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.
“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 driven 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. (Letter: Bhargava, May 29, 1976)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.”(Letter to Radhavallabha, Aug 26, 1976)
Prabhupada ‘s realization of God which I consider to be perfect absolute God realization coming from Krsna Himself . And that no one is allowed to change anything . The size , the shape , the number of pages , everything . Actually Prabhupada did make the decisions .[Pages 177-178]
Prabhupada ‘s instructions were there and you can get a first hand understanding of how intense Prabhupada was and how concerned he was that in the future no one ever be allowed to make changes in his books .[Page 183]
The greatest anxiety he has is that after he’s gone we will add things to his books that are bogus , we will take things out that are bona fide , we will make changes in his books and the whole work for 10,000 years , his plan Prabhupada was working on, it will all be spoiled by us because of our tendency to change . And Prabhupada gave an example that the disease to do things differently is so inherent in the Americans that for the sake of doing things differently we would walk on our hands rather than our feet. He gave different examples like that . He called the artists rascals. So we promised Prabhupada that we wouldn ‘t change the art . I remember Bali Mardan went downstairs to call them up and I remember watching the phone call . He called up the Press and asked for Radhabal labha, ( imitating Bali ‘s voice ) “Hey , Radhaballabha, guess what just happened? Prabhupada called you and all the artists rascals . He said you’re all rascals . Dead silence on the other end . And Bali , he was enjoying this humil iation of the devotees that worked under him . So I saw that and it was the beginning of my suspecting that something’s off with Bali Mardan . So that was a big event , the first of many with the I sopani sad cover and the se paintings . The first of many experiences I ‘ ve had with Prabhupada literally drilling me , pounding it into my head that you’re never allowed to change anything in his books . He trained me so intensely on this point . Even when the changes make sense he wouldn’t let me change . Just to train me . [Pages 83-84]
The size of the books, the type of art in the books and so on, on principle Prabhupada would not allow changes even if the change was an improvement. Just to teach that principle of don ‘t change. [Page 94]
Before we talk about Prabhupada ‘s travels in ‘ 76 I want to mention another important theme which was Prabhupada actually instructing about the production on his books . I ‘ ve already mentioned the conversation that took place in ‘ 74 about the art paintings . I think that you should get a copy of the letter that I wrote to the art department because practically word for word Prabhupada ‘s instructions were there and you can get a first hand understanding of how intense Prabhupada was and how concerned he was that in the future no one ever be allowed to make changes in his books . This was more than just a preoccupation with Prabhupada . This was a, you could call this a transcendental phobia , that the entire movement would without any shadow of a doubt be completely wasted and all the work and effort of all the devotees that Prabhupada was directly as well as his own efforts would all be ultimately lost if his books were changed . That was his attitude . He expressed that attitude very clearly in 1974 in that conversation and in that letter you’ll see the statements Prabhupada made about how everything will be ruined if his books are changed . Then prior to that I mentioned the incident about the Isopanisad cover where Prabhupada was revealing how much thought went into planning out his books when he was involved . He got very furious when we wanted to put Krsna on the cover instead of Visnu . In 1975 , I think I also mentioned this , that we had a very big problem with the printing of the hardbound Krsna Books . We wanted to change it from two volumes to three volumes . And there was literally like a fight . Not even a fight , Prabhupada was just furious . And he went on for about 1 hour talking about the Krsna Book and how he had planned it out to be in two volumes . And it became very clear to me that Prabhupada was training me to understand that these books are transcendental manifestations of Prabhupada’s devotion , Prabhupada ‘s realization of God which I consider to be perfect absolute God realization coming from Krsna Himself . And that no one is allowed to change anything . The size , the shape , the number of pages , everything . Actually Prabhupada did make the decisions .[Pages 177-178]
Later on in that Mayapur festival , I presented to Prabhupada an idea for Beyond Birth and Death reprint . That was a very popular book at the time – and a new ••. all kinds of new arty and very innovative and creative cover design was going on in the American paperback market . And just going to bookstores , especially in airports, I would see that these publishers , karmi publishers are putting a lot into their paperback covers . And one of the things that had just come out was something called dye cuts . A dye cut is where you have a hole in the front cover and then the inside front pages are actually laminated or glossy paper and you have color printing . through that hole . So you have color printing that kind of comes And it’s like a teaser . And when you see that you’re intrigued and you immediately want to open up the cover and look at the two-page spread on the inside front cover and the inside page , that ‘s called the dye cut . And many books , especially like thriller books , horror books , ghost books , those kind of books use this technique . So I thought that Beyond Birth and Death as a title and as a book lent itself to that . So I proposed it to Prabhupada. He completely smashed the idea . This was inside his room, myself and Radhaballabha . At this time we were showing Prabhupada the •.. ! can’t remember what we were showing him. We SR V dd–18/ were showing him something , maybe color art or something . But anyway, when we presented this idea to him he smashed it and again he gave us a lecture on changes . He used to say, ” Change , change , change , for the sake of change . This changing business is the disease that the . Americans have . It’s a disease . .. And he told this story , I just can ‘t remember it but I think it ‘s written in one of the letters too and Tarnal Krsna will remember it. That if an American , just to be different , instead of walking on his feet he ‘ ll walk on his hands . Just to be different . Change without real purpose . Now in that letter that I wrote to the artists in 1974 , so many specific points are made about changing. When you ‘ re allowed to change and when you’re not .
BV : You don’t have a copy of that?
SR: I can find a copy . It’s a good thing to refer to . Especially he talked about, as I said earlier , 11You can add things but you can’t delete . If you want to replace a painting you have to actually make an improvement and do the exact same subject matter . Once it’s approved it’s eternal . That was his quote . Once it ‘s approved it’s eternal . One of the heaviest incidences came up I think in ‘_ 76 or ‘ 77, we wrote to Prabhupada about publishing his spiritual mas ter ‘s book the Brahma-samhita . Because it had already been introduced to chant in the Gurukulas , we were chanting it all over ISKCON . And although Prabhupada in ‘ 7 5 said , “You cannot read the Gaudiya Math publications , you cannot approach my spiritual master or Bhaktivinoda directly. You have to learn their teachings through me , through my books , through my lectures . This was a big incident in ‘ 7 5 because the devotees were buying Gaudiya Math publications and reading directly . And Prabhupada completely smashed it. So it was either ‘ 7 6 or ‘ 77 we wanted to print Brahma-samhita . Prabhupada approved it and he wrote a very heavy letter . to Radhaballabha . Because we were asking Prabhupada about editing changes. I’m not sure if he wrote the letter or if it ‘s on a tape or maybe it ‘s both. I think Radhaballabha had a room conversation with Prabhupada and I wasn ‘t present . Tarnal was there . And in addition to that I think there’s a letter . Anyway, between the letter and the room conversation , the instruction was given that ” You cannot make any changes in my spiritual master ‘s book . ” “What about the incorrect grammar?” Prabhupada ‘s reply , “ You cannot change one comma , not even a comma , not even a punctuation mark , that is the etiquette .” So that was just another one of those super heavy instructions that the etiquette in dealing with a great acarya’s books is that whatever he has done is eternal and it can never be changed . And I believe that all of this was part of Prabhupada ‘s training us . He wanted to train people who would be entrusted with his books . And who would in turn train the next generation of BBT men , managers and production managers in this fanatical , literally fanatical transcendental phobia about changes. Prabhupada went out of his way to train us . Some of the instructions were so extreme that one might say they’re exaggerated . But they’re not exaggerated . This is exactly what Prabhupada wanted .
BV : Can you give an example of that?
SR: Well , just the economics of why we can’t publish the Krsna Book anymore . Because we’re not allowed to change the size . This has been hanging up the BBT trustees for the last five years . The publishing industry has just exploded in terms of inflation. Everything is a 150 , 200% more expensive than when Prabhupada was here . We no longer can afford to print the Krsna Book hardbounds in such large volumes . But no one is willing to change the size , we’re all so afraid . But that ‘s the way Prabhupada trained us . Maybe one day it is changed for economic reasons because ultimately Prabhupada wouldn’t want the book to be out of print . But this training was ultimate to insure that the instructions in his book , the words they weren ‘t changed and pictures and illustrations were not added which make the book incorrect and therefore would cause a person to just dismiss the whole book . Prabhupada said , ” If there ‘s one mistake then the whole book is useless .” When he was rejecting Pariksit ‘s line drawings for the Teachings of Lord Caitanya he said , ” These are mistakes , these pictures do not illustrate properly . Actually some of the illustrations here are subject to great misinterpretation and if you put these in my book the whole book is ruined .” So this was Prabhupada ‘s training to us about his books . So he was very involved in the desing of the book , the format . We talked to Prabhupada about the number of pages, we talked to Prabhupada about gold stamping , we talked to him about color pictures, ultimately he wanted 50 color pictures in each book . Prabhupada was a very active publisher , not just author . He was a very active publisher. We would discuss with him as we’ve already mentioned about the Macmillan contract , about American printer versus Japanese printer , Prabhupada would give us the go ahead and we would go . And by the momentum of his order we would become expert in. international publishing . We became expert in understanding the publ ishing industry of dif ferent countries, the paper industry of dif ferent countries , we became expert in negotiating , but all of this was by Prabhupada’s order . How he moved into Dai Nippon and establ ished a credit , how he authorized us to move away from Dai Nippon . Prabhupada was an active publisher , he was not just someone who just turned it all over and didn’t know what was going on . [Pages 181-185]
ISKCON published a new version of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s book, Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers in 1993. It is a transcript of a conversation which took place in Mayapur, West Bengal, in 1972 with a Peace-Corps worker, Bob Cohen.
Please read these changes completely as they give a very good insight into the types of things ISKCON and the BBT are deleting from Srila Prabhupada’s books. They have their own agenda and they want to change the philosophy that is presented in Srila Prabhupada’s books and by carefully studying the changes they are making you can gradually understand their demoniac agenda….
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.
|This is NOT a comprehensive list!|