Controversies

What you call an "original manuscript" is really just a draft

Argument: 

What you call an "original manuscript" is really just a draft.

Response: 

After the BBT started publishing evidence from Srila Prabhupada's manuscripts in support of specific revisions, critics began referring to Srila Prabhupada's manuscripts as mere "drafts." (The strategy seemed to be: If the manuscript undercuts your criticism, disparage the manuscript.)

When it comes to Srila Prabhupada's books, "draft" is not the term we would prefer, because usually we think of an author doing a "first draft," a "second draft," and so on -- and we know that this is not the way Srila Prabhupada worked.

Srila Prabhupada himself commonly used the word "draft" to refer to bank drafts, the military draft, and sometimes the drafts of letters or contracts, but hardly ever for what he wrote for his books. For his writings, he seems to have preferred the term "manuscript" (see examples below).

Hayagriva Prabhu, too, referred to such collections of pages as "manuscripts":

Alas, in the manuscripts (and I've been over all of them), not only the purports but verses 9/16-9/25 & 9/27 have been mysteriously missing from the very beginning (1967)." (letter from Hayagriva to Jayadvaita, October 15, 1970)

Anyway, whatever you wish to call them, we hope the meaning is clear: When we speak of "original manuscripts," we mean either the pages Srila Prabhupada typed himself, or the direct transcriptions of what he dictated, or various edited versions of his typing or dictation.

Moreover, Srila Prabhupada never endorsed the notion that editorial questions should be resolved only by reference to his published books, to the exclusion of his original manuscripts. On June 8, 1975, he wrote to Hamsaduta in regard to Srimad-Bhagavatam:

I don't think that Hayagriva is at fault. He has not changed the meaning or the philosophy in any way. But if you like to use the original manuscript, then if it is possible, you can use it.

And on September 18, 1976, he wrote to Ramesvara Dasa, then a BBT trustee:

In general, if any translator of my books requires the original manuscripts for his work, he should be supplied them by you.

As mentioned above, by speaking of "manuscripts" we are using the same word Srila Prabhupada regularly used. Here are some examples:

"My tape recorder, typewriter [were stolen]. Fortunately they did not touch my manuscript that I was writing, typing my books." Room Conversation -- September 30, 1976, Vrndavana

"[T]hen immediately send the manuscripts, finished or not, to the following address. . ." Letter to Brahmananda -- Delhi 22 September, 1967

"And regarding editorial work, I shall send you some manuscripts very soon." Letter to Hayagriva -- Montreal 14 July, 1968

"From this letter I can understand that texts number 6 and 7 are missing in the manuscript of the third canto which you have in Boston. The original manuscript is in New York, and when I go there, maybe in April, I will find this for you." Letter to Satsvarupa -- Los Angeles 18 January, 1969

"So far as correcting the manuscripts is concerned, you will edit first, then it will be composed, and if there are any spelling mistakes, that can be corrected by anyone there." Letter to Hayagriva -- 25 December, 1969

"I have done some translating recently, but it is not yet decided whether to send you the tapes or to transcribe them here and send you a copy of the manuscript. Very soon you will know about this. I will be encouraged if you keep on with the work of readying my manuscripts and printing them." Letter to Satsvarupa -- Bombay 25 November, 1970

"You may send the manuscript to Jayadvaita or Hayagriva for editing and printing with Dai Nippon." Letter to Hansaduta -- Jaipur 20 January, 1972

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Why aren't scholars praising the second edition of the Gītā, the way they praised the first?

Argument: 

So many scholars praised the original edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Have any praised the revised edition? Not that we know of. Why not? It must be because they haven't accepted it. That is, they accepted the first but rejected the second. Why else would they not have come forward to praise it?

Response: 

The answer is simple:

Scholars have ceased coming forward to offer praises because we've ceased asking scholars to do so.

In the mid and late 1970s, devotees working with the BBT and its Library Party were exceedingly active in approaching academics for reviews of Srila Prabhupada's books. Devotees went from university to university, college to college, in America, in Europe, and elsewhere, collecting orders for Srila Prabhupada's books and soliciting reviews.
Similarly, Srila Prabhupada's disciples like Subhananda Dasa made a full-time service of cultivating relationships with academics, arranging for reviews, and so on.

After the Library Party crisscrossed America and Europe, it eventually disbanded. (How many times can you approach the same libraries to buy the same books?) The vigorous efforts to solicit reviews also ceased.

And you don't ask, you don't get.

Would approaching newer scholars for reviews be a good idea? Sure, why not? (No one is doing it, so the service is available.)

Meanwhile, at www.bbtedit.com/testimonials you can see comments by a devotee scholar, Garuda Dasa (Dr. Graham Schweig), heartily endorsing the second edition.
 

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Where does it end?

Argument: 

If you change now, you’re opening the door to changes later. You’re setting a precedent.

Response: 

This is a sensible argument. The BBT editors and trustees have carefully considered it. But in a book where mistakes are so plentiful, the reverse is equally possible: If the BBT’s present editors didn't fix them, someone later would have.

The BBT trustees could pass a law: “Absolutely no changes.” But trustees who come in the future could just as easily overturn it.

Therefore the BBT editors and editors have chosen a different course, the course followed by publishing houses that set the highest standards for professionalism and integrity: We strive to publish books in editions that fix errors, restore lost material, and thereby stick as closely and faithfully as possible to the letter, spirit, and intention of what the author originally gave.

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Shouldn’t the BBT make both editions of the Gītā available—the old one and the new?

Argument: 

Shouldn’t the BBT make both editions of the Gītā available—the old one and the new? 

Response: 

 We do. In fact, the BBT has been doing it for many years. 

Most devotees prefer the new edition, which sticks more closely to what Śrīla Prabhupāda originally wrote and dictated, but we keep the old edition available for those who prefer it.

According to Gaudacandra Prabhu, the BBT secretary in Los Angeles, here are the BBT sales figures (current through 2008) :

From 1/1/2007 through 4/7/2008: 

Bhagavad-gītā First Edition: 550 copies

Bhagavad-gīta Second Edition: 36,150 copies

 

 

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