Brief History of Unauthorized Book Changes in Iskcon

Brief History of Unauthorized Book Changes in Iskcon
 compiled by Purujit dasa

: Glossary: editing – also known as the first editing, these are the edited versions of Srila Prabhupada’s dictation tapes transcripts reediting–going over an already printed book, second editing.

The first-time reediting of Srila Prabhupada’s books had been undertaken was in the case of the First Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam. Srila Prabhupada published this book in India in the early 1960′s and upon his arrival to America he instructed his disciple, Hayagriva das to revise it. Thus the 1972 version of the First Canto came about. After this Hayagriva reedited two more books — Easy Journey to Other Planets (from 1957-8? version) printed in 1972 and Teachings of Lord Caitanya (from 1968 version), printed in 1974.

Later on, Jayadvaita, another chief editor of Srila Prabhupada’s books, reedited the 1972 version of the First Canto and it was printed in the late 1976. He has also reedited the 1972 Second Canto shortly after the 1972 version had been printed. We have also found evidence of reediting in certain volumes of the Third and Fourth Canto.

In the case of the first printings of the first four Cantos we have sufficient evidence that these versions have been authorized by Srila Prabhupada, however in this article we would like to point out a lack of substantial evidence of Srila Prabhupada approving the later printings.

DO NOT DO ANYTHING WITHOUT CONSULTING ME

The first fact to consider is that Srila Prabhupada did not want his disciples to change his books without his authorization. Examples of this can be seen in these quotes:

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Bhargava, May 29, 1976, Honolulu:
“I am in due receipt of your letter dated May 25, 1976, along with samples of the Gitar-gan and the cover in for the Bhagavat-darsana. No, the printing of the Gitar-gan cover this fashion is not at all approved by me. You have done most nonsensically. Why change the cover? When people look to see the Bhagavad-gita they expect to see Krishna and Arjuna, not the picture of Krishna with cow. You have done a great mistake by changing the front picture and it will hamper the sale. In future you don’t do any changes without asking me first. Simply because there is no stock of books, we can do anything whimsically??? Is this logic? Gita is not spoken in Vrindaban, it is spoken on the battlefield of Kuruksetra, but this is Vrindaban picture. That chariot drive by 4 horses, that is the real Kuruksetra picture. It is not that because there is no stock we can do whimsically as we like and lose the idea, that is rasa-bhasa. Because there is no bread, you take stone to eat? There is no stock of bread so you will take stone??? The front picture is most important thing and you have changed it. It must remain standard, and not change. Also, the lettering is not nice on the cover. You could have taken a color picture of Krishna and Arjuna and used it black and white (one color) on the front cover. Just as you did with the inside back cover of the Bhagavat darsana, the original picture of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was in color but you have printed it in black and white. You could have done this on the front cover with Krishna and Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, but the cover must not be changed. Concerning the Bhagavat darsana cover, this Hindi on the back is not good. Who is translating this? Also, the address on the back of our Vrindaban Temple is not correctly spelled. It has been spelled Chattakara Road; But it should be Chattikara Road. Who is proof-reading?
I am glad to see that some Hindi translating is going on but what about that other boy who was translating The Srimad-Bhagavatam in Vrindaban? Do not do anything whimsically in future, and you can write me if you have questions concerning the printing.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Radhavallabha, January 5, 1976, Nellore:
“I will have to see personally what the mistakes in the synonyms are, and also how you intend to correct them. I was not satisfied with the corrections that were made before. I saw some changes which I did not approve. Nitai may correct whatever mistakes are there, but the corrected material must be sent to me for final approval. So, reprinting the volumes will have to wait until the mistakes are corrected and approved by me.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Hayagriva, November 18, 1968, Los Angeles:
“Regarding Srimad-Bhagavatam, please send me the chapters which you have already revised. I want to see it, how it is being done. I am glad that you are not omitting anything, but just making grammatical correction, and phrasing for force and clarity, and adding Pradyumna’s transliteration, that is very nice.
Yes, henceforward, as I have already told you, that Srimad-Bhagavatam will be ultimately seen by you, before being printed. That will keep consistency, I quite agree with you. My present plan is to stay in Los Angeles, perhaps at least for more than a month, which will cover Christmas holidays. And so, during that time, if you come here, it will be very nice.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Satsvarupa, November 14, 1969, London:
“Also, I have not received any edited versions of the tapes which I have sent you from Europe. So please send them to me as soon as possible, keeping carbon copies with you in Boston. If there are discrepancies in your editing techniques between the beginning and later chapters, please inform me what they are so we can make the corrections here.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Karunasindhu, November 9, 1975, Bombay:
“My dear Karuna Sindhu das,
Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated October 24, 1975 and I have noted the contents. I am very glad to receive your letter. I can understand this cunning Purusottama das has taken advantage of your simplicity. So any one of my godbrothers cannot help me in this way of book writing because they are unfortunate in the matter of preaching work. They are simply trying to infiltrate our society to so something harmful by their attempt. So please do not have any correspondence with this Purusottama or any of my godbrothers, so-called. And do not do anything without consulting me. You can inform this instruction to everyone and send back to me the sheets of corrections sent to you by Purusottama.
I was very much anxious to know how Purusottama entered in our camp. Now the matter is clear. Be careful for further dealings with such men.
I hope this finds you in good health.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Radhavallabha, August 26, 1975, Vrindaban:
“Regarding the English editing discrepancies, that how can I know? Let them point out which part and on which page so I can see.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Radhavallabha, November 3, 1974, India:
“Regarding the indexing for Srimad-Bhagavatam, that has caused some confusion. From you letter it appears that you are printing a one volume index covering the first four Cantos, in a softcover edition. But, the indexes for the First and Second Cantos have already been published at the concluding volume of the Canto. Why are you now changing the procedure? Since the indexes for the first two Cantos have already appeared, why not just publish indexes for the next two Cantos which have not yet appeared? And, even if you bring out indexes for all the first four Cantos, since the entire work is not yet completed, you will again have to do the work over again when the succeeding Cantos are published.
Anyway you can do it as you are doing it, but it is advisable to consult directly with Srila Prabhupada on such a matter specially if you are making some change in any of the publishing, that should be consulted with Srila Prabhupada first. Kindly do this.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Radhavallabha, August 26, 1976, New Delhi:
“You may title this book, Teachings of Lord Kapila, but it must be subtitled, “The Son of Devahuti”. That will remain, do not try to change it. The Americans may like it or not like it, but we must make the distinction between devahuti putra kapila, and the atheistic Kapila. Do not try to change anything without my permission.”
BECAUSE I AM HERE IF THEY HAVE QUESTIONS I CAN ANSWER

From Srila Prabhupada’s letters we can also understand that keeping editors with him was preferable. Srila Prabhupada could thus oversee any changes they were making.

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Dhananjaya, July 13, 1976, Philadelphia:
“Regarding Nitai, he is now travelling with me for some immediate editing work. Afterwards you can consult with Ramesvara what will be his program.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Jayadvaita, May 15, 1971, Sydney:
“One thing, I do not regularly receive copies of books and magazines which are new, so if you will kindly send me whenever they come out sample copies of all our literatures, I shall be very thankful. As I have informed, Pradyumna and Syamasundara. will be sending you regularly completed transcriptions of my translation work by post, that will avoid the high cost of sending tapes, which besides are very expensive and may be lost easily in mail, and because I am here if they have questions I can answer and make the final proofreading, and this will expedite everything.”

TOO MUCH EDITING IS NOT REQUIRED

There are many instances where Srila Prabhupada is not in favor of too much editing. Too much editing by too many people means too much danger that unauthorized changes to come in. When Hayagriva das reedited the Easy Journey to Other Planets, Srila Prabhupada was not satisfied and called him a rascal for changing so many things. Also, the reediting of Teachings of Lord Caitanya has been nicely refuted by Rupanuga Prabhu in his article “A Scientific Method for Evaluating Editorial Changes to Srila Prabhupada’s Books” as well as in an article by Srimad Bhagavatam Prabhu.

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Rayarama, December 21, 1967, San Francisco:
“What is the reason that he wants to leave us? It is understood that the finished MSS. of the Teachings of Lord Caitanya is with him; whether he has delivered this final MSS. to Brahmananda for printing purpose? Please inform me about this. Too much editing is not required. If Satsvarupa has already edited it, there is no need of further editing.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Satsvarupa, December 23, 1967, San Francisco:
“This too much editorial work on Gitopanisad has created some misunderstanding between the editorial staffs. Anyway, in future, one man should edit it and be sufficient for our printing.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Rayarama, May 15, 1969, Columbus, Ohio:
“Regarding your proposed program of editing, the Bhagavatam First Canto is already edited, so when making final typing, you shall simply see it for proofreading.”

Which version to print?
First Canto 1972 version?

1) Radhavallabha’s letter

Note: On the 22nd of April 1976, Radhavallabha das from the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust sent Srila Prabhupada a letter, which besides other issues mentions the following:

“Nitai hasn’t sent me any corrections for the reprints of First and Second Cantos, so I want to reprint them as they are.

To this letter Srila Prabhupada wrote a response a few days later:

“There is no need for corrections for the First and Second Cantos. Whatever is there is all right. Once Pradyumna comes to join me here from India, then there will be no need for Nitai das or Jagannatha das to edit the Srimad-Bhagavatam.”
(Letter of 5-4-76)

We also see a note made by a blue marker on the side of Radhavallabha’s letter.
“Yes. No need of corrections. Whatever is there is alright. No need of reediting by Pradyumna, Nitai+ Jag.”

Note; This means that Srila Prabhupada’s letter has been received and well understood. For the planned 1976 reprint of the First and Second Cantos Srila Prabhupada instructed to print the original 1972 versions, without reediting. This constitutes the most direct order in this regard. It is obvious that Srila Prabhupada authorizes the first printings and further editing is not needed.

2) This version has been used for Srila Prabhupada’s lectures. It was the 1972 version read regularly in the temples. Srila Prabhupada gave classes from this version and it was this version which recieved favorable reviews by scholars, etc.

3) Prabhupada’s personal guidance in the editing process

Note; The editing of the 1972 version has been a result of close cooperation between Srila Prabhupada and the editor Hayagriva dasa, as is clear from the following quotes:

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Rupanuga, January 15, 1969, Los Angeles:
“Recently, Hayagriva came from Columbus, and he remained with me for more than a fortnight. He was assisting me in editing Srimad-Bhagavatam.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Hayagriva, January 31, 1969, Los Angeles:
“I am very pleased to learn that the entire first canto should be completely edited by March 8th, and I am also glad to hear that your Lord Caitanya play is at last completed.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Hayagriva, September 9, 1969, San Francisco:
“Please accept my blessings. And I hope by this time you have reached your headquarters, at Wheeling, and I hope you are feeling well. And you have taken the dictaphone. Now immediate task is that you revise the 1st, 2nd, 3rd volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam. As soon as they are revised, we shall immediately print in one volume. Just we are going to print, volume one means canto one. So then you take up the second part, second canto, and keep along with you Pradyumna; he will help you in marking diacritic signs on the original verses, and be always in correspondence with me. And be seriously engaged in this task, and it will be a great service to Krishna.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Hayagriva, November 18, 1968, Los Angeles:
“Regarding Srimad-Bhagavatam, please send me the chapters which you have already revised. I want to see it, how it is being done. I am glad that you are not omitting anything, but just making grammatical correction, and phrasing for force and clarity, and adding Pradyumna’s transliteration, that is very nice.Yes, henceforward, as I have already told you, that Srimad-Bhagavatam will be ultimately seen by you, before being printed. That will keep consistency, I quite agree with you. My present plan is to stay in Los Angeles, perhaps at least for more than a month, which will cover Christmas holidays. And so, during that time, if you come here, it will be very nice.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Hayagriva, July 31, 1970, Los Angeles:
“Regarding Srimad-Bhagavatam, First Canto, I am glad that manuscript is also being composed. Srimad-Bhagavatam, Second Canto, improper title pages being rectified is good news. Please keep me informed about the progress of those manuscripts.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Jayadvaita, July 12, 1970, Los Angeles:
“Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated th July, 1970 and noted the contents. Regarding the missing translation, it is as follows:

First Canto, Chapter 3, verse 6, Translation
“So, in the beginning of the creation, first of all there were the four unmarried sons of Brahma (Kumaras) and they underwent severe austerities being situated in avowed celibacy for realization of the Absolute Truth.”
Regarding your second point, all incarnations should be proper nouns and therefore capitalized. It does not matter whether they are Visnutattva or jivatattva, saktyavesa-avatara. or plenary expansion. The incarnations listed however may be classified as follows: Visnutattva: Kapila, Nara Narayana, Rama, Balarama, Krsna, the Purusas, the Boar, Yajna, Rsabha, Matsya, Kurma, Dhanvantari, Mohini and Kalki. Jivatattva (empowered): Narada, Vyasa, Buddha, Kumaras, Dattatreya, Prthu and Bhrgupati.”

4) EVEN THERE IS SOME MISTAKE, THAT DOESN’T MATTER

Note: It is true that there have been mistakes made in the 1972 version because in a letter to Radhavallabha dated 5th of January, 1976 Srila Prabhupada states that: “reprinting the volumes will have to wait until the mistakes are corrected and approved by me.” However, when Radhavallabha writes to Srila Prabhupada that he had not received any corrections for the First and Second Canto from Nitai (Sanskrit editor for BBT), Srila Prabhupada responds in the following letter dated 4th of May, 1976: “There is no need for corrections for the First and Second Cantos. Whatever is there is all right.” This means that although Srila Prabhupada knew that mistakes had been done in the 1972, he still authorizes its reprint. This is most likely to ensure that the books are not altered more than they already are. It is significant for us to know that these mistakes were not serious enough for Srila Prabhupada to stop the printing. How such books can be still transmitting the transcendental message is inconceivable to our mundane senses, but Srila Prabhupada explains this phenomenon in the following instances.

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Satsvarupa, January 9, 1970, Los Angeles:
“Regarding transcribing, I have written to Detroit if they can do it. In the meantime, I have engaged Devananda transcribing the tape and a primary editing also, and the copy can be sent to you for final editing and then printing. We have to do things now very dexterously, simply we have to see that in our book there is no spelling or grammatical mistake. We do not mind for any good style, our style is Hare Krishna, but, still, we should not present a shabby thing. Although Krishna literatures are so nice that, even if they are presented in broken and irregular ways, such literatures are welcomed, read and respected by bona fide devotees.”
Room Conversation, February 27, 1977, Mayapur:

Srila Prabhupada: The system is: whatever authority has done, even there is mistake, it should be accepted.
Radha-vallabha: Oh.
Prabhupada: Asa-praya(?) That is ha… He should not become more learned than the authority. That is very bad habit.
Radha-vallabha: He was always wondering how he should think. So I’ll tell him that. He thinks, “If I think I see a mistake, what should I think?” I’ll tell him what you just said.
Prabhupada: He cannot see mistake. He is mistake. (laughter)
Room Conversation, August 21, 1971, London:
Srila Prabhupada: He could not finish any one?
Hansadutta: No, not even the magazine was finished. The magazine before this recent one, I put it together myself from old magazines.
Prabhupada: There are so many German students. They cannot do?
Hansadutta: They can do, but the thing is that you have said that he is the chief and unless it goes through him, it can’t be printed.
Prabhupada: No. No, no. No, no. No, no.
Hansadutta: Everything is bottle-necked around him.
Prabhupada: Now, the important subject, he may do slowly, but…
Hansadutta: Like Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Prabhupada: Yes. Others may be done by others. You print it. Even there is some mistake, that doesn’t matter.

Note: The last quote applies to our controversy. Should the 1972 version be printed although there are mistakes in it? Yes, you print it. Even there is some mistake, that doesn’t matter.

And idea was raised to correct Srila Prabhupada’s books for the next printing in the authorized way. Although it might seem justified, especially when Srila Prabhupada himself specifies these. (‘of the sages’ would be changed to ‘O sages’ in the First Canto) However, there are a few points to consider.

1) The new version would have to be shown to and approved by Srila Prabhupada himself.

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Radhavallabha, January 5, 1976, Nellore:
“Nitai may correct whatever mistakes are there, but the corrected material must be sent to me for final approval.”

2) Srila Prabhupada established a ‘no change’ policy to check further deterioration of the text.

Srila Prabhupada, June 22, 1977, Vrndavana:
“So everything is explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam. And then these unfortunate rascals, they are distorting. What can I do? How to stop it?”

Room Conversation, February 27, 1977, Mayapur:
Radha-vallabha: “Well, now that this system of no corrections anywhere, that makes it very simple. Then he can’t do anything. I don’t think he wants to, either. It makes it more simple for him. It makes him very uncomfortable.
Srila Prabhupada: No corrections. He can write that synonym, that’s all, according to the translation. Who is writing the synonym?
Radha-vallabha: Jagannätha.
Prabhupada: That’s all right. According to the translation. Not that he becomes a greater scholar than my Guru Maharaja.”

Conversation, June 22, 1977, Vrndavana:
Srila Prabhupada: “So you bring this to Satsvarupa. They cannot change anything.”

3) The next printing should be again to the original way
Conversation, June 22, 1977, Vrndavana:
Yasoda-nandana: Sometimes they appeal that “We can make better English,” so they change like that, just like in the case of Isopanisad. There are over a hundred changes. So where is the need? Your words are sufficient. The potency is there. When they change, it is something else.
Svarupa Damodara: That’s actually a very dangerous mentality.
Yasoda-nandana: What is it going to be in five years? It’s going to be a different book.
Srila Prabhupada: So, you… What you are going… It is very serious situation. You write one letter that “Why you have made so many changes?” And whom to write? Who will care? All rascals are there. Write to Satsvarupa that “This is the position. They are doing anything and everything at their whim.” The next printing should be again to the original way.”

Note: In this quote Yasoda Nandana is raising a valid point. If the unauthorized reediting continues, the text in books will completely deteriorate and the original meaning will be lost. To this Srila Prabhupada is giving the solution. “The next printing should be again to the original way.” And later on in the same conversation, “They cannot change anything.” These remain to be the last instructions up to date from Srila Prabhupada on the matter of his books.

The key words in this connection are “again” and “check”. When Tamal explains that the editors reedit books which were already printed, Srila Prabhupada wants to check this, stop this, and next printing should be again to the original way means that the printing original way already happened in the past (first printing). If “to the original way” meant that the next printing should be something even better than the first printing, Srila Prabhupada would not have said how to stop the reediting, how to check the reediting. Please note that Srila Prabhupada expressed his desire to stop this practise of unauthorized editing many times during the conversation…

Conversation, June 22, 1977, Vrndavana:
“So, everything is explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam. And then these unfortunate rascals, they are distorting. What can I do? How to stop it?”
Conversation June 22, 1977, Vrndavana:

Srila Prabhupada: “Very serious feature. It is not possible for me to check, and they are doing all nonsense, freedom.”
…and warns about consequences if such policy continues.
Now do the needful. Otherwise everything will be spoiled.

3) Other devotees in favor
Many devotees who are well aquainted with the contraversy over the changed books are in favor of reprinting the 1972 first edition. These are quotes I’ve gathered over the years. Hansadutta das in ‘Just What is Jayadwaita’s Point?’ article retells a personal story:

“I was one BBT trustee along with Srila Prabhupada and Bali Mardan when I went to Srila Prabhupada and suggested we reprint his Original Bhagavatams for the pleasure of his devotees who liked the old Indian version… Before finishing my proposal, Srila Prabhupada admonished me saying, “no–whatever Hayagriva has done is perfect, I have full faith in him as the editor of my books.” This was quite some time after the publication of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita. He went on to say “whatever he (Hayagriva) has done is perfect, do not touch it, I have full faith in him.”

Veda Guya Prabhu, the person who has been printing original books under KBI licence for a few years and has been responsible for a major contribution of original books to today’s society at times when there’s so few people committed to Srila Prabhupada’s real desire, has confessed in a mass email in his response to “Are you on the blacklist?”:

“Until some magnanimous devotee comes forward (anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000) and is willing to finance this printing we have to console ourselves with only supplying the set printed by the BBT. These are from the pre-1978 printings, although the early Cantos were edited during the mid-1970′s.”

Another devotee in favor of reprinting the 1972 version is Madhudvisa Prabhu, who stands behind a very successful Internet shop and has been enlightening devotees about changes in the Bhagavadgita As It Is, etc. He also works with KBI. In 2006, after we have published our article ” Distinguishing the Original Books from the Changed Ones”, he wrote us an email:

“I agree with your point that we should print the original editions and your article is very good to illustrate this point.”
Or 1976 version?

Note: We would like to point out that while writing this article, unfortunately we are not in possession of the 1976 version. Nonetheless, according to the BBTi editor, the 1976 version is identical with all the subsequent printings (i.e., 1978 onwards). Assuming this is the truth, there are several points in favor of the proclaimed 1976 version. They are: the letter to Jayadvaita where Srila Prabhupada expresses that whatever Jayadvaita does is alright, the inclusion of the missing indexes, and the correction of the “of the sages” mistake.

CONCERNING THE EDITING OF JAYADVAITA PRABHU

Note: On 7 September, 1976, Srila Prabhupada sent Radhavallabha dasa a letter which stated:
“Concerning the editing of Jayadvaita Prabhu, whatever he does is approved by me. I have confidence in him. Your changes which I have seen of the sanskrit synonyms is also approved by me. Tanmayataya refers to the fact that the trees and the father were absorbed in the same feelings.”

OBJECTIONS

1) It is argued that the 1976 version of both First and Second Cantos is bona fide, because Srila Prabhupada approved of Jayadvaita’s editing in this letter. However, it is not clear what the context of the exchange between Srila Prabhupada and Radhavallabha really was. It might as well refer to Jayadvaita’s editing of the later Cantos, which were being prepared for printing at the same time. Surely Prabhupada is not saying that Jayadvaita can do anything he likes. Suppose Jayadvaita became a Mayavadi, would Srila Prabhupada still approve of him editing his books? That is very unlikely. So, this instruction is meant for a particular circumstance. From the previous research we do not find a single instance where Srila Prabhupada allows his disciples to reedit his already printed books without him seeing the changes and approving them. Why would Srila Prabhupada change his policy in this instance?

Unless we see a letter from Radhavallabha to Srila Prabhupada with the original question to which Srila Prabhupada responds in this letter, we cannot accept this as a clear evidence that Srila Prabhupada approved of Jayadvaita’s 1976 editing. We have asked the Bhaktivedanta Archives for these letters from Radhavallabha dated August 25 and 31, 1976, but they have not been found, unfortunately.

2) Another point to consider:
Tamala Krsna: Your original work that you’re doing now, that is edited by Jayädvaita. That’s the first editing.
Srila Prabhupada: He is good.
Tamala Krsna: He is good. But then, after they print the books, they’re going over. So when they reprint…
Srila Prabhupada: So how to check this? How to stop this?
Tamala Krsna: They should not make any changes without consulting Jayadvaita.
Srila Prabhupada: But they are doing without any authority.
and then later on:

Conversation, June 22, 1977, Vrndavana:
“So, everything is explained in Srimad-Bhägavatam. And then these unfortunate rascals, they are distorting. What can I do? How to stop it?”

Note: In this conversation Tamal is complaining about editors reediting after the books are printed, to which Srila Prabhupada expresses his desire to stop such a policy. However, this is exactly what Jayadvaita has done with the 1972 version. He went over the 1972 version and reedited it after it had been printed, distributed, and after Srila Prabhupada gave numerous classes from it. We have a difficulty accepting that Srila Prabhupada is saying that Jayadvaita is good because he has reedited the 1972 version, as this is precisely what Srila Prabhupada wants to stop in the next sentence — reediting without any authority.

3) Letter to Rayarama, May 15, 1969, Columbus, Ohio:
“Regarding your proposed program of editing, the Bhagavatam First Canto is already edited, so when making final typing, you shall simply see it for proofreading.”

Note: This particular letter shows that Srila Prabhupada did not like the 1972 version to be reedited.Unless we’re shown a direct evidence, we do not find any letter, conversation, or any other instruction from Srila Prabhupada authorizing the opposite. The editor of the 1976 version himself admits that he was acting on his own accord and that Srila Prabhupada never asked for the 1976 version to be made.
Jayadvaita on the BBTi website:

“For both books[First and Second Cantos], Srila Prabhupada never asked for a second edition. Both books were revised by the BBT’s lowly editor Jayadvaita Swami.”

JAYADVAITA SPEAKS OUT

Jayadvaita Swami, “Editing of the Unchangeable Truth”:
“In 1972, when the first American edition of Srimad-Bhagavatam, First Canto, was in preparation and the first volume nearly ready for printing, Satsvarupa brought to Srila Prabhupada’s attention that in numerous instances the edited version seemed to have low fidelity to Srila Prabhupada’s original work. Srila Prabhupada responded, in essence: ‘Don’t lose time. Just print it’. In 1976, however, on my own initiative, I did extensive revisions for this canto, especially for the translations in the first two chapters.”

Jayadvaita then offers a testimony on the BBTi website where he says that he showed this reedited 1976 version to Prabhupada before it was printed:
“I then prepared a list showing these revised translations, with a cover letter explaining what I had done, and when Srila Prabhupada visited ISKCON New York in July of 1976 I brought the package to his room.

I had expected merely to drop it off with his secretary. But to my surprise I found Srila Prabhupada right there before me, asking to know why I had come. I told him, and he instructed me to read to him the revised translations, right there on the spot. So I began, Srila Prabhupada listening attentively, and after I had read a few verses he interrupted: ‘So, what you have done?’
‘I’ve revised the translations to make them closer to what Your Divine Grace originally said.’
‘What I have said?’
‘Yes, Srila Prabhupada.’
Srila Prabhupada then made a characteristic dismissive gesture and said: ‘Then it is all right’.
And that was that.”

OBJECTIONS

But as it was shown before in the article, “Distinguishing the Original Books from the Changed Ones”, the 1976 differs from the 1972 version in purports, as well. For example, in the purport of 1.11.9, the inhabitants of Dwaraka can see Krsna eye to eye in the 1972 version, whereas in the 1976 version, Krsna can be seen by them face to face only. So naturally we are to ask: who edited the purports and where is the proof that Srila Prabhupada approved of it?

Letter to Radhavallabha, January 5, 1976, Nellore:
“I will have to see personally what the mistakes in the synonyms are and also how you intend to correct them. I was not satisfied with the corrections that were made before. I saw some changes which I did not approve. Nitai may correct whatever mistakes are there, but the corrected material must be sent to me for final approval. So, reprinting the volumes will have to wait until the mistakes are corrected and approved by me.”

Note; The above-mentioned letter refers to the upcoming 1976 version of the Srimad Bhagavatam (most likely the First and Second Cantos). Note how emphatic Srila Prabhupada is about bringing corrected material to him for approval. And here the discussion is about corrections in the synonyms, what to speak of purports and translations. We find it highly unlikely that Srila Prabhupada would authorize reediting of the 1972 version without even checking what the editing was. Where is the proof that this meeting ever took place and that Srila Prabhupada ever authorized Jayadvaita to reedit the First Canto?

O SAGES AND OTHER CORRECTIONS

Note: Srila Prabhupada in the “Rascal editors” conversation complained about a change in the 1972 version. Namely, the editors had changed the word “oh the sages”(found in the Delhi edition of the First Canto) and replaced it with “of the sages” in the word meaning section. We should note that this was done by the Sanskrit editors who worked on the 1972 edition with Hayagriva, and not Haayagriva. The current version of the First Canto on the Vedabase 4.11 says “O sages” in the word meaning, which means that this error has been corrected as Srila Prabhupada instructed. There have been more corrections submitted by Radhavallabha which Srila Prabhupada approved of. (Letter to Radhavallabha, September 7, 1976)

OBJECTIONS

(also see even if there’s some mistake, that doesn’t matter.)

The letter from the 7th of September, 1976 states:
“Concerning the editing of Jayadvaita Prabhu, whatever he does is approved by me. I have confidence in him. Your changes which I have seen of the sanskrit synonyms is also approved by me.”

Note:It is clear that these were corrections of the Sanskrit synonyms and they have nothing to do with Jayadvaita’s editing, which is addressed in the first sentence.
Due to the missing letter addressed to Srila Prabhupada by Radhavallabha, however, we are not able to specify which corrections they were. The 1976 version most likely contains them.

INDEX

In a letter from the 9th of February, 1975 to Radhavallabha, Srila Prabhupada writes:

“Every volume of Srimad-Bhagavatam as well as Caitanya Caritamrta must be fully complete with an index, list of references, glossary, Sanskrit pronunciation guide, and index of Sanskrit (or Bengali) verses. This will be best.”
Letter to Radhavallabha, January 19, 1975, Bombay:

“I have received one copy of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 4, Volume 4, and Krsna Consciousness: The Matchless Gift. Thank you very much for these books. One thing is that every volume of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Caitanya Caritamrta and any other big volumes, must have a full index. It is not a very prestigious presentation without the index. All volumes in the future must have the index.”

Note: In the first four cantos, several volumes are missing an index. In the 1976 version this is corrected. As the inclusion of the index in the first four cantos does not seem to jeopardize the content of the book and this problem is of a technical character, we do not find any objection to the 1976 version in this regard.

SRILA PRABHUPADA GAVE CLASSES FROM IT

According to the Vedabase 4.11, Srila Prabhupada gave classes from verses which differ in the two versions in three instances in the case of the First Canto.

OBJECTIONS

Note: If Srila Prabhupada was indeed giving class from the 1976 version it would have to be in these three. We have carefully examined them. They are as follows:
6th of September, 1976 (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.7.7):

The audio is cut where the relevant passage is read.

We’re left with the BBTi transcript. It quotes the 1976 version. But this is impossible, because the volume has not been printed yet. Srila Prabhupada clearly stated in a letter to Radhavallabha on the 5th of January that “reprinting the volumes will have to wait until the mistakes are corrected and approved by me.” On the 7th of September, 1976 (a day after this class took place), Srila Prabhupada is approving of the Sanskrit corrections and continues: “Tanmayataya refers to the fact that the trees and the father were absorbed in the same feelings.” This is a reference to verse 2.2 of the First Canto. This means that the preparation for printing the 1976 version was still going on. So how could Srila Prabhupada give a class from it one day before?
1st of October, 1976 (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.7.40)

The BBTi transcript states the following:
Pradyumna: “Suta Gosvami said: Although Krsna, who was examining Arjuna in religion, encouraged Arjuna to kill the son of Dronacarya, Arjuna, a great soul, did not like the idea of killing him, although Asvatthama was a heinous murderer of Arjuna’s family members.”

This is the 1976 version. But when we listen to the audio, Pradyumna is reading from the 1972 version:
“Suta Gosvami said: Despite being instructed in his duty and encouraged to kill the son of Dronacarya, Arjuna, a great soul, did not like the idea of killing him, although he was a heinous murderer of his family members.”

So, the BBTi transcript is changed and does not follow the original recording.
7th of October, 1976 (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.7.49-50)

The BBTi transcript states the following:

“Nakula and Sahadeva (the younger brothers of the King) and also Sätyaki and Arjuna, the Personality of Godhead Lord Sri Krsna, son of Devaki, and the ladies and others all unanimously agreed with the King.”

But when we listen to the audio, Pradyumna is reading from the 1972 version:
“The younger brothers of the King, Nakula and Sahadeva and also Satyaki and Arjuna, the Personality of Godhead Lord Sri Krsna, son of Devaki, and the ladies and others all unanimously agreed with the King.”
Second Canto

HISTORY

Note: Dravida das, another editor from BBTi, admitted in a personal email when asked about printing dates for different books:
Sun, Sep 21, 2008 at 10:17 AM email to B. Charles:

“For Second Canto I have 1970-1972. The first chapters were printed individually; that’s where the 1970 comes in. It appears that a slightly revised version was printed in 1976 also.”

Jayadvaita fills in:

“Sometime in 1972 or 1973 I made extensive revisions to the Second Canto. The revised version, though never marked “Second Edition,” was used in all printings after the first.”

Note; Because the 1970 serialized chapter by chapter version is as far as we’re concerned identical with the 2-volume edition printed in 1972 we can understand that reediting done by Jayadvaita was published for the first time in 1976 and many changes have been documented between the two versions. (For examples, see

Note: “Distinguishing the Original Books from the Changed Ones”). However, we cannot find any instruction from Srila Prabhupada authorizing the reediting. Note the following changes:

Srimad Bhagavatam 2.4.12 purport 1976 version:
“This material world is a manifestation of the three modes goodness, passion and ignorance, and the Supreme Lord, for the creation, maintenance and destruction of the material world, accepts three predominating forms as Brahma, Visnu and Shankara (Siva).”

Srimad Bhagavatam 2.4.12 purport 1970-2 version:
“This material world is a manifestation of the three modes goodness, passion and ignorance, and the Supreme Lord, for the creation, maintenance and destruction of the material world, accepts three predominating forms of Brahma, Visnu and Shankara (Siva).”

Srimad Bhagavatam 2.4.11 1976 version:
“Suta Gosvami said: When Sukadeva Gosvami was thus requested by the King to describe the creative energy of the Personality of Godhead, he then systematically remembered the master of the senses [Sri Krsna], and to reply properly he spoke thus.”

Srimad Bhagavatam 2.4.11 1970-2 version:
“Suta Gosvami said: When Sukadeva Gosvami was thus requested by the King to describe the creative energy of the Personality of Godhead, the former then systematically remembered the master of the senses [Sri Krsna], and to reply properly he spoke thus.”

This is from the 4th chapter, which was personally checked by Srila Prabhupada himself:

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Uddhava, July 24, 1970, Los Angeles:
“I beg to acknowledge your letter dated 20th July, 1970, along with the blueprint for chapter 4 Second Canto Srimad-Bhagavatam. I have gone through the blueprint and I am also sending the necessary Sanskrit corrections to Pradyumna. So, when these corrections are made then you can print immediately.”

Note: Another letter confirms Srila Prabhupada’s great satisfaction with the 1970-2 version of the Second Canto:

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Uddhava, June 18, 1970, Los Angeles:
My Dear Uddhava,
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 15th June, 1970, along with a copy of Srimad-Bhagavatam, 2nd Canto. I think this style is very nice following the tradition of my other Bhagavatam publications. So please continue this process, chapter after chapter, and it will give me complete satisfaction. Thank you very much.

I am also in due receipt of one letter from Pradyumna regarding Sanskrit editing. I will study this letter scrutinizingly and then I shall reply. But on the whole, the Sanskrit editing has been done very nicely and the style is completely satisfactory. Answers to the questions will follow in the next mail.

Note: More quotes in regards to the Second Canto’s first editing:

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Uddhava, July 14, 1970, Los Angeles: “I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 12th July, 1970, along with the blueprint for the third chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam Second Canto, entitled “Pure Devotional Service: the Change in Heart.”

I have looked over the blueprint and noted a few points to be corrected, so I am sending back the blueprint to you for seeing the necessary changes as they are in the text. I have also corrected the points sent by Pradyumna and the sheet is also sent back herewith.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter, July 31, 1970, Los Angeles: “Regarding Srimad-Bhagavatam, First Canto, I am glad that manuscript is also being composed. Srimad-Bhagavatam, Second Canto, improper title pages being rectified is good news. Please keep me informed about the progress of those manuscripts.”

Srila Prabhupada Letter to Hayagriva, September 9, 1968, San Francisco:
“So, then you take up the second part, second canto, and keep along with you Pradyumna; he will help you in marking diacritic signs on the original verses and be always in correspondence with me. And be seriously engaged in this task, and it will be a great service to Krishna.”

OBJECTIONS:

Note: If Prabhupada himself went through the blueprint of these chapters, corrected errors and approved of it, why did Jayadvaita change them in the second printing?
Another point in favor of the 1972 version is the already mentioned letter to Radhavallabha:
“There is no need for corrections for the First and Second Cantos. Whatever is there is all right. Once Pradyumna comes to join me here from India, then there will be no need for Nitai das or Jagannatha das to edit the Srimad-Bhagavatam.”(Letter of 5-4-76)

Note: According to the historical records, Srila Prabhupada gave only one class from a verse which differs in the two versions. It is the 2.3.20 recorded on the 24th of March, 1977. Just as with the First Canto, the Vedabase transcript confuses one into thinking that Srila Prabhupada gave a class from the 1976 version. But when we examined the audio we discovered that Srila Prabhupada is giving class from the 1972 version.BBTi transcript:

“One who has not listened to the messages about the prowess and marvelous acts of the Personality of Godhead and has not sung or chanted loudly the worthy songs about the Lord is to be considered to possess earholes like the holes of snakes and a tongue like the tongue of a frog.”

The actual audio of this class:

“One who has not listened to the messages about the prowess and marvelous acts of the Personality of Godhead and has not sung or chanted loudly the worthy songs about the Lord is to be considered to possess earholes like that of the snakes and a tongue like that of the frogs.”

Note: Therefore, no evidence so far has been shown to prove that Srila Prabhupada ever gave classes from the 1976 version. In fact, there’s no evidence whatsoever that Srila Prabhupada authorized the 1976 version of the Second Canto. This is confirmed by the editor himself:

Jayadvaita on the BBTi website:

“For both books [First and Second Cantos], Srila Prabhupada never asked for a second edition. Both books were revised by the BBT’s lowly editor Jayadvaita Swami. ”

The Third and Fourth Canto

Note: Dravida das, in a personal email states that besides the First and Second Cantos, no other cantos have been revised. And Jayadvaita claims in his article, “Editing the Unchangeable Truth”, that the Srimad-Bhagavatam from the Second Canto onwards continues to be published only in its original BBT edition. The truth is that there are many changes made.

Judge for yourself:

1974 Srimad Bhagavatam 3.25.29 purport:
“Sometimes it is questioned how the living entity falls down from the spiritual world to the material world”

1978 Srimad Bhagavatam 3.25.29 purport:
“Sometimes it is asked how the living entity falls down from the spiritual world to the material world.”

1974 Srimad Bhagavatam 4.24-45-46:
“Thus the raga-marga, or Bhagavata-marga,friendship exists on a higher platform with Krsna, namely the platform of vipralambha friendship. Paternal friendship, conjugal paternal service, as well as conjugal service, are visible in the Vrndavana raga-marga relationships.”

1978 Srimad Bhagavatam 4.24-45-46:
“Thus the raga-marga, or bhagavata-marga, friendship exists on a higher platform with Krsna, namely the platform of vipralambha friendship. Paternal friendship, paternal service and conjugal service are visible in the Vrndavana raga-marga relationships.”

Srimad Bhagavatam.4.1.1 purport, original edition:
“Svayambhuva Manu is the son of Brahma.”

Srimad Bhagavatam.4.1.1 purport, current edition:
“Svayambhuva Manu was the son of Brahma.”

Note: According to the Bhaktivedanta Archives, the 1978 printings are the second printings of the volumes where these examples can be found. In other words, there have been no printings in between. The changes as we see them were printed after Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure. (Note the printing dates of different books in the attached inventory spreadsheet).

Rest of the Cantos
The comparisons have not been done yet.

CONCLUSION

History:

Early 1960′s, Srila Prabhupada prints Delhi Bhagavatam

1968, 9th of Septemeber, Srila Prabhupada expresses desire to have the First Canto reedited by Hayagriva

1970, The Second Canto is printed in a serialized version, chapter by chapter

1972-73, The 1972 version of the First and Second Canto are printed.
The first volume of the Fourth Canto is printed
Jayadvaita reedits the Second Canto

1976, January the 5th:
Srila Prabhupada writes to Radhavallabha: “Nitai may correct whatever mistakes are there, but the corrected material must be sent to me for final approval. ”
April 22nd

Radhavallabha das from the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust sent Srila Prabhupada a letter, which besides other issues mentions the following: “Nitai hasn’t sent me any corrections for the reprints of First ad Second Cantos, so I want to reprint them as they are. ”

May 4th:
Srila Prabhupada answers:”There is no need for corrections for the First and Second Cantos. Whatever is there is all right”

July:
Jayadvaita supposedly meets Srila Prabhupada and gets approval for his correcting translations on the First Canto
August 25th and 31st:

Radhavallabha submits Sanskrit corrections for the upcoming 1976 print of the Cantos

September the 7th:
Srila Prabhupada writes a letter to Radhavallabha (“Concerning the editing of Jayadvaita Prabhu, whatever he does is approved by me. I have confidence in him”) and approves of the corrections sent by Radhavallabha

1976 version is printed

1977, June 22nd:
Srila Prabhupada instructs in a conversation: “The next printing should be again to the original way”

November 14th 1977:
Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance

1978:
The Third Canto and Fourth Canto are printed in a reedited version

QUESTIONS THAT NEED TO BE ANSWERED ABOUT THE CURRENT BBTi SRIMAD BHAGAVATAM SET

Note; The question at stake is not whether the first ISKCON printings of the first four Canto were authorized, because it was (for example: “There is no need for corrections for the First and Second Cantos. Whatever is there is all right”). We only have a problem with the reedited versions of the first four Cantos, and whoever advocates for these has to answer the following:

1) Where is the letter of Radhavallabha addressed to Srila Prabhupada upon which Srila Prabhupada responds with, “Concerning the editing of Jayadvaita Prabhu, whatever he does is approved by me”? What is the context of this exchange? Where is the evidence that Srila Prabhupada refers in this letter to Jayadvaita’s reediting Hayagriva’s 1972 version?

2) Assuming the 1976 version of the First Canto is identical with the subsequent printings, we are wondering why has the BBTi Vedabse falsified the transcript of Srila Prabhupada’s classes on the first and second Cantos and replaced the passage of the original 1972 version with the reedited 1976 version in the following four instances:

6th of September, 1976 (SB 1.7.7)
1st of October, 1976 (SB 1.7.40)
7th October, 1976 (SB 1.7.49-50)
24th March, 1977 (SB 2.3.20)

3) Where is the evidence that Srila Prabhupada ever gave anyone permission to reedit his books without consulting him?

4) Why did Jayadvaita reed[ited] the Second Canto’s third and fourth chapters after Srila Prabhupada made corrections in them, approved them and instructed to print them?

5) Where is the evidence that Srila Prabhupada met with Jayadvaita in July 1976 and approved of his reediting the First Canto?
6) In conclusion, the provided quotes show that the 1976-78 versions of Srimad Bhagavatam (First four Cantos):
1) were not asked for by Srila Prabhupada

2) its editing was done without consulting Srila Prabhupada, as confirmed by the editor himself
3) there is no evidence of Srila Prabhupada ever approving, correcting, checking over the corrections or reading/hearing from these books

4) were printed after Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure (i.e. some of the volumes of the Third and Fourth Cantos)
There’s another book in which case we can say the same – the highly controversial 1983 Bhagavad-gita As It Is. This version of the book has similarly:
1) not been asked for by Srila Prabhupada
2) its editing was done without consulting Srila Prabhupada
3) there is no evidence of Srila Prabhupada ever approving or reading/hearing from it
4) been printed after Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure

Note: Furthermore, the editor justifies this work by the very same letter from September the 7th to Radhavallabha (“Concerning the editing of Jayadvaita Prabhu, whatever he does is approved by me. I have confidence in him”) On the BBTi website he also states that the same editorial policy has been followed in case of the 1976 First Canto as with the 1983 Gita:

Jayadvaita on the BBTi website:
“Of the revisions done in 1976, those for the translations in the first and second chapters were the most extensive. Those revisions are shown below. Examining these revisions can help us better understand the revisions later done for Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Though the revisions for the Gita were done after Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure, they followed the same principles and had the same purpose as the Bhagavatam revisions shown here.”
Note: If we’re accepting the second versions of the first four Cantos, then why do we have a problem with the 1983 Gita?
We apologize if any of the historical evidence herein is misinterpreted or excluded. It was not our intention. In the spirit of reestablishing the printing of Srila Prabhupada’s original books, we will appreciate your feedback.
Hare Krsna!
REFERENCES:

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: Srimad Bhagavatam First Canto 1972 version
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: Srimad Bhagavatam Second Canto 1972 version
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: Srimad Bhagavatam Third Canto first printing
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: Srimad Bhagavatam Fourth Canto first printing
The Vedabase 4.11
Hansadutta dasa: “Just What is Jayadwaita’s point?”
Bhakta Charles: Are you on the blacklist?
Jayadvaita Swami: “Editing the Unchangeable Truth”
The Prabhupadanugas: “Distinguishing the Original Books from the Changed Ones”
BBTi website www.bbt.info
BBTi Srila Prabhupada MP3 Audio Library -MP3 set of audio recordings by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Bhaktivedanta Archives

One thought on “Brief History of Unauthorized Book Changes in Iskcon

  1. The mother of all betrayals …

    And an open invitation to visit ALL the 28 hellish planets … Ad vitam eternam !!!!

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