His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, more familiarly known as “Srila Prabhupada”, is the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON) – originally incorporated under the religious act of the state of New York in July 1966 –, is the Institutor of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT), is the Founder in 1944 of the Back to Godhead magazine (BTG), as well as the translator and commentator of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is.
“Bhagavad Gita As It Is” is a most powerful, fascinating and redemptory book, being the words of God or Krishna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as well as the words of His duly accredited representative and current link in the chain of disciplic succession, called “parampara” in Sanskrit language, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Even though He is fluent in all languages, including animal and plant languages, it should be noted that God or Shri Krishna routinely speaks the Sanskrit language. To this effect verse 24 of chapter 13 states that:
“One who understands this philosophy concerning material nature, the living entity and the interaction of the modes of nature is sure to attain liberation. He will not take birth here again, regardless of his present position.”
The popularity and attraction of this transcendental opus is evidenced by the more than 650 versions and translations in existence throughout the world.
“If personally I have any credit in this matter, it is only that I have tried to present Bhagavad-Gita as it is, without any adulteration. Before my presentation of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, almost all the English editions of Bhagavad-Gita were introduced to fulfill someone’s personal ambition. But our attempt, in presenting Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, is to present the mission of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. Our business is to present the will of Krishna, not that of any mundane speculator like the politician, philosopher or scientist, for they have very little knowledge of Krishna, despite all their other knowledge.” (Srila Prabhupada own words in the Preface of BGAII)
Bhagavad-Gita was also Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite book. We are however, concerned with Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, not Bhagavad-Gita as some unauthorized and upstart mundaner, seeking name and fame, has interpreted. We are not interested in its foreign, indirect, empiric and speculative interpretation. We are interested in the direct meaning of Bhagavad-Gita. Bhagavad-Gita is like the sun, which does not require help from any other unauthorised and insignificant light.
“I wish that the American people may try to understand Bhagavad-Gita in terms of its direct meaning. Let it not be unnecessarily misunderstood by the empiric speculative method for making a show of the vanity of so called learning without any living experience. Such academic erudition has nothing to do with the living reality.
I wish to present an analytical study of Bhagavad Gita as it is. If your people can grasp the direct meaning of Bhagavad-Gita it will be possible for us all to know the basic principle of cosmic harmony. When that is done we shall know that all adjustment of our existence is not only peaceful but an eternal bliss distinguished from the ephemeral temporary sensual satisfaction. We shall then only know that here is a world where there is no struggle for existence and every living entity, never mind what it is, is fit to exist.” Srila Prabhupada letter dated at Allahabad, 14 September 1951 to Mr. Bailey of The American Reporter. (Typed version, as opposed to handwritten version.)
Because these are the words of God or Shri Krishna Himself, liberally and affectionately inviting the living entity to resolve its hopeless and complex entanglement within this material world, it is important that this communication be presented verbatim, as well as strictly according to the letter and the spirit of the authorized commentator, without any unauthorized changes, accidental or intended, as to completely fulfill the meaning of the expression “AS IT IS”, found in its title and intently placed there by the commentator, Srila Prabhupada.
It is also important of course, that such eminent text be presented in proper language, be it English or non-English, as to empower us to be directly present there, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, India, in the association of Sri Krishna and His intimate friend Arjuna, back in time 5000 years ago. The pure spiritual sound vibration will make this travel in time possible.
There is an ongoing confusion and discord, as to which Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, hereunder abbreviated as BGAII, is the better and more faithful presentation. Recently, while on book distribution on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, during a conversation with a lady aspiring for ISKCON initiation, I was again reminded of this fact. Thanks to her, I have come to realize the need to extend the scope of the present article. I was going to start the third previous sentence with “unfortunately”, but please note carefully that there is absolutely nothing “unfortunate” about Bhagavad-Gita As It Is. Everything is transcendentally fortunate about it, including confusions and discords. Such is the nature and power of Bhagavad-Gita!
The current version two (V2) edition of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, also called “Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged”, replaced version one (V1), also called “Complete Edition”, in 1983. V 1 was originally introduced to the market eleven years before, in 1972 in New York. Our purpose is also to inform newcomers of its existence, as some of them are not even aware of the existence of Bhagavad-Gita version one (V1).
By careful and informed comparative analysis of the two Gitas, the investigating reader will progressively come to a conclusion, which I may personally phrase as follows:
Bhagavad Gita As It Is version 1 (V1), also called “Complete Edition”, is not only riddled with a myriad of mistakes but also innumerable elements of information contained in the original Sanskrit text are lost in its English rendition. To put it frankly and succinctly: Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, version one is simply and truly an embarrassment to Srila Prabhupada. This state of affairs is due to the early rush-and-confusion foundational days of the Hare Krishna Movement, and may be excusable.
Please allow me to back up my statements with relevant evidence:
Text 18.44 of BGAII V1 still reads “… cattle raising..”, whereas Srila Prabhupada, while still physically present with us, clearly requested some forty five or so years ago that this asuric expression be replaced with the Vedic concept of “cow protection.” Cow protection and trade are the occupations of the vaisya or mercantile class. Instead of using sarcasm and to express it positively: this is a true indication of the competence of proponents of BGAII V1.
There are innumerable other mistakes. For illustration purposes, let me mention just a few of them as follows:
Edition 1 (V1), 4.20, word for word, gives: nirashrayah- without any center. Clearly someone has been misled by Srila Prabhupada’s Bengali accent. It is common knowledge in ISKCON circles, that “ashraya” means shelter. His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami again has nicely corrected this mistake: “without any shelter.”
Translation 4.28 of version 1 is misleading and proposes an impossible task. It gives the reader the false impression that there are only two classes of endeavoring transcendentalists, when in fact there are four classes enumerated in this verse, as nicely explained in version 2.
8.2 Purport. The first sentence in V1 is meaningless. Version 2 has corrected, “Lord of sacrifice” may refer to either Indra or Vishnu”, which is unequivocally confirmed by the following sentences of the purport.
4.19 Misleading. OT says “whose resultant actions of work.” It is therefore not “the fruitive action(s)” that are burned up, but as nicely corrected in V2 “the reactions of work have been burnt up”
The long list goes on. But perhaps the worst mistake of all in BGAII V1 is the rendition of 6.47, which makes Srila Prabhupada, the commentator, look foolish and inconsequent. He clearly writes in the purport that: “The English word “worship” cannot be used in the same sense as bhaj.” But V1 gives: “worshiping Me in transcendental loving service.” This rendition is NOT Srila Prabhupada’s, Who is eminently consequent. We want Srila Prabhupada, NOT someone else’s interpretation, whoever that may be !!! It makes Srila Prabhupada look like an ordinary, careless word juggler, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, obsessed with name and fame, instead of the transcendental personality that He really is, situated above the four defects of the conditioned souls, that is imperfect senses, in illusion, with a propensity to cheat and certainty to commit mistakes, and simultaneously planning and implementing the salvation of humankind. One may argue that “worship” is qualified as “worship in transcendental loving service.” That is true. But the best policy is to remove the word “worship” altogether, as HH Jayadvatia Swami has so wisely done. Besides that V1 omits “ antah-atmana” or “thinks of Me within himself”, as well as “matah” or “is considered”. It is therefore incomplete as well. Similar omissions are found throughout the whole of version one of BGAII.
If this particular example is not sufficient to convince that version two is the better version, then I do not know what will convince.
Version 1 protagonist’s claim that V1 is the original, Prabhupada-faithful version, has no real foundation and can therefore not be taken seriously. The time has come to archive version 1 of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is and replace it with version 2!
As far as we understand, His Holiness Jayadvaita Maharaja is the main force behind the revision. Let us remember that Srila Prabhupada Himself gave him a strong editor’s endorsement in a letter dated September 7th 1976: “Concerning the editing of Jayadvaita Prabhu, whatever he does is approved by me. I have confidence in him. Your changes which I have seen of the Sanskrit synonyms are also approved by me.” 760907Let.Radhaballabha
We clearly owe a debt of gratitude to His Holiness for the excellent improvement he has contributed to the formulation of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is version 2. All glories to his service!
There are still, however, quite a number of unresolved questions that one may have about the current presentation of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-Gita As It Is (V2.)
On innumerable occasions, the author of this article has tried to engage in a dialogue with relevant ISKCON and Bhaktivedanta Book Trust authorities but on most occasions it ended with silence and / or status quo and these matters remain unresolved to this date.
This is not a healthy state of affairs. Srila Prabhupada writes in Purport to Text 1 of “Nectar of Instruction” “Silence may appear helpful for some time, but ultimately it proves a failure.” He also writes in Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.9.18, purport: “The Vedic system of acquiring knowledge is the deductive process. The Vedic knowledge is received perfectly by disciplic succession from authorities. Such knowledge is never dogmatic, as ill conceived by less intelligent persons. The mother is the authority to verify the identity of the father. She is the authority for such confidential knowledge. Therefore, authority is not dogmatic.”
It feels like the unspoken message here is: “Well, all the necessary changes have duly been effected. That’s it folks. You are going to have to accept BGAII V2 as the final version or leave it”. I am very sorry, but we DON’T ACCEPT BGAII V2 as the final version and we DON’T ACCEPT BGAII V2 as fully representative of Srila Prabhupada. And if the need arises and in the glorious tradition of the spirit of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, we are ready for a good fight to establish this fact. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
I do not wish to burden my exalted readers with too many technicalities and shall restrict myself to a few prominent points only in BGAII V2 as follows:
We may for example ask: Did Sri Krishna 5000 years ago, on the battlefield of Kurushetra, say dharmyamritam or did He say dharmamritam (12.20). Gita Press version says Dharmyamritam. BGAII V1 says the same. BGAII V2 says dharmamritam. Which is correct and how does it affect the meaning? To a Sanskrit scholar this question may seem elementary and the answer self-evident. But for a layperson such as this humble self, it is legitimate. HH Jayadvaita Swami answered this question by saying: It doesn’t really matter. It makes no difference. The counter question will then be: “Why then change it in the first place?”
We may ask: Why does V2 of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is title chapter six “Dhyana Yoga”, when there is ample evidence that Srila Prabhupada, the commentator, wanted this particular chapter to be called “Sankhya Yoga”?
As far as the spelling of Bhagavad-Gita goes, both “Bhagavad-Gita” and “Bhagavad-gita” seem to be accepted, even though my MacBook Pro computer dictionary invariably demands Bhagavad-Gita with capital letter for “Gita”. Srila Prabhupada Himself writes “Bhagwat-Gita” with a capital “G” a dozen times or so in letter dated June 22nd 1951 to Sri R .Prakash, as well as seven times in 510914Let.Bailey, which leaves no doubt about the desired spelling. There are other issues regarding restrictive use of capital letters and it would appear that the editor has misinterpreted Srila Prabhupada’s directive in this realm. Why should “who” in the expression “the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who….” be lower case? To show due respect, it should be capital letter! The current presentation of BGAII 8.22 illustrates this contradictory use of capital letters very well. “Him”, “His” and “He” are capitalised, but “who” is lower case. In such instances, Srila Prabhupada Himself or His secretaries would use capital letter for “Who”. Please see 670314Let.Brahmananda for example. The same will apply to pronouns and possessives referring to the Spiritual Master, as “the Spiritual Master is to be honored as much as the Supreme Lord” (Gurvastaka, stanza 7.) And if, as the editor has stated, the preferred editorial policy is “down style”, then why do we find “Grandfather” in BGAII 1.8; 1.10 & 1.11, and why do we find “Sankhya” in BGAII 5.4, all with capital letters?
7.18 states “My own self”. The possessive article “My” is capitalised but the possessor “self” to whom the article refers, is lower case. This will be a contradiction to any person with even elementary (grammatical) common sense. Perhaps “Own” should also be capital, just as “Supreme” is capitalised in the expression “the Supreme Personality of Godhead”. We don’t find such contradiction in BGAII 9.5 though, which contains the expression “My Self” as well.
In the first sentence of purport 13.3, clearly “knower” should be plural, if only from a grammatical point of view. There are two knowers: the soul and the Supersoul. The soul and the Supersoul are never one in all respects. Advaita philosophy falsely claims that the soul and the Supersoul are one. This conclusion is false and illusory. This conclusion is therefore firmly rejected by the Vaishnava school. The Vaishnava school espouses the spiritual dialectism of simultaneous oneness and difference of the soul and Supersoul, one in quality and vastly distinct in quantity. The editor often seems to have difficulty to differentiate between the individual soul and the Supersoul. This is monism! This is anathema for the Vaishnava school of thought. We often find such confused tinge of monism in version 2. And why not use plural for “knowers” in the translation as well? “…to understand this body and its knower(s) is called knowledge…” However the opposition may argue, there is something wrong here.
7.2 V1 reads: “I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge, both phenomenal and noumenal…” 7.2 V2 reads:” I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge, both phenomenal and numinous…” Which is correct and why? We know that generally “phenomenal” and “noumenal” are associated in philosophical (con) texts. But “phenomenal” along with “numinous” is a new creation indeed. As of February 2018, we now know that the original transcript (OT) gives “phenomenal and numinous” and the matter is now resolved in favour of V 2. We may accept that Srila Prabhupada dictated into His microphone “phenomenal and numinous”. According to HG Dravida Prabhu, the most authoritative devotee on these matters, OT comes in three distinct parts.
Here is HG Dravida Prabhu personally on these matters:
“Chapters 1-5: Srila Prabhupada personally typed these chaps. and we have the mss.
Chapters 6-11: Srila Prabhupada dictated these chaps. and we have the unedited transcript of His dictation.
Chapters 12-18: Srila Prabhupada dictated these chaps. but we don’t have the unedited transcript. What we have is the retyped mss, with the first editor’s changes incorporated. For instance, Prabhupada may have said, “One should completely surrender to the Supreme Lord Krishna without reservation” The first editor (now deceased) may have seen this as redundant and deleted”completely”, yielding “One should surrender to the Supreme Lord Krishna without reservation.” The mss we have won’t show the “completely.” It’s a retyping of the original transcript with the editing incorporated. Clear?
Dravida dasa” In e-letter dated February 16th 2018 to the author.
9.34, 11.55 and probably other verses as well: why does the English text not follow the Sanskrit order of enumeration?
16.7 How are we to be believe that in the word for word, “pravrittim” and “nivrittim” have a similar meaning (two negations equal a positive affirmation), whereas the meaning is rightly opposite in the translation? These two words are properly translated as opposites in both word for word versions and both translation in BGAII 18.30.
We may ask why in verse 18.66 the Sanskrit word ekam has no equivalent in either English version? Not only is the emphasis in the Sanskrit text existent and self-evident, but Srila Prabhupada also gives the following translation in 741228LET. MyDearSons:
” Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, chapter 18; sarva-dharman parityajya, mam ekam saranam vraja, aham tvam sarva-papebhyo, moksayisyami ma sucah [Bg. 18.66]. So why you want to worship someone else? Krsna, Himself, recommends mam ekam, he alone.“
We may therefore infer that he following English rendition will be most appropriate and most pleasing to the Supreme Personality of Godhead as suggested by His representative, Srila Prabhupada:
” Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me alone. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”
Finally we have practical experience that the General Index of V 2 needs substantial improvement and so does Vedabase to some extend.
In conclusion and for the sake of a united next wave of assault on the forces of Maya Devi in this material world, I appeal herewith to the good sense and faithfulness of all followers of Srila Prabhupada in all countries of the world, who are still unduly and overly attached to BGAII V1, to please archive BGAII V1 and progressively switch now to BGAII V2. By the Lord’s inconceivable arrangement BGAII is a work in progress and BGAII V 2 is undoubtedly the best rendition we have at this point of time.
“The yogi who is progressive is therefore on the true path of eternal good fortune. One who sticks to a particular point and does not make further progress is called by that particular name: karma-yogi, jnana-yogi or dhyana-yogi, raja-yogi, hatha-yogi, etc. If one is fortunate enough to come to the point of bhakti-yoga, it is to be understood that he has surpassed all other yogas. Therefore, to become Krishna conscious is the highest stage of yoga, just as, when we speak of Himalayan, we refer to the world’s highest mountains, of which the highest peak, Mount Everest, is considered to be the culmination.” BGAII 6.47, purport.
“Prabhupadanugas of all countries, please unite under the one banner of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, Second Edition Revised and Enlarged!” (My own appeal)
“In this present day, people are very much eager to have one scripture, one God, one religion, and one occupation. Therefore, ekam shastram devaki-putra-gitam: let there be one scripture only, one common scripture for the whole world-Bhagavad-Gita. Eko devo devaki-putra eva: let there be one God for the whole world – Sri Krishna. Eko mantras tasya namani: and one hymn, one mantra, one prayer—the chanting of His name:
HARE KRISHNA, HARE KRISHNA,
KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE
HARE RAMA HARE RAMA
RAMA RAMA HARE HARE
Karmapy ekam tasya devasya seva: and let there be one work only—the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
(Final words of introduction, BGAII.)
All glories to Lord Caitanya’s Sankirtana Movement! All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
7.2 V1 reads: “I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge, both phenomenal and noumenal…” 7.2 V2 reads:” I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge, both phenomenal and numinous…” Which is correct and why? We know that generally “phenomenal” and “noumenal” are associated in philosophical (con) texts but “phenomenal” along with “numinous” together is a new creation indeed.
From BTG Letters, Volume-22 Number-08, 1987
In Srila Prabhupada’s translation of Bhagavad-gita 7.2, we see the English pair phenomenal and numinous used for the Sanskrit jnana-vijnana. Now, you understand phenomenal to mean “as apprehended by the mind as distinct from reality” andnuminous to mean “that which is beyond the senses and assumed by the mind, but transcendental in reality.” These two definitions, however, pertain to the very specific way the philosopher Immanuel Kant used the terms phenomenal and noumenal in his metaphysics. According to Kant and this is a very crude simplification the phenomenal world as we can know it is already structured or ordered for us by our own mind or consciousness. Thus, there is a reality inaccessible in principle to us, absolutely beyond our apprehension, utterly unknowable. This is the “Ding an sich,” the “thing-in-itself,” which he also calls the noumenal reality as opposed to the phenomenal reality we perceive.
Now, Krsna was not preaching Kantian philosophy, and while Prabhupada’s “phenomenal” and “numinous” obviously allude to Kant’s distinction, that distinction cannot be applied too literally as indeed the substitution of “numinous” for the Kantian “noumenal” reminds us. Let us simply say that phenomenal means the world as perceivable by mundane sense experience and mental speculation (up to some realization of the impersonal Absolute), and that noumenal or numinous refers to all that transcends such phenomenal knowledge.
The word numinous means “supernatural, mysterious; filled with a sense of the presence of divinity.” Thus it also means “beyond phenomena,” but it conveys in addition a more personal sense than Kant’s “noumenal.” It refers, indeed, to the divine realm of Goloka, where the Supreme Person, Syamasundara, whose spiritual form possesses innumerable inconceivable transcendental qualities, eternally revels in pastimes of love with His friends and lovers. That realm is directly perceived by pure devotees whose eyes have been spiritually opened by being anointed with the unguent of love of God. That is vijnana, or numinous knowledge.
“the philosopher Immanuel Kant used the terms phenomenal and noumenal in his metaphysics” – many western philosophers starting from Anaxagoras used these terms in different contexts. In British India Brahman was often compared with noumenon and Maya with phenoumenon.
Anyway, it was a mistake to put numinous instead of noumenal, since:
From Dialectical Spiritualism
Srila Prabhupada (on existentialists):….. We understand that God is behind nature, and that nature is not acting independently. Nature is phenomena, but behind or beyond nature is noumena, God, Krishna.