Several devotees have already written me commending me for standing up to Hansadutta and defending the BBT in my editorial entitled "Hansadutta's distortions." I want to correct three mistakes I made in the editorial.
(1) First, my article mischaracterized Govinda Dasi's assertions. I wrote the article quickly and from memory. Afterwards, I went back and re-read Govinda Dasi's article, and she nowhere specifically said that Hyagriva worked daily with Srila Prabhupada for any two year period. She also was talking about work that went on prior to the original 1968 abridged Macmillan edition, not the 1972 edition as I mistakenly said.
The fact that Srila Prabhupada did work closely with Hyagriva Dasa and was pleased with Hyagriva's work should not be minimized or ignored. I hope that I did not say anything that suggested the contrary. Govinda Dasi made some good points in favor of not editing, or at least minimizing the edits to really obvious and significant errors (like "planet of the trees").
However, Jayadvaita Swami's citation to Srila Prabhupada's instruction to Hyagriva regarding the verse translations is also important. Not everyone fluent in Sanskrt is a devotee, but everyone fluent in both Sanskrt and English can give a more or less accurate translation of what Krishna spoke to Arjuna.
The very title of "Bhagavad Gita As It Is" conveys that when Bhagavad Gita is received properly in disciplic succession from a pure devotee, one does not have to resort to the linguistic gymnastics required for the atheistic, "de-Krishnafied," impersonal interpretations. If we really want to become preachers able to defeat bogus interpretations of the Gita, we have to learn enough Sanskrt to know the direct meaning of the words Krishna uses, without being overly fixated on any particular formulation of the translation. Therefore Srila Prabhupada gave us the word-for-word meanings. Some of the words are ambiguous or could have different meanings in other contexts, and there may be some legitimate dispute between Sanskrt speakers about their meanings, but Srila Prabhupada told Hyagriva that several basically accurate translations were already available. It was the Bhaktivedanta Purports that were needed by the English-speaking world, to counteract the word-jugglers. It is really Srila Prabhupada's divine Purports that we have to thoroughly assimilate so we can defeat the atheistic conclusion.
(2) My second error is simply that I misidentified one of the BBT Trustees as "Brahma-Samhita." Of course I meant to say "Brahma-Muhurta," who was also in charge of the North European BBT (and as far as I know still is). I am not a BBT insider, and I have not been legal counsel for the BBT for over four years.
(3) My third and most significant "error" is that I did not really respond to Hansadutta's horrible vilification of His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami. Srila Prabhupada, Rupa Goswami, and Lord Caitanya Himself have frequently instructed us not to participate in or even tolerate the insulting of a Vaisnava. We have to take this instruction to heart or we will not be able to chant the holy name without offenses, and Srila Prabhupada's mission will be hampered as a result.
There are obviously grounds for legitimately disputing whether the BBT's editing policy is misguided, without personally insulting Jayadvaita Swami or any other devotee. Devotees can have different opinions on important issues and still be devotees. Devotees should not call other devotees "sinister", "diabolical", "Putana," etc. etc. Anyone who even chants the holy names of Krishna should be respected in one's mind, and we should pay our obeisances to those who are actually initiated and following the principles of devotional service. Hurling verbal insults at devotees just because they disagree with us, even as to important matters, is surely very displeasing to Krishna. Such indulgence in gratifying our anger must be checked.
As I have stated before, it should be obvious that both sides in this editing controversy believe they are trying to more accurately represent Srila Prabhupada's wishes. Any notion that Jayadvaita Swami is involved in a plot to usurp Srila Prabhupada's position is ridiculous. The BBT's undeniable intention, rightly or wrongly, is to correct errors in earlier editions that they believe Srila Prabhupada wants to have corrected. It is ironic that proponents of the "rtvik" theory of initiation are the ones who most vociferously argue that Srila Prabhupada is not capable of approving changes to his books after his physical departure.
If the BBT's editing has changed the meaning of Srila Prabhupada's
"Bhagavad Gita As It Is," let there be a flourishing debate about the true
meaning of particular passages. Let the debaters avoid attacking each
other's character, and support their arguments about specific changes with
citations to the vast body of literature Srila Prabhupada has left for us.
Such a debate would increase the study and discussion of Srila Prabhupada's
books, and would surely be highly pleasing to Srila Prabhupada, who wanted
us to study his books "from all angles." Those who study the Bhagavad Gita
worship Lord Krishna with their intelligence. Those who vilify devotees