Hear, Sing and Accept Prabhupada’s Approved Editions
by: Narasimha dasa
Srila Sukadeva Gosvami has answered our questions and concerns regarding the status of those who support the idea of changing Srila Prabhupada’s books. Srila Sukadeva Gosvami specifically predicted Srila Prabhupada’s original books from India — books “meant to bring about a revolution in the impious life of a misdirected civilization.” As predicted, these editions exhibited some “irregularities” in composition due to Srila Prabhupada’s letting a sincere yet unqualified editor finish his proofs in New Delhi. This was His causeless mercy on one sincere soul and the fulfillment of Sukadeva Gosvami’s prediction. Srila Sukadeva Gosvami predicted that these books would be “heard, sung, and accepted by purified men who are thoroughly honest.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.11). In fact, these editions were all we had in the early days when the genuine Krishna consciousness movement was spreading like wild fire all over the world. Sincere devotees relish these unique editions even today, never complaining about apparent “irregularities”.
Srila Prabhupada approved minor changes to correct obvious mistakes in the original editions brought from India. These corrections were completed, however, long before Srila Prabhupada’s disappareance day in 1977. He approved some minor changes in the 1972 unabridged Gita, but why did editors want to go on making changes after 1977, claiming to be returning to an original manuscript version? This is a bogus argument. Srila Prabhupada blessed and accepted the service of the original editor of His unabridged Bhagavad-gita As It Is, and He relished reading it. It is false to say, as one BBT editor recently claimed, that Srila Prabhupada’s approved editions are “full of mistakes”. I am a trained English editor who has been carefully reading Prabhupada’s pre-1978 editions for four decades, and I have a hard time finding errors, although I can easily find grammatical errors on almost every page of Time Magazine, a university textbook, or the latest best seller. Srila Prabhupada himself relished reading, citing, and lecturing from these editions, and he became upset when he noticed unauthorized editing, as Gauridas Pandita and Yasoda Nandana and other devotees can bare witness. Similarly, it is very disturbing for senior devotees who have constantly studied his books to suddenly find new versions of translations and purports they have memorized and relished for many years.
Furthermore, where is the written instruction from Srila Prabhupada saying He wanted His books changed after 1977? Rather, the opposite instruction is there in writing and on tape.
What all this shows, by Srila Sukadeva Gosvami’s divine grace, is that persons who support the idea of changing Srila Prabhupada’s books are not “thoroughly honest.” They do not accept Srila Prabhupada or His books as perfect. Rather, as Srila Prabhupadfa specifically warned, they may be thinking, “Now I am so advanced that I can kill my guru and I become guru.” (Conversation, August 16, 1976, Bombay.) This offensive mentality that Srila Prabhupada warned us about could be the reason why some people will ignore all good advice and spend decades continuously changing Srila Prabhupada books, not for correcting grammatical errors but for adding twists on the siddhanta and the sadhana, or simply for the sake of false egoism.
Sometimes people say that Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura needed English editors because English was not their mother tongue and they were not trained as English editors. This argument is totally false. If they were in any way deficient in English composition, how could they compose perfect poetry like that of Blake and Shakespeare? Those conversant with English literature understand that classic quality English poetry is very difficult to compose properly, whereas English prose is relatively easy. In other words, great poets are great writers first. It is like saying an Olympic track star needs help from a weekend jogger to bring home the torch. By their mercy, great devotees sometimes engage proof readers or editors as their menial servants, but in truth great Vaisnava poets don’t need editors at all.
The conclusion is that great Acaryas engage devotees in specific services as English editors under their direction due to their causeless mercy. We should clearly understand, however, that everything Srila Prabhupada wrote is already perfect. Rather than change Srila Prabhupada’s books, we should rather change the English language, if needed, to accommodate his writings. Honest devotees will hear, sing and accept –not edit– Srila Prabhupada’s approved pre-1978 editions. And they will learn to relish every word, as it is.