Defending Srila Prabhupada's Books


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 55, Spring 2017

That Srila Prabhupada gave his life's blood to translate, publish and distribute his translations and commentaries of the Vedic scriptures all over the world for the spiritual salvation of humanity, is evident from the very start of his mission in the West:

"When one book is published I think I have conquered an empire. So try to publish as many books as possible and that will enhance the beauty and prestige of our society."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 12/12/67)

However, rather than accepting that Srila Prabhupada's books have conquered empires, ISKCON devotees have set about trying to conquer Srila Prabhupada's literary legacy by writing their own competing versions. As we will show, this is a growing trend.


In regards to versions of Bhagavad-gita competing with Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is, some examples are:

A Comprehensive Guide to Bhagavad-gita by ISKCON guru Hridayananda Dasa Goswami ("HD"), covered in BTP 47;
Bhagavad-gita: Talks Between the Soul and God by Ranchor Dasa;
Bhagavad-gita: The Beloved Lord's Secret Love Song by Garuda Dasa;
• The Bhagavad-gita by Swami B.V. Tripurari.

All are by persons who are supposed to be Srila Prabhupada's disciples, and there are other editions, and no doubt more will be added in the future. Srila Prabhupada criticised the fact that there were so many unauthorised editions of the Bhagavad-gita, and he therefore gave his one, authorised version:

"There are many Bhagavad-gitas. There are about six hundred and forty different editions. But still our, this Bhagavad-gita As It Is, it is being accepted very widely, and therefore we are very much hopeful."

It is ironic, therefore, that his own disciples have now gone and expanded the number of unauthorised Bhagavad-gitas with their own versions.


In BTP 53, we already mentioned the alternative Srimad-Bhagavatam produced by GBC-elected diksa guru, HH Krishna Ksetra Swami. Now, another ISKCON member has got in on the act. ISKCON UK broadcaster and contributor to ISKCON's official journal Back To Godhead, Krishna Dharma Dasa ("KD"), has published a book titled The Sages of Naimisharanya, part of a prospective series called "Brilliant as The Sun: A Retelling of Srimad-Bhagavatam". He states the purpose of the series is to "produce the entire Bhagavatam" (KD Lecture, 19/2/17), and thus states on his website that he will be "releasing further volumes until the entire Bhagavatam is complete. That process will take a few years." This competing version has already been endorsed by 4 ISKCON gurus and promoted by ISKCON UK headquarters' newsletter.

Unnecessary criticisms

An insidious aspect of this fever of competition against Srila Prabhupada's books is the various reasons that have been offered for why such unauthorised, competing books have been necessary. For example, we are told that HD's Gita gives a "literal" translation. That Ranchor's Gita is "non-sectarian" and "relevant". In each case, similar rationalisations are offered for why the books are necessary. Which means that these competing authors believe that Srila Prabhupada's books are not: "literal", "penetrating", "contemporary", "non-sectarian", "relevant", "faithfully translated", "more meaningful", etc. (examples of the excuses given for producing competing books). Otherwise, if the authors believed that Srila Prabhupada's books were all of these things (which, of course, they are – and more), they would simply ensure that Srila Prabhupada's books were published and distributed – as he ordered – instead of their own versions!

Direct challenge

The latest attempt to compete with Srila Prabhupada's books follows a similar pattern. To justify his project to produce the "entire Bhagavatam", KD states in the ISKCON UK headquarters' newsletter:

"Many people find the Bhagavatam challenging to read. We have therefore tried to make it more accessible and hopefully understandable."

This statement only makes sense if KD also believes that Srila Prabhupada's Srimad-Bhagavatam is "challenging to read", and therefore he is required to make the work more "accessible and understandable". Otherwise, there would be no need for his version, as people could just read, and KD himself would point everyone to read, Srila Prabhupada's already available Srimad-Bhagavatam. And Srila Prabhupada himself has written, right at the beginning of Srimad-Bhagavatam in his Preface, that it is completely accessible and understandable, being meant for "the entire human society", including students at "schools and colleges"; so much so that the only qualification one needs is to read it carefully and systematically, and one becomes "a God-realized soul"!:

"Srimad-Bhagavatam [...] is a cultural presentation for the respiritualization of the entire human society. Srimad-Bhagavatam should be introduced also in the schools and colleges, [...] The only qualification one needs to study this great book of transcendental knowledge is to proceed step by step cautiously [...] The reading matter is so arranged [...] that one is sure to become a God-realized soul at the end of finishing the first nine cantos."
(SB Preface)

Thus, the only thing that is "challenging", is KD's challenging Srila Prabhupada's Srimad-Bhagavatam.


Srila Prabhupada has already been usurped in ISKCON as its diksa guru. It is not surprising, therefore, that attempts continue to be made to also usurp his books. This latter usurpation has been accompanied by justifications that effectively criticise Srila Prabhupada's books as being inadequate and lacking. This criticism is not supported by the academics who have reviewed Srila Prabhupada's books. Nor is it supported by the existence of the many people who have become devotees due to reading Srila Prabhupada's books. But, most importantly, it is not supported by Srila Prabhupada himself, who has stated that his books are good enough to be read and understood by everyone – not that they should be criticised and replaced with supposedly more "understandable" alternatives.

Support Srila Prabhupada by reading and distributing only his books!

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