Debate with Kancana-valli Devi Dasi on the book changes

This debate was posted on the Sampradaya Sun Dec. 15 2012 :

Exchange with the BBT’s Kancana-valli dd


Dec 15, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — Following is a recent exchange between Ajit Krishna dasa and the BBT’s Kancana-valli devi dasi regarding changes to Srila Prabhupada’s books. The thread of discussion began with this inquiry from Ajit Krishna dasa on November 25, 2012:

Are these the original and authorized books or BBTI’s changed books?
Content URL

To which Kancana-valli devi dasi replied:

Dear Ajit,

You perhaps would know that on an official ISKCON site un-self-criticical comments about the authenticity of Srila Prabhupada’s books as published by the BBT would be unwelcome. Open discussion with a willingness to listen to other’s views would of course be welcome.

But it seems like you made up your mind already and I am sorry to hear that. Any reasonable educated person who looked at the edits would see that this was grammatical on contextual and not manipulative.

If you can give me even one example where there was something underhanded or manipulative done I would be happy to relay that to the editors and even the GBC, but as an editor and writer myself (and one who frankly has no interest in personal agrandisement at the expense of Srila Prabhupada’s legacy) I haven’t seen one that would cause me any concern.

Good luck and I hope you continue to advance in Krishna consciousness.

Your servants from ISKCON Hare Krishna

In reply, Ajit Krishna dasa wrote:

Dear Kancana-valli Devi Dasi!

I have certainly made up my mind – but I would not use the word “already”, since I have been doing an in depth study of the changes and have reached my conclusion by careful examination.

By the way…are you doing voluntary service for the BBTI or are you a paid worker? As you know Prabhupada instructed very clearly that no worker for the BBT should be paid. Being paid kind of makes you untrustworthy, right? Since you are at risk of losing your salary if you protest against the policies of the current BBTI.

My dear Radha Ballabha Prabhu,

Please accept my humble obeisances. His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada heard your letter dated April 18th, 1977 and requested me as a BBT Trustee to reply the letter and send a copy of the reply to all the Trustees.

When His Divine Grace heard that you were able to save $5500.00 by removing some of the less essential devotees from the press, he commented as follows: “Henceforward, nobody should be appointed without my permission. Money is not so easy to get. In the BBT Trust it is clearly said that all of the funds are meant for printing and construction of temples. Not for salaries. Why have so many people been appointed without my permission? We do not want any salaried men. That is the principle to be followed. So many scientists are working and they do not take a single paisa. This extravagancy must be stopped immediately.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => From: Tamal Krishna – SL_770427_B1

Are you following this instruction? How many book editors are being paid? Kindly be open about this!

Several months ago I wrote the BBTI through, but I have not yet received any answers to my questions. It seems others have the same experience.

Now, let us take just one simple example – BG. 2.35:

Why have BBTI removed the word “coward” and exchanged it with “insignificant”.

1. What can you bring into this discussion to show that this change is preferred?
2. Is this change necessary? (Prabhupada did not want unnecesary changes)
3. How do we know Prabhupada wants and/or accepts this change?

Another thing! You write:

“Any reasonable educated person who looked at the edits would see that this was grammatical on contextual and not manipulative. Wish you a wonderful Krishna conscious day!”

This is – of course – a lie. And you know it. Do you want me to embarras you by pointing out the hundreds of changes which are not grammatical? One example would be to change “The blessed Lord” with “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said”. This is not grammatical and Prabhupada never asked for this change. He himself read “The blessed Lord” out loud in lectures and conversations many times. And he had it read to him literally hundreds of times. Did he ever ask to have it changed? No! Never!

So, in order to be on SAFE GROUND we can’t change such things. We can’t change based on “if”, “maybe”, “I think”, “perhaps” etc. No ones knows what Hayagriva Prabhu and Prabhupada agreed upon while working closely together on the Bhagavad-gita. To engage Hayagriva Prabhu was Prabhupada’s editorial decision. To change what Hayagriva Prabhu did is to override Prabhupadas own editorial decisions.

On top of that we have the fallacy of changing back to the DRAFTS. No author wants to have his book changed back to it’s draft – especially not without his permission. Therefore we do not have the right to change any of these things. Only those things we know FOR SURE that Prabhupada wanted changed can we change. Obvoius, right? It ought to be obvious.

Another thing is that Prabhupada ordered that the Sri Isopanisad should be printed in the original way. This instruction was never followed.

These are just a few examples for you to meditate on. Kindly answer ALL of them clearly. In a Vedic debate you must answer ALL you opponents objections – otherwise you have lost the debate. Just like when playing a board game you must follow the rules. If you do not follow the rules your opponent has the right to point it out and if you do not correct your mistake you have lost the game. Similarly with a debate. Just to let you know that I expect that you answer my objections carefully. I ask this from you since I actually believe you are intelligent. Otherwise I would not bother writing back to you.

PS: If you chose to engage in a verbal exchange with me, please note that everything you write will most likely be posted online with your name. I will not keep any of this secret and I will use it as I see fit – whenever and whereever.

Looking forward to your soon reply!

Hare Krishna,
Your servant,
Ajit Krishna Dasa

Ajit Krishna dasa followed with this comment:

I have already posted our debate in the group ARSHA PRAYOGA:

You are welcome to join the group and defend the BBTI.

Kancana-valli devi dasi wrote:

Oh, thank you for the link. I had a look through but couldn’t find anywhere where it was discussed specific changes that were changing the meaning/spirit of the text. I’m an editor, so I need specifics. Srila Prabhupada did have his devotees edit his books, so I personally don’t have a problem with that in principle. It’s specific changes that alter/obscure the meaning of the text that would concern me. Thanks for the chat though.

Ajit Krishna dasa replied:

Dear Mataji!

Jayadvaita says that Prabhupada was very much against unnecesary changes in his books. Can you please tell me why it is necessary to change “coward” to “insignificant”? If you can’t tell me that the change is an act of disobedience aganist Prabhupada’s instructions.

It is not just changes that alter/obscure the meaning that are wrong. It is ALL UNNECESSARY changes.

If it were only changes that would alter or obscure the meaning, then you could give synonyms to more or less ALL WORDS in Prabhupada’s books and still consider them his books and bona fide. Do you really think he would appreciate or condone if that was done?

And you say you need specifics! Prabhupada said he wanted the Isopanisad to be printed in the original way. Is that not enough for you. Are you going to tell Prabhupada to be more specific, because you are an editor? Isn’t that instruction specific enough for you?

Is the example of “The blessed Lord” not specific enough for you? What is unspecific about it? Kindly enlighten me, mataji!

Why are you not answering my question about saleries? Are you getting paid for your job? How much? What is your justification for being paid when Prabhupada ordered you not to get paid for your work in the BBT?

You’re not stupid! Then why do you not follow Prabhupada strictly and stop promoting the changes of his divine books?

Ishvara Puri also met Gadadhar Pandit and was pleased when he saw the depth of his renunciation. He started to affectionately give him lessons from Sri-Krsna-lilamrta, a book of his own composition. Nimai would also come daily to Gopinath Acharya’s house to visit Ishvara Puri while he was teaching Gadadhar and offer him His obeisances. One day, Ishvara Puripada asked Nimai to correct any mistakes that were in his book. Nimai answered:

“Anyone who finds any fault with a devotee’s description of Krishna is a sinner. If a devotee writes a poem, no matter how poorly he does it, it will certainly contain his love for Krishna. A fool says ‘visnaya’ while a scholar knows the correct form is ‘visnave’, but Krishna accepts the sentiment in either case. If anyone sees a fault in this, the fault is his, for Krishna is pleased with anything the pure devotee says. You too describe the Lord with words of love, so what arrogant person would dare criticize anything that you have written?” (Chaitanya Bhagavata 1.11.105-110)

Your loving servant,
Ajit Krishna Dasa

And this:


Changing “coward” to “insignificant” is also a change of meaning. The two words are very different. A coward doesn’t have to be insignificant, and an insignificant person need not be a coward. Therefore logically speaking the two words are not synonyms.

Prabhupada had some of his devotees edit his books. He had Hayagriva Prabhu edit the gita – not Jayadvaita. Prabhupada also had strict guidelines for the BBT and for the editing of his books. These are not being followed today – as I have already shown you. And to which you have given no justification.

Also, you did not give any justifacation for changing Prabhupada’s books back to the DRAFTS. Can you provide a justification for this? For example, in BG 2.1 Jayadvaita has changed “brimming with tears” back to “full of tears”, because it says so in the DRAFT. But this in unauthorized for at least this reason:

We do not know what Hayagriva Prabhu and Prabhupada agreed upon in regard to this expression. Maybe Prabhupada himself came up with “brimming with tears” in a conversation with Hayagriva Prabhu. Or Hayagriva Prabhupada came up with “brimming with tears” and Prabhupada liked it and accepted it. The point is that we do not know anything about it – and we can’t change anything based on guesswork (maybe, perhaps, I think etc.)

There are many, many such examples of changes in Prabhupada’s books. Sentences and words are changed, deleted or added without any other reason than the personal likings of the current editors and also often a false justification of going back to the drafts (even though Prabhupada never asked any editor to make it a policy to change the works of his own selected editors by going back to his first drafts).

Looking forward to your kind answers,

Your loving servant,
Ajit Krishna Dasa

And also this:

Dear Mataji!

Also I want to point out that your rethorical trick of calling the unauthorized, new versions of Prabhupada’s books made by the BBTI for “the most up-to-date versions” is simply a joke. How can a book be made up-to-date after it’s authors disappearance from this mortal world? Who is going to make it up-to-date? And when will it again be out-dated and made up-to-date again? All this simply reveals that the BBT thinks that Prabhupada’s transcendental and original books are out-dated and have to be continually up-dated to fit the likings of someone other than Prabhupada.

Your loving servant,
Ajit Krishna Dasa

Kancana-valli devi dasi’s reply:

Dear Ajit prabhu,

Hare Krishna. Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts. Please forgive me for my pomposity. To be honest, this SP page has no offical input – it is run only by my humble self.

I am a simple member of ISKCON and genuine (though immensely flawed) admirer of Srila Prabhupada.

I know that there are many issues in ISKCON that need addressing, but I don’t want to be a referee for that process. Thus I follow the policy that this page and the others I take care of are not forums for ISKCON controversies.

On a personal level, all I know is that my life was saved (literally) by ISKCON devotees and as a result I owe them my undying gratitude and loyalty. For me to do anything else would be a betrayal of their kindness.

At the same time I acknowledge that it is important to have places where devotees can air their valid concerns. I hope you will find a satisfying means for that and I wish you the best in your honest commitment to Srila Prabhupada.

Please forgive me for being a relic of a bygone age. I really can’t be anything else.

Your simple servant,

Kancana-valli dd

And she wrote:

Oh, and thank you for not attacking anyone involved personally, but sticking to presenting arguements. I really appreciate that and I think it is an approach that will very much help in the discussion.

Ajit Krishna dasa wrote:

Dear Kancana-valli Devi Dasi!

Of course I respect that you can decide the rules for the pages you run. To not have controversies debated there is in one sense understandable. On the other hand – if debates are conducted based on guru, sadhu and sastra I do not see any problem. But like I said I respect your decision.

Forgive me for pointing out that as a devotee we must learn to be referees – guru, sadhu, sastra. We must come to the level of understanding where we can see what is bona fide and what is not.

My life was also saved by ISKCON devotees. I consider myself an ISKCON devotee. I’m not a ritvik or a Narayana Maharaja follower or anything like that. I’m a simple ISKCON devotee who has done an in depth study of the book changes and found that MANY (not all) of them are unauthorized. It was shocking for me to learn. But on a personal level it has made me stronger.

You say that because you were saved by ISKCON devotees you must be loyal to them. Please consider that ISKCON devotees come in many shapes and sizes and have different opinions. Probably you do not agree with everything done or said by the particular devotees who saved you. You honor them, but you do not need to agree with them on all points. Maybe it’s time to move on. Our real loyalty must be with Prabhupada. And that loyalty to Prabhupada is actually also the real loyalty and KINDNESS to the devotees who saved us, to ISKCON and to the parampara. The careful study and preaching of our philosophy, as it is, will greatly benefit all. You need never cater to the needs of those who differ in opinion to our parampara.

Thanks for saying you see the need for places were devotees can voice their valid concerns. I hope I will see you in a place like that. Actually I am willing to take up some book changes together with you. For example:

Bg 2.30 – ORIGINAL:

“O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body is eternal and can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any creature.”


“O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any living being.”

So why has the word “eternal” been removed? What does Prabhupada say? Here are something from his lectures:

“O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body is eternal and can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any creature.”

Prabhupada: Dehi nityam avadhyo ‘yam dehe sarvasya bharata. Dehe, dehe means body, within the body. This topic began, dehino ‘smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara. Deha, dehi. Dehi means one who possesses the body. Just like guni. Asthate in prata. The grammatical. Guna, in, deha, in, in prata. Dehin sabda. So the nominative case of dehin sabda is dehi. Dehi nityam, eternal. In so many ways, Krsna has explained. Nityam, eternal. Indestructible, immutable. It does not take birth, it does not die, it is always, constantly the same. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire. In this way, again he says nityam, eternal. (730831BG.LON)

Another lecture:

Devotee: 30: “O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body is eternal and can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any creature [Bg. 2.30].”

Prabhupada: Now, after putting forward all definitions and arguments from different angles of vision, of different philosophers, thesis, now Krsna concludes, “My dear Arjuna, take it for certain that the soul within is eternal.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bhagavad-gita 2.27-38 — Los Angeles, December 11, 1968

Even in Srimad Bhagavatam Prabhupada writes that BG 2.30 confirm the eternality of the soul:

“The living entity is unborn and eternal, and as confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (2.30),…”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.7.49

Then why take “eternal” out the of the BG?

BBT gives attempts to give justification:

“The words “is eternal” (First Edition) do not appear in Srila Prabhupada’s original manuscript. The word nityam here means “eternally” — or, as Srila Prabhupada gives it, “always.” It modifies avadhyah. Thus, “always unfit for being slain.” Putting that negatively, as the original editor chose to do, the “always” becomes “never” — “he can never be slain.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => GRV: 2.31: “Editing varnasrama-dharma out of the books?”

There a quite some problems with this proposed justification:

1. We do not know what Hayagriva Prabhu and Prabhupada agreed upon while carefully working together on the Bhagavad-gita. Prabhupada might have wanted the word “eternal” to be there. We do not know and therefore we can’t change anything. Why? Because we can’t change in Prabhupada’s books based on “maybe, perhaps, I think etc.) This “principle of caution” ought to implemented in ALL editing work.

2. Prabhupada himself used the word nityam in this lectures and said that meant that the soul is eternal. So BBT overrides Prabhupada’s own words and corrects his sanskrit. Prabhupada was very concerned with better knowing desciples that had become “learned” in sanskrit. In one of the above lectures Prabhupada even says that “Krsna concludes, “My dear Arjuna, take it for certain that the soul within is eternal.” So Krishna says in BG 2.30 that the soul is eternal. But BBT thinks otherwise.

The result of these changes and their proposed justification will make it seem – for new devotees and scholars – that Prabhupada’s sanskrit was not good enough. Imagine that a new bhakta or bhaktin heard or read one of the above lectures by Prabhupada were he says that nitya in BG 2.30 means the soul is eternal. And then the new bhakta or bhaktin later reads that this is actually not correct sanskrit, and now the BBT has corrected it by removing it from the translation. What kind of impression will this new bhakta or bhaktin get of Prabhupada? Will it increase the respect for him? What will it say about the way we honor the acaryas in our sampradaya?

I hope you understand my concerns. My fault is that I had the intellectual curiousity to study these things! I hope you will study them too.

Your servant,
Ajit Krishna Dasa

Kancana-valli devi dasi replied:

Dear Ajit prabhu,

Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed comments. It’s nice to get to know you better. I can understand why this topic caused you to seriously question ISKCON authorities and processes.

I also appreciate you’re understanding my difficulty on this matter. It’s a delicate thing to create a space where we could have a healthy discussion on controversial subjects. For FB I’m erring on the side of caution because of it’s international scope and viral nature. Things can get out of hand really quickly.

In saying that I want to be loyal doesn’t mean I want to have my head buried in the sand. I personally welcome healthy discussion of mistakes and enjoy finding ways how we can improve. I’m just not one for a mud fight!

The best people to ask about the rational behind the seemingly unnecessary changes would be the editors themselves – I could only guess at the logic behind that. If you ever get any answers on that, I’d be interested to hear about it.

Wishing you the best.

Your servant,

Kancana-valli dd

Ajit Krishna dasa wrote:

Dear Kancana-valli Devi Dasi!

Thanks for your reply. I’m happy to hear you’re open for discussing and I especially appreciated your comment: “I can understand why this topic caused you to seriously question ISKCON authorities and processes.”

Many nice devotees have written the BBT editors and often we do not get answers, or the answers we get are not enough to satisfy our thirst for a sastric, or even just a material, justification for the changes. So many Prabhupada disciples have objected – including Govinda Dasi and Rupanuga Prabhu – but their voices are either not heard or taken seriously. Please don’t think the BBT have not received thousands of complaints. But their answers on the website are in my opinion not only not satisfying, but often very misleading.

If I ever hear from the BBT, I will let you know! And I will still encourage you to study this matter deeply.

Best wishes and Hare Krishna!

Your servant,
Ajit Krishna Dasa

And in closing, Kancana-valli devi dasi wrote:

Hare Krishna, Ajit prabhu!

It’s nice conversing with you! I’m not surprised they got a lot of letters. Devotees are naturally very sensitive and protective of Srila Prabhupada’s work.

It’s a pity the BBT don’t get into it in some more detail to help everyone understand their reasoning – and perhaps if there were some changes that were overly-enthusiastic, but not necessary, they could be adjusted in the next edition?

As a side note, when I first saw the comments about the book editing on the SP page I blocked you (and one other person) from the page… Oh, I hate saying that…! Sooooooooo embarassing! I don’t like doing that to anyone, since I really prefer to sort out differences through dialogue.

Now I see that you’re a pretty cool guy and a nice devotee I have undone that, so you’re now welcome to join in on the page again if you like (up to you!). But, please let’s stay off controversies for a while, eh? Will make my life easier…

Your servant,

Kancana-valli dd


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