By Ajit Krishna Dasa
In 1993 BBT International published a new edition of Srila Prabhupada’s Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers. Madhudvisa Prabhu wrote about this:
“The original edition was more or less a transcript of the original conversation. It was edited, of course, to make the English clear and correct and to make it readable. But basically it remained a transcript of the original conversation.
The 1993 version changes all of this. The book is slashed from 99 pages to 77 pages! And the type is not even smaller! So much has been cut out. In one place four complete pages have been deleted!
All the text has been heavily edited and the whole mood of the book has been completely changed. We have not done anything below about the editing, we have just pointed out a few pieces of text (shown in bold) that have been completely deleted from the new edition.” (http://bookchanges.com/iskcon-perfect-questions-perfect-answers-book-changes/)
The BBT International has tried to justify the changes to Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers. But their attempted justifications are mutually exclusive.
BBTI’s Attempted Justification 1
“In the mid-1990s the BBT published a second edition of Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers, edited by a less experienced BBT editor. Because readers of this edition pointed out numerous editorial discrepancies, the BBT directors resolved in 2002 that Dravida Dasa will review the book before its next printing. Either he will correct the discrepancies, or the BBT will revert to the first edition.” (ISKCON Communications Journal Vol. 11, Editing the Unchangeable Truth: An Overview of the Editorial History of the Books of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, 2005)
In 1996 the editing is of Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers was described by Jayadvaita Swami as follows:
(From Madhudvisa Dasa’s ISKCON’s Changes to Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers)
In this letter Jayadvaita Swami mentions the name of the “less experienced editor” (Sita Devi Dasi), and he claims that her editing made the new version read “more smoothly” and made it “closer to the original transcription”. But he later had to admit that this new and less experienced editor was allowed to change the books of Srila Prabhupada without proper supervision, and that her editing was not good enough.
So this is how Jayadvaita Swami’s explanations sounded in 1996 and 2005 respectively. But a few years ago one of his colleagues posted the following on the internet:
BBTI’s Attempted Justification 2
“A report from Ranjit das, BBTI:
No good deed goes uncriticized.
The story of Perfect Questions Perfect Answers reprint
Recently someone has tried to stir up a new criticism of the BBT by pointing to the re-print (in the 1990’s) of the book Perfect Questions Perfect Answers. Some 20 pages were taken out of the book. Why?
At that time PQPA had been out of print for a long time. The devotee in charge of operations really wanted to re-print the book because he liked it so much. However there was a problem. The book was around 120 pages long. The small books that the BBT were printing at the time had been formatted into 96-page books so that the printers would give a really good price. If PQPA were printed at the 120 plus pages then most of the distributors would not buy them and distribute them because such books as Perfection of Yoga, Beyond Birth and Death, etc were cheaper.
What to do?
Our devotee in charge of operations read the book and a good section consisted of a conversation between Srila Prabhupada and an Indian gentleman who was also present at the time. So our devotee figured that this part could go because it was not really part of the conversation between Bob Cohen (now Brahmatirtha Das) and Srila Prabhupada. But this was just not enough to bring it down to the 96-page format so a few more pages were cut.
Srila Prabhupada himself authorized the same thing with the abridged Gita. This devotee simply followed the precedent. But Srila Prabhupada wanted the word to go out and so did our intrepid BBT manager. And now this is being pointed to as some kind of conspiracy. So our BBT manager, instead of being lauded for the 96 pages that were printed and distributed is criticized for the 20 pages that he did not.” (https://www.facebook.com/bbtedit/posts/10152724990094126)
Like I said, these stories are mutually exclusive. Take a look:
In addition to this, Madhudvisa Prabhu has documented that in fact the second edition has not just had sections and pages cut out. Quite a few individual words and sentences have been randomly removed. Here is a link to Madhudvisa Prabhu’s comparisons. Please check it out yourself.
Our questions to BBT International: What is correct here? The first or second explanation? Or a combination? Or a third or fourth explanation?