Srila Prabhupada's Transcendental Position


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 40, Summer 2013

Due to being a conditioned soul, it is not surprising for an ordinary human being to be influenced by the social conditioning of his ethnic upbringing. However, Srila Prabhupada, who is a liberated soul, is not subject to such material conditioning:

"A pure devotee, who is free from all material desires experienced on the mental platform and who is also free from empiric philosophical speculation or fruitive activity, is always above material conditioning and is always liberated."
(SB, 4.29.65)

Therefore, considering Srila Prabhupada to be such an ordinary man is a hellish mentality:

""One who thinks the Deity in the temple to be made of wood or stone, who thinks of the spiritual master in the disciplic succession as an ordinary man, who thinks the Vaisnava in the Acyuta-gotra to belong to a certain caste or creed or who thinks of caranamrta or Ganges water as ordinary water is taken to be a resident of hell." (Padma Purana)."
(SB, 4.21.12)

"The Deity in the temple is not material -- He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. Similarly, considering the spiritual master an ordinary human being (gurusu nara-matih) is also an impediment. Nor should one consider a Vaisnava a member of a particular caste or nation. [...] All this is offensive."
(Cc., Madhya-lila, 16.72)

Hellish mentality praised

The following statement was submitted as part of a question to ISKCON guru HH Hridayananda Dasa Goswami ("HD"):

"I studied history and anthropology as an undergrad and so was taught not to be ethnocentric. I've been trying to keep this in mind while reading some of the things Prabhupada is quoted as having said -- for example, that the wife should not be independent and that one of her main jobs is to have the house ready for her husband's arrival home from work. I am able to clearly see that this was said in 1966 and that Prabhupada is coming from a traditional Indian background. So, it is easy for me to read these things and not be offended or argumentative. [...] But, as a follower of Prabhupada, I would want to 'translate' those types of statements into a more modern perspective. But, is this appropriate?"
("Q&A with Srila Acharyadeva", 19/6/2013, emphases added)

The questioner claims that to understand Srila Prabhupada's teachings, one must take into account that Srila Prabhupada "is coming from a traditional Indian background". And, therefore, such ethnic conditioning can be accommodated by not being "ethnocentric". However, such racial theories have no relevance to Srila Prabhupada's teachings. Srila Prabhupada's teachings are not influenced by ethnic social conditioning. Rather, Srila Prabhupada is speaking from the liberated platform, being completely uninfluenced by the modes of material nature. Thus, the only "background" which is relevant is that Srila Prabhupada is a pure devotee of Krsna. Therefore, attempting to understand Srila Prabhupada's teachings through such a paradigm of ethnic conditioning embodies the hellish mentality condemned in the quotes presented in the last section.

HD responds by praising this hellish understanding, calling it "mature":

"1. I appreciate your mature attitude toward Srila Prabhupada's 1966 statement."

Thus, the hellish mentality of the questioner, rather than being corrected, is only reinforced!

Srila Prabhupada: Transcendental

Hellish mentality

Gita retranslation not authorised

HD is also asked:

"Also, when you quote the Gita you don't use Srila Prabhupada's translation. Why is this?"
("Q&A with Srila Acharyadeva", 5/6/2013)

HD's answers to this question are given below in speech marks, and every single answer is actually a "TMD" (see article on page 3)!

"1. Srila Prabhupada said that 'there can be many translations' of the Gita."

But the quote HD presents enclosed in speech marks -- "there can be many translations" -- does
not exist, as a check in the Bhaktivedanta Vedabase will confirm. This is an example of "TMD4: Phantom Quote".

"He himself translated the same verse in different ways in different contexts, and said that his disciples could also translate."

There is no evidence that Srila Prabhupada "said" that "his disciples could also" retranslate the Gita. Hence, this is yet another example of "TMD4: Phantom Quote".

"2. Prabhupada wrote to me: 'Read my books and explain them in your own words.'"

Srila Prabhupada actually said:

"And you must all study very scrutinizingly all of the books so that when the need arises you can repeat in your own words their purport."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to HD, 6/1/1972)

And repeating the purports does not require new translations of the verses. So this is both a "TMD4: Phantom quote" and "TMD6: False conclusion".

"Also, in his first letter to me he said, 'I want you to be nicely educated and explain Krishna consciousness to similarly educated people.' So in obedience to these words, I try to translate Sanskrit verses in a very literal way, since that is what educated people often expect in a translation."

There is no evidence in the Bhaktivedanta Vedabase of such a letter. And even if it does exist, it does not call for a new translation of the Gita, since Srila Prabhupada already stated his Gita is meant for educated people:

"But later on, when the demand for Bhagavad-gita As It Is considerably increased, I was requested by many scholars and devotees to present the book in its original form, and Messrs. Macmillan and Co. agreed to publish the complete edition."
(Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Original 1972 Edition, Preface, emphasis added)

Thus, there is no evidence that Srila Prabhupada has authorised HD (or anyone else) to retranslate the Bhagavad-gita.


1. Srila Prabhupada's teachings are not subject to being influenced by his perceived racial background. Rather, Srila Prabhupada is preaching from the liberated platform.

2. Srila Prabhupada also has not authorised any retranslations of his transcendental books. Rather, Srila Prabhupada's books are already the authorised versions to be presented to the whole world.

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