I wanted to speak something for the other devotees who will hear or read this. I am a devotee from 1967, joined ISKCON in Miami in 1971. I wasn't present when Bhagavad-gita was being produced, but I was part of the Caitanya-caritamrta marathon, where I served both as a proofreader and an editor on the Madhya-lila 6, 7 and 8 volumes, and later on I was an editor on the Antya-lila, volumes 2 and 3. Very high stuff. Currently I serve as a book editor for Srila Narayana Maharaja, and I’m currently editing some of his translations of the books of the Six Goswamis, and others.
From 1980 through 2000, I was a professional writer; I worked in the IT industry and I wrote many books, on technical subjects primarily. But the way I learned to be a professional writer was by reading and editing Srila Prabhupada’s books. I have some background in philology, which is the study of language, and when you read Srila Prabhupada’s books, we can see that the language he uses is extremely scientific. What I mean by that is that he uses words absolutely according to their dictionary meanings. He does not use slang or a casual street-wise manner, but he uses words precisely, as if they’re scientific instruments and they’re calibrated to produce a specific meaning.
One notable feature of Srila Prabhupada’s books whenever I edited them, and especially by the time he was dictating Caitanya-caritamrta, was that they were so good, they almost didn’t need any editing. It was actually pretty easy, even though we were having a marathon.
But I would like to look into this tendency in Western society to change things, and especially to change things having to do with the Vedas and Vedic culture. I’ve done quite a bit of research on this, and there’s a long history of efforts in Western culture to deny, hide or change any influence of Vedic culture, going back more than 2,500 years.
The first instance of this is the Romans, going back before the time of Christ. The Romans burned thousands of ancient Greek manuscripts; and the reason that they did this… Well, first of all the way we know that they did this is that they recorded the fact in their own historic documents, their own records. “Yeah, we burned all these documents because we didn’t want the common people to get ahold of them.” And the reason they gave for doing this, was these documents had ideas in them that the Romans wanted to take the credit for inventing. They didn’t want to have to say, “We got these great ideas—like democracy and so on—from the Greeks.” No, they wanted to say, “We came up with these ideas; we’re more intelligent than the Greeks.” And the Greeks themselves were more honest than the Romans. They admitted that many sages had come from India and given them these ideas, like the decimal system for example—the numerals one through ten—the use of zero in mathematics, astrology, a lot of their medical science. All this came from India, and the ancient Greeks were honest about attributing those ideas to the Vedic culture, but the Romans didn’t want the Roman citizens, the Roman Empire, to know that. They wanted to say that they were the source; they were more intelligent.
This goes back to the time when the Vedic Empire was in control of the entire earth planet. There was some resentment from the Western countries, because they already had this demonic tendency. Then when the Vedic Empire fell apart after the Battle of Kuruksetra—and we can read in Srimad-Bhagavatam that the astras and the mantra powers were removed because of the falldown of the ksatriyas and brahmanas—suddenly the Vedic Empire fell apart. And we see from history that every time there’s a successful revolution, the new powers-that-be want to rewrite history; they want to give their own version of what happened, who did what to whom, who was right, who was wrong, and why. This was true in the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, and even in the American Revolution. This is called propaganda, and every government does it.
So we have a situation that when the Vedic Empire fell apart, suddenly all these different countries began to reinvent history, to reinvent language, to reinvent religion, assign new names and new forms to everything that gave them the credit, that showed that they were the most intelligent, or the most divine, or the most whatever. Let’s look at the Bible for example. When Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, he decided to make Christianity the state religion of the entire Roman Empire. Not because he thought that Christianity was the Absolute Truth, but that if there was a state religion, he could unify the Roman Empire, which at that time was splitting up and falling apart. So, he saw an opportunity, but it was a political opportunity. After he converted to Christianity, he called a meeting called the Council of Nicea, and at the Council of Nicea he gathered all the leaders from the various Christian sects—by that time there were hundreds of them, and they all disagreed on the philosophy. So, he gathered all these leaders together and he said, “You know what? We’re going to make this the state religion, but we’ve got to have one universal, catholic—meaning that it applies to everybody—one catholic understanding, one philosophy, one religion. Not a whole bunch of different sects. So now you guys put it together, and that’s what we’ll do. And he listed to them argue with one another for three days, and after three days they weren’t any closer to having a unified understanding, so the emperor stood up and said, “OK. It’s going to be like this: none of this journey to India, none of this vegetarianism, none of this reincarnation, mysticism, all this we’re going to take out of the Bible. We’re going to take out this book and this book, because it doesn’t help me manage my people, manage my empire, and the Bible is going to look like this and like that, and this is going to be our philosophy.” He dictated it. And then, anybody who didn’t like that, they executed. They cut their heads off. And two-thirds of the Roman Christian leaders died at the Council of Nicea because they refused to follow. This is well known; it is actually in every history of Christianity
So as it is said, “Those who do not learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.” Later on, we see the same thing happen in the French Revolution, the American Revolution, et cetera. So there’s a long tendency to conveniently omit the Vedic influence in Western history. And let’s not forget the British, when they took over India they invented a whole synthetic religion—‘Hinduism’—took the name from the Persian language, and they made it a polytheistic monism. In other words, there are all these different gods, but they’re all somehow the same, and behind it all there’s just oneness. Which is a totally bogus philosophy not sanctioned in the Vedas—the word ‘Hindu’ doesn’t even appear anywhere in the Vedas. Why did they do it? Because it’s such a weak philosophy, it can easily be defeated, even by Christianity. Then they made every graduate of the British-run universities study this bogus religion, which they had to accept if they wanted a job in the British East India Company.
This is called ‘disinformation,’ that you make something that looks like the original, but it’s not the original, and you substitute it. It’s also called ‘bait and switch,’ or the good old ‘change-up.’
Bhaktisiddhartha Prabhu: There are countries that don’t recognize things like copyrights. So we see that there’s this long history in Western culture of suppression of the knowledge coming from the Vedic culture. If you look in college textbooks on comparative religion, there’s some nonsense about Hinduism and all that, but they don’t give the real history of Vedic culture. So there’s a lot of pressure in Western society in general to cover up the truth about Vedic culture, and how powerful it was, how wonderful it was, or even the fact that it ever existed. If you write a book on Vedic culture that gives it as it is, you can’t publish with a mainstream publisher. I know; I’ve tried. They will reject your book proposal, because they will only publish a book that like Joseph Campbell’s, that brands it ‘mythology.’ If you call the Vedas mythology, then you can write a book about it and get published. Even if you’re a professional writer, if you write a book that accepts the Vedas as they are, you can’t get published. You can’t even get consideration. So this is a very deep, strong tendency in Western culture.
The point I want to make is that the GBC and the BBT did exactly the same thing as the British. They took Srila Prabhupada’s movement and his books, made extensive changes to them after his passing from this world, changed the philosophy and then passed it off as the same thing, as Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON. But although the name is the same, the content, as we all have experienced, is completely different. Instead of a transcendental movement or transcendental literature, we have something less, something of less potency. Why? Because as Govinda dasi and other devotees kindly described, the magic touch of the pure devotee is gone. No one can replace that magic touch of the pure devotee with any amount of material intelligence. So although the GBC and BBT trustees are certainly intelligent and capable people in so many ways, all of them together could not and cannot replace one pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada.
Just like the Romans rewrote the Bible and the Russians rewrote history to suit their ideas, the GBC and BBT are dong the same thing. They are rewriting Srila Prabhupada’s books and changing the management style of Srila Prabhupada’s organization to suit their own ideas. But these are not Srila Prabhupada’s ideas, and the proof is in the result. Instead of expanding book distribution, book distribution has been in a steady decline. Similarly, instead of the dynamic, expanding movement Srila Prabhupada left us, there are many temples where there are more deities than devotees present at mangala-arati. This is the effect of the revolution, the takeover of Srila Prabhupada’s movement from the pure devotee by people of lesser realization. And the subsequent disinformation and bait-and-switch of a less-than-transcendental movement, and less-than-transcendental books than we had before.
Now, let’s examine our roles as disciples of the Gaudiya Vedanta sampradaya. What is our role? Is our role to please the public? It’s nice if we could sell more books, but selling more books is not exactly what our duty is. Our duty is not to please the public or the scholars. It is to please not only our spiritual masters, but also the previous spiritual masters in our line, all the way back to Lord Caitanya. That’s the purpose of parampara, that’s the purpose of disciplic succession; that the goal of the disciplic succession is to satisfy the purpose of Lord Krsna when He descends as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in our case. So if we’re in disciplic succession from Lord Caitanya, we have to please Lord Caitanya with our preaching work, the purport of our books and everything that we do.
The accepted method of our parampara is to follow the actions and policies of the previous acaryas, all the way back to Srila Rupa Gosvami. So if we look at the behavior of the previous acaryas in our line regarding the books of their spiritual masters, what do we find? They don’t edit them, they don’t change them, they copy them exactly and pass them on just the way they are. And maybe they write illuminating commentaries on them to help their disciples understand those books, but they never would dream of changing even one word.
Devotee: They were just written on palm leaves, so you could change them easily…
Bhaktisiddhartha Prabhu: You can change, but just like in the professional writing world, the principle is that the original author is ultimately responsible for their work: its success or failure, the content and the design and everything. Now you might have designers and editors and proofreaders and all kinds of people working with the author, but it’s the author that has to sign off that final proof and say, “This is what I want to go to press.” And the author is the one who gets the reviews—not the editor. If a book is mangled by an editor, it’s the author’s responsibility to reject those changes and say, “No. This is not OK.” So if the author is not present, there’s just no way that you can make extensive changes, or even any changes to a book. And we even see in the case of authors like Hemingway, and—who wrote Nexus, Sexus, Plexus—James Baldwin, books that contain all kinds of offensive nonsense, when they publish after the author’s death, they still don’t change anything. The hard lessons of the bowdlerizing era run deep. Now they may publish scholarly commentaries or footnotes, or they may have an addendum or an appendix to address any changes or comments that the publisher may want to make, but they don’t touch the author’s work. So this is the standard in the publishing world.
But that’s not even germane; what’s germane is the practice in our sampradaya, because that’s who we’re responsible to, that’s who we’re accountable to, and that’s the standard of behavior we’ll be measured against: our sampradaya, and ultimately Lord Caitanya. So if we look at the practice of all the previous acaryas, they do not do this editing work. If they have some commentary, they add it to the previous acaryas’ commentaries on that work and publish it as a tika. This is the accepted practice. In fact, Srila Narayana Maharaja did this in his editions of Bhagavad-gita, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu-bindu and other works. Before he translated Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Jaiva Dharma from the original Bengali into Hindi, he read the book 50 times before he translated it. In other words, his concern is to present it exactly as it is, without any change or coloration, just as Srila Prabhupada did with Bhagavad-gita As It Is. And this is their perfection.So this should be our concern too. If our spiritual master is graciously writing in our native language so that we can understand very easily, then certainly he meant whatever he said in these books, and it is not up to us to adjust or improve or change them in any way. And this is not only the standard in the commercial publishing world, and it is also the standard in our own sampradaya. And there’s no precedent in any Vaisnava sampradaya for changing the books of the previous acarya. It’s not there, because it’s just not done. It’s not even done in the karmi book-publishing world. So where’s the rationale? There is no rationale at all for these book changes. It is just a symptom of the Western cultural disease to use disinformation to deny the real potency of the Vedic culture, which comes through the divine grace of the pure devotee. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. Thank you very much.