satyam priya-hitam ca yat
vak-mayam tapa ucyate
anudvega-karam-not agitating; vakyam-words; satyam-truthful; priya-dear; hitam-beneficial; ca-also; yat-which; svadhyaya-of Vedic study; abhya sanam-practice; ca-also; eva-certainly; vak-mayam-of the voice; tapa-austerity; ucyate-is said to be.
Austerity of speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature.
GBC Resolution 311*, which appears paraphrased at the end of this essay, strikes at the heart of the Hare Krishna movement, namely ISKCON with its chief ideologue, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT).
Some might think Resolution 311 is an unnecessary and unwanted interpretation of Srila Prabhupada's teachings, and a sneaky though well-intended way to relativize Srila Prabhupada's wisdom -- and, at worst, a power grabbing exercise on the part of the GBC. However, I am quite sure that the BBT will, at the beginning of its endnotes and explanations, fully explain that these supplementary comments have not emanated from Srila Prabhupada, but are explanations his publishers felt were necessary to include and that unlike the translations and purports written by Srila Prabhupada, these comments may change in time to come.
The purpose of GBC Resolution 311 is to make relevant Srila Prabhupada's teachings in the context of life in 2008.
Srila Prabhupada recommended his own disciples NOT to read the books and other writings of his own spiritual master. Yet these teachings were absolute. So why a recommendation to not read them?
Much of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's preaching was formulated to impress British scholars and others who often thought Bhakti proponents sentimentalists without intellectual prowess. Also, reading most of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's Saraswati's works required even the most erudite ISKCON readers to have an open dictionary at hand, so abstruse were some of his words and their subtle meanings. In addition, his phrasing was often difficult to process as sometimes much of it was in the manner of nineteenth century literary and cognoscenti style.
Srila Prabhupada is supposed to have said that his writings would be the "law books" for the next ten thousand years. Law books is an important phrase, because we find that books of actual decrees and statutes are in the minority compared to books of legal interpretations. Moreover, far more money and energy have been put into the publishing of legal interpretative writings and to lawyers and court systems worldwide than to the "original" law books.
Law books and constitutional ties are frequently examined, explained, and re-examined publicly, often at great expense.
Srila Prabhupada's own purports often make hard-to-understand verses possible to comprehend. His purport to the verse at the head of this essay (BGAII 17.15) reads in part, "One should not speak in such a way as to agitate the minds Of others. Of course, when a teacher speaks, he can speak the truth for the instruction of his students, but such a teacher should not speak to those who are not his students if he will agitate their minds. This is penance as far as talking is concerned.."
We should remember that all of Srila Prabhupada's books, beginning with those published during his physical presence, were edited for clarity, grammar, etc., per his order. Despite this, a movement to preserve the "original" writings of Srila Prabhupada has surfaced and become vocal. In response to such "original-only" advocates, Jayadvaita Maharaja, one of the earliest editors of Srila Prabhupada's books, defended his own editing work in a book called "Responsible Publishing," in which he writes, "Yet once Srila Prabhupada came to the West, he wanted his writings edited: 'I wish that all copies, before finally going to the press, must be thoroughly revised and edited so that there may not be any mistakes especially of spelling and grammar of the Sanskrit names.' "
I once possessed copies of the three Srimad Bhagawatam volumes (which I understand the BBT has republished as simulated editions) brought to New York from India by Srila Prabhupada. No doubt there was great poetry there, but English scholars would have found them wanting in compositional propriety. English professors would have given them low grades.
Srila Prabhupada established the Bhaktivedanta Institute, made up originally of intellectuals, mostly scientists and mathematicians, because he is said to have said words to this effect, "I am an old man; no one will listen to me. But if American PhD scientists say the same thing, their words will be taken seriously."
One of the reasons Srila Prabhupada established the BBT, and the GBC, was to make the teachings of Krsna consciousness readily accessible to one and all.
The late Albert Einstein is supposed to have written: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." Srila Prabhupada writes in the purport to BGAII 3.3: "Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation."
Explaining this passage in a public lecture in Los Angeles on December 20, 1968, Srila Prabhupada said, "Just like in the Bible there is the statement, 'God created this universe.' It is a fact. But because modern educated persons have not explained how God created, how the process of creation... These things are explained in the Bhagavata, how the sky became in existence, then the air became in existence, the fire became in existence. There is a process, general graduation. Actually, God has created the world. There is no doubt about it. But because it is not philosophically explained, the modern educated persons, they don't accept."
Srila Prabhupada's whole method of preaching, beginning with "Easy Journey to Other Planets," employed a specific plan that catered to being relevant to an ever-changing world.
Today, in classes held daily in ISKCON s temples worldwide, senior Vaisnavas comment, interpret, clarify, and make relevant Srila Prabhupada's writings.
Outside of the class, sannyasis, gurus and other ISKCON preachers are often asked to "interpret" passages in Srila Prabhupada's books. The Fourth Canto excerpt is commonly brought up: "...a woman likes a man who is very expert at rape." (SB 4.25.41)
If Srila Prabhupada's books are to be read and understood by the majority of the world's lettered people over the next ten thousand years, endnotes and appendices by the GBC/BBT are necessary and welcome.
* GBC Resolution 311 passed at the Mayapur meeting, 2008, is paraphrased as follows:
Whereas some of Srila Prabhupada's books contain sentences such as the following, which when taken in isolation may be considered derogatory to and offensive against women;
Whereas some ISKCON devotees may have used these statements out of context as an excuse to offend, neglect and abuse women;
Whereas some people who read such statements may consider them to be derogatory or offensive, may misunderstand what Srila Prabhupada actually means, and may not want to further read those books, notwithstanding the many other beneficial statements in them;
RESOLVED: That the GBC Body recommends to the BBT Trustees that the above quotes, and other such statements as determined by the BBT, be explained in endnotes or in appendices.