Lost in Translation


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 61, Vol 1, 2019, Interactive

"If Srila Prabhupada used Dr. Radhakrishnan's Bhagavad-gita translation, why can't we use HD's Srimad-Bhagavatam translation without his commentary?"
- Rama Raghava Dasa, Georgia, USA

Editor replies:

a) This question references a number of previous BTP articles:

BTP 51: "The Unauthorised Cantos";
BTP 54: "Another Stunning PFP Case Study";
BTP 59: "Rejecting Srila Prabhupada's Authority".

These articles presented evidence regarding whether Srila Prabhupada authorised guru hoaxer HH Hridayananda Dasa Goswami ("HD") to complete his Srimad-Bhagavatam.

b) To answer this question (or any question regarding what we should do), we must simply check what Srila Prabhupada ordered, and then do that. Because Srila Prabhupada states:

"The order of the spiritual master is the active principle in spiritual life. Anyone who disobeys the order of the spiritual master immediately becomes useless."
(Cc., Adi-lila, 12.10)

"Active principle" means how we should "act", i.e. what we should do.

In his final months on the planet, Srila Prabhupada was specifically approached by a GBC delegation on May 28th, 1977, and asked various questions regarding what was to happen in ISKCON. Below are his instructions regarding who was authorised to do any translation work (emphases added):

Srila Prabhupada: "But amongst our disciples, I don't think there are many who can translate properly."
Ramesvara: "None. We're not eager to publish anything which is not perfect, because you have already set the highest standard for the BBT. The name BBT means the highest standard right now in the world."
Srila Prabhupada: "That is good answer. [...] A realized soul, must be. Otherwise, simply by imitating A-B-C-D will not help. My purports are liked by people because it is presented as practical experience. [...] Our translation must be documents. They are not ordinary... One cannot become unless one is very realized. It is not A-B-C-D translation."
(Conversation, 28/5/77)

There are two conclusions to be drawn from this:

a) The translator must be "a realised soul" and "very realised".

b) Srila Prabhupada explains the meaning of "realised soul" in the context of his purports, since they come from "practical experience" – i.e. realisation. And thus the translations must similarly be rendered from the realised platform, rather than just being "imitating", mechanical, "A-B-C-D" translations. Hence, the qualification for the translator is presented as being on a par with that of Srila Prabhupada, as they need to be "realised" in the same way Srila Prabhupada's purports are.

c) Thus, the answer based on Srila Prabhupada's authority is that only translations provided by a "very realised" person are authorised, with "very realised" meaning on the level of Srila Prabhupada. If HD's translations are such, then we can use them. If not, then we cannot. We demonstrated earlier, in the BTP 51 article referenced above, that HD's translations were produced while he was deep in the illusion of the zonal acarya hoax, and not while he was such a "very realised" person. Thus, based on Srila Prabhupada's answer, HD's translation is not authorised. Further, you yourself accept that HD is not even "realised", never mind "very realised", as you specifically state that his purports are not to be used.

d) Conversely, if Srila Prabhupada gave an order which contains the following 3 statements –

"1) I had previously relied on Dr. RadhaKrishnan's translation of the Bhagavad-gita.

2) This means that in the future one may use any translation of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, regardless of the person's realisation.

3) This means that any other orders I give on this subject are to be permanently discarded."

– or anything even remotely like this, then you may forward us such an order, and we can certainly consider it. But we have not located any such order, or indeed anything remotely like this, and therefore in the absence of such an order, the actual order that Srila Prabhupada gave stands as the order we should follow.

Thus, we cannot abandon the orders Srila Prabhupada did give us for a course of action he never ordered us to take. Otherwise, if we attempt to "extrapolate" what should be done based on what we think was done, we could basically deviate wholesale from Srila Prabhupada's orders and instead engage in a whole bunch of unauthorised activities. In other words, do exactly what the GBC is doing today in ISKCON!

This is why it is very important to strictly only do what Srila Prabhupada ordered, rather than try to use our "reasoning" based on speculation about what we think Srila Prabhupada did, and what we think this means we should do in the future.

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