Prabhupada: “It is not the ornamentation, it is the ecstasy.”

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From “Srila Prabhupada and His Disciples in Germany” (emphasis by Arsa Prayoga staff):

sp-disciples-germany

“On September 9th, Asoka-kumara and I arrived in Los Angeles. Asoka-kumara came along to transcribe and compose the translations, but unfortunately he could not use the BBT typesetting equipment immediately. Special fonts for German, with diacritic marks for the Sanskrit transliteration, had to be ordered, and that took a couple of months.

“Dr. Wolf, a friendly gentleman in his late sixties, was glad to have us there. He was fluent in six languages, and he was eager to help us to bring the translation of Prabhupada’s books up to a more academically acceptable level. But his involvement turned out to be a double-edged sword. He had many valuable suggestions to improve the style, but his vision was flawed by mundane considerations. He found many of Srila Prabhupada’s original English expressions objectionable and wanted to change them in the German edition. For example, he felt it was simply unacceptable to compare Krsna’s legs to elephant trunks.

“In the following weeks, we had several heated discussions, and when Dr. Wolf saw that I was not prepared to change Prabhupada’s words just because a description didn’t fit his conception, he began to question Prabhupada’s position. Having fled Nazi Germany, he felt that our vision of Prabhupada’s authority was dangerously similar to the inflated image of Hitler in the 1930s. Finally he stopped coming. But he sent me a letter explaining his stand on the way our books should be presented. He mailed a copy to Prabhupada, who replied to him as follows.”

I beg to acknowledge receipt of a copy of a letter sent to Sriman Vedavyasa dated January 14,1976.

Mundane books are written by imperfect persons. Everyone has his own theory, which means he is imperfect. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says if there is a real presentation of spiritual understanding, then, even if it is presented in broken language, it is accepted by high, saintly persons, because it glorifies the Supreme Person. On the other hand, if literature is highly metaphorically composed, if it does not glorify the Lord, it is compared to a place inhabited by the crows.

Actually, if some literature doesn’t carry any real knowledge, what is the use of ornamental language? We are not interested in presenting ornamental language.

In India the system is that people go to see the Jagannatha Deity. The Deity is not very beautiful from the artistic point of view, but still people attend by the thousands. That sentiment is required. Similarly with our kirtana we are only using drums and karatalas but people come to the point of ecstasy. It is not the ornamentation, it is the ecstasy. This ecstasy is awakened by sravanam kirtanam by devotees. I hope this makes everything clear.”

The actual letter from Srila Prabhupada:

Letter to: Dr. Wolf

Mayapur
29 January, 1976
76-01-29
Los Angeles
My dear Dr. Wolf,
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of a copy of a letter sent to Sriman Vedavyasa dated January 14, 1976.
Mundane books are written by imperfect persons. Everyone has his own theory, which means he is imperfect. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says if there is a real presentation of spiritual understanding, then even if it is presented i broken language, it is accepted by high, saintly persons, because it glorifies the Supreme Person. On the other hand, if literature is highly metaphorically composed, if it does not glorify the Lord, it is compared to a place inhabited by the crows.
Actually, if some literature doesn’t carry any real knowledge, what is the use of ornamental language? We are not interested in presenting ornamental language.
In India the system is that people go to see the Jagannatha Deity. The Deity is not very beautiful from the artistic point of view, but still people attend by the thousands. That sentiment is required. Similarly with our kirtana we are only using drums and karatalas, but people come to the point of ecstasy. It is not the ornamentation, it is the ecstasy. This ecstasy is awakened by sravanam kirtanam by devotees. I hope this makes everything clear.
Hoping this meets you well.
Your ever well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
ACBS/tkg

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