Amogha Lila and the other to “Senior ISKCON Devotees”] he wrote in 1986, which quite convincingly demonstrate there are a number of bona fide typos and Sanskrit errors in the original Bhagavad-gita which he has corrected, however there is no hint that he has made many changes and revisions which alter the meaning of the text in the book from the original approved by Srila Prabhupada.

In many places he has, perhaps unintentionally, subtlety changed the meaning of the text thus causing it to present a COMPLETELY different meaning from the original. That is the most disturbing aspect of the changes.

If he simply corrected the typos and Sanskrit without altering the meaning of the text and without trying to remove Hayagriva Prabhu’s editing who would have complained? After all Srila Prabhupada selected Hayagriva to edit the book and liked his editing.

There are so many examples of subtle changes of meaning in the book that look like small edits, but actually COMPLETELY change the meaning. I have not put many of them on the book changes page because it’s difficult for many to see how the meaning is changed and easy for Jayadvaita or Dravida to write something that “explains it” by referring to the “original manuscript” which they will not make available for anyone to look at…

Something to think about: (from bg 4.10)

Original: “…the conception of void that underlies the frustration of life…”

Jayadvaita: “…the conception of void that arises from frustration in life…”

So it is not difficult to see here that the editing has COMPLETELY changed the meaning and the original point has been COMPLETY lost. The original, approved by Srila Prabhupada, says void philosophy causes frustration whereas Jayadvaita’s says void philosophy “arises from frustration”. If this was an isolated incident that would be one thing, but there are hundreds of instances like this were the new version subtly imparts a completely different meaning to the original approved by Srila Prabhupada.

>My dear Hamsaduta,
> Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter
>dated May 30, 1975 and have noted the contents. I don’t think that
>Hayagriva is at fault. He has not changed the meaning or the
>philosophy in any way…
(Srila Prabhupada’s Letter: 75-06-08)

We have sometimes presented such things to Jayadvaita Swami, but he does not seem to be able to conceive such changes of meaning exist in the new edition. He just gets angry and calls us “self-righteous” and “abusive” and “refuses to correspond further”.

On such an important issue as the authorization and validity of changes to Srila Prabhupada’s books, a point which is fundamental to the credibility and authority of the entire ISKCON movement, this is not a very satisfactory reply.

>Date: 19.4.1997
>From: Jayadvaita Swami
>To: Madhudvisa dasa
>Subject: Vedabase editions & book revisions
>18 April 97

>Dear Madhudvisa dasa,

>Hare Krsna. Since you’ve already decided what books you will accept
>as bona fide and what you will criticize as bogus, and since you are
>already sure enough of your convictions that you think it worthwhile
>to express them in a self-righteous and abusive manner, I have
>nothing to say to you except that I see no need for us to correspond

>Best wishes. Hare Krsna.

>Jayadvaita Swami

It would seem to us that the BBT have given absolute authority to Jayadvaita Swami to change anything he likes at all in Srila Prabhupada’s books without anyone even checking or approving of what he does. Of course that may not be that case, however that is what appears to be happening. So it is a very dangerous position for ISKCON as, really, everything in ISKCON depends on the authority of Srila Prabhupada’s books. Srila Prabhupada’s books are the real asset of ISKCON. They are the attractive principle.

“I was very glad to learn how our devotees are coming out
victorious in the preaching to the university professors and
students. Other groups have no philosophy nor do they have any
idea of spiritual life, what to speak of living it. Our movement
is authorized. Our books are based on the statements of the most
exalted devotees. And if we follow strictly the guidelines for
devotional service as they are given in the Nectar of Devotion and
Nectar of Instruction, then no one can touch us. Our position is
definitely due to our books, therefore I am always pressing on
this point. All the groups are declining including the Christians.
We are being harassed by the authorities and they are all
Christians. Because they are losing ground, and we are increasing,
they are trying to stop us. There is always this battle between
the demons and the devotees, but the devotees always win because
they are protected by Krishna.”
(Letter: Bahudak 76-01-11)

If someone is making changes to Srila Prabhupada’s books, but is not prepared to justify them, and if the BBT refuse to make the source-material which authorizes such changes available, it does not look good.

I am also most distressed about Jayadvaita’s editing of Srila Prabhupada’s “Krsna Book”. That is completely heart-breaking. Srila Prabhupada’s original “Krsna Book” is so transcendentally wonderful. I can’t put it into words. It’s not possible to explain how wonderful that book is. Of course you know that well yourself. But Jayadvaita’s editing has COMPLETELY changed it…

Prabhupada liked, regularly read from, 100% approved of and relished reading his original “Krsna Book”. Satsvarupa Maharaja’s editing is very nice. I’m sure he has not changed the meaning from Srila Prabhupada’s dictation tapes. The English is very good. There are some Sanskrit errors and typos of course. If they were corrected who would complain? But Jayadvaita has practically re-written the book! He has completely changed the editing style, removed all the words he considers redundant, in places added in what appears to be his own preaching, and he has used Hridyananda Maharaja’s translation of the Tenth Canto to “correct” Srila Prabhupada’s Krsna Book… It is a disaster and heart-breaking to me… Who authorized him to “correct” Srila Prabhupada’s “Krsna Book”?

With all due respect, I don’t want to read Srila Prabhupada’s books “corrected by Jayadvaita Swami”. And I really don’t think anyone does. Even the scholars, university professors, etc. Srila Prabhupada’s books are literary classics. The scholars and university professors liked them as they were originally published! There are so many rave reviews. Everyone likes them. They are transcendental gems. They are priceless. Every word is spiritual. The whole thing is 100% transcendental. Even though there may appear to be some small discrepancies to our material eyes…

Who would be interested in any of the worlds great literary classics “corrected by Jayadvata Swami”? It is ridiculous. People want to read the original book!

And “Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers”… That has been “re-edited” by Sita devi dasi… Who is “Sita devi dasi” anyhow? What gives her the right to change Srila Prabhupada’s books? She has deleted so many things from “Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers”? What is the explanation? I don’t think the BBT even told anyone they changed the book!! Did the GBC approve of these changes?

We have the original transcript of the conversation and the text which has been deleted from the new edition is in the original transcript of the conversation. She has deleted Srila Prabhupada’s instruction that performing devotional service for some material benefit is business not devotion, she have deleted Bob asking Srila Prabhupada, “You mean by following these [regulative] principles,” and Srila Prabhupada replying “Yes.” She have deleted a whole discussion about miracles, “Miracles are for the ignorant”. She has deleted Srila Prabhupada saying “Our knowledge is perfect.” She has deleted Srila Prabhupada saying chanting Hare Krishna is a yogic process! Srila Prabhupada’s instruction that one who does not have perfect knowledge should not teach has been completely removed… And what to speak of Srila Prabhupada’s four page discourse on independence and the fact that we are always controlled either by maya or Krishna. It has been completely deleted from the new version along with so many other things. How can the BBT delete so much text from such a small book?? Who instructed Sita devi dasi to do this?

No one in the BBT is prepared to explain WHY? And WHAT NEXT? Perhaps they will get Sita devi dasi to do the next edition of Bhagavad-gita? The “Women’s-Lib Edition” I see you have had some email correspondence about…

Some of the ISKCON Matajis may be a little pacified by all these changes to Srila Prabhupada’s books… But is that really the business of the BBT? And where has this idea of changing Srila Prabhupada’s books come from in ISKCON? Why are the Matajis demanding Srila Prabhupada’s books be changed? Do they no longer have any faith in Srila Prabhupada and his books? Who has taught them this??

Surely the BBT has a far greater responsibility, the responsibility to print and distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books as he approved of them? Without changing the message in the books? Perhaps with real typos and Sanskrit errors corrected. If that is all the editors do then who would complain?

“Too much editing is not required. If Satsvarupa has already edited it, there is no need of further editing.”
(Letter to Rayarama 21-Dec-67)

Srila Prabhupada’s books are the only hope for this world (and the only hope for us!) so the BBT and ISKCON should be busy making plans to print them in unlimited quantities and distribute them widely to save the world… Not making plans how to change them and make them more “acceptable” to the public and the ISKCON Matajis…

“So Krsna is very popular in India. In every home, Krsna is
worshipped, and there are many millions of temples of Krsna in
India and followers also. Followers means almost all Hindus are
followers of Krsna. They read this Bhagavad-gita. So I have
recently published Bhagavad-gita As It Is. It is published by
Macmillan Company, and this book is very nicely being received. It
is being reviewed by several papers. I have got many others books.
They are being gradually introduced. Perhaps you have seen in our
counter. We have got books, magazines, calendar, and other
literatures. So it is a very scientific movement. It is not a
sentiment, bogus hoax. Anyone who wants to understand this
movement philosophically, scientifically, they will be very much
satisfied with this. The idea is that any religious movement
without philosophical basis, it is simply sentiment or fanaticism.
And philosophy without idea of God is simply mental speculation.
Therefore religious principles combined with philosophy, that is
perfect. So the younger section become attracted to this movement
because we are giving some religious principle based on

How can we make Prabhupada’s books “acceptable” to people in maya? We have to make the people in maya Krishna conscious then they will not only accept, but they will relish Srila Prabhupada’s books. But if we water-down the books to make them “acceptable” to the public and the feminists then the potency will be lost and they will no longer be relishable by the devotees either. It is like sweet-rice with sand in it. It’s still sweet undoubtedly but how can you enjoy it mixed with sand?

I pray that you will consider what I have written and write back, not like Jayadvaita, calling me “self-righteous and abusive”. But an honest reply.

Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

Madhudvisa dasa

NOTE: This letter was written on March 8, 1998, almost 12 years ago, and still I have not received any reply from the BBT, and still the BBT is pushing on their agenda of changing Prabhupada’s books more and more and more…

5 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the BBT on ISKCON Book Changes

  1. I am totally distressed to know about so many changes in Srila Prabhupada’s books.I don’t know if there is any hope for me to advance in spiritual life. I see no direction in life.I want to know how i can get Srila Prabhupada’s original books and understand them.

  2. Thank you Madhudvisa Dasa prabhu.You have opened my eyes.We need to refer Srila Prabhupada’s original books to keep his movement genuine and authoratative.Where could I download original books from?

  3. There is a recording of Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj replying to a question asked Him as to jas asking Him any questions.
    Govinda Maharaj answered that “jas asked some very intelligent questions but he doesn’t have the intelligence to understand them.”

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