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Bhagavad Gita Revisited

from Antardwip das JPS

Hare Krishna

I feel that the most important part of the issue concerning the editing of the Bhagavad Gita and other books is not about the authenticity of doing this, but whether it should be done when devotees object to it.

With regard to the authenticity, Maharaj writes: "I sent the same letter not only to Kirtanananda Maharaja but also to every other member of the GBC, most English-speaking ISKCON sannyasis, various other senior ISKCON devotees, and every ISKCON temple president in the English-speaking world."

However, was that enough to gain the acceptance of other ISKCON membership? No, it obviously has failed to win approval from many devotees. While some may be enviously using this to gain political support, most devotees are genuinely perplexed about the editing. Why this should be, when most changes are, frankly, irrelevant, I have a few suggestions:

I was brought up on the Bible where they declare their faith with their ending note "And if anyone changes so much as a jot or a tittle of this book.....". I guess this got transferred to the Gita. The English St. James edition of the Bible, translated into old English, from an out of date Greek manuscript, is the Christian worshipable book. If the Koran was changed, or the Torah or the Bible, they wouldn't expect that the congregation to just accept it. After all, they have accepted the scripture as the word of God. It is a big thing to alter the scriptures, even one word. It is Srila Prabhupada's writings that are our scriptures, as much as the original Sanscrit verses.
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And, I was told as a new bhakta, we have the direct dictation of Srila Prabhupada and was told that the Macmillian edition was "As It Is", perfect to surrender to, to memorise, to quote, to sell and to listen to every evening —even though I couldn't understand it much! Often the first impressions we are given can be the most lasting, and for me, apart from the prasadam and mosquitos, it was that Srila Prabhupada's books, including Bhagavad Gita, are perfect and coming from the spiritual world, and this was understood as the printed word in ISKCON's, at the time, books.

Now it misses the point to say devotees are sentimental and the new edition is closer to the original than the Macmillian edition. Devotees feelings ARE important. No matter what Srila Prabhupada said about HH Jayadvaita Swami being the parampara, when we join we are convinced about Srila Prabhupada's books, not about HH Jayadvaita Swami's perfect judgement. It is the difference between a "I believe Prabhupada is perfect, therefore I'd better join," belief and a "Now I've joined, I'd better this other prabhu is perfect," belief — while appropriate for disciples, it should not be compulsory for all ISKCON devotees to feel this way.

I am also certain that there was no hidden agenda in making the changes, as I have never heard anyone use any of the newly edited passages for personal or political gain, nor have I ever thought that ISKCON devotees are anything but sincere. Bungling, often, ill-motivated, rarely, but ultimately under Krishna's stick. The motivation behind it is, I believe, a genuine desire to serve Srila Prabhupada, but with a disregard for the feelings of ISKCON devotees towards Srila Prabhupada's books and the consequences of this for ISKCON. An ivory tower approach, and while Rome burns, we can claim a victory.

I believe that the edited version has not made ONE devotee who the original version would not have also made, but has alienated MANY devotees. So what on earth has been the benefit of it? It would be much better if the editing had not taken place, or had been limited to a few (three or four) obvious clangers. Can we go back to the original version please. As well as disturbing ISKCON devotees, you will now lose sales to Hansadutta prabhu who, as we know, is probably broken-hearted not to be able to publish our edited Bhagavad Gita as BBT's glorious victory was that he couldn't print books published after 1978.

Hare Krishna

Antardwip das JPS

LOST - Please return

I'm still perplexed by losing my favorite verse from the Srimad Bhagavatam that I spent a few days in Mayapura learning in 1975: "With sword in hand, intelligent men cut through the labyrinthine knots of reactionary work...." and suddenly labyrinthine disappeared. I am still looking for it. I used to wonder how Srila Prabhupada used such a wonderful phrase, and now I wonder did someone not like his phrase - or did someone else put that phrase in in the first place..........

Are the small books like "Beyond Birth and Death" from writings or Lectures? are they compiled by disciples or direct from lectures? Are they edited? What about the "Path of Perfection?" It would be nice to know where it comes from, what Srila Prabhupada actually wrote and what was compiled by disciples, and who compiled them. Surely this should be printed inside each of the books in future? Will the BBT now begin to respond to devotees requests?

Perhaps there is a case for providing a major work on the text changes and sources of BBT books over the years?

© CHAKRA 15-Dec-98

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