Book Changes: A Dangerous Precedent

Hare Krsna!

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 acquaintance 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 person 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.

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga,

your servant,

Bhaktisiddhartha Dasanudas

6 thoughts on “Book Changes: A Dangerous Precedent

  1. I would like to ask the author on his view about the recent change of Prabhupada’s purport to Madhya-lila verse 130, “It is best not to accept any disciples”. Thank you! Hare Krsna

    1. Hare Krishna Gauranga Prabhu

      I have no idea Prabhu what they are changing. I do not like to think about it but if you can provide me with the new text they have changed it to I can let you know what is my opinion on the change. But any change is bad. The principle of change is bad. So if they have changed it that is bad. So send me the new text and I will let you know…

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  2. Here is the evidence, Prabhu, how it was changed:

    From: Dravida (das) ACBSP (San Diego – USA)
    Date: 04-Apr-07 17:06 (10:06 -0700)
    Cc: (BBT) Errors (in) English Books [1385]
    Reference: Text PAMHO:13303610 by Brahma Muhurta Das (NE BBT)
    Subject: Madhya 7.130
    Received the following from Bhaktivikasa Swami on 1 March:
    [Quotes Madhya Lila 7:130]
    Relevant section from Anubhasya: ‘ami sarvottama vaisnava sisya karile garvvarupa bhajana nasta haya’–ei utkatabhaktabhimana tyaga kariya dainyera sahita suddhanamagrahanacara o suddhanama pracararupa gurura karya
    karile jadapratistharupa visaya-taranga prabala haite pare na.
    NB: Srila Bhaktisiddhanta doesn’t state not to accept disciples, but the opposite: to give up the mentality by which one prefers not to accept disciples.
    Got ot (see attached file), which confirmed BVK Swami 100%.
    Your servant,
    Dravida dasa
    At 03:17 PM 4/4/2007 +0200, Brahma Muhurta Das (NE BBT) wrote:
    >> One should not try to be an artificially advanced devotee,
    thinking, “I am a first-class devotee.” Such thinking should be avoided. It is best not to accept any disciples. < Madhya 7.130
    should be
    >>One should not try to be an artificially advanced devotee, thinking “I am a first-class devotee, so it is best not to accept any disciples.” Such thinking should be avoided. < Madhya 7.130
    Dravida Prabhu,
    Could you please explain why this has to be changed?

    *** *** ***

    Madhudvisa prabhu, this change is now implemented in the Vedabase, and most probably in the new editions of Caitanya-caritamrta.

    This shows that the Caitanya-caritamrta, as it has stood for 35 years, states that “become guru” refers only to siksa gurus, and ISKCON’s leadership has recognized this, hence their desire to change it.

    I personally condemn this change, because the real purport is in the line with the context, and the later change is out of context, and made just to justify the personal motivation following the current ISKCON GBC guru system.

    Prabhu, would you please give your good opinion and advice on this issue?

    1. Hare Krishna Gauranaga Prabhu

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

      Actually my opinion on anything is of no value. However I can tell you that Srila Prabhupada has absolutely prohibited the BBT from making changes to his books and this prohibition of not changing absolutely anything at all in the Caitanya-caritamrta he made so strongly and so many times that any change to Prabhupada’s books and especially to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta will make Srila Prabhupada furious. And making Prabhupada furious is not a very good thing. So the future of these ‘devotees’ who are knowingly disobeying Srila Prabhupada is very dark indeed.

      Actually none of these changes will stand. We will preserve and reprint the original books of Srila Prabhupada and it is those original books that will be passed down to the future generations of Vaisnavas and scholars. No one who has any intelligence at all is ever going to be interested in reading one of Srila Prabhupada’s books containing thousands of unauthorized changes by these fools.

      They do not get it. Yes. Actually there may be some apparent errors in Srila Prabhupada’s books and Prabhupada opens up the Srimad-Bhagavatam stating that he considers presenting this in a foreign language may be fraught with errors but still the message will be clear and the people will understand the message.

      Of course there are not errors in Prabhupada’s books in the sense that if you read them and follow the instructions you find in them you will become a pure devotee of Krishna, but there may be some apparent errors. However it is the principle of the Vaisnavas not to change anything in the books of the Acaryas. And more than that Prabhupada has forbidden the BBT editors from making changes to his books. So this changing is deliberate and direct disobedience to Srila Prabhupada and is a great disaster. These fools are all thinking they are more intelligent than Srila Prabhupada and you notice that it is the things they disagree with they are trying to change…

      As far as your statement that Caitanya-caritamrta says “become guru” only refers to siksha guru this is total rubbish Prabhu. You should actually read Caitanya-caritamrta and then you will know that Caitanya Mahaprabhu and of course Srila Prabhupada wants everyone to beocome a bona fide guru and initiate disciples and spread the Krishna consciousness movement to every town and village. But there are qualifications required for guru and those qualifications have to be met otherwise one can not become guru. So Prabhupada wants all his disciples to become qualified gurus but it is up to the disciples to become actually qualified. If they become qualified the order is there from Lord Caitanya and from Srila Prabhupada. But we see that this qualification is not that easy to attain. It requires actual surrender to Srila Prabhupada but the disciples do not want to surrender to Srila Prabhupada. This is a perfect example of that. Prabhupada so strongly forbids the BBT from making any changes to his books but they change them anyhow. So such persons who so blatantly and openly and willingly disobey the orders of Srila Prabhupada will never, never, never be able to become qualified gurus.

      You can not base your whole philosophy on one line out of one of Srila Prabhupada’s books Prabhu that you happen to like. The process is submissive aural reception. Which means we have to hear and accept from Prabhupada everything he says about everything. Not that we put special stress on one line that supports our personal philosophy and put less stress on other lines that do not support our personal philosophy. We should have no personal philosophy that we are trying to support by selectively quoting from Srila Prabhupada. But both ISKCON and the ritviks have already formed their philosophies before reading Prabhupada’s books and have already decided what they believe and simply look for quotes that support their ideas and ignore quotes that go against their ideas. So both ISKCON and the ritviks are very dishonest when it comes to preaching about the guru issue.

      So the summary is if one minutely looks at Prabhupada’s books in the mood of trying to find errors then he may be able to find some apparent errors and contradictions. However Prabhupada has ordered the BBT not to change any of his books. So the BBT has been forbidden from making any changes to Prabhupada’s books. So they can not change Prabhupada’s books. And if they do change them they are going against the direct orders of Srila Prabhupada and that will destroy everything for them. Just wait and see…

      But also there is common sense. If you could actually find anyone with common sense. Simple spelling and real actual grammar and Sanskrit errors can be corrected. And errors that Prabhupada has ordered us to correct, like for example “cattle raising” is supposed to be “cow protection” in the eighteenth chapter of Bhagavad-gita, must be corrected. To not correct these errors would also be disobeying the orders of Srila Prabhupada.

      So it requires common sense… And real actual surrender to Srila Prabhupada and it requires us to give up our own personal bias and personal opinions about what we think Prabhupada should have said, we have to submissively listen to what Prabhupada is actually saying and accept that…

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Your servant

      Madhudvisa dasa

  3. Thank you, Prabhu, for your answer.
    If someone wants to change the author’s writings, he should not use the name of the author as the author of those new writings. Isn’t it?! If I say something, and someone says something else which I didn’t say, he can not claim that I have said that. Or I will be disturbed, very disturbed.
    As you have said, Srila Prabhupada must be very disturbed and displeased because of the unauthorized changes of his books. Disobeying the order of a Guru is the first offense in chanting of the Holy Name. How can those offenders even initiate new people in the chanting of the Holy Name? What kind of initiation is that? I cannot grasp all these absurdities which are spreading out like an epidemic in the name of Hare Krishna movement.
    They must be checked, Prabhu. They should be exposed to the general people, as much as possible.
    But the real thing should follow. If ISKCON gurus and Ritviks are both corrupted, then how will Srila Prabhupada’s movement continue? Neither side will try to reform themselves. Each one will just blame another one. They will progress in a way just as in the early Christianity, and then they will fight, kill and exploit others, divide more etc. Those with the most power will rule over others. This is how I see the future of ISKCON.
    Srila Prabhupada’s original movement is already destroyed. It doesn’t exist any more. And without his movement, how the people will apply the knowledge in his books? If books are changed, then it seems easy? But if some of us continue to distribute his original books, there will be difficulties for new people to become Hare Krishnas. They may understand, but to apply this knowledge in practice, it will be difficult, or impossible. Everyone will ask, Where is the ISKCON mentioned in these books?
    I hope there will be some positive arrangements in this regard by the will of the Providence.

    1. Hare Krishna Gouranaga Prabhu

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

      Yes. We are in very dark times Prabhu. There is an English saying: “It is always darkest before the storm.” So there will be a very big storm and this bogus ISKCON will be destroyed in that storm and it will be up to the actual sincere followers of Srila Prabhupada to reestablish Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON.

      It requires the leadership of an actual pure devotee really. So as Srila Prabhupada became a pure devotee of Krishna, well actually Srila Prabhupada is nitya-siddha, he was born as a pure devotee of Krishna, but anyhow there was a big storm in the Gaudiya Math also and that was destroyed by their guru apaharada. And Srila Prabhupada reestablished the real mission of Srila Bhaktsiddhanta in the form of ISKCON. Which went on very successfully in his physical presence because he was there to guide it and to correct all the deviations and just the physical presence of Srila Prabhupada, a pure devotee of Krishna. Prabhupada said that ISKCON was only going on because he was constantly traveling all over the world to visit all his centers and disciples and in that way everyone was getting the energy to push on.

      So in reality this physically present pure devotee is actually essential to have any real world-wide preaching mission.

      As soon as the pure devotee disappears everything falls into chaos. It always does. Once the physically present pure devotee disappears there is nothing to stop the ‘putanas taking to the pulpits’ as Srila Bhaktsiddhanta so wonderfully explains it. Without the physical presence of the pure devotee acharya there is no way any spiritual movement can continue to be spiritual. Srila Bhaktsiddhanta has written this. It is not that I am making it up:

      Putana is the slayer of all infants. The baby, when he or she comes out of the mother’s womb, falls at once into the hands of the pseudo-teachers of religion. These teachers are successful in forestalling the attempts of the good preceptor whose help is never sought by the atheists of this world at the baptisms of their babies. This is ensured by the arrangements of all established churches of the world. They have been successful only in supplying watchful Putanas for effecting the spiritual destruction of persons from the moment of their birth with the cooperation of their worldly parents. No human contrivance can prevent these Putanas from obtaining possession of the pulpits. This is due to the general prevalence of atheistic disposition in the people of this world.

      The church that has the best chance of survival in this damned world is that of atheism under the convenient guise of theism. The churches have always proved the staunchest upholders of the grossest form of worldliness from which even the worst of non-ecclesiastical criminals are found to recoil.

      It is not from any deliberate opposition to the ordained clergy that these observations are made. The original purpose of the established churches of the world may not always be objectionable. But no stable religious arrangement for instructing the masses has yet been successful. The Supreme Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in pursuance of the teachings of the scriptures enjoins all absence of conventionalism for the teachers of the eternal religion. It does not follow that the mechanical adoption of the unconventional life by any person will make him a fit teacher of religion. Regulation is necessary for controlling the inherent worldliness of conditional souls.

      But no mechanical regulation has any value, even for such a purpose. The bona-fide teacher of religion is neither any product of nor the favourer of, any mechanical system. In his hands no system has likewise, the chance of degenerating into a lifeless arrangement. The mere pursuit of fixed doctrines and fixed liturgies cannot hold a person to the true spirit of doctrine or liturgy.

      The idea of an organised church in an intelligible form, indeed, marks the close of the living spiritual movement. The great ecclesiastical establishments are the dikes and the dams to retain the current that cannot be held by any such contrivances. They, indeed, indicate a desire on the part of the masses to exploit a spiritual movement for their own purpose. They also unmistakably indicate the end of the absolute and unconventional guidance of the bona-fide spiritual teacher. The people of this world understand preventive systems, they have no idea at all of the unprevented positive eternal life. Neither can there be any earthy contrivance for the permanent preservation of the life eternal on this mundane plane on the popular scale.

      Those are, therefore, greatly mistaken who are disposed to look forward to the amelioration of the worldly state in any worldly sense from the worldly success of any really spiritual movement. It is these worldly expectants who become the patrons of the mischievous race of the pseudo-teachers of religion, the Putanas, whose congenial function is to stifle the theistic disposition at the very moment of its suspected appearance. But the real theistic disposition can never be stifled by the efforts of those Putanas. The Putanas have power only over the atheist. It is a thankless but salutary task which they perform for the benefit of their unwilling victims.

      But as soon as theistic disposition proper makes its appearance in the pure cognitive essence, of the awakened soul, the Putanas are decisively silenced at the very earliest stage of their encounter with new-born Krsna. The would-be slayer is herself slain. This is the reward of the negative services that the Putanas unwittingly render to the cause of theism by strangling all hypocritical demonstrations against their own hypocrisy.

      But Putana does not at all like to receive her reward in only form which involves the total destruction of her wrong personality. King Kamsa also does not like to lose the services of the most trusted of his agents. The effective silencing of the whole race of pseudo-teachers of religion is the first clear indication of the appearance of the Absolute on the mundane plane. The bona-fide teacher of the Absolute, heralds the Advent of Krsna by his uncompromising campaign against the pseudo-teachers of religion.

      So you can see that Putana and her demonic friends can play their evil unlimitedly only until Krishna appears, then they are vanquished.

      The same Putana demons were running wild before Srila Bhaktsiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura started his preaching, but with his appearance all the Putanas were silenced. And as soon as Bhaktsiddhanta disappeared the Putanas were all back again in full force, that is until Srila Prabhupada started his preaching, then all the Putanas were silenced again. But when Prabhupada disappeared the Putanas again attacked and again gained strength and now have completely taken over both ISKCON and the ritviks also. So it is just one batch of Putanas fighting with another batch of Putanas. Both quoting Prabhupada and both using “Prabhupada said” in every second sentence they speak. Both are attracted by the fame, oppulence, power, position, strength, beauty, intelligence, determination, energy, enthusiasm, etc, of Srila Prabhupada, and Prabhupada is of course a transparent via-medium to Krishna. So what we are seeing in Prabhupada is Krishna. So they are attached to Krishna, but it is in a perverted way. They want to become Prabhupada, they want to become Krishna. So rather than wanting to surrender and serve humbly, they want to be the master.

      This is the material disease. This is maya. The idea that we can become the lord and master. Actually we can never become the lord and master. We are eternally servants of Krishna.

      Anyhow what is happening is not at all surprising for one who has read Srila Prabhupada’s books. It is expected and predicted that when the acharya disappears there will be chaos and that the Putanas will take control of the pulpits. That is just what happens when the acarya disappears…

      And the only solution to this problem is the next acharya. No matter how bitter this may sound to the ritviks that is the eternal system. That is the way it works. And Krishna is not going to change this eternal system just to keep the ritviks happy…

      So the only solution to this problem is that at least one or hopefully many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples really surrender to Srila Prabhupada and actually become pure devotees of Krishna. They will then be empowered to fix this mess.

      As soon as a pure devotee of Krishna starts preaching again then the Putanas will loose all their energy and power and they will be finished and the real mission of Srila Prabhupada, Bhaktsiddhanta and the whole param-para back to Lord Caitanya will again start to flood the world with love of God.

      There has to be a leader and the leader has to be a pure devotee of Krishna. And if he is a pure devotee of Krishna surrendered to Srila Prabhupada he has the order from Lord Caitanya and from Srila Prabhupada to preach and initiate disciples and actually one such pure devotee of Krishna can spread Krishna consciousness all over the universe. But without a living pure devotee of Krishna like this a world-wide preaching mission can not be managed and pushed on.

      Srila Prabhupada is living in his books and individually we can take advantage of Srila Prabhupada’s association in this way. And individually if we read Prabhupada’s books and surrender to him and follow his instructions we can become pure devotees of Krishna. But to manage any sort of preaching on a large scale a living pure devotee leader or acharya is required. Otherwise it is not possible to spread Krishna consciousness all over the world.

      So if Prabhupada’s movement is to succeed, and it will succeed, at least one and hopefully many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples have to actually surrender to Srila Prabhupada and make Prabhupada’s mission their mission in life and become pure devotees of Krishna and become guru and preach….

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

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