The Fatality of ‘Correcting' Srila Prabhupada


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 74, Vol. 3, 2022

In a lecture given to attack the IRM's position, GBC voted-in guru HH Badrinarayan Swami ("BAD") stated as part of his argument for a "physically present" diksa guru that:

"And Krsna says in Gita [...], ‘The self-realized souls' – note the plural – ‘self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they' – note the plural – ‘have seen the truth'."
(BAD Lecture, 5/12/21)

BAD claims to quote the last sentence from Bhagavad-gita Verse 4.34, which was mentioned on page 7. He claims that this last sentence of the verse says "self-realized souls" and "they" to mean the "plural", and that this "plural" is relevant to his argument, since he asks us to "note" this point both times. However, this last sentence is not even from the original Bhagavad-gita which was published by Srila Prabhupada in 1972, but from a Bhagavad-gita "changed" and "edited" by HH Jayadvaita Swami ("JAS") published in 1983 (the first two sentences remained unchanged). The original version of the last sentence is actually all in the singular and states:

"The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth."

Hence, the "plural" point BAD wants us to "note" depends entirely on whether or not the changes made by JAS are even valid.

The very need to make such changes, how they are made, as well as the changes themselves, have already been strongly challenged by many persons. However, as BAD has relied on these changes made to Bg. 4.34 to challenge our position, we will show that even if we were to accept the right of JAS to generally make changes in the way that he has, it can still be proven that these changes should not have been made.

The "manuscript"

JAS claims that the changes are based on a "manuscript" for Chapter 4 of the Bhagavad-gita which Srila Prabhupada typed himself (henceforward "MS"). For the last sentence which has been changed in Verse 4.34, JAS claims that the MS version states:

"Such learned self realised spiritual master initiates knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth."

JAS then comments on this MS version:

"Of course, Srila Prabhupada has his singular and plural in the same sentence – his subject is singular, his verb plural – and this transgresses English grammar."

It is admitted that even in the MS it states that the subject "spiritual master" is in the singular and not the plural. However, because the MS then goes on to state "they have" to refer to the spiritual master, JAS claims that "they have" is plural, and thus this whole sentence must be changed to plural.

JAS's fatal grammar error

However, the use of "they have" does not prove that Srila Prabhupada was referring to a plural subject since "they" can also be used to refer to a singular subject if:

"used with a singular antecedent to refer to an unknown or unspecified person"

"Antecedent" means the subject that "they" refers to. In the MS, we have a singular "antecedent" – "spiritual master" – that is also unspecified due to the use of the word "such":

"Such learned self realised spiritual master"

And when "they" is used to refer to a singular subject, one does not say "they is" or "they has", but it will still be "they are" or "they have", even though the subject referred to will still be singular, e.g:

"The contest winner will be informed that they have won."

In this case, "contest winner" is clearly singular, even though it says "they have". But there is no need to change it to "contest winners" just because it says "they have", as JAS has effectively argued in regard to Srila Prabhupada's words in the MS.

Hence, JAS's argument that Srila Prabhupada using "they have" with the singular subject "spiritual master" "transgresses English grammar" is incorrect as proven above, and thus his reason for making the change was also incorrect.

JAS's fatal Srila Prabhupada error

Srila Prabhupada's other writings at the same time that he typed Chapter 4 of the MS (1965 or 1966), confirm the "they have" grammar he used in the MS and thus prove that he intended for "spiritual master" in the MS to be singular. Because in these other writings he also refers to a singular subject by using the exact same "they" + "plural" verb language used in the MS. Thus, he states in his first edition Srimad-Bhagavatam (emphasis added):

"Such devotee is neither a Sudra nor a Brahmin. They are transcendental to such divisions of the mundane society"
(SB, 1965, 1.13.15, purport)

"Such King was not a lazy sensuous person living at the cost of the subjects but they were alert always to kill the thieves"
(SB, 1964, 1.9.27, purport)

"Such Narayanapara person is never afraid of any place or person even of death. For them nothing is important than the Supreme Lord and as such they allow equal importance..."
(SB, 1965, 1.18.2, purport)

In each case, including the MS, we clearly have a singular subject: "devotee", "King", "person", "spiritual master", but an unspecified one with the use of the word "such", followed by "they" with a "plural" verb:

Such devotee ---- they are;
Such King ---- they were;
Such Narayanapara person ---- they allow;
Such learned spiritual master ---- they have.

Other evidence

The above evidence is conclusive. We can additionally note in support of the above that:

1) Straight before and after the words "they have" are used in the MS, the subject is always singular *5* separate times:

"self realised spiritual master","unto Him", "such learned self realised spiritual master", "initiates", "self realised soul" (Bg., 4.35).

Thus, the full context before and after "they have" in the MS is conclusively singular.

2) The "you" in the verse refers to Arjuna, and therefore in the MS translation–

"Such learned self realised spiritual master initiates knowledge unto you"

– Srila Prabhupada has referred to the singular spiritual master who initiates, as there is no question of multiple spiritual masters initiating Arjuna, as more than one diksa guru is forbidden.


Thus, from every single conceivable angle – grammar, Srila Prabhupada's usage of "they", the full context, the role of the spiritual master – Srila Prabhupada's typed translation of Verse 4.34 in the MS is correctly singular. JAS has incorrectly changed it due to his lack of knowledge of both how Srila Prabhupada writes as well as grammar. Hence, the original singular version must be restored by the BBT.

Subscribe for FREE to Back To Prabhupada Magazine - Click Here

Return to Badrinarayan Swami Index

Return to Jayadvaita Swami Index

Return to "Book Changes" Index

Return to "Srila Prabhupada's Books" Index

Return to IRM Homepage


Please chant: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare.
And be Happy!