Open Letter to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
Author: Madhudvisa dasa
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| Open Letter to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust |
An Open Letter to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
Date: Sun, 08 Mar 1998
Dear BBT Trustees,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
"This movement is being supported just by literature. So in this way we can flood the whole world with Krsna consciousness and then there'll be a change. If we want to see a change in the world, then we have to distribute knowledge of Krsna in this way." (Room Conversation 701213rc.ind)
I am writing this letter to request you to seriously consider the following question: "Should Srila Prabhupada's books be changed or not?"
I'm not talking about correcting real typos and Sanskrit errors.
Should we make significant changes which alter the meaning of text in books which have already been edited by editors chosen by Srila Prabhupada and completely approved of and personally used by Srila Prabhupada?
Should such changes be made secretly by the BBT without informing the devotees that the books have even been changed, and perhaps without even informing the GBC and other leaders in ISKCON?
Should such changes be made completely at the discretion of the BBT editors without any requirement they justify the changes they have made, or even document them?
Many devotees are completely against changing even a word of the original published books of Srila Prabhupada, and that is fine by me and most other devotees also. I'm quite happy with all of Srila Prabhupada's books as they were originally published and personally approved of by Srila Prabhupada.
I have read all of Srila Prabhupada's original books many times and the effect they have had on my consciousness is very nice. They are certainly very potent as Srila Prabhupada approved of them..
If we continue to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books as he personally approved of them they will continue to make new devotees and thus the Krishna consciousness movement will automatically expand. There is no doubt about that at all.
"This new BTG is done very nicely. The printing is very beautiful
and I thank you very much for doing such a nice job. I am very
glad to hear you have printed 100,000 copies of this magazine. Now
give them to everyone. Also I am very happy to hear the other
books will be coming out very soon. If you can finish
Bhagavad-gita As It Is in Spanish and show me at the Mayapur
festival that will be very sublime. Please print as many books as
possible, this is my real pleasure. By printing these books of our
Krsna Conscious philosophy in so many different languages we can
actually inject our movement into the masses of persons all over
the world, especially there in the western countries and we can
literally turn whole nations into Krsna Conscious nations. Thank
you for representing me there in LSS by stressing the importance
of attendance to the morning and evening programs and following
all of the spiritual practices. This is wanted. Without these
things there is no devotional life. And by your example many
others will also become strong." (Srila Prabhupada's letter to
Hridayananda Maharaja 74-12-21)
Many devotees, however, in principle, are not opposed to correcting real typographical and Sanskrit errors in the original books.
The thing which concerns me and most other devotees is not the actual correction of real typographical errors in the English and Sanskrit in the original printed books, but the "revision and enlargement" of the books.
More than 70% of the Bhagavad-gita translations and more than 70% of the purports have been changed. In many cases the meaning of the new text is substantially different from the meaning of the original text approved by Srila Prabhupada. We have made a small list of some of these changes at:
Even though Jayadvaita Swami has made literally thousands of changes to the Bhagavad-gita and most of them appear completely unnecessary, he says in his July 1986 letter to Amogha Lila Prabhu:
>First: To my knowledge, Srila Prabhupada never asked us to re-edit
>As you know, and as we kept in mind while doing the work, Srila
>Prabhupada staunchly opposed needless changes.
There are so many substantial changes. It is no longer the same book as the one Srila Prabhupada personally approved of and used himself at all. Jayadvaita Swami himself calls it the "Revised and Enlarged" edition.
Of course we have written to Jayadvaita Swami and asked for his explanation, as you know, many devotees have done that over the years, but he always replies with the same letters [one to Amogha Lila and the other to "Senior ISKCON Devotees"] he wrote in 1986, which quite convincingly demonstrate there are a number of bona fide typos and Sanskrit errors in the original Bhagavad-gita which he has corrected, however there is no hint that he has made many changes and revisions which alter the meaning of the text in the book from the original approved by Srila Prabhupada.
In many places he has, perhaps unintentionally, subtlety changed the meaning of the text thus causing it to present a COMPLETELY different meaning from the original. That is the most disturbing aspect of the changes.
If he simply corrected to the typos and Sanskrit without altering the meaning of the text and without trying to remove Hayagriva Prabhu's editing who would have complained? After all Srila Prabhupada selected Hayagriva to edit the book and liked his editing.
There are so many examples of subtle changes of meaning in the book that look like small edits, but actually COMPLETELY change the meaning. I have not put many of them on the book changes page because it's difficult for many to see how the meaning is changed and easy for Jayadvaita or Dravida to write something that "explains it" by referring to the "original manuscript" which they will not make available for anyone to look at...
Something to think about: (from bg 4.10)
Original: "...the conception of void that underlies the frustration
Jayadvaita: "...the conception of void that
arises from frustration in life..."
So it is not difficult to see here that the editing has COMPLETELY changed the meaning and the original point has been COMPLETY lost. The original, approved by Srila Prabhupada, says void philosophy causes frustration whereas Jayadvaita's says void philosophy "arises from frustration". If this was an isolated incident that would be one thing, but there are hundreds of instances like this were the new version subtly imparts a completely different meaning to the original approved by Srila Prabhupada.
>My dear Hamsaduta,
> Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter
>dated May 30, 1975 and have noted the contents. I don't think that
>Hayagriva is at fault. He has not changed the meaning or the
>philosophy in any way...(Srila Prabhupada's Letter: 75-06-08)
We have sometimes presented such things to Jayadvaita Swami, but he does not seem to be able to conceive such changes of meaning exist in the new edition. He just gets angry and calls us "self-righteous" and "abusive" and "refuses to correspond further".
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