Editing: Whom Did Śrīla Prabhupāda Trust?

By: 
Dravida dasa

The revisions for the Second Edition of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is were done by Jayādvaita Swami. Jayādvaita Swami had served in Kṛṣṇa conscious book production for nearly ten years during  Śrīla Prabhupāda’s physical presence. He served first as a typist (one of his early engagements was to retype the entire edited manuscript of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is). Later he served as a transcriber (he transcribed much of the Kṛṣṇa book). He then went on to typesetting, proofreading, and editing. He served as an editor for Śrīla Prabhupāda until Śrīla Prabhupāda’s very last days on earth. 

Critics of the second edition of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is are essentially criticizing Jayādvaita Swami. Implicitly or explicitly, they are saying he edited recklessly, heedlessly, without authority. Who does he think he is, to so arrogantly change Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words?

Yet while Śrīla Prabhupāda was physically present, “changing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words”—  that is, editing—was Jayādvaita Swami’s prescribed duty. Śrīla Prabhupāda trusted him to do it well. 

We know of no instance in which Śrīla Prabhupāda expressed anything other than confidence, pleasure, and satisfaction concerning Jayādvaita Swami’s editing. Devāmṛta Swami remembers: 
 
A year or so later [1976] I was the production manager of the BBT, as well as final copy editor. One day I noticed a pile of manuscript pages on my desk. They turned out to be a mass of Bhāgavatam revisions, for a corrected version of the entire First Canto. Jayādvaita had painstakingly gone through the whole canto and carefully compiled many editing changes for an upcoming reprint.
 
Submitting the whole batch to Śrīla Prabhupāda, he expected, as did all of us, that Prabhupāda would personally comb through all the suggested revisions and accept or reject each one. After all, this was the Bhāgavatam, the lawbook for thousands of years to come. But Prabhupāda, after acknowledging the whole heap of revisions to his synonyms, translations, and purports, merely returned the mass. Accompanying it was a letter from him saying: “Concerning the editing of Jayādvaita Prabhu, whatever he does is approved by me. I have confidence in him.” 
 
After Śrīla Prabhupāda left, Jayādvaita Swami simply continued his prescribed duty—finding and correcting errors, guarding against needless changes, and making sure that Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books came as close as possible to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s intended meaning and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s original words. 
 
Did Śrīla Prabhupāda trust Jayādvaita Swami? See for yourself. On 10 February 1970, Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote him: 
 
It is very much encouraging to see you are a good and scrutinizing editor. May Krishna bless you. 
 
In that same letter, in response to questions on how to handle some editing for The Nectar of Devotion, Śrīla Prabhupāda told him: 
 
. . . do it at your best discretion as Kṛṣṇa will dictate from within you. I can rely on you. 
 
Here is another remembrance from Devāmṛta Swami:  
 
Śrīla Prabhupāda was touring the BBT in 1975, to turn up the heat in the famous book production marathon. He came into my office and I explained to him my service as copy editor—doing the final checks on type-composed copy. Next he walked into Jayādvaita dāsa brahmacārī’s office. Sitting down on the chaddar of his chief English editor, he declared, “Jayādvaita means paramparā.” 
 
On 7 September 1976, Śrīla Prabhupāda sent Rādhāvallabha Dasa this unequivocal endorsement of Jayādvaita Swami’s work: 
 
Concerning the editing of Jayādvaita Prabhu, whatever he does is approved by me. I have confidence in him. 
 
Even in the famous conversation about “rascal editors,” in which Śrīla Prabhupāda blasted BBT editors and managers for making whimsical changes in his books, Jayādvaita Swami emerged not only unscathed, but even endorsed by Śrīla Prabhupāda as a suitable person to guard editorial integrity. 
 
In that conversation, in Vṛndāvana on 22 June 1977, Yaśodānandana Swami said to Śrīla Prabhupāda: 
 
They [the BBT editors] were trying to make better English, but sometimes, to make better English, I think they were making philosophical mistakes also. There is no so much need of making so much better English. Your English is sufficient. It is very clear, very simple. We have caught over 125 changes. They’re changing so many things. We are wondering if this is necessary. I will show you today. I have kept the book. 
 
In the course of the discussion, in which Śrīla Prabhupāda blasts “rascal editors” left and right, Tamāl Krishna Goswami mentions: 
 
Your original work that you’re doing now, that is edited by Jayādvaita. That’s the first editing. 
 
And Śrīla Prabhupāda replies:
 
He is good. 
 
Svarūpa Dāmodara Dāsa (now Swami) was also taking part in the discussion, and at one point Tamāl Krishna Goswami repeats a suggestion from Svarūpa Dāmodara that Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books be checked and, if need be, revised before being reprinted. Tamāl Krishna Goswami says: 
 
I think Svarūpa Dāmodara’s point, that all the books should now be checked before they’re reprinted again.

. . . And they have to be checked not by some so-called learned Sanskrit man but by a learned devotee. Just like you always favored Jayādvaita because his Kṛṣṇa consciousness . . .
 

And Śrīla Prabhupāda responds approvingly: 
 
Jayādvaita, Satsvarūpa . . . 
 
To shoot down Jayādvaita Swami, critics would have to argue, we suppose, that he used to be good but sometime after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s departure went bad. 
 
Yet they have little to argue from. Since Śrīla Prabhupāda’s departure, Jayādvaita Swami has taken part in no philosophical heresies (and has spoken out against several), he has maintained his spiritual vows, he has served Śrīla Prabhupāda steadily. He has simply continued his prescribed duties. 
 
Which leaves perhaps only one argument left: 
 
We know he’s gone bad, because he changed the Gītā.
 
And what’s wrong with the Gītā? 
 
It’s bad, because it was changed by Jayādvaita Swami. 
 
The famous “circular argument”: 
 
A is so because of B. B is so because of A. 
 
Then what are we left with? This: 
 
Critics: You can’t trust Jayādvaita Swami 
Śrīla Prabhupāda: I have confidence in him. 
 
Critics: Jayādvaita Swami is unreliable. 
Śrīla Prabhupāda [to Jayādvaita Swami]: Kṛṣṇa will dictate from within you. I can rely on  you. 
 
Critics: Jayādvaita Swami is bad. 
Śrīla Prabhupāda: He is good. 
 
Critics: His editing is unauthorized. 
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Whatever he does is approved by me.  
 
So you have a choice. You can listen to the critics, who supposedly “speak for Prabhupāda.” 
 
Or you can listen to Śrīla Prabhupāda himself. Most likely you’ll find this an easy choice. And what about the other active BBT English editor, Draviḍa Dāsa? Śrīla Prabhupāda had confidence in Jayādvaita Swami, and Jayādvaita Swami has full confidence in Draviḍa. Others may choose to trust neither. May they read the old editions—errors and all—and be happy.