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- '5000 Changes' In The Name Of 'Editing' Srila Prabhupada’s Books -

This is a very nice article by Govinda dasi on Book Changes, posted on the Sun. We are reprinting it here, as it is a very important issue, and needs to be shared with every devotee.

…Yes, he read his books daily, and he spoke from that original Bhagavad-gita for over 10 years! He gave lectures on nearly every verse in that original Gita, and he requested only a couple of corrections, such as “the planet of the trees,” (to be changed to “the pitris”), and a couple of other small corrections. Had only those few changes been made, perhaps this controversy would never have occurred.

However, the problem is this: BBT did not simply edit Srila Prabhupada’s books and make simple Sanskrit corrections; rather, they edited Srila Prabhupada’s books and made sweeping changes, over 5,000 of them in the Gita alone, and thus changed the “writer’s voice” that had been so artistically created by Srila Prabhupada and Hayagriva working together.

5000 Changes and Counting

Dear Yashoda Dulal Prabhu,

Govinda dasi
Govinda dasi, one of Srila Prabhupada’s very first disciples       

Pamho. Yes, the bbt always gives that one worn-out example of cattle, and of course the other one, planet of the trees. Yes, those are typos, mistakes. They fail to mention the other four thousand and nine hundred and ninety eight changes they made!

And had these two errors been corrected, along with any misspelled words, etc. there would have been no cause for alarm–or for a million dollar lawsuit with bbt defending the edited version–one which they lost in the courts. That court case is the only reason that now the world has an option to read Prabhupada’s original words. But the 5000 changes that were made, and changing the “writer’s voice” was unwarranted and factually criminal.  

In a meeting at Honolulu temple some years back, Jayadvaita M. actually stated, “Oh, those (original) books were horrible!” Those “horrible” original books, filled with Srila Prabhupada’s divine mercy, made thousands of devotees in the ’70s. More books were distributed then than now.

It seems you believe the propaganda that Hayagriva was never around Prabhupada much, and there were many editors etc. What can I say? This is simply not true. I knew Hayagriva from the time I joined Prabhupada in San Francisco, January of 1967. Hayagriva was there, and was already editing the Gita, and spending hours every day with Srila Prabhupada going over every verse!

And later, just before the first Gita was printed, in late 1968, Hayagriva LIVED with us in Los Angeles. (I was Prabhupada’s secretary for the whole year of 1968 and part of 1969) Daily they would spend hours in Prabhupada’s room, going over every inch of the final edits. I am an eye witness to this.

At this time, I even did the cover drawing for the first MacMillan Gita (the purple one) with Prabhupada guiding me, literally over my shoulder, watching the drawing develop. The purple Gita cut out a lot of that meticulous work done by Srila Prabhupada and Hayagriva; Macmillan wanted to save money, to make it smaller. So they greatly edited Prabhupada’s manuscript, and he was unhappy with it, but accepted it as “a blind uncle.”

But at his first opportunity, he printed his manuscript in total, the Original Gita, the one with Jadurany’s reddish battlefield painting on the cover. Srila Prabhupada was extremely happy with that Gita– he finally got his carefully nurtured manuscript into print! He was overjoyed!

The “Edited Edition”, with the blue battlefield cover, done by Parikshit das, with Krishna carrying a whip rather than his Panchajanya (conch) as directed by Srila Prabhupada, was done AFTER Srila Prabhupada’s departure from this world. Both the editing and the cover were done after his departure, yet they inserted his preface and signature of 1971–as if, with 5000 changes, it was the same book! How unethical!

Most of Prabhupada’s disciples did not even know this editing mischief was going on; they were grieving the loss of Srila Prabhupada from this world. Only later, when the dust had settled, did many of us learn of this travesty.

So I really do know what happened in those days. I even met with MacMillan in New York prior to the printing.

Jayadvaita M. had not even become a devotee in early 1967, so how would he know?? He says many things that are not in keeping with what really happened, since he was not there; perhaps he is relying on hearsay, I don’t know. Neither was Jayadvaita M. in Los Angeles in late 1968 when Hayagriva lived with us for weeks on end, completing the editing work. Most of what the bbt says in this regard is based on fairy tales, hearsay, and perhaps some personal ambition as well. I do not know how they can skew things in this way and still sleep at night.

But what I do know is that Srila Prabhupada wanted NO FURTHER CHANGES TO HIS BOOKS. HE EXPRESSED THIS ON MANY OCCASIONS. A little research can easily prove this point.

Now, you may enjoy reading many various literatures that are perhaps well written, even better written, and that is fine. But if you want to read Srila Prabhupada’s original words, gone over with a fine tooth comb by Srila Prabhupada and Hayagriva, then I suggest you read his original books. If you want to compare them, that’s fine too. But his original books must be available to the people who will come in the future of this Kali Yuga. And the changes must stop lest the original teachings be obliterated in the course of time.

Generally I avoid these political issues, as I feel most are fairly unimportant and always changing. However, this book issue is very very important. So important that Srila Prabhupada himself came to me in a darshan a few years back and told me to defend his original books. Frankly, I did not want to take this task, as it means stepping on people’s toes, but he insisted. He ordered me to speak out, so I must, in spite of being labeled and criticized.

Srila Prabhupada wants it known all over the world, and especially for future generations, that his original books are just as he intended them to be. They have his full shakti, full mercy, and are for all of mankind. If the changes continue, there will always be another editor who thinks he can improve this or that, and eventually the original meanings will be lost.

You may appreciate the editing work, but Srila Prabhupada doesn’t. He didn’t appreciate the changes then, and he doesn’t appreciate it now. Our job is to please our Guru, not our own sense of what sounds good or doesn’t sound good.

He made this clear so many times, yet they have chosen to ignore everything he said. Please understand, I don’t blame any one person, not even Jayadvaita M. It is the nature of the Kali Yuga to try to destroy that which is sacred and meant for the upliftment of mankind. That is how Maya works.

Srila Prabhupada often said “Krishna has written these books.” So tell me, how can a conditioned soul improve on what Krishna has said or written??

Your servant and sister,
Govinda dasi


On "Changing" In The Name Of "Editing" Srila Prabhupada's Books

Dear Prabhus,

Govinda dasi
Govinda dasi, one of Srila
Prabhupada’s very first disciples

Please accept my humble obeisances. I have just read over the various comments and considerations. They are all insightful, and I really appreciate your contributions. I think it’s good to air grievances in a respectful and intelligent way. However I also agree with Damodar Prabhu, that more effort needs to be put into preaching work, and we each have our own sphere of influence in our respective lives, our opportunity to reach others about the message of Krishna consciousness. I think we are all trying to do that in our own ways.

Certainly I see no harm in chanting the Holy Names of Lord Vishnu! Srila Prabhupada himself visited Tirupati, the Vaikuntha land of Lord Vishnu, and praised the way the worship was being done, even going so far as telling us to learn from it.

Fanaticism takes its toll on any religious group. Being broad minded is important for the success of Krishna consciousness being spread all over the world.

Personally I have no anger at the actions of past leaders; I have already seen many of them receive whatever was necessary for their correction, individually, on the path of Krishna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada loved us all, and continues to love us and train us in the way he wants us to go.

That these issues of bitterness invariably arise is due to the personal hurt that so many devotees, who sacrificed their life, their youth, their marriage, their education–really, everything–for spreading Srila Prabhupada’s movement–and then were driven out by a handful of ambitious Godbrothers. That pain still lingers in many people’s lives, and yes, it should be healed. Maybe speaking about it is helpful, as long as one does not remain only in that angry and bitter frame of mind.

“What’s done is done” is a statement that Prabhupada used to make. Then he would advise a devotee to pick up the pieces of his bhakti, and brush himself off, and move ahead.

That said, I would like to add that all this really is NOT the purpose of this post. The purpose of this forum is the urgent necessity of re-establishing Srila Prabhupada’s original books. We are not calling Jayadvaita evil or malicious — that was never said. What was said is that as conditioned souls, we make mistakes. Since we are not perfect liberated beings, we are subject to illusion and error. Therefore, we are better off not correcting that which our Acharya has done.

So far as not having a voice, this is simply not true. Devotees do indeed have a voice, and that voice arose so loudly that it stopped those “addendums” as Bhakta das (Benedict) pointed out.

Devotees also raised their voices over these book changes to the tune of a million dollar lawsuit. Prior to that suit, Srila Prabhupada’s original books were extinct, existing only on the personal bookshelves of his devoted followers. For over 20 years, his books were nowhere to be found, except perhaps in libraries and garage sales. Now, those original books are being printed and distributed in increasing numbers. More and more people have become aware of this massive editing and begun to question it. That means devotees DO have a voice.

However, the issue at hand is not whether we have a voice. The issue here is that we must use that voice for the sake of those devotees who come in the future–if they are to know how to find Srila Prabhupada’s original books.

Please understand that these changes will not stop here. This is not about what Jayadvaita or Dravida or whoever has done. That is not the point. The point is that the changes will continue, and are continuing as we speak. Just as Rasikananda’s post described, one person will say “do it like this,” another “like that,” and in this way changes will continue to go on. And in a hundred years or so, the historians will look at the 35 or 40 Bhagavad Gitas with Prabhupada’s 1971 signature and will not know which one of them is actually the real original!!

THAT is our concern. Not this guy or that guy, or who did this, or that. Our concern here is for the future of humanity, for the preservation of these books that Prabhupada said would be the lawbooks for the next 10,000 years. And that is why this is so important.

Gurus and leaders, good or bad, will come and go, and according to their actions, like all of us, will suffer or enjoy. That’s a given. We don’t really have to concern ourselves with that. Badmouthing those who have stumbled isn’t what we are setting out to do. Our concern is only to preserve what Prabhupada gave us, end of story.

He said, “No changes.” So we want no changes. He never gave authority to anyone to change his books after his demise, that is for certain. Even Jayadvaita admits he has never been asked to do this.

Mistakes were made, we all make them. Maybe intentions were good, maybe the idea was to really just correct a few typos, but somehow or other, things got out of hand and over 5000 changes were made, so many of them unnecessary.

It will not stop here. It is going on right now; bbt is continually “modernizing” Srila Prabhupada’s books. Was that done to Shakespeare? Steinbeck? Twain? No. Not unless it was clearly stated on the cover that this is an abridged and edited edition by so-and-so editor, with the editor’s name given. That is the acceptable way in the editorial world. But this was not done.

Our purpose here is not to throw stones but rather to build a fortress around Srila Prabhupada’s original works. He “came here from Krishna loka to write some books”, and even said, “Krishna wrote these books”, and would often express delight in reading them himself.

We are simply trying to preserve what he gave us, rather, gave the world, as that is our duty as disciples. If we don’t take action, within only 3 or 4 generations these books will have been edited and re-edited, and who knows what will remain. Do we want to end up like the Christian Bible, where councils vote on the meanings of Christ’s teachings?

And if there are 35 different editions, all bearing Srila Prabhupada’s original 1971 signature, how will historians even know which edition is the original?

These are the issues at hand. For this reason, we need to come together and give our support to Srila Prabhupada’s original books, and thus leave a large body of opinion so that in spite of current or future changes to the books, historians will have ample information as to what happened, how it happened, and which of the many Gitas bearing Prabhupada’s signature are really his original works. In this way, the original works will be preserved for posterity.

Please accept my humble obeisance and my humble request that you help in this matter.

Your servant,
Govinda dasi

P.S. I am a Hare Krishna Devotee who knew Srila Prabhupada in the early days of Iskcon in the late 60′s. I traveled with Srila Prabhupad, as his secretary and servant, with my husband Goursundar for over a year.


Govinda Devi Dasi (ACBSP) was a senior at the University of Texas at Austin in 1966 when she and her husband went to San Francisco in search of a spiritual teacher. She explains, “My yoga books said that when the chela is ready, the Guru will appear. So I was trying to make myself ready with many hours of meditation and purificatory disciplines. One day I went to a book shop and happened to read the description of Srila Prabhupada in Hayagriva’s “Back to Godhead” article. Upon reading this description, I saw him in my mind’s eye, as if a window had been suddenly opened, and began to weep, ‘I’ve found him, I’ve found him at last!” I went immediately to the newly opened San Francisco storefront temple, and have never left Srila Prabhupada since that day.”

In 1969, Srila Prabhupada sent Govinda dasi and her husband to Hawaii to open Krishna temples in the Hawaiian Islands. Srila Prabhupada then came to Hawaii to join them, and lived with them for several weeks in a beachhouse in Kaawa, on the windward coast of Oahu. He later made many visits to the Islands, which he named “New Navadwip.”

Govinda dasi has been a disciple of Srila Prabhupada since 1966. She is also the author and illustrator of numerous children’s books, including Gopal, Nimai, Jagannath, Krishna, and Damodar. She resides in Hawaii and Vrindaban.


Please also see:

To edit - or not to edit
"They’re ruining my books" — Srila Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada on Editing His Books
Srila Prabhupada Instructs Jayadvaita