Jayadvaita Maharaja: I never got an explicit word from Srila Prabhupada to do this work at an explicit time.
Govinda dasi: Yes, at an explicit time, but not post-disappearance. Anyway, so the authority issue is there. And I think, Maharaja, that if you had simply changed some typos, some simple verse errors, and switched-around purports like you pointed out, and some obvious glaring things, I don’t think anyone would have raised this war cry at all. I think everyone would have said, “No problem.” But if you go over these Gitas, you’ll see that every page is full of changes from this manuscript that you describe. And the end result is choppy, it’s not a flow like what Srila Prabhupada had here. And we can’t think that Hayagriva did this. I think that to think that Hayagriva did these Gitas is not a correct view. Srila Prabhupada did these Gitas, and he did them through Hayagriva’s hand. And just like I didn’t do these paintings; I was just Srila Prabhupada’s hand. These are all things…even Jadurani, he used to say, “This girl didn’t know how to paint; now look at her artwork.” She became a great artist by the Supersoul within the heart, and by Guru’s guidance. Extraordinary things did take place.
So those are my preliminary points, but the main point. The main point, and this is the bottom line point is: it is not a question of how you changed the Gita. It is not a question of your editing skills, or your personal abilities, which no one questions. You’re an excellent writer, you can translate many books and put out many Gosvami literatures, and put ‘adapted by Jayadvaita Swami,’ and nobody will complain. This is not the issue. The issue is that post-disappearance, Srila Prabhupada’s books should not have been touched. Posthumous editing, and post-disappearance editing in the case of an acarya, is not accepted in the Eastern tradition or in the Western tradition. And this is the underlying problem.
So it’s not… I think a lot of the discussions here have been based on the fact that you’re saying that according to this manuscript, you’re adding some things, changing some things, and correcting some things. And certainly that’s a valid point of view, but it’s missing something because it’s not the real issue that I’m addressing, or that I think a lot of these devotees are trying to address. The real issue is, you can’t change an author’s book once he signs his name to it, nor a painting. It ceases to be his work. Once Srila Prabhupada signed this book in 1972, the signature is in here. This is a personal signature, not a corporate signature, that’s different. Srila Prabhupada signed this May 12, 1971. He signed this one sometime before that, in 1968. So this one were already signed. This Gita that has been presented, the most recent abridged version, has Srila Prabhupada’s same signature in here, May 12, 1971. But actually, he didn’t sign this version [the new edited one]. He signed this one [the original edition], and this is the issue that we need to address. This is the issue that has to be addressed. One of the reasons is the ramifications, which are obvious. Ten years from now, somebody may say, “We don’t like this one [Jayadvaita’s edition], we think we can improve on it, we have the manuscript, and we can change it again.” And another twenty years from now, somebody else may do the same thing. And if you change a book one percent every year, in a hundred years what do you have? A hundred-percent different book. And that can happen: it’s happened to the Bible and it’s happened to other texts. And our concern is that we don’t want that to happen to Srila Prabhupada’s books.
So, once an author has left… had you signed this yourself, that would be a different story. But putting Srila Prabhupada’s signature on this, as if it were his entirely, is not acceptable either from the scholarly point of view or from the devotee point of view. Of course, we’re more concerned with the devotee point of view. The scholars have their things to say also. I’ve got something from Dr. Holly Elgrin, she’s a PhD in anthropology and a philologist. She sent me information regarding bowdlerizing and the fact that bowdlerizing generally does not have a good connotation. It generally has a negative connotation. She says she can send me more stuff tomorrow, but my point is from a scholarly point of view, as well as from a devotee point of view, which we’re really much more concerned about, the idea of correcting post-disappearance or posthumously is not an accepted thing. You can’t edit Rupa Gosvami and sign Rupa Gosvami’s name to it. If you write something about Rupa Gosvami that’s written by Rupa Gosvami, you’re going to have to say, “Translated by Jayadvaita Swami, adapted by Dravida Swami,” you know what I mean? You’re going to have to put that. You can’t simply put Rupa Gosvami’s work, and then sign Rupa Gosvami’s name, anymore than you can Srila Prabhupada’s. And you can’t do it with Hemingway either. Hemingway says some things that are questionable in today’s society: he calls black people ‘niggers.’ That’s not acceptable; that’s a sociological offense. Maybe some people have tried to edit it, but it’s not respected. The author has to stand alone in his own time. And if you leave this gate open at this time in history, what can happen—and you love Srila Prabhupada as much as I do—his books can be edited again and again and again. And you don’t want that. I’m sure you don’t; I’m sure you don’t want his books to be bowdlerized again and again and again.
For example, there was something written by Devamrta Swami. I didn’t see it; someone read it to me on the phone. Somebody mentioned to me that he was questioning whether or not these books were going to be outdated in the future; and then there’s the gender issue, and I understand there’s rumblings among the women’s community so far as the gender issues. So I don’t understand this and I don’t even know this person, but…
Jayadvaita Maharaja: Can I interject something since I know him pretty well? Before you bring it up, let me just tell you a little bit about him, and see if you want to bring it up. The man is one of, he’s been a devotee since, decades. He’s one of the biggest organizers of book distribution of Srila Prabhupada’s books in the movement, now, today. That’s what I wanted to say.
Govinda dasi: Then, his anxieties are sincere, very sincere. And mine are too. I’m not out…I haven’t even read the letter, somebody told me about it. But I’m not here to badmouth him; I don’t even know him. But my point is that he’s raising some questions that could be raised in the future, that could lead to further editing. So where does it stop? Here’s the problem: two points. Where does it stop? What principles govern the editing now, now that Srila Prabhupada is no longer here to approve of or disapprove of whatever editing decisions are made; and secondly, how long should it go on? What is the timeline, on what basis does it end? If we don’t do something about it, if we leave this gate open, so far as this is concerned, history may decide for us, like it did with the Bible, and we won’t have the choice. In the future, we may have a dozen Gitas. And so be it, if there are a dozen Gitas, with a dozen different Swamis’ names on them, I don’t have a problem with it. But as far as Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is, this Gita—the one that he endorsed while he was present to sign his name to it—should be the accepted version of Srila Prabhupada’s Gita. If you want to print the original manuscript as a manuscript, we don’t have any objection to that. That could be done; that could definitely be done. And then people could go and look at the Jayadvaita version of the Gita, as it is commonly known…
Jayadvaita Maharaja: You can call it the second edition.
Govinda dasi: I’m just calling it what people commonly call it.
Jayadvaita Maharaja: Let’s call it the second edition.
Govinda dasi: Now, many people don’t even know about this, Maharaja. I have been a devotee 35 years, and I didn’t even know about it until 1997, when I was in Texas studying writing under Dr. John Trimble, because I happened to pick up one of these Gitas at the local temple, because my books were at home in Hawaii. So my point is, the underlying dangers here are the future edits, and another underlying danger is seeing Srila Prabhupada as an ordinary man, and that could happen in the future. Srila Prabhupada never wanted to be referred to as a man, remember I told the story last time about how he chastised them about the Back to Godhead magazine that had, “This man changed the world.” In the middle of the night he would call somebody as soon as he saw something with the insidious consciousness that ‘the guru is not divine.’ So this pernicious philosophy has actually led up to many of the problems, as you know, that we have had since His Divine Grace left us in 1977. After he left, a decade of forgetfulness ensued. During this era, many mistakes were made, many wrongs were done, and the confusion surrounding his disappearance was all-encompassing. I think for each and every one of us, no matter where we were on this planet, whether we were affiliated with ISKCON or independent. In 1996, Srila Prabhupada began to resume his center, his presence as the center of ISKCON again, with the Centennial. And now with the reinstatement of his original books, his main work will be at least preserved. When history views this era—you've got to remember here, we’re just little fleas; we’re going to be here 25 more years at the most—when history views this era 50 years from now, what will they see? They’ll see a lot of confusion over the last 25 years. There’s no question about it. Nobody can possibly shove it under the carpet; the carpet is too high off the floor. So they’re going to see the Vatical era, the Christians being thrown to the lions; they’re going to see a lot of confusion. Like the Dark Ages; something on that order. And all the people and the personalities here—you and I—we’ll be forgotten. Even 50 years from now, I doubt that most of us, 50 years or 100 years from now, we’ll be finished. So in these 50 years, with these players forgotten, people will want to know about Srila Prabhupada, they’ll want to know about his original books, they’ll want to know about him. And they’re going to want to know about the errors. So our duty is to correct these errors now, while we’re still alive; otherwise history will correct them for us—by unlimited versions of the Bhagavad-gita. If you leave the gate open, you can’t stop it, and I can’t stop it. There’ll be people who don’t like what you’ve done, so we can’t do that. So this is my point.
Jayadvaita Maharaja: Um, I think a two-minute break would be wise… [break]
Jayadvaita Maharaja: So again, it’s always a pleasure to hear from Govinda dasi about her experiences with Srila Prabhupada, and her realizations about Srila Prabhupada… [inaudible] I certainly think her ringing statement that there are many things that we don’t know… anyone who doesn’t know that is really going to have problems.
One thing right off, another thing that she did say that I thought deserved to be addressed is the idea that somehow the old books are not transcendental, and that some statement is being made that, “The old books are no good.” Um, I certainly don’t hold that feeling, that’s why maybe, in the [inaudible] about the second edition we took care to emphasize that, the fact that the first edition was [inaudible] and was successful, and that neither the BBT nor I, nor anyone associated with it are saying, as far as I know, that the old books are devoid of potency, mundane, not on the transcendental platform. That’s certainly not… not the issue here. [inaudible]
Um, just in the interest of history, not to really make a case or anything, but just to clarify further some points that you clarified, because I think it was helpful. Not everyone knows the publishing history of, especially Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam. [inaudible] Um, you did bring out a lot that was good. I’ll just fill in a few, a few things that aren’t generally known.
Uh, one thing of course is that, that for the abridged edition, Hayagriva wasn't the final editor. Um, he… there were two hands [inaudible] I don’t know whether it was together or separate, but finally Rayarama turned out, as the… because Hayagriva left devotional service for some time, and Rayarama finished the book. And in the interim, I think, between his having finished it and its publication, he had trouble also, and to the extent that Srila Prabhupada offered that he could have his name as the author, that Rayarama could have his name as the author. Um, there’s a letter to that effect in the BBT folio.
Govinda dasi: What? I don’t understand the import of what you’re saying.
Jayadvaita Maharaja: Um, well, basically Prabhupada was, um, said to… he was having so much difficulty with this Rayarama, um, Prabhupada said to, I don’t think it was Hayagriva but, um, my memory is a little unclear, but I think there was this letter that he could have his name on it, but I don’t think it was Hayagriva.[Editor’s note: A diligent search of the Folio failed to turn up the letter referred to by Jayadvaita Maharaja. However, one letter was found [69-11-25.Bra] to Brahmananda wherein Srila Prabhupada writes as follows: “The idea is that BTG is our backbone of Krishna Consciousness propaganda, and since you have taken charge from Rayarama's hand, certainly it has improved in so many ways. Recently I have received one letter from Rayarama which he has signed his name to as "Raymond". That means he has drifted from our society completely and his letter is very discouraging. He has accused everyone save himself. So I do not know what can be done with him.”]