Open Letter to Sivarama Swami

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This below e-mail was sent to Sivarama Swami through the e-mail address (asksrs@gmail.com) provided on this website. I hope that the devotees in charge of receiving the e-mails will forward the e-mail to Maharaja. In the meantime I will look for another e-mail address of his.

Dear Sivarama Swami. Dandavat pranama. Jaya Srila Prabhupada.

I apologize if answering this letter becomes a burden on your many other responsibilities.

Recently I heard a podcast from your website where you respond to a few questions about the changes made to Srila Prabhupada’s books.

I have a few comments and points I find important in relation to your response, and I hope you will find the time to answer each of them.

This is an open letter, so it will also be posted online.

The letter is attached to this e-mail, but you can also find it here:

Open Letter to Sivarama Swami

Thank you very much.​
Your servant,
Ajit Krishna Dasa

E-BOOK: Arsa-Prayoga: Preserving Srila Prabhupada’s Legacy

Almost 400 pages about the changes made to Srila Prabhupada’s books.

Arsa-Prayoga Book

Click picture to visit website

From the back cover:

“Arsa prayoga, lit. “rishi’s license,” means to honour the acarya by preserving his teachings in the originally published form, not changing what he has written to make it appear more effective or politically correct. There should be no confusion between the work written by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada and edited by Howard Wheeler and the posthumous cent per cent revised copy proposed by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International. By changing Prabhupada’s books without explicitly saying so, they do a discredit to Srila Prabhupada, devotees and scholars. At present it appears that the revisions were made by the original author. This book is meant to be the truth about the editing of Prabhupada’s books carefully chronicled for future generations.”

Go directly to download page: arsaprayogabook.com/book

“Enter Blazing” – Jayadvaita Swami Commits a Grammatical Error (Bg. 11.28)

universal-formThe Universal Form

Bhakta Torben Nielsen recently made me aware of this change to Bg. 11.28:

Original and authorized 1972-edition:

“As the rivers flow into the sea, so all these great warriors enter Your blazing mouths and perish.”

BBT International’s edited 1983 edition:

“As the many waves of the rivers flow into the ocean, so do all these great warriors enter blazing into Your mouths.”

So-called original manuscript:

There is no verse for 11.28 as the page is missing. But verse 30 mentions the words “blazing mouths”.

This is a very interesting change, because it is of a grammatical nature:

  • In Srila Prabhupada’s original 1972 edition the adjective “blazing” describes the plural noun “mouths”.
  • In BBT International’s 1983 edition the adjective “blazing” describes the plural noun “warriors”.

So which translation is grammatically correct – Srila Prabhupada’s or Jayadvaita Swami’s?

The context

Here we have the verses from Bg. 11.28-30 (original edition):

“As the rivers flow into the sea, so all these great warriors enter Your blazing mouths and perish.” (Bg. 11.28)

“I see all people rushing with full speed into Your mouths as moths dash into a blazing fire.” (Bg. 11.29)

“O Visnu, I see You devouring all people in Your flaming mouths and covering the universe with Your immeasurable rays. Scorching the worlds, You are manifest.” (Bg. 11.30)

We see that Srila Prabhupada describes the mouths of the universal form as “blazing” (Bg. 11.28) and “flaming” (Bg. 11.30), and compares them to a “blazing fire” (Bg. 11.29). There is no “original manuscript” available for Bg. 11.28-29, but the “original manuscript” for Bg. 11.30 also says “blazing mouths”, as mentioned above.

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Plate 31

The painting above this article is Plate 31 from the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Just like all other paintings in the book it was approved by Srila Prabhupada. On the painting we clearly see that the warriors are entering into the blazing mouths of The Universal Form – just like we are told that they are in the Bg. 11.28, 1972 edition.

Srila Prabhupada’s desire

Based on the above, there is no doubt at all that Srila Prabhupada wanted to use the adjective “blazing” to describe the mouths of the universal form. He never meant to say that the great warriors were “blazing”.

What does the previous acaryas say about Bg. 11.28? (as translated on bhagavad-gita.org)

Sridhara Swami’s commentary:

“As unlimited currents of water helplessly flow in innumerable rivers and are propelled from multiple channels into the ocean, the mighty warriors of the Kaurava and Pandava armies are seen to be helplessly propelled into the flaming, gnashing mouths of the visvarupa or divine universal form of Lord Krishna.” ()

Kesava Kasmiri’s commentary:

“How helplessly do the mighty warriors of the Kaurava and Pandava armies enter into the flaming mouths of Lord Krishna’s visvarupa or divine universal form? As helplessly as unlimited currents of water from innumerable rivers are propelled into entering the ocean.”

In his translations of Visvanath Cakravarti Thakura and Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s Bhagavad-gita commentaries Bhanu Swami also translates Bg. 11.28 as follows:

“As many swift currents of rivers flow towards the sea, so these heroes of the world enter Your flaming mouths.”

The sanskrit

Gaura Krishna Dasa, a student of sanskrit, sent me the following analysis of the sanskrit grammar:

Regarding the change in the translation of Bhagavad gita 11.28.

The word “abhivijvalanti” is in the 1972 edition taken as what in grammar is called a verbal adjective or a participle. A participle is basically a derivative from a verb but belonging in the group of adjectives. This particular participle is a participle in present tense, active voice for parasmaipada verbs. It is in neuter gender, plural number and in the accusative case which clearly indicates that it relates to “vaktraani” which is also in neuter gender, plural number and accusative case.

Sridhara Swami, Visvanath Cakravati Thakur and Baladeva Vidyabhusana have the same grammatical conclusion of this word as a participle and therefore in relation to “vaktraani” attributively, “blazing mouths”.

The “anti” ending in “abhivijvalanti” could preliminarily appear as a finite verb 3rd person in the plural number and present tense related to “nara-loka-viira” (the kings of human society), but this conclusion is in the least very strange. It would, if accepted, be a distortion of historical facts and it must be concluded faulty because this sentense already has a finite verb namely “visanti” meaning entering. So if we for the sake of example maintain “abhivijvalanti” as a finite verb, as it is done in the 1983 edition it would translate “as the many waves of the rivers flow into the ocean, so all these great warriors enter and blaze your mouth”, since “abhivijvalanti” can also not be taken as an adverb describing “visanti” attributively.

Conclusion:

“abhivijvalanti” must be taken as a participle – as done by the previous acaryas and the original 1972 edition – and not a verb as done in the 1983 edition.

Conclusion

The evidence against Jayadvaita Swami’s change is overwhelming:

1. Srila Prabhupada is very clear in his original Gita and his manuscripts – the mouths are blazing. Not the warriors.

2. Srila Prabhupada follows the previous acaryas who says that the mouths are blazing (flaming, gnashing).

3 The painting depicting this event (Plate 31 in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is) shows that it is the mouths of The Universal Form that are blazing.

4. According to sanskrit grammer it is the “mouths” that are “blazing”. Not the “warriors”.

Even if both translations could be correct (which they cannot), there would still be no justification – based on the above analysis – to change Srila Prabhupada’s translation of the verse.

It would not be possible to do this without overriding his own editorial decisions and thus violating the arsa-prayoga principle.

Please see additional evidence here.

Caitanya Mahaprabhu on the poetic mistakes of great vaisnavas

Sri Caitanya Caritamrita Adi Lila_1

Caitanya Mahaprabhu said:

Even in the poetic compositions of such great poets as Bhavabhuti, Jayadeva and Kalidasa there are many examples of faults. Such mistakes should be considered negligible. One should see only how such poets have displayed their poetic power.” (Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-Lila, Ch. 16, Texts 101-102)

Prabhupada’s purport to text 102:

In Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.11) it is said:

tad-vag-visargo janatagha-viplavo
yasmin prati-slokam abaddhavaty api
namany anantasya yaso ‘nkitani yat
srnvanti gayanti grnanti sadhavah

In explaining the glories of the Lord, inexperienced men may compose poetry with many faults, but because it contains glorification of the Lord, great personalities read it, hear it and chant it.” Despite its minute literary discrepancies, one must study poetry on the merit of its subject matter. According to Vaisnava philosophy, any literature that glorifies the Lord, whether properly written or not, is first class. There need be no other considerations. The poetic compositions of Bhavabhuti, or Srikantha, include Malati-madhava, Uttara-carita, Vira-carita and many other similar Sanskrit dramas. This great poet was born during the time of Bhojaraja as the son of Nilakantha, a brahmana. Kalidasa flourished during the time of Maharaja Vikramaditya, and he became the state poet. He composed some thirty or forty Sanskrit dramas, including Kumara-sambhava, Abhijnana-sakuntala and Megha-duta. His drama Raghu-vamsa is especially famous. We have already described Jayadeva in Chapter Thirteen of this Adi-lila.

Tampering with Prabhupada’s personally typewritten sanskrit translations (BG, Chapter One)

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The text below was sent to the BBT International through their website (http://www.bbtedit.com/contact) and to Jayadvaita Swami and Dravida Prabhu’s personal e-mails (jswami@pamho.net, jayadvaita.swami@pamho.net, dravida108@gmail.com) the 7th Feb. 2014. We asked them to comment on the points raised.

So far we have not received any reply. 

By Ajit Krishna Dasa and Bhaktin Anna Nygaard

In regard to the posthumous editing of Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Jayadvaita Swami has expressed (emphasis added by Arsa-Prayoga staff):

1982:

“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 Swami, letter to senior devotees, October 25, 1982)

1986:

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

1995:

“When Srila Prabhupada conveyed to us the conclusions of the previous acaryas, he did so perfectly, preserving and transmitting the philosophy exactly as it is, neither watering anything down, nor covering anything over, nor leaving anything out. He gave us the essence of everything.

We therefore don’t need to add anything, subtract anything, or change anything. We need only faithfully serve Srila Prabhupada’s orders, and everything will be revealed.” (Jayadvaita Swami, Sri Vyasa Puja book August 19,1995)

2009:

On BBT International’s website we find this video:

Transcription of the video:

Arsa-Prayoga is a very important principle. The editor should never have the mentality that he’s better than the author, that he has something more to contribute than the author does, that the author really doesn’t know what he is doing, but he knows what he is doing. That’s offensive! And that is…ruins everything! It is an offense to the acarya. The idea, however, that this sort of sanctity that the author’s text has, or that the words of the author have, somehow extends to the mistakes of the editors…is weird! “It’s an offense to correct the mistakes of previous editors!” Are they acaryas? Are they paramahamsas? Are they infallible? They are wonderful devotees, they did wonderful service. But they made mistakes. Understandably.”

Summing up Jayadvaita Maharaja’s standpoints from the above:

In 2009 Jayadvaita Swami admits that the principle of arsa-prayoga is very important, and that it is an offense to violate it. He admits that Prabhupada’s text has sanctity, and that the editors of Prabhupada’s books should never think they are better than Prabhupada and has more to contribute than Prabhupada.

In 1995, twelve years after Prabhupada’s disappearance, Jayadvaita Swami said that we should not add, subtract or change anything in the teachings Prabhupada has given us. Earlier, in 1982 and 1986, Jayadvaita Swami claimed that they had in mind not to make needless changes in their editing of Bhagavad-gita As It is, because Prabhupada staunchly opposed such needless changes. They only changed what they felt was worthwhile changing. However, Jayadvaita Swami further states that the sanctity that Prabhupada’s texts have do not apply to the work done by Prabhupada’s editors (he seem not to appreciate the fact that this work was later approved by Prabhupada. Does Prabhupada’s approval not have sanctity?)

In this way Jayadvaita Swami makes it seem as if he did not add, subtract or change any of Prabhupada’s direct words (except for the grammatical errors, capitalisation and commas). However, during the last three decades, we and many other devotees have observed and documented numerous needless changes made by Jayadvaita Swami to Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is. And in spite of Jayadvaita Swami’s own seeming interest in not adding, subtracting or changing anything in Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, the posthumously edited books contain all of these three types of edits (adding, subtracting and changing).

We will now start a series of articles documenting the changes made to the sanskrit synonyms (word for word meanings) in the first six chapters of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Why only the first six chapters?

According to Jayadvaita Swami the first five or six chapters of the draft (often referred to as the ”original manuscript”) to the Bhagavad-gita As It Is was personally typewritten by Srila Prabhupada himself.

Jayadvaita Swami writes on his website:

”Some books Srila Prabhupada wrote out in longhand or typed himself. These include Easy Journey to Other Planets, Sri Isopanishad, the first and second cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the first five or six chapters of Bhagavad-gita As It Is,…” (Jayadvaita Swami, Editing the Unchangeable Truth, How Were the Books Written?, Reprinted from ISKCON Communications Journal, Volume 11, 2005)

If anything has sanctity, apart from the finished manuscripts that Prabhupada sent to the press for printing, it must be the words that he himself wrote on his type-writer. We would most certainly not expect to see any changes made to these. Even if they contain mistakes, these mistakes should not be corrected according to the principle of arsa-prayoga.

However, we do see significant changes made to the sanskrit translations that Prabhupada personally wrote on his type-writer. By comparing the posthumously edited 1983 edition with both the 1972 MacMillan edition and the so called “original manuscript” we see that the 1972 MacMillan edition is much closer to and faithful to Prabhupada’s original words.

This is especially interesting because Prabhupada was very concerned with better knowing disciples that had become “learned” in sanskrit:

“…a little learning is dangerous, especially for the Westerners. I am practically seeing that as soon as they begin to learn a little Sanskrit immediately they feel that they have become more than their guru and then the policy is kill guru and be killed himself.” (from a letter to Dixit das on 18 Sep 1976)

We now publish for the first time a complete list over all the changes made to Prabhupada’s personally type-written sanskrit translations. Here is the complete list for Chapter One.

PDF: bg-comparing-OM-1972-1983-ch1  

Direct link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/d9u09z5jxnwj50d/bg-comparing-OM-1972-1983-ch1.pdf

Bhaktivinoda Thakura on unscrupulous men who interpolate the Vedas

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Raghunatha dasa Babaji, “In the course of time many unscrupulous men have interpolated chapters; mandalas, sections; and mantras into the Vedas for self-interested reasons. A Vedic text may be discovered somewhere, but that does not mean that all parts of the book are authentic. Texts that have been authenticated through the ages by the acaryas of the bona fide sampradayas are the Vedas. Sections or even entire books rejected by these authorities are unacceptable to us.”

Jaiva Dharma, Part One: Pramana, Evidence, and Prameya, Truth

Jayadvaita Swami has also interpolated, substracted and re-arranged sentences, words, paragraphs, chapters, forewords and paintings from Prabhupada’s already authorized books. His editing work was never approved or authenticated by Prabhupada.

Then, are his edited books authentic?

Where Angels Fear to Tread

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By Rupanuga Dasa (ACBSP) (Originally posted on the Sampradaya Sun)

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The editors of the 1983 revised Gita did not believe that they actually interpolated philosophy or style.* Their idea was to improve both translations and purports by transposing and clarifying portions of old manuscripts, etc. existing prior to the one finally submitted to Macmillan in 1972. Truly, many of the grammatical, spelling, format and historical inaccuracies corrected in the revision would have been approved by Srila Prabhupada himself had he been consulted.

Be that as it may, Srila Prabhupada never instructed anyone to use a procedure of re-visiting and researching old manuscripts or dictations to revise future printings of his first editions. On the other hand, recordings made from 1972 until 1977, six years, demonstrate how Srila Prabhupada often personally read excerpts from the Gita in classes, room conversations, engagements, etc. Many times he also instructed devotees present to read aloud as he listened. There is no evidence indicating that he ordered extensive revisions for the next printing. As the current chief editor wrote; “To my knowledge, Srila Prabhupada never asked us to re-edit the book.” (Letter to Amogha Lila, July, 1986 ).

Interestingly enough, none of the scholars, educators, professors and other reviewers of the Gita called for it either. From 1972 until 1983 we don’t find requests from professionals for a revision to a higher standard. Nor do we hear any demand from devotees in general for such a thorough revision. In fact, the editors state in “A Note About the Second Edition” found in the BBT revised editions: “Yet their effort to publish Srila Prabhupada’s work was a success, and the Bhagavad-gita As It Is has become the standard edition for scholars and devotees around the world.” Still, after eleven years of documented success, the Gita was extensively re-worked. Why? What is the reason?

The editors continue their explanation: “For this second edition, however, Srila Prabhupada’s disciples had the benefit of having worked with his books for the last fifteen years. The English editors were familiar with his philosophy and language, and the Sanskrit editors were by now accomplished scholars. And now they were able to see their way through perplexities in the manuscript by consulting the same Sanskrit commentaries Srila Prabhupada consulted when writing Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The result is a work of even greater richness and authenticity… In places the translations, though already correct, have been revised to come closer to the original Sanskrit and Srila Prabhupada’s original dictations…”

The editors are claiming the benefit of 15 years work, which would mean 1968 until 1983, the year of the revision. However, the value of those benefits is uncertain, because in June, 1977 Srila Prabhupada severely chastised the editors for changes to his Isopanisad and Bhagavatam. He described the editors as rascals (a term he usually reserved for atheists, material scientists and politicians), and called them “dangerous” at least six times in ten minutes of discussion. Just five months before his disappearance, Srila Prabhupada made this a major issue for the Society.

The same basic issue came up in 1983 and has continued more or less for the last 25 years. But for us, now, who will decide who is right and who is wrong? One side says “responsible editing,” the other says “irresponsible, unauthorized, etc.” But who is right and who is wrong? Who will decide?

So now we must come to the point of reason. Is it reasonable to conclude that just five or six years after deserving that 1977 chastisement, editors could have emerged as “accomplished scholars” -by 1983? One editor escaped chastisement. Still, isn’t six years a short time for everyone to turn up as “accomplished scholars?” But even if all the editors had been studying Sanskrit for 30 years by 1983, is it plausible that such editors could be able to dive into the superexcellent depths of Sanskrit revelation, and come up with an understanding of it’s complexities—the same complexities-understood by previous acaryas? Was this the prerogative of such disciples, that they could be “able to see their way through perplexities in the manuscript by consulting the same Sanskrit commentaries Srila Prabhupada consulted when writing the Bhagavad-gita As It Is? Is it possible?

And further, “In places the translations, though already correct, have been revised to come closer to the original Sanskrit…” Here the implication is that the editors in 1983, whoever they were, thought they could interpret the original Sanskrit texts comparatively as well as Srila Prabhupada himself, or at least well enough to put their new realizations in his book under his name. And, that they could understand the same complexities understood by previous acaryas (presumably Sridhar Swami et. al.) simply by using the same Sanskrit commentaries Srila Prabhupada used. Is this credible? Is it reasonable to conclude that such editors were capable of producing “a work of even greater richness and authenticity?” Or that translations “already correct” could have been revised to even more correctness by them? Was all this perfection really possible by 1983?

May be, if they had received authorizations and blessings from Srila Prabhupada in 1977 before he disappeared, but that didn’t happen. It is known from that recorded conversation of June, 1977, that when Tamal Krsna suggested to Srila Prabhupada Jayadvaita check any changes before reprinting, Srila Prabhupada countered: “But they are doing without any authority!” In other words, no need for Jayadvaita to become an inspector of changes because nobody was authorized to make such changes in the first place! Tamal had already said to Srila Prabhupada: “Your original work that you’re doing now, that is edited by Jayadvaita. That’s the first editing.” Srila Prabhupada had answered, “He is good.” So Srila Prabhupada, in the midst of all the turmoil, made it clear that he was satisfied with Jayadvaita’s work. Yet a “first editing” is entirely different from re-editing an already finished or printed work, which is what the others were doing. Srila Prabhupada never authorized anyone, including Jayadvaita or Pradyumna to do that with the Bhagavad-gita then or in the future.

The extent of Srila Prabhupada’s disappointment in this matter can not be underestimated. He said, after being informed of the changes in the Isopanisad, “I know what these rascals are doing. What can be done? How they can be relied on?” And later, “It is starting. What can I do? These cannot…These rascals cannot be educated. Dangerous. Little learning, dangerous…What can I do? Ultimate it goes for editorial…”

In the 3rd Canto (3.4.26), Srila Prabhupada writes, “Although one may be well versed in transcendental science, one should be careful about the offense of maryada-vyatikrama, or impertinently surpassing a greater personality. According to scriptural injunction one should be very careful of transgressing the law of maryada-vyatikrama because by so doing one loses his duration of life, his opulence, fame and piety and the blessings of all the world. To be well versed in the transcendental science necessitates awareness of the techniques of spiritual science.”

At this point the significant question emerges: Has maryada-vyatikrama, impertinently surpassing a greater personality, occurred in the process of editing and reprinting Srila Prabhupada’s books? It certainly had by 1977, according to the momentous June 22nd room conversation about changes to the Isopanisad and Srimad Bhagavatam. Six years later, considering the exaggerated claims in the “Note About the Second Edition” and the extreme content-editing of the text, it appears to have occurred again in the 1983 “Revised and Enlarged” version of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Vaisnava etiquette demands that Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, grand-disciples, et. al. always think themselves fools in front of Srila Prabhupada. But, unfortunately, sometimes some of them forget that, and dare to rush in where angels fear to tread.

* “Our editing is to correct grammar and spelling errors only, without interpolation of style or philosophy.” (Srila Prabhupada, 02/17/70)