After Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance, the BBT has published revised editions of the Kṛṣṇa book, Śrī Īśopaniṣad, Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, The Nectar of Devotion, and Bhagavad-gītā As It Is. In these editions, the editors, after carefully consulting original tapes, manuscripts, and transcripts, restored material the previous editions had lost, obscured, or distorted.
After Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance, the BBT has published revised editions of the Kṛṣṇa book, Śrī Īśopaniṣad, Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, The Nectar of Devotion, and Bhagavad-gītā As It Is.
In these editions, the editors, after carefully consulting original tapes, manuscripts, and transcripts, restored material the previous editions had lost, obscured, or distorted.
Many devotees ask, “Did Śrīla Prabhupāda authorize such revisions?” “Why were the revisions necessary?” “Didn’t Prabhupāda forbid his disciples to change his books?” “Didn’t Śrīla Prabhupāda declare, ‘Don’t change my words!’?” This paper is meant to address these concerns.
First, some historical perspective.
Śrīla Prabhupāda and His Editors
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s two main English editors for his books were Hayagrīva Prabhu and Jayādvaita Swami. Historically, Hayagrīva Prabhu was Śrīla Prabhupāda’s first editor. As found in Śrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta (Volume 2, page 138), here is the history—from July 1966—of how Hayagrīva got started:
One morning Prabhupāda told Howard that he needed help in spreading the philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Howard wanted to help, so he offered to type the Swami’s manuscripts of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
Howard: The first words of the first verse read, “O the King.” And naturally I wondered whether “O” was the king’s name and “the king” stood in apposition. After some time I figured out that “O king” was intended instead. I didn’t make the correction without his [Prabhupāda’s] permission. “Yes,” he said, “change it then.” I began to point out a few changes and inform him that if he wanted I could make corrections, that I had a master’s in English and taught last year at Ohio State. “Oh, yes,” Swamiji said. “Do it. Put it nicely.”
So, under the direct instruction of Śrīla Prabhupāda, Howard Wheeler, soon Hayagrīva Dasa, began his editing career. That means that, with Śrīla Prabhupāda’s blessings, he changed Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words, fixing the grammar, punctuation, and spelling and making the text read smoothly for modern English-speaking Westerners. Śrīla Prabhupāda did not review every change Hayagrīva made. Instead, he trusted Hayagrīva’s good judgment.
And Hayagrīva didn’t just work on new manuscripts. With Prabhupāda’s blessings he also went back and revised the already-published three volumes of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, First Canto. Prabhupāda wanted those books also to be “put nicely.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda entrusted Hayagrīva with his Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and he also trusted Jayādvaita Swami (then Dāsa) when Jayādvaita Swami later made some revisions to Hayagrīva’s work. Here is a remembrance from Jayādvaita Swami:
The second edition of First Canto appeared during Śrīla Prabhupāda’s physical presence. Before it came out, I personally brought to him my revisions of the verses for the first one or two chapters. He at once had me begin to read them aloud in his presence, as he listened with attention.
After I had read the first few verses, he interrupted and asked me: “So, what have you done?” I replied that I had revised the verses to make them closer to what he himself had originally said. Śrīla Prabhupāda responded, “What I have said?” I replied yes. His Divine Grace then said, “Then it is all right.” And that was that. The work was approved.
Śrīla Prabhupāda later wrote to Rādhāvallabha Dāsa (7 September 1976): “Concerning the editing of Jayādvaita Prabhu, whatever he does is approved by me. I have confidence in him.”
Thus, both orally and in writing, Śrīla Prabhupāda approved Jayādvaita Swami’s revisions of the already published First Canto. Moreover, he approved them not by sitting down and going over every change, but by entrusting his editor disciple with the service, having confidence in his intelligence, care, and devotion. This confidence continued up to the day Śrīla Prabhupāda disappeared.
Bhagavad-gītā As It Is was an extremely difficult manuscript for Hayagrīva Prabhu to edit, circa 1967–69. The transcript itself was flawed because the typists scrambled much of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Sanskrit dictation and misunderstood some of the English. The Sanskrit editors were inexpert, and Hayagrīva himself was unable to resolve many questions he had on the text. Still, it had to be printed right away; Prabhupāda wanted it.
The Macmillan Gītā was great. It helped make me and thousands of others into devotees, and it provided countless hours of instruction and realization. But it was a vast text produced under trying conditions by inexperienced devotees, and so it had a lot of mistakes. It was not entirely faithful to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s original words and meaning. The question is: After Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance, should the book have been left as it was, or should the flaws have been fixed? And if so, by whom?
Well, if anyone was going to perform the delicate task of correcting the Gītā, it was the editor who stayed with Śrīla Prabhupāda till the end, Jayādvaita Swami. (“I have confidence in him.”)
Were his corrections justified? Let’s look at some of the words of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s that Jayādvaita Swami restored, and you decide whether this restoration was a great offense against Prabhupāda or a service to him and to all the readers of the Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, now and in the future, in all the languages of the world.
I’ll give only a few examples, following the logic of “testing one grain of rice to see if the whole pot is cooked.”
Some Examples of Restorations to Bhagavad-gītā As It Is
The first example appears in Chapter 8, Text 11, in the first paragraph of the purport. Some uninformed people allege that this is an instance of making concessions to the Māyāvādīs, jñānīs, and yogīs by introducing ṣaṭ-cakra-yoga from out of the blue. You decide whether this charge is justified or specious. (I’ve left the typographical errors in the original transcript so you can see exactly what the original editors were dealing with, and I’ve placed restored text in boldface where helpful.)
Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, 8.11 purport, paragraph 1
1972 Macmillan edition:
Lord Kṛṣṇa explains that Brahman, although one without a second, . . .
1983 BBT edition:
Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa has recommended to Arjuna the practice of ṣaṭ-cakra-yoga, in which one places the air of life between the eyebrows. Taking it for granted that Arjuna might not know how to practice ṣaṭ-cakra-yoga, the Lord explains the process in the following verses. The Lord says that Brahman, although one without a second, . . .
Lord Shri K. has recommended Arjuna practice of yoga (satijacaw) to put the air of life between the two eeybrows. Taking it for accpetance that Arjuna might not be knowing the process how to practice satojacaw yoga, Lord is trying to explain as far as possinble the porcess in the following words. He says that Brahama although one without second . . .
Now, besides the original editor’s serious omission of a good piece of English text, one of the things that obviously happened here is that the typist couldn’t understand the words ṣaṭ-cakrayoga on the tape; so he typed in “satijacaw” and “satojacaw.”
In 1968–69 the Sanskrit editors couldn’t check the commentated Gītā Prabhupāda was referring to while writing his purports, so they just crossed out the mysterious words. In 1983, however, the editors could check the original. So they restored ṣaṭ-cakra-yoga, here and also in the previous purport, where, among other words, the following sentence had been omitted: “The practice of ṣaṭ-cakra-yoga, involving meditation on the six cakras, is suggested here.”
The next change has brought the charge that Jayādvaita Swami is trying to hide Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instruction that one need not read many books.
BG 10.34, synonyms, translation, and purport
1972 Macmillan edition:
TRANSLATION: I am fame, fortune, speech, memory, intelligence, faithfulness and patience.
PURPORT (2nd paragraph): The six opulences listed are considered to be feminine. If a woman possesses all of them or some of them she becomes glorious. Sanskrit is a perfect language and is therefore very glorious. After studying, if one can remember the subject matter, he is gifted with good memory, or smṛti. One need not read many books on different subject matters; the ability to remember a few and quote them when necessary is another opulence.
1983 BBT edition:
TRANSLATION: Among women I am fame, fortune, fine speech, memory, intelligence, steadfastness and patience.
PURPORT: The seven opulences listed—fame, fortune, fine speech, memory, intelligence, steadfastness and patience—are considered feminine. If a person possesses all of them or some of them he becomes glorious. If a man is famous as a righteous man, that makes him glorious. Sanskrit is a perfect language and is therefore very glorious. If after studying one can remember a subject matter, he is gifted with a good memory, or smṛti. And the ability not only to read many books on different subject matters but to understand them and apply them when necessary is intelligence (medhā), another opulence.
TRANSLATION: Amongst the women I am Giti sri and boni and memory, intelligence, firmness and excuse all.
PURPORT: Six kinds of opulences like fame, beauty, good speech, memory, remembrance, endurance, excuse all— these are considered sevomen. All these six kinds of opulences are considered feminine, so if one produces all of them or some of them he becomes glorious. If one is famous as a righteous man that makes a man glorious. The perfect language is the Sanskrit language. Therefore this language is also very glorious. Remembrance, after learning if one can produce the result of learning that is called smirtir. Medha, memory, not only to read many books on many subject matter, but to keep them in the memory and produce them when necessary, that is also another opulence.
There are several items to consider in this text. First is the mistake, in the synonyms and translation, of rendering dhṛtiḥ as “faithfulness.” Śrīla Prabhupāda had “firmness”— not the same thing as faithfulness.
The old edition goofs by saying about the seven opulences, “If a woman possesses all of them or some of them she becomes glorious” instead of, as Śrīla Prabhupāda had it, “If a person [anyone] possesses all of them or some of them he becomes glorious.”
In this connection, too, we have the old verse and purport saying that a faithful woman (wife) is glorious. This is of course true—but it has nothing to do with what Śrīla Prabhupāda is saying here! Dhṛti means firmness or steadfastness. Though it’s a feminine quality, that doesn’t mean only women can possess it—it’s also one of the kṣatriya qualities mentioned in the Eighteenth Chapter. So in this verse, as Śrīla Prabhupāda originally rendered it, Kṛṣṇa isn’t identifying Himself with “faithfulness,” nor in the purport is Śrīla Prabhupāda saying a faithful woman is glorious.
Then there are the obvious omissions—the list at the beginning of the paragraph and the sentence “If a man is famous as a righteous man, that makes him glorious.”
And finally we have the last sentence of the Macmillan purport—an encouragement not to read many books but to know a few thoroughly and quote them. A fine sentiment (when applied to Prabhupāda’s books), but why should Prabhupāda’s actual words and meaning be obliterated in favor of this little lesson from the first editor? Why cast away Prabhupāda’s painstakingly rendered words and immortalize this seriously defective rendering of the purport?
Has Jayādvaita Swami hidden that one need not read many books, or has he restored Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words and meaning? You decide.
By the way, in light of the last example, it’s interesting to note that the Macmillan edition omits the following critical sentence in the purport to 4.34: “Nor by independent study of books of knowledge can one progress in spiritual life.” (The manuscript said, “Neither by self study of the books of knowledge can help one progress in spiritual life.”)
The entire first paragraph of the purport to 9.26, chock full of essential nectarean instructions from Śrīla Prabhupāda, is now again part of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is. It was there in the 1968 abridged Macmillan Gita, was somehow omitted in the Macmillan unabridged version, and was then mercifully restored by Jayādvaita Swami in the revised BBT edition.
The next example concerns 18.31 and 18.32. Bhagavad-gītā 18.31 describes intelligence in the mode of passion, and 18.32 describes intelligence in the mode of ignorance. Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote a purport to 18.32 but not 18.31. Somehow, the original editor took the purport to 18.32 and appended it to 18.31. Since Prabhupāda’s purport described intelligence in ignorance, the original editor substituted “passion” for “ignorance” throughout.
BG 18.31 and 32 purport
Macmillan 18.31, purport
Intelligence in the mode of passion is always working perversely. It accepts religions which are not actually religions and rejects actual religion. All views and activities are misguided. Men of passionate intelligence understand a great soul to be a common man and accept a common man as a great soul. They think truth to be untruth and accept untruth as truth. In all activities they simply take the wrong path; therefore their intelligence is in the mode of passion.
1983 BBT edition 18.32, purport
Intelligence in the mode of ignorance is always working the opposite of the way it should. It accepts religions which are not actually religions and rejects actual religion. Men in ignorance understand a great soul to be a common man and accept a common man as a great soul. They think truth to be untruth and accept untruth as truth. In all activities they simply take the wrong path; therefore their intelligence is in the mode of ignorance.
18.32 purport Intelligence in the mode of ignorance is always going on the opposite side. That is, such intelligence accept religions which is not actually religion and they accept non-religion which is actually religion. All their activities are on the direction. They understand a great soul as a common man and accepts a common man as a great soul. They accept truth as untruth and accept untruth as truth. In all activities they simply accept the opposite direction therefore their intelligence is supposed to be in the mode of ignorance.
The placement of this purport under 18.31 and the change of “ignorance” to “passion” constitute a serious editorial failure. Knowing the facts surrounding this purport, would anyone now feel justified in presenting the blunder as “Prabhupāda’s words”?
We could provide many more examples, some of great substance—the restoration of dozens and dozens of Sanskrit quotes in the purports, of the Gīta-māhātmya verses in the Introduction, of the whole Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra to the purports of 8.6, 8.13, 8.14, and 8.19, of the proper translations and purports for 8.19-20, and of much more. (See Part 5, Jayādvaita Swami’s letter to Amogha Līlā Dāsa, to find out about other restorations.)
The point here is not to analyze every restoration Jayādvaita Swami made. That’s neither possible here nor necessary. The point is to show that he was doing what he was supposed to do. He was performing his prescribed duty as Śrīla Prabhupāda’s editor, just as he had done in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s physical presence. With the help of other senior and learned devotees, such as Ravīndra Svarūpa Prabhu, Garuḍa Prabhu, and Gopīparāṇadhana Prabhu, he performed a difficult but necessary service for Śrīla Prabhupāda, for all of ISKCON, and for all readers of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is.
Restorations by Draviḍa Dāsa
As for myself, I began as a proofreader of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books and Back to Godhead magazine in 1973 and started substantial editing in 1975. That year, under the guidance of Jayādvaita Swami, I edited several chapters of the Fifth Canto and the Caitanya-caritāmṛta during the famous seventeen-books-in-two-months production marathon. So for the last twenty- three years or so, except for a year spent with the Bhaktivedanta Institute at Śrīla Prabhupāda’s direct request, I’ve been steadily editing BBT books or BTG magazine.
I will ever believe that if I could show Śrīla Prabhupāda the following restorative changes I’ve made to his books, he would approve.
My first examples are from Śrī Īśopaniṣad. The restored text is in boldface.
Śrī Īśopaniṣad, Mantra 2, end of purport
Even though such God-centered activities may be half-finished, they are still good for the executor because they will guarantee him a human form in his next birth. In this way one can have another chance to improve his position on the path of liberation.
Even though such God-centered activities may be half-finished, they are still good for the executor, because they will guarantee him a human form in his next birth. In this way one can have another chance to improve his position on the path of liberation.
How one can execute God-centered activities is elaborately explained in the Bhaktirasāmṛta- sindhu, by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. We have rendered this book into English as The Nectar of Devotion. We recommend this valuable book to all who are interested in performing their activities in the spirit of Śrī Īśopaniṣad.
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s text from 1960 BTG
Such God centered activities even though half finished still it is good for the executor because that will guarantee one at least human form of life in the next birth so that he gets another chance of improving his position on the path of liberation.
How one can execute God centered activities is elaborately explained in the Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu by Srila Rupa Goswami and rendered into English by us under the title of Science of Devotional Service of the Lord. We shall recommend this valuable book to all who are interested to guide their activities in the spirit of Ishopanishad.
Mantra 8, purport, 2nd paragraph
In the Brahma-saṁhitā there is a similar description of the Supreme Lord. He is described there as sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha, which means that He is the eternal form fully representing transcendental existence, knowledge, and bliss. The Vedic literatures state clearly . . .
In the Brahma-saṁhitā there is a similar description of the Supreme Lord. He is described there as sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha, which means that He is the eternal form fully representing transcendental existence, knowledge and bliss. As such, He does not require a separate body or mind, as we do in material existence. The Vedic literatures state clearly . . .
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s 1960 BTG
In the Brahma Samhita there is a similar description of the body of the Supreme Lord. He is described there as the Sachidananda Vigraha. This means that He is the eternal Form fully representing transcendental existence, bliss and knowledge. He does not require a separate body or mind like us in the material existence. The Vedic literatures distinguish him clearly . . .
Mantra 12, purport, 4th paragraph
Since the living being is materially entangled, he has to be relieved from material bondage entirely, to attain permanent relief on the spiritual plane, where eternal bliss, life, and knowledge exist. It is also stated in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.23) that the worshipers of the demigods can go to the planets of the demigods.
Since the living being is materially entangled, he has to be relieved from material bondage entirely to attain permanent relief on the spiritual plane, where eternal bliss, life and knowledge exist. Śrī Īśopaniṣad therefore instructs that we should not seek temporary relief of our difficulties by worshiping the dependent demigods, who can bestow only temporary benefit. Rather, we must worship the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, who is all-attractive and who can bestow upon us complete freedom from material bondage by taking us back home, back to Godhead.
It is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.23) that the worshipers of the demigods can go to the planets of the demigods.
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s 1960 BTG
The living being is in the material entanglement and he has got to be relieved from the material bondage for permanent relief in the spiritual plane where eternal bliss, life and knowledge exist. The Ishopanishad therefore directs us that we should not be busy for a temporary relief by worshipping the dependent demigods who can bestow upon us a temporary benefit. But we must worship the Absolute Personality of Godhead Kṛṣṇa Who is all attractive and can bestow upon us complete relief from the material bondage by going back to home back to Godhead.
In the Bhagwat Geeta it is said that the worshippers of the demigods can go up to the planets of the respective demigods.
The next example comes from my favorite chapter of the Kṛṣṇa book—Chapter 21, “The Gopīs Attracted by the Flute.”
Kṛṣṇa was very pleased with the atmosphere of the forest, where flowers bloomed and bees and drones hummed very jubilantly.
With the arrival of the beautiful autumn season, the waters in the lakes and rivers became as clear as crystal and filled with fragrant lotus flowers, and breezes blew very pleasantly. At that time, Kṛṣṇa entered the forest of Vṛndāvana with the cows and cowherd boys. Kṛṣṇa was very pleased with the atmosphere of the forest, where flowers bloomed and bees and drones hummed very jubilantly.
The previous editors omitted the first two sentences, which come right from the original tapes. These are Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words, a nectarean translation of the first two verses of Śrīmad- Bhāgavatam 10.21. Don’t you think Prabhupāda would want them restored?
I’ll wind up with a few examples from the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Much of this book was produced at breakneck speed in 1975, during the seventeen-books-in-two-months marathon. Harikeśa Swami remembers, “Prabhupāda was well aware that the CC was a rush job and there were tons of mistakes. It was understood from the start (when we were in LA starting the marathon) that the book would be revised in a later reprint.”
You judge whether the following errors should have been left uncorrected forever:
Madhya 19.157, purport
If one thinks that there are many pseudo devotees or nondevotees in the Kṛṣṇa Consciousness Society, one can keep direct company with the spiritual master, and if there is any doubt, one should consult the spiritual master.
Even if one thinks that there are many pseudo devotees or nondevotees in the Kṛṣṇa Consciousness Society, still one should stick to the Society; if one thinks the Society’s members are not pure devotees, one can keep direct company with the spiritual master, and if there is any doubt, one should consult the spiritual master.
If one thinks in the Society there are many so-called devotees or there are so many nondevotees,
still one should stick to the Society, and if one thinks the Society members are not pure devotees, he can directly keep company or in touch with the spiritual master. If there is any doubt he should consult the spiritual master.
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instruction contained in the omitted material is essential. By what logic should the law books for the next ten thousand years omit it?
Madhya 9.362 translation
In this age of Kali, there are no genuine religious principles. There are only the Vaiṣṇava devotees and the Vaiṣṇava devotional scriptures. This is the sum and substance of everything.
In this Age of Kali there are no genuine religious principles other than those established by Vaiṣṇava devotees and the Vaiṣṇava scriptures. This is the sum and substance of everything.
In this age of Kali there is no other genuine principle of religion except Vaisnava devotee and the Vaisnava scripture, devotional books. This is the sum and substance of everything.
So, there are no genuine religious principles in this age, and the Vaiṣṇava devotees and Vaiṣṇava scriptures have nothing to do with genuine religious principles. Are we actually going to have devotees quoting this translation to prove that? Without the revised edition of the Caitanyacaritāmṛta, they would be perfectly justified in doing so. You decide if I’ve offended Prabhupāda by restoring the translation of this verse, whose meaning Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself says is marma, the sum and substance of everything!
Madhya 8.257 purport
They [the demigod worshipers] at least retain their individuality in order to enjoy life, but the impersonalists, who try to lose their individuality, also love both material and spiritual pleasure. The stone is immovable and has neither material nor spiritual activity.
They at least retain their individuality in order to enjoy life. But the impersonalists, who try to lose their individuality, also lose both material and spiritual pleasure. The last destination of the Buddhist philosophers is to become just like a stone, which is immovable and has neither material nor spiritual activity.
They at least keep their individuality to enjoy life. But the impersonalists, by stopping their individuality, lose all kinds of pleasure, either material or spiritual. The Buddhist philosophers’ last destination is to become just like stone. It is immovable, without any activity, whether material or spiritual.
In the mad dash to edit mountains of text in two months, “lose” became “love,” the proofreader missed it, and a line of manuscript dropped out of sight. And so this passage became totally meaningless. Some people say it should have stayed that way. We disagree.
And finally, here’s my favorite:
Mad 13.137 purport
[nothing; existing purport belongs to 138]
The mind’s activities are thinking, feeling and willing, by which the mind accepts materially favorable things and rejects the unfavorable. This is the consciousness of people in general. But when one’s mind does not accept and reject but simply becomes fixed on the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, then one’s mind becomes as good as Vṛndāvana. Wherever Kṛṣṇa is, there also are Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, the gopīs, the cowherd boys and all the other inhabitants of Vṛndāvana. Thus as soon as one fixes Kṛṣṇa in his mind, his mind becomes identical with Vṛndāvana. In other words, when one’s mind is completely free from all material desires and is engaged only in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then one always lives in Vṛndāvana, and nowhere else.
Who would seriously claim that this jewellike purport should be consigned to oblivion? There are dozens and dozens of similar restorations in the 1996 Caitanya-caritāmṛta.
I appeal to all intelligent and sincere devotees to trust, support, and relish the latest BBT editions of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, with all their valuable corrections and restorations.
For those who still prefer the previous editions, I have this one word of caution: You’re accepting a lot of “non-Prabhupāda” as Prabhupāda and missing a lot of what Śrīla Prabhupāda intended those books to say.
Like many devotees, I treasure my Macmillan Gītā. It’s redolent with the old blissful days of early ISKCON. Especially for anyone who grew up in devotional service reading it, the Macmillan Gītā is a priceless memento. I wouldn’t trade mine for anything.
But when I want to read what Prabhupāda actually said, I turn to the 1983 edition of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is. The simple fact is that it conveys Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words and meaning more accurately and more faithfully. Likewise with the 1982 Nectar of Devotion, the 1993 Īśopaniṣad, the 1996 Kṛṣṇa book, and the 1996 Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Because when Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books are made closer to what Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “Then it is all right.” In fact, it’s better than all right. The closer to Śrīla Prabhupāda, the better.