The Rascal Editors Conversation: Context Defines the Order
BY: VIDURA MAHATMA DAS
7 JULY, 2018
On June 22, 1977, in a discussion on unauthorized changes being made to his books, Srila Prabhupada ordered: “The next printing should be again to the original way.”
Of course, this statement, like any other instruction from Srila Prabhupada, should be understood according to its context.
The context begins when, in the conversation, Srila Prabhupada detects a faulty change made to verse 1.2.5 in the Srimad Bhagavatam by an editor.
A little background information on this verse: The Dehli Bhagavatam which Srila Prabhupada brought with him from India to America contains the word-for-word translation “Oh the sages”, which is addressing an assembly of sages. The same appears in the translation afterward. It’s not a mistake; it’s Srila Prabhupada’s wording style (equivalent to “O sages”). These words are addressing all the assembled munis or sages (“Munayaḥ is addressing all these munis”).
Srila Prabhupada wanted his Delhi Bhagavatam revised, which eventually led to the 1972 “American” printing of the Bhagavatam – authorized, distributed and lectured from by Srila Prabhupada.
In the 1972 edition, as well as later in the 1976 edition of the Bhagavatam, “Oh the sages” from the Dehli Bhagavatam was wrongly corrected in the word-for-word to “Of the sages”. Inconsistently, the translation that followed contained the correct translation (albeit different style): “O sages…”. The incorrect word-for-word translation “Of the sages” was what Srila Prabhupada was upset with since it deviated from the “addressing” nature of the verse and thus made no sense.
Overall, in the “Rascal Editors” conversation the discussion on unauthorized changes is of two types: unauthorized changes found in earlier editions of books (type 1), and unauthorized changes found in newer editions/reprints of books (type 2). It is these two types of changes in the discussion which we highlight in order to show the gradual development from type 1 to type 2. We do so not to take away the importance of one type from the other, but as a guide to understanding the defining context within which the concluding order to “print again to the original way” was given.
Rascal Editors conversation – June 22, 1977[…]
Prabhupāda: Where are others?
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Shall I get other people? Śatadhanya Mahārāja? [long pause]
Prabhupāda: That… Find this verse, munayaḥ sādhu pṛṣṭo ‘ham… [SB 1.2.5].
Devotee (1): Munayaḥ sādhu pṛṣṭo ‘ham.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: [aside:] There’s no index. It’s not a new Bhāgavatam. There’s no index in this Bhāgavatam. Munayaḥ sādhu…? “The Effects of Kali-yuga” chapter? Is that the verse, about the effects of Kali-yuga? No. [background talking, looking for verse]
munayaḥ sādhu pṛṣṭo ‘haṁ
yat kṛtaḥ kṛṣṇa-sampraśno
“munayaḥ—of the sages; sādhu—this is relevant; pṛṣṭaḥ—questioned; aham…“
Prabhupāda: No? What is that? Sādhu? What is that? Munayaḥ?
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Says, “sādhu—this is relevant.”
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: That’s what it’s translated as, “this is relevant.” May be a mistake.
Devotee (1): It’s a mistake.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: “Munayaḥ—of the sages; sādhu—this is relevant…”
Prabhupāda: The nonsense, they are… They are correcting my trans… Rascal. Who has done this? Munayaḥ is addressing all these munis.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: It’s addressing the munis?
So far, the issue is with an unauthorized change appearing in both the 1972 (earlier edition) and 1976 (newer edition) printings of the first canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam at the time.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Sādhus, great sages.
Prabhupāda: Yes. Sādhu means they are very pure. What can be done if it goes there and these rascals become Sanskrit scholar and do everything nonsense? One Sanskrit scholar strayed, that rascal… He take… What is his…? Śacī-suta? Śacī-sandana?
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Jaya-śacīnandana?
Prabhupāda: And they are maintaining them. Different meaning.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: “Bhavadbhiḥ—by all of you; loka—the world; maṅgalam—welfare; yat—because; kṛtaḥ—made; kṛṣṇa—the Personality of Godhead; sampraśnaḥ—relevant question; yena—by which; ātmā— self; suprasīdati—completely pleased.” Translation = “O sages…”
Prabhupāda: Now here is “O sages,” and the word meaning is “of the munis.” Just see.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: “Which is relevant.”
Prabhupāda: Such a rascal Sanskrit scholar. Here it is addressed, sambodhana, and they [indistinct] it—“munayaḥ—of the munis.” It is very risky to give to them for editorial direction. Little learning is dangerous. However proper Sanskrit scholar, little learning, dangerous. Immediately they become very big scholars, high salaried, and write all nonsense. Who they are? [pause] Then?
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: “O sages, I have been…”
Prabhupāda: No, they cannot be reliable. They can do more harm. Just see here the [indistinct].
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Yeah. We’re finding out in the Fifth Canto that there’re words that are so off, the meaning is completely changed, completely changed. I mean, in the three chapters that we read, Bhakti-prema Mahārāja made at least half a dozen corrections, of serious corrections. They had changed the meaning.
Svarūpa Dāmodara: Some of the mistakes in the numbers, the figures.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Oh, yeah, they’re all…
Prabhupāda: So how they can be reliable, so-called, this way…? [background whispering] Hmm?
Yaśodā-nandana: In the Gurukula we were teaching Īśopaniṣad class to the children. So, we took original, maybe first edition… [break] …Prabhupāda and the words which the recent edition of the Press is wrong. Many changes were brought. They were trying to make better English, but sometimes, to make better English, I think they were making philosophical mistakes also. There is no so much need of making so much better English. Your English is sufficient. It is very clear, very simple. We have caught over 125 changes. They’re changing so many things. We are wondering if this is necessary. I will show you today. I have kept the book.
Prabhupāda: I know that these rascals are doing. What can be done? How they can be relied on?
At this point in the conversation the issue has expanded to numerous unauthorized changes in newer edition reprints of various books.
Svarūpa Dāmodara: It’s not the responsibility of the BBT trustees, to see these things don’t change without Prabhupāda’s sanction?
Prabhupāda: And Rāmeśvara is indulging this. The great rascal is that Jagannātha…? He’s there in Los Angeles.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Jagannātha dāsa?
Indian devotee (2): Jagannātha-suta.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: No…
Prabhupāda: And the one rascal is gone.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Nitāi.
Prabhupāda: Distorting. What can I do? These cannot… These rascals cannot be educated. Dangerous. Little learning, dangerous. So how to correct? The leader of these dangerous—Rādhā-vallabha.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Rādhā-vallabha?
Prabhupāda: Hmm. He’s a dangerous, who maintains these rascal with this work. He’ll always have questions and alteration. That is his business. That is American business. They take that always. What can I do? Ultimate, it goes for editorial. They make changes, such changes.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Your original work that you’re doing now, that is edited by Jayādvaita. That’s the first editing.
Prabhupāda: He is good.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: He is good. But then, after they print the books, they’re going over. So, when they reprint…
Prabhupāda: So how to check this? How to stop this?
At this point the issue being pointed out is that after a book is printed, editors are going over it and making unauthorized changes in the reprints. Srila Prabhupada wants to stop this.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: They should not make any changes without consulting Jayādvaita.
Prabhupāda: But they are doing, without any authority.
Svarūpa Dāmodara: I think we should make whole survey, all books already printed, before printing the next batch, and check any mistakes so that it should be all corrected. Otherwise, if the scholars find out that there are so many mistakes in the books, then the quality and the appreciation will be reduced.
The issue being discussed still is unauthorized changes in reprints of the books.
Svarūpa Dāmodara: Yes. We find so far that they are appreciating so much within the scholarly circle, and we want to maintain that actually.
Prabhupāda: Very serious feature. It is not possible for me to check, and they are doing all nonsense, freedom. [pause]
Yaśodā-nandana: Jaya Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Prabhupāda: What to do?
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: I think Svarūpa Dāmodara’s point, that all the books should now be checked before they’re reprinted again. And they have to be checked not by some so-called learned Sanskrit man but by a learned devotee. Just like you always favored Jayādvaita because of his Kṛṣṇa consciousness…
Prabhupāda: Jayādvaita, Satsvarūpa…
Yaśodā-nandana: Bhakti-prema; Satsvarūpa is there.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: So, Bhakti-prema… That’s a good solution.
The discussion is still on unauthorized changes in reprinted editions of books.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: You know, the real point is that the Sanskrit is often not translated properly in the translation, what Nitāi and others have done.
Prabhupāda: He’s a rascal. That’s… He’s finding out guru and job for filling the belly. That is the latest news.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: What is he doing?
Prabhupāda: To find out some job to fill up the belly. Otherwise he’ll starve if he doesn’t get any job. And he’s finding out guru. Job guru. Now do the needful. Otherwise everything will be spoiled. These rascal editorial… That Easy Journey, original, this [indistinct] Hayagrīva has changed so many things.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: He actually took out the whole part about their going to the moon being childish. He deleted the whole section. The whole thing. He said it is [indistinct].
Yaśodā-nandana: Also, in the Bhāgavatam, where Prabhupāda was talking about Lord Buddha… You mentioned that if the followers of Lord Buddha do not close the slaughterhouse, there is no meaning to such a caricature. That word was very nice. But in new book that word is not there anymore. They have pulled the word. The meaning of the word is not… So many times.
Prabhupāda: It is very serious situation. Rāmeśvara is in direct…
Srila Prabhupada raises issue with the newer edition reprint of Easy Journey to Other Planets edited by Hayagriva. Yasoda-nandana raises issue with the newer edition reprint of Srimad Bhagavatam (1976 edition at the time). The newer edition reprint of Sri Isopanisad is also scrutinized in the following text. Thus, discussion on newer editions/reprints of books continues.
Svarūpa Dāmodara: I think they’re working too independently without consulting properly.
Yaśodā-nandana: Sometimes they feel that “We can make better English,” so they change like that, just like in the case of Īśopaniṣad. 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.
Svarūpa Dāmodara: That’s actually a very dangerous mentality.
Yaśodā-nandana: What is it going to be in five years? It’s going to be a different book.
Prabhupāda: 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 Satsvarūpa that “This is the position. They are doing anything and everything at their whim.” The next printing should be again to the original way.
Soon after Srila Prabhupada raised issue with the unauthorized change appearing in the earlier edition and newer edition of the Bhagavatam, the issue expanded to the many unauthorized changes in the newer editions/reprints of books. Srila Prabhupada then expressed that he wanted to stop this. The issue of changes in newer editions/reprints continued in discussion for what comprised the major remaining portion of the whole topic.
Suggestions were made as to how to make sure the next printings contained authorized changes and Srila Prabhupada acknowledged these suggestions. However, the actual order or solution Srila Prabhupada ended up giving was: “Write to Satsvarūpa that ‘This is the position. They are doing anything and everything at their whim. The next printing should be again to the original way.’” Despite even further suggestions to implement a process of approved changes, Srila Prabhupada repeated: “So you bring this to Satsvarūpa. They cannot change anything.”
Following the discussion within which the order is given (the context), it is evident that Srila Prabhupada is ordering to print the earlier editions of books again, as opposed to newer editions/reprints.
To illustrate this point even further, we present the matter in another format as follows.
Discussion on changes found in earlier edition (Condition 1)
· Srila Prabhupada detects a rascal change appearing in the earlier 1972 edition of the first canto Srimad Bhagavatam as well as in the newer 1976 reprinted edition (“Of the sages”).
Discussion on changes found in newer editions/reprintings (Condition 2)
· Yasoda mentions changes made in the reprint of Isopanisad. Srila Prabhupada shares concern.
· Tamal mentions how Jayadvaita edited an original work, a first editing. Srila Prabhupada approves that first editing.
· Tamal mentions how after they print the books they are going over again. Srila Prabhupada wants to stop this.
· Svarupa Damodara suggests that all books already printed should be checked for mistakes before reprinting.
· Tamal suggests that corrections made to all books already printed should be checked by Jayadvaita before they’re reprinted.
· Srila Prabhupada mentions how Hayagriva changed so many things in a reprint of Easy Journey to Other Planets.
· Yasoda mentions a change made in the new reprint of the American Bhagavatam.
· Yasoda mentions changes made in the reprint of Isopanisad again.
· Srila Prabhupada says the next printing should be again to the original way.
Once again, following the context within which the order is given, it is evident that Srila Prabhupada is ordering to print the earlier editions of books again, as opposed to newer editions/reprints.
Merriam Webster online dictionary defines context as:
1 : the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning
2 : the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs
Context simplified even further
Discourse: Unauthorized changes in the books
Condition 1: Unauthorized change in an earlier printing of a book (beginning 1/3 of conversation)
Condition 2: Unauthorized changes in newer printings of books (remaining 2/3 of conversation)
Order: The next printing should be again to the original way
Meaning: The conditional discourse within which the order occurred was unauthorized changes in newer printings of books (condition 2).
Logical fallacy: To conclude that Condition 1 was the conditional discourse within which the order occurred is incorrect. It is unnatural in following the course of the conversation to claim that the ending order is defined by condition 1 rather than condition 2. Some interpreters have concluded so in an attempt to invalidate the authenticity of earlier editions like the 1972 Gita or 1972 Bhagavatam. Thus, they say, there is need to go back to manuscripts and transcripts. But this is a complete fall out with the natural context of the conversation. Nor does Srila Prabhupada mention anything about going back to manuscripts or transcripts, undoing all the work that culminated in those earlier printings. This would be an implied order of monumental proportion. It’s a far-fetched and exaggerated interpretation that can only be expected from one so desperate to extract support for their speculative activities, which they undertake for reasons entirely in their own interests.
Conclusion: The order, understood in its proper context, is a reversion from newer printings of books to earlier printings of books.
So, what do we do with the unauthorized change in the earlier edition?
Unauthorized changes in newer printings (Condition 2) were given a systematic rectifying order: the next printing should be again to the original way.
But in the case of earlier editions (condition 1), there is no such systematic rectifying order given. Therefore, similar to the 1972 Gita, unauthorized changes in the 1972 Bhagavatam should be rectified on a self-evident basis: That is, only unauthorized changes which have been specifically pointed out by Srila Prabhupada should be corrected, so as to retain authority. Otherwise, if we do-away with the entire 1972 edition of either the Gita or first canto Bhagavatam, we do so without any authority.
Whereas doing-away with the newer editions, e.g., 1983 Gita or 1976 Bhagavatam, carries full authority.