Hansadutta distorts history, impugns a Vaisnava and attacks valid BBT copyrights
by Akruranath das
Posted May 17, 2003

Hansadutta asks, "What is Jayadvaita's Point?".

The point of Jayadvaita Swami's article was to refute Govinda dasi's assertion that Hayagriva and Srila Prabhupada worked daily together on the Bhagavad-gita for two years before finally settling on the exact wording of the Macmillan edition that was published in 1972.

Hansadutta seems angry that Jayadvaita Swami's insistence on setting the historical record straight somehow reflects poorly on Srila Prabhupada or Hayagriva. His tirade can thus, perhaps, be forgiven as a manifestation of his love for Srila Prabhupada.

However, I did not find anything in Jayadvaita Swami's article that in any way reflected poorly on Srila Prabhupada or Hayagriva. The glories of Srila Prabhupada are so obvious and magnificent that they do not need to be assisted by distortions of history.

The fact that Srila Prabhupada was so enthusiastic to preach that he endangered his health is a manifestation of his ecstatic mood, relished by the devotees. Srila Prabhupada's instructions to Hayagriva about the relative importance of his Bhagavad-gita purports and Srila Prabhupada's attitude to the verse translations, recorded in Hayagriva's book, are useful to know, and are no cause for shame or embarrassment.

While Hansadutta's annoyance about Jayadvaita Swami's citations to Hayagriva's account may be viewed charitably and forgiven, I can find no excuse for Hansadutta's false description of his cross-complaint against BBT International, Inc. in Los Angeles County Superior Court. I served as one of the lawyers for BBT International in that litigation, and feel that Hansadutta's blatant distortion of the facts should not be left uncorrected, lest devotees be misled.

The litigation started when Hansadutta's followers in Malaysia and Singapore, the Prabhupada Yoga Meditation Asociation (PYMA), began publishing and selling a pirated copy of the BBT's Chinese translation of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, without any authority from the BBT, and without paying any royalties. Sri Rama das, who was in charge of BBT International's legal department at the time (around 1991), made some attempts to resolve the matter informally, but eventually filed a copyright action in Singapore.

Hansadutta enlisted the help of Gupta das, a devotee lawyer, and crafted a clever but dishonest defense to the Singapore copyright infringement action, which was not fully revealed until the Singapore case was on the verge of trial in 1997. Hansadutta told the Singapore court that he was the Trustee of the BBT and had given his approval to PYMA to publish the copyrighted books. He contested BBT International's ownership of the copyrights, and pretended that he did not know who BBT International was.

Of course, all of the devotees know that Hansadutta was once a BBT Trustee and a member of the GBC and a leader in ISKCON, but was eventually disgraced and excommunicated by the GBC and thereafter ceased to act as BBT Trustee. The details about Hansadutta's disgraceful behavior in the 1980s are well known and I will not repeat them here. Whatever he has done, he is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a Vaisnava, which should be respected. "Quickly he will become righteous." However, Hansadutta did not continue to act as a BBT Trustee throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In the mid-1980s, Hansadutta turned over all of the operations of his BBT zone (Southeast Asia) to Hari Sauri prabhu, and no longer functioned as a BBT Trustee.

However, in the Singapore litigation and the California litigation that followed, Hansadutta falsely asserted that he had never ceased to be a BBT Trustee, that he had for some time served as the only BBT Trustee, and then in the 1990s appointed the following additional Trustees: (1) Veda Guhya das; (2) Bhima das (the Malaysian-Chinese Bhima, a Hansadutta loyalist, not Srila Prabhupada's disciple from St. Louis); and (3) Dasanudas devi dasi (Bhima's wife).

In other words, Hansadutta claimed that the actual BBT Trustees were himself and these hand-selected co-trustees, and that these so-called BBT Trustees actually held the copyrights to Srila Prabhupada's books. Make no mistake about it: the litigation between Hansadutta and BBT International was not about the editing of Srila Prabhupada's books: it was nothing short of a coup attempt by Hansadutta and his cronies, to take over the BBT for themselves and to then decide for themselves who could and could not publish Srila Prabhupada's books.

Hansadutta's position got support from the fact that in 1972, Srila Prabhupada signed a BBT Trust Agreement in Los Angeles, and when Karandhar resigned in 1974, the remaining Trustees, Srila Prabhupada and Bali Mardana, appointed Hansadutta as his replacement under that document. BBT International never denied these facts in the litigation.

However, it is also undeniable that Srila Prabhupada later appointed Ramesvara, Hridyananda dasa Goswami, and others to serve as BBT Trustees, and that by 1985 and thereafter, Hansadutta had completely failed to act and had effectively resigned as a BBT Trustee, while the remaining BBT Trustees continued to conduct international BBT operations just as they had done before.

After Bhagavan and Ramesvara left in 1986, the remaining BBT Trustees requested Sri Rama to look into legal affairs for the BBT in Los Angeles. In consultation with able attorneys, Sri Rama concluded that for various reasons (completely unrelated to editing) the BBT should be reconstituted as BBT International, Inc. This conclusion was presented at several large meetings of devotees, and to the GBC, and a formal GBC resolution approving the reconstitution was published. BBT International, Inc. was created as a California religious corporation in around 1988. The trustees of the new corporation were the same as those currently serving as international BBT Trustees at that time. Hansadutta had been long gone by then, and it was not surprising or unusual that he was not consulted about this change in legal organization.

The reconstitution of the BBT was not done in secret. There were public meetings and GBC resolutions, and Sri Rama wrote an article about it in ISKCON World Review, but apparently the devotees took little notice of it until Hansadutta made an issue out of it years later in connection with his attempt to take over the BBT through litigation.

Contrary to Hansadutta's assertion, the Court never rejected BBT International's position in the lawsuit, and never approved Hansadutta's claim to still be a Trustee. Both sides filed motions for summary judgment (i.e., for judgment in their favor without trial, based on the application of the law to undisputed facts.) Judge Shook denied both sides' motions and decided that the two sides disputed certain material issues of fact, which would have to be resolved in a trial to decide who was telling the truth.

I remain firmly convinced that, if the case had gone to trial, the Court would have decided that BBT International was telling the truth, and that Hansadutta was lying. However, preparing and trying the case would be expensive, and there is always some risk involved in any trial.

Before the case went to trial, the parties entered into a pretrial settlement. The details of the settlement's terms were to remain confidential, but the facts announced to the public were as follows: The parties agreed to a judgment being entered by the Court, whereby the trust created by the California 1972 BBT Trust Agreement was declared the owner of the copyrights, and the Trustees under that Trust Agreement were declared to be Naresvara, Madhusevita, Svavasa, Jayadvaita Swami and Brahma-Muhurta (i.e., the then-existing trustees of the BBT International, Inc.) Hansadutta and his alleged co-trustees gave up their effort to control the BBT, which angered erstwhile supporters like Nara-Narayana das, who complained in at least one or two VNN articles.

In exchange for giving up the attempt to be proclaimed the actual BBT Trustees, Hansadutta's group of would-be Trustees, which now included Bhagavan, along with their lawyer Gupta, were given permission to form an entity that would be given a publishing license from the BBT. Hansadutta also was paid some money. Both sides agreed to keep the details of the settlement confidential, and not to disparage each other.

In the aftermath of the litigation, the Hansadutta group formed an entity known as Krishna Books, Inc., and from what I later heard, a power struggle ensued in which Gupta, Bhagavan and Veda Guhya succeeded in expelling Hansadutta from the organization. Once Hansadutta's position as a former Trustee appointed under the terms of the 1972 Trust Agreement was no longer significant, Hansadutta had become expendable to them.

Krishna Books, Inc. apparently has published some pre-1977 editions of Srila Prabhupada's books and, to promote the sales, Gupta arguably violated the non-disparagement agreement by publicly attacking the post-1977 editing efforts and Jayadvaita Swami personally. That prompted the latest round of "editing debates" on the Internet, of which Hansadutta's editorial is the latest installment.

As long as he was part of a licensed entity, Hansadutta was happy to take a license under the BBT's copyrights. Now that he has been expelled by his former lawyer, it seems that Hansadutta has decided to try to attack the BBT's copyright position once again. This directly contradicts his stipulation to a judgment of the Los Angeles County Superior Court in November 1998, in which the Court declared that the BBT validly owns the copyrights.

Srila Prabhupada repeatedly advised the temples that they should not publish his books on their own, but should purchase them from the BBT. The BBT marks up the books and uses 50 percent of the sales proceeds for publishing new books, and 50 percent as a fund for constructing new temples, as Srila Prabhupada desired. Hansadutta's new attack on the copyrights is not only a contradiction of the position he took in the settlement of the lawsuit, but is a direct attack on Srila Prabhupada's instructions in this matter.