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The myth about “softening” Śrīla Prabhupāda’s message

The revised editions have been Bowdlerized—that is, softened to make them socially more acceptable.

The opposite is true. If anything, the revised editions have been “anti-Bowdlerized.”

To “Bowdlerize” a work is to expurgate it by removing or changing words or passages one consideres vulgar or objectionable. In 1818 one Dr. Thomas Bowdler published an edition of Shakespeare “in which those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read in a family.” And from his name we get the word.

The second edition of the Gita in fact restores several words and passages the original editor changed or omitted, apparently out of concern for the sensibilities of the modern reader.

Examples:

For 10.42 Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote, "There is a Mission that regularly propounds that worship of any demigod will lead one to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or the supreme goal." In the first edition this was dropped, in the second restored.

For 11.52 he wrote, “A foolish person may deride Him, thinking Him an ordinary person, and may offer respect not to Him but to the impersonal ‘something’ within Him, but these are all nonsensical postures.” First edition, omitted; second edition, restored.

For 10.21 and 15.12 he wrote about the moon’s being one of the stars. First edition, omitted; second edition, restored. In 10.21 the restoration amounts to nearly a paragraph. (The striking out from Easy Journey to Other Planets of similar talk about the moon is what Śrīla Prabhupāda so strongly objected to in the conversation called “Rascal Editors.”)

The new editions restore Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words, full force.


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