BBT Admits to Puzzling Book Change


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 63, Vol 3, 2019

The previous article examined the BBT (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust)'s claim that the purport to Madhya-lila 7.130 in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (CC) is supposed to state what is stated in the Anubhasya commentary of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura (SBST). The article showed that this claim is just a speculation as it is not supported by evidence. Here we show that how this change was made to the purport rests entirely on this speculation.

Altering the transcript

Dravida Dasa ("DD") of the BBT explains how he made the change to the purport. First:

"I proceeded to check the original transcript of the CC." (DD, Email, 6/3/19)

Then DD admits to adding his own "punctuation" and "editorial tweaking" to this transcript in order to produce the current changed purport to Madhya-lila 7.130:

"With punctuation (and confirmed by Bhaktivikasa Sw's translation of the SBST's Bengali) [...] With a little editorial tweaking we have "One should not try to be an artificially advanced devotee, thinking "I am a first-class devotee, so it is best not to accept any disciples." Such thinking should be avoided."
(DD, Email, 8/3/19)

DD claims these alterations are justified because they are "confirmed by Bhaktivikasa Sw's translation of the SBST's Bengali" — i.e. the Anubhasya. Therefore:

a) The change to the purport relies on DD having added his own "punctuation" and "editorial tweaking" to the transcript.
b) These changes to the transcript in turn were made due to him assuming that it needed to match what was stated in the Anubhasya.
c) But this assumption has already been debunked as being nothing but a speculation.
d) Therefore, the change to the purport, which rests entirely on this debunked speculation, is also similarly debunked.

Puzzling change

The purport in question, Madhya-lila 7.130, refers specifically to the situation of thinking oneself to be "artificially advanced":

"One should not try to be an artificially advanced devotee, thinking, "I am a firstclass devotee.""

In the original CC, the next sentence prohibits such puffed-up thinking:

"Such thinking should be avoided."

And the very next sentence supplements this prohibition with another prohibition:

"It is best not to accept any disciples."

However, the change made to this purport states that a person who thinks he is artificially advanced would not want to take disciples:

"One should not try to be an artificially advanced devotee, thinking "I am a firstclass devotee, so it is best not to accept any disciples.""

DD admits that this change is a ‘puzzle':

"One of the puzzles here is why Prabhupada would say that artificially thinking one is a firstclass devotee should prompt the conclusion *not* to accept any disciples. It would seem just the opposite would be more likely — someone artificially occupying the post of acarya would try to make as many disciples as possible." (DD, Email, 13/3/19)

Original edition solves puzzle

DD claims that "the answer" to this ‘puzzle' is SBST having said in the Anubhasya that such a person does not accept disciples because he thinks then he "will become proud, and that pride will destroy my bhajana" (DD, Email, 13/3/19). But we already quoted the BBT in the previous article admitting that Srila Prabhupada definitely did not translate this statement from SBST. So, to get around this lack of evidence, DD claims that the "implication" of SBST's statement is this:

"By implication, one then concludes "So I will not accept any disciples.""
(DD, Email, 13/3/19)

And, therefore, it is this implication that Srila Prabhupada supposedly intended to state in his purport, rather than SBST's actual statement. But, as with everything else DD has claimed in regards to making this book change, he offers zero evidence that Srila Prabhupada intended to do this. Thus, this is just yet another speculation. However, the unchanged edition solves this puzzle. Because Srila Prabhupada's statement "it is best not to accept disciples" would serve to correct those who are, as DD explains, "artificially occupying the post of acarya", and who, "would try to make as many disciples as possible".

SBST spoke about preventing the thinking that taking disciples may lead to pride. But since, as the BBT admits, Srila Prabhupada decided not to translate this, he instead made a different point about stopping the "artificial acarya" mentality, and thus he did not attribute SBST in the purport.

Burden of proof

The burden of proof to show that Srila Prabhupada's books need to be changed rests on those making the changes. Otherwise one could just change them all wholesale for no reason! Therefore, we do not need to show that the original edition is correct. Rather, in all cases, we begin with the starting position that Srila Prabhupada's original books are correct, and then the onus is on the BBT to show proof that they need to be changed.

Yet, as we have documented, they have simply assumed, using the words "seems", and "may be", that Srila Prabhupada's purport must match SBST's Anubhasya, without presenting any evidence for this assumption. Further, crucially, and fatally for the BBT, the very sentence from the Anubhasya on which the whole change is based — the puzzling change mentioned by DD — is the one sentence the BBT itself admits was definitely not even translated by Srila Prabhupada!


The BBT's official policy claims that it will only change Srila Prabhupada's books so that:

"Srila Prabhupada's books are made closer to what Srila Prabhupada said".
("Responsible Publishing", BBT)

It does not state that the aim of the changes is to make the books:

"closer to what Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said".

Yet, this is what they have done here. Because, as this and the previous article have documented, they have just assumed without any evidence that Srila Prabhupada's Madhya-lila 7.130 purport simply repeated what was stated in SBST's Anubhasya. Hence, the BBT is in violation of its own policies with this book change. Thus, even if one accepts that the BBT should be making book changes, this change still needs to be rejected.

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