Chakra Discussions

BBT Directors Review Decision On 'initiated' In Caitanya-caritamrta

by Jayadvaita Swami

Posted May 11, 2006

The BBT directors have decided to undo a revision made in the most recent edition of Caitanya-caritamrta (published in 1996). The revision is small and in itself, we believe, of no great consequence. More than anything, however, this matter illustrates the care we take to make sure the texts we publish represent Srila Prabhupada's words reliably and faithfully.

In brief: In a passage in the first chapter of Caitanya-caritamrta, we have decided to restore the words "the spiritual master of" to what they were in the first edition: "who initiated." And another revision--from "initiated" to "accepted"--we have decided to keep.

We have decided this after an extensive discussion among the BBT directors and editors and after consulting eight senior, thoughtful devotees outside the BBT whom we hold in high regard for their sober editorial judgment.

In fact, both our own BBT editors and our panel of consultants were evenly divided about the matter, some favoring the wording of the first edition, some the second. Our consultants came to an even tie: four on one side, four the other. Ultimately, therefore, we decided to "err on the side of caution" by sticking as closely and precisely as possible to what Srila Prabhupada originally said.

Now the details.

The relevant passage forms the second paragraph of the chapter summary of Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter One.

In the first edition (with the relevant portions shown in all capitals), here's how the paragraph read:

The direct disciple of Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami was Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, who accepted Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti as his servitor. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura accepted Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji, WHO INITIATED Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who in turn INITIATED Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, the spiritual master of Om Visnupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, the divine master of our humble self.

In the second edition, the second sentence appeared this way:

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura accepted Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji, THE SPIRITUAL MASTER OF Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who in turn ACCEPTED Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, the spiritual master of Om Visnupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, the divine master of our humble self.

Why was this revision made?

We know from history that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura received diksa--formal initiation--not from Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji but from someone else. And Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji in turn received formal initiation from someone other than Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

The text, therefore, appears to say something that isn't true. Moreover, it seems to give the impression -- wrongly -- that what Srila Prabhupada is describing here is a line of succession by diksa (formal initiation) when we know that for these acaryas especially the connection was through siksa (spiritual instruction). And to make matters worse, this confusion arises in a chapter that takes pains to make clear how the diksa-guru and siksa-guru, though in some ways one, are different.

Several devotees noticed this and brought it to the attention of the BBT. And so for the second edition the editor felt obliged to give the matter his attention.

His first step was to examine our original source text, in this case the March 1960 issue of Back To Godhead, where this portion of Caitanya-caritamrta was first published. Here's how Srila Prabhupada had it:

From Goswami Krishna Das Kaviraj the direct disciple is Srila Narottam Das Thakur who accepted Viswanath Chakrabarty as his servitor. Viswanath Chakrabarty accepted Jagannath Das Babajee from whom Srila Bhaktivinode Thakore was initiated and Srila Gour Kishore Das Babajee the spiritual master of Om Vishnupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad -- the Divine spiritual Master of our humbleself.

Note here (as our editor did) that for the relationship between Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji the word "initiated" doesn't appear. It came from me. The sentence needed a verb, so when editing for the first edition I supplied one--the verb "initiated."

That still leaves us with Srila Prabhupada saying that Jagannatha Dasa Babaji initiated Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura--something he never says anywhere else.

So, given that in the context of the chapter the reader is likely to get the impression that the connection here was by diksa--an impression contrary to historical fact--our editor revised the sentence to say simply that Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji was the spiritual master of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a statement that is clearly and uncontrovertibly true.

Some devotees, however, took issue with this revision. In particular, Dhira Govinda Prabhu questioned it and asked us to reconsider it. We took his request seriously. And so our decision.

In the next printing the passage will appear thus:

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura accepted Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji, who initiated Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who in turn accepted Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, the spiritual master of Om Visnupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, the divine master of our humble self.

By restoring the first instance of "initiated," we stick with Srila Prabhupada's original word; and by retaining the second deletion of "initiated," we leave out a word Srila Prabhupada never had there to begin with.

Some devotees may argue over what the newly restored word "initiated" means here. Did Srila Prabhupada make a mistake about the history? Did he mean "initiated" as he usually meant it? Was he contradicting what he says later in the chapter? Does it matter? We'll let others argue about that. As Srila Prabhupada's publishers, we simply want to present Srila Prabhupada's words as transparently and faithfully as possible. And it's for the readers to read and understand them.

Thank you. Hare Krsna.

Jayadvaita Swami
For the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

PS: The BBT is soon to release the present edition of Caitanya-caritamrta in a multi-volume compact-format version. Because we reached the decision this article is about after the pages had already been printed and bound, the revision will appear in the next printing.