Śrīla Prabhupāda heard and lectured from a verse and said nothing about a need for further editing


When Śrīla Prabhupāda heard a verse read in class (and maybe even commented on it) and said nothing about a need for further editing, doesn't that prove that the verse was perfectly good as published and should never have been revised? Isn't that just an obvious open-and-shut case?



When Śrīla Prabhupāda was present, the definite answer was no.


We know that when Srila Prabhupada heard, in the translation of Bhagavad-gita 18.44, that one occupation of a vaisya is "cattle raising" he objected. Cattle raising, he said, means growing and killing. But did Srila Prabhupada object as soon as he heard it?

On June 11, 1974, while speaking in Paris with one Monsieur Misman, Srila Prabhupada hears the verse with "cattle raising" and raises no objection. On July 2 of the same year, while speaking with some scientists, again Srila Prabhupada hears "cattle raising" and says nothing about it.

Not until a year later, on July 4, 1975, do we hear Srila Prabhupada say, "Cow protection. It has to be corrected. It is go-raksya, go. They take it [as] 'cattle-raising.' I think Hayagriva has translated like this."

And a year later: "One thing immediately inform Ramesvara. In the Bhagavad-gita yesterday they have edited "cattle-raising." But not cattle-raising. Cattle-raising means to grow and killing. That is the.... Means the rascals, they have edited. . . . It is mistranslation. It is go-raksya, 'giving protection to the cows." Especially mentioned, go-raksya, not otherwise."

More evidence:
Śrīla Prabhupāda many times gave class from the verses of the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. He heard the verses read. He said nothing to indicate any need for further revision. Yet when Jayadvaita Swami personally undertook to revise many of those same verses, Śrīla Prabhupāda gave his blanket approval.
(All the examples here are confirmed not only by the Folio VedaBase but also by widely available audio recordings.)
  • Bhagavatam 1.2.2  (verse read, May 26, 1974)
  • Bhagavatam 1.2.3  (verse read,May 27, 1974)
  • Bhagavatam 1.2.4  (verse read, May 28, 1974)
  • Bhagavatam 1.2.14 (verse read, August 17, 1972)
  • Bhagavatam 1.2.15 (verse read, August 18, 1972)
  • Bhagavatam 1.2.18 (verse read, September 26, 1974)
  • Bhagavatam 1.2.22 (verse read, August 25, 1972)
  • Bhagavatam 1.2.23 (verse read, November 3, 1972)
  • Bhagavatam 1.2.25 (verse read, August 28, 1972)
Enough examples?
For all those classes, the edition used was from 1972. Jayadvaita Swami re-edited them all for the second edition, published in 1976.
A full list of the verses Jayadvaita Swami edited for the first two chapters is online for you to see, with the text of the first edition and second edition and the original Indian edition shown side by side. See Bhagavatam Revisions Examined.
(At the top of that page, by the way, is a set of relevant parallels between those chapters and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is.)
As Srutakirti Prabhu wrote in his memoir What Is the Difficulty? (p. 114), Śrīla Prabhupāda “did not read [his books] with the mind of an author looking for editing mistakes or grammatical errors.”
But when an editor he trusted undertook to revise the First Canto of the Bhagavatam (in the same way and for the same reasons that the same editor revised Bhagavad-gita As It Is), Śrīla Prabhupāda entirely approved.
Some devotees have suggested: When Śrīla Prabhupāda heard a verse and let it pass without objection, and sometimes even commented on it, the translation was permanently sealed, making revision of it out of the question.
The history of what Śrīla Prabhupāda did when physically with us demonstrates that the opposite is true: There were translations he had read and lectured on that Jayadvaita Swami later revised, and His Divine Grace fully approved.