Chakra Discussions

Should You Sign a Petition? Archives Respond to Misleading Campaign

by Ekanatha das, Nitya-trpta dasi and Parama-rupa das, The Bhaktivedanta Archives Staff

Posted March 7, 2010

"The Bhaktivedanta Archives have more than 500 unreleased recordings of His Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. These recordings are not transcribed in the Vedabase or published in any other way."

To read the above statement is grossly misleading. The fact is that the majority of these so-called "unreleased recordings" are already in the current 2003 VedaBase in full and can easily be read. As for the 500 recordings, let us be clear here: the ‘500’ refers to programs, not hours. These programs — or fragments of programs in most cases — range from less than a minute to under an hour.

While we may seem a little slow to some, we are thorough and meticulous — a quality highly encouraged in an archival environment. We need to complete the archival process in a professional manner so that Srila Prabhupada's teachings are accurate and will not leave questions as to the provenance of the collection as we have seen throughout history with other mainstream groups that are struggling with authenticity.

From 1977 until now the collection has been brought together and made safe by a small group of dedicated individuals for the benefit of all. If you look at that time frame you will see that devotees at large are utilizing the myriad of offerings brought forth from this small team at the Bhaktivedanta Archives in the form of the VedaBase, now ubiquitous in our movement; acid-free books of the audio transcriptions, made to last generations; the Bhaktivedanta Tape, CD and MP3 Ministries; along with music.

There is an expression: "Why is there never enough time to do it right but always enough time to do it over?" We at the Bhaktivedanta Archives are endeavoring to do it right and not have to go back, or ask future generations to go back and do it over because of speculation, misinterpretations, conspiracy theories, or demands for a rush to release the last recordings now. We all owe it to Srila Prabhupada and his legacy that we preserve and present it properly now and into the future.

"A large percentage of these unreleased original recordings are not even preserved in a digital, non-time sensitive format. If nothing is done soon, the original reels will completely demagnetize due to the influence of time and the sound will become forever lost."

The statement above is not based on facts but on motivated speculations. We have made it very clear that the transfer from analogue to digital is continuing and that we are currently transferring the last of these recordings from the fragmented, unmarked and poor-audio-quality reel-to-reels.

To say that digital is a preservation medium and not time-sensitive is a little naïve. While digital is an understood technology, the storage media it uses are not archival. Hard drives, for example, are magnetic and susceptible to mechanical failure. Recordable optical disks use a dye that can be prone to failure. Digital technology to an archive holds three main values — quick access, duplication and distribution — but as a long-term storage medium, digital in its current form is considered temporary until the next stable medium is found.

Having transcriptions of the audio, however, is a good long-term archival process; such transcriptions can be stored both in digital format for easy access and on stable acid-free paper or microfiche for reading and are therefore not heavily technology-dependent.

As for audiotape becoming demagnetized due to time, this is also misleading. Tapes don’t become demagnetized unless introduced to a magnetic field. The tapes can, however, physically break down over the short term if mistreated, stored improperly or poorly manufactured. The Bhaktivedanta Archives has always kept strict control over handling and storage. As for manufacturing, luckily the 1960s and early 1970s were the heyday of reel-to-reel production, so we have not seen any serious issues with the tape quality used to record His Divine Grace.

We are not depriving anyone from hearing or reading Srila Prabhupada. Remember, "everything is in my books;" hence, we put all the books as well as audio transcriptions and correspondence into the VedaBase. Indeed, we are working to allow everyone access to all the vani for millennia to come.

To sum up, we are not of the mindset to keep stopping or delaying work to argue every point brought up when the original premiss that prompted this "Petition" is based on someone misinterpreting a conversation involving the term "controversial". We are not making anything controversial, we are not removing or hiding anything controversial, and we are certainly not under orders by anyone to withhold anything.

On the contrary, we are diligently preserving the teachings and life of Srila Prabhupada in a manner that will alleviate controversy into the future when scholars or those who may oppose Vaisnavism could point to sloppiness and dereliction of duty by this first generation for not presenting a clear and concise collection of the audio of His Divine Grace.

Now we beg your understanding in this matter and ask that we be allowed to carry on working and not have to keep stopping to reply to this misinformation and scare tactics.

We are, after all, looking for the same result, are we not? — to preserve the vani of Srila Prabhupada in a scholarly manner… so let us do it!

Previous Posts on this subject matter:
Feb. 8: Setting the Record Straight On Prabhupada's Audio
March 5: Setting the Record Straight On Prabhupada's Audio, Part 2