Not back to the “original manuscript” (Bg. 1.2)

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This article was sent to the BBT International the 22nd Oct. 2013. We asked them to comment on the points raised. So far we have not received any reply.

Read these quotes carefully:

“As you know, and as we kept in mind while doing the work, Srila Prabhupada staunchly opposed needless changes.” (Jayadvaita Swami’s Letter to Amogha Lila 1986)

“Comparing each verse in the book with the text of the manuscript, I made only those changes that to me seemed worthwhile. I tried to be conservative and not make needless changes.”
(Jayadvaita’s letter to senior devotees, October 25, 1982)

From the so called “original manuscript”:


From the original and by Prabhupada approved/authorized 1972 edition of Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is:


From the BBT International’s 1983 posthumously edited Bhagavad-gita As It Is:



Jayadvaita Swami attempts to justify his changes in this way:

“In the old edition, the idea of a specific military formation (vyudham) is omitted. In the new edition, I revised “phalanx” to “military formation” because a phalanx (originally) is a particular type of formation peculiar to ancient Greek warfare. Greek columns on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra didn’t seem right. Hence the revision. In retrospect: “Phalanx” has come to refer to any military formation, so perhaps I should have been less picky. But at any rate, the new translation gets in the idea that the old one left out.

We see that Jayadvaita Swami feels free to not only override Prabhupada’s editorial decisions regarding Bg. 1.2, namely to omit “military phalanx”, but also to unnecesarrily add the word “formation” instead of “phalanx” (a word Prabhupada often used).

Bg, 1.11 (BBT International 1983 edition):

“All of you must now give full support to Grandfather Bhisma, as you stand at your respective strategic points of entrance into the phalanx of the army.”

According to Jayadvaita Swami: in Bg. 1.2 “phalanx” didn’t seem right on Kuruksetra, because it’s a Greek word peculiar to ancient Greek warfare. But in Bg. 1.11 Jayadvaita Swami did not remove “phalanx”.

What are we to make of it?

Jayadvaita Swami admits that he might have been a little too “picky” regarding the word “phalanx”. This means he is not completely satisfied with his own work.  Maybe we will have a new edition of Bg. 1.2 in his next printing? And what about Bg. 1.11? Change-change back-change-change back? Is that what Prabhupada wanted?

Jayadvaita Swami said he tried not to make needless changes, but only those worthwhile. But which of the changes here are really worthwhile? Which are really needed? None of them! Bg. 1.2 is just fine the way it is in the original 1972 edition.


Jayadvaita Swami continues:

“Srila Prabhupada typically said “began to speak” or “began to say” when the meaning is simply “spoke” or “said.” Such a phrase as “began to speak” is more apt when followed by something like “but was cut off” or “but changed his mind and fell silent.” In later books, the BBT editors routinely trimmed off the “began to.”

The expression “began to speak” is not wrong, and as we can see below Prabhupada did not object to it in Bg. 1.2, but re-confirmed it. Therefore the change is needless and not at all worthwhile. The editors might have trimmed the phrase off in other books, but these books were then approved by Prabhupada. Bg. 1.2 was approved with the phrase “began to speak”. Prabhupada did not approve the 1983 edition.

The shocking fact is that Jayadvaita Swami’s underlying technique is to attempt to mind-read Prabhupada after his physical disappearance and use his mind-reading “discoveries” about Prabhupada’s desires in relation to his books to change them posthumously. I don’t think even the devotees in favor of the changes have the fantasy to imagine that this is an editing methodology actively used by the BBT International.

The fallacy of going back to the so called original manuscript is covered here. But apart from that, what does it even mean to postulate that you are changing back to the manuscript, when there are so many instances where you concoct phrases that Prabhupada never used in relation to the verses under discussion?

Let us see how Prabhupada dealt with Bg. 1.2:

Pradyumna: (leads chanting, etc.)

sanjaya uvaca
drstva tu pandavanikam
vyudham duryodhanas tada
acaryam upasangamya
raja vacanam abravit
[Bg. 1.2]

Translation: “Sanjaya said: O King, after looking over the army gathered by the sons of Pandu, King Duryodhana went to his teacher and began to speak the following words:”

Prabhupada: So Dhrtarastra inquired from Sanjaya, kim akurvata: “After my sons and my brother’s sons assembled together for fighting, what did they do?”

Prabhupada continues without objecting to the words “began to speak. In fact a little later in the same lecture Prabhupada says:

“Raja vacanam abravit [Bg. 1.2]. Then he began to speak, to inform Dronacarya.”

(Bhagavad-gita 1.2-3, London, July 9, 1973)

So in this lecture Prabhupada heard the verse, and did not object to to words “gathered” and “began to speak”.  In fact he re-translated the words “raja vacanam abravit” to “began to speak” – the very same words he used in his draft (so called original manuscripts) and which he had approved in his 1972 edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.

From a room conversation:

Aksayananda: Acaryam upasangamya raja vacanam abravit [Bg. 1.2].
Prabhupada: Yes. What is the translation?
Aksayananda: “Sanjaya said, ‘Oh king after looking over the army gathered by the sons of Pandu, King Duryodhana went to his teacher and began to speak the following words.’ ”
Prabhupada: Aiye. [break] Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission is to preach. So you join us.

(Room Conversation on New York court case, November 2, 1976, Vrindavana)

Prabhupada continues speaking with no objection to the verse as it was read to him.

The comparison of Bg. 1.2 in the original 1972 edition and BBT Internationals 1983 posthumously edition version is an axample of everything Prabhupada’s editors should NOT do:

  • They changed what was approved by Prabhupada (namely “gathered” and “began to speak”)
  • They added what Prabhupada approved left out (namely “military”)
  • then added something Prabhupada didn’t write (namely “formation” instead of “phalanx” and “spoke” instead of “began to speak”).

Jayadvaita Swami is not at all being conservative in his editing. He is by nature an extreme liberal, since he feels free to rely on a New Age methodology, namely using his feelings and “intuition” to mind-read Prabhupada. Jayadvaita Swami is actively using this liberal New Age methodology to add, substract, concoct and change words in Prabhupada original and authorized books.


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