Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Thank you for providing this website dedicated to giving devotees a chance to voice their objections to the changes that have been made in Srila Prabhupada’s books. I hope that all of our godbrothers and godsisters who have an opinion on this issue will avail themselves of the opportunity to make their views a matter of public record. We should remember that there can be no loss in fighting to protect the legacy of our spiritual master which he left for posterity in the form of his written word.
Making changes in Srila Prabhupada’s books is the dangerous and unauthorized policy of the BBT and its editors. It is without precedent in our vaisnava sampradaya that the disciples of a spiritual master tamper with his writings without being so ordered, especially after his disappearance. There is also no support from the academic community for making changes in a scholar’s writings without annotating the changes.
The policies of the BBT completely ignore the principle of arsa prayoga. They dishonor the great acarya who introduced Krishna consciousness to the world through his books like Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad Bhagavatam, Krishna Book and Teachings of Lord Caitanya. Srila Prabhupada said that the books he had written and published with the help of his disciples were suitable for making the entire world Krishna conscious. But the BBT trustees, by allowing thousands of changes to be made in those books, have sent a message to the members of the Hare Krishna movement that Srila Prabhupada’s published works were full of mistakes and were therefore not as effective in making the world Krishna conscious as their revised edition. Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. In fact, practically all of the leading devotees of the Hare Krishna movement joined after reading the original version of Srila Prabhupada’s books, not the revised edition. That alone attests to their superior spiritual potency.
Srila Prabhupada used to say that there were already several hundred translations and commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita, but that none of them had actually transmitted the true message of Godhead. They had not inspired anyone to surrender to Krishna or become His devotee. Srila Prabhupada’s books, on the other hand (besides winning the approval of hundreds of scholars all over the world who placed standing orders for all books he would write in the future), convinced thousands of mlecchas and yavanas to abandon their practice of irreligion and surrender to the lotus feet of Krishna’s pure devotee.
The transcendental potency of Srila Prabhupada’s books is unquestionable, unlike the revised version which does not inspire the same degree of surrender. To surrender to Krishna means to follow the order of His representative, the spiritual master. If the order of the spiritual master is to not change anything he published without his direct approval, how can an unauthorized edition of his books inspire anyone to surrender? If the policy of the BBT to make unnecessary changes violates the rule of arsa-prayoga, the principle by which we honor the acarya, how can the distribution of such revised editions enhance the reputation of the great acarya? It does not. Rather, it belittles and dishonors him, whether the BBT trustees understand this principle or not. Therefore, the revised books should not be printed. The next printing, and all future printings, should be again to the original way.
Editing Srila Prabhupada’s books has become primarily a one-man job. His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami, who knows all about the various manuscripts, has taken charge of improving the books even though he admits they were transcendental from the start. While trying to present Srila Prabhupada’s books in a manner he considers to be more consistent with the original dictations and manuscripts, he has created a great controversy and placed himself in the middle of it. In Vrndavana, in the spring of 1976, a conversation took place during which Srila Prabhupada personally instructed Jayadvaita Swami to avoid controversy. Jayadvaita Swami was inquiring about a picture he was thinking of including in a Back to Godhead magazine. It was a picture of the column from which Lord Nrsimhasdeva was supposed to have appeared. Jayadvaita Swami said there might be some objection as to the accuracy of this claim, and Srila Prabhupada replied,
"So when it is disputed, why should you publish that picture. It is controversial. You should not print." He further advised him, "As soon as there is some controversy, avoid it."
This same principle should be applied to making changes in Srila Prabhupada’s books. If it creates controversy, it should not be done. Controversy develops into political camps which develop into a schism. That is certainly not what Srila Prabhupada wanted. Controversy should be avoided.
Similarly, in a letter to Ramesvara dated November 25, 1974, Srila Prabhupada wrote,
"Regarding Jayadvaita, it is good for him to avoid controversy."
Based on personal advice from Srila Prabhupada, Jayadvaita Swami should not place himself in the middle of this debate because it is not good for him, what to speak of for the rest of the society.
Changing scripture is never a one-man job and should never be hastily done. When the New International Version of the Bible was compiled, more than 100 scholars from six English-speaking countries as well as editors and English stylists were involved in its production. The scholars represented twenty different denominations that planned to use the new version of the Bible. It took ten years for them to complete the NIV translation. The process started in 1968 and ended in 1978. This does not include ten years of planning that went on before 1968. Their project was definitely not a one-man show.
The Reconstructionist Jews, followers of Rabbi Kaufman, recently revised and updated their prayer book after the passing of their leader who lived more than 100 years. A committee of lay people and rabbis, both men and women, worked for two years on the modifications which were then evaluated by the sixty-five Reconstructionist congregations around the country before being published. This was also not a one-man job.
As with the Bhagavad-gita, two hundred fifty different versions of the Bible have appeared since the King James Version was published in 1611. If each future generation tries to update Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita to make it more politically correct, more gender-friendly, closer to the original, etc., how many versions will there be to choose from in years to come? Now there is a revised New International Version of the Bible which has removed a number of verses that editors thought were superfluous.(This has already been done by the BBT which removed entire pages from Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers.) They have removed the name of Jesus thirty-eight times, and they have made the style less gender-specific. Thus, words like man, father, he, him, son and brother have been replaced, even though the original Greek manuscripts clearly refer to the male gender. Because of the precedent set by the BBT allowing changes to be made in Srila Prabhupada’s books, we can expect a gender-friendly edition of the Bhagavad-gita to be forthcoming. "After all," an editor may reason, "all souls are female (prakrti) in their relationship with Krishna. Therefore, the spirit soul should be referred to as ‘she’ in our books. Because devotees are both men and women, the books should reflect this whenever reference is made to gender." Continuing in this way, there is no end to the changes that can be proposed to the writings of our spiritual master.
After MacMillan published the complete edition, Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita was selling like anything. In 1976, 500,000 copies were printed and in 1977, an additional 1.5 million copies. The abridged edition was reprinted in 1979 with fifty-six color plates. But when the new edition was introduced, sales of the Gita quickly declined.
Printings of the revised edition of the Bhagavad-gita:
1983 - 250,000 copies; 1985 - 200,000 copies; 1986 - 120,000 copies; 1990 - 80,000 copies; 1991 - 70,000 copies; 1994 - 50,000 copies
The trend is obvious. Of course, there are many factors contributing to this decline, but one of the factors is definitely a lack of enthusiasm on the part of book distributors to sell an edition that was not approved by Srila Prabhupada.
Some say that not a single word nor a single comma should be changed in Srila Prabhupada’s books. I watched one devotee have his faith broken when he found that one phrase in a single verse of the Bhagavad-gita had been changed from the original. In Chapter 2, verse 13, the translation was modified from "A self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change," to "A sober person is not bewildered by such a change." From that point on, he would never again pick up the revised edition of the Bhagavad-gita. It was no longer the Bhagavad-gita "As It Is". There are changes like this throughout the Gita. Who can say that Srila Prabhupada would have wanted this "correction" to be made, knowing how resistant he was to making any changes at all in his books, especially once they had been printed? Who can say that when working with his early editors, Srila Prabhupada did not approve of the differences we see between the original manuscript and the published work?
The current policy of the BBT is to make two editions of the Bhagavad-gita available to everyone. This policy is acceptable, but only until the present stock of books runs out. From that point on, the "new" Gita should not be reprinted. Predictably, Jayadvaita Swami will never agree to this proposal, nor will the other BBT trustees dare side against him. The responsibility then falls on the temple presidents. They must not place orders for the unauthorized edition, and book distributors should not ask their temple presidents to supply them with cases of revised Gitas. Both the temple presidents and the book distributors must realize that the potency to awaken people’s dormant Krishna consciousness lies in the original books, not in the unauthorized version. The success of the original books has been proven. The revised books have failed. The changes to Srila Prabhupada’s books have not produced favorable reviews by scholars nor have the changed books inspired devotees to accept the infallibility of Krishna’s pure devotee. The have simply created controversy and chaos.
The controversial policies of the BBT should be abandoned in favor of surrender to the "no change" policy insisted upon by Srila Prabhupada.. That was his order and we should become his order-carrier. To do otherwise, to disregard his order and concoct our own policy, is merely sense gratification and nothing more. The false theory that Srila Prabhupada’s books need to be corrected and updated from time to time is based on mundane speculative reasoning and may be compared to bringing a glass of milk when the spiritual master has asked for water. That is not the way to please him. Rather, it is the sure road to spiritual suicide.
Srila Prabhupada said that historians will note this time when the world became Krishna conscious. Instead, historians will now have to report that Srila Prabhupada’s books were changed and the potency of the movement was lost. To avert this impending disaster, we fervently pray that Krishna may soon enlighten those who have been violating the age-old rule of spiritual etiquette, known as arsa prayoga, by their editorial follies.
May all of the books be returned to their original style, and may every family own a complete set of Srila Prabhupada’s original books. In this way, the Krishna consciousness movement will spread throughout the world without further hindrance.
Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,