1972 Gita Changes Exposed. Part 2: Best Understood

In these series we show various changes found in the 1972 edition of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is and how they change the meaning of Srila Prabhupada’s words. It is understood that while editing, sometimes words are changed for clarity. Therefore, in these series of articles, we try to avoid spending too much time focusing on changes that alter the words with the purpose of giving the intended meaning in the original writing more force. With each change discussed we present the original spoken dictation as recorded by Srila Prabhupada on February the 19-20th 1966, the same passage in the 1972 Macmillan edition and finally our humble commentary.

INTRODUCTION

Now here is a direction that Bhagavad-gita is especially instructed to Arjuna, the devotee of the Lord, the direct student of Krsna. And not only that, he is intimately in touch with Krsna as friend. Therefore Bhagavad-gita is understood by a person who has similar qualities like Krsna. That means he must be a devotee, he must be in relation, direct relationship with the Lord.

Introduction to Gitopanisad (Earliest Recording of Srila Prabhupada in the Bhaktivednta Archives) Bhagavad-gita Introduction,  New York, February 19-20, 1966.

So we see that Bhagavad-gita is instructed to Arjuna especially because Arjuna was a devotee of the Lord, a direct student of Krsna, and His intimate friend. Therefore Bhagavad-gita is BEST understood by a person who has qualities similar to Arjuna’s. That is to say he must be a devotee in a direct relationship with the Lord.

Bg-1972: introduction

The editor certainly adjusted the text here in various ways and he has done a great job by not diverting the meaning in any way. He also switched “similar qualities to Krsna” for “similar qualities to Arjuna”, which is a sensible correction most certainly approved by Srila Prabhupada. So the meaning is not changed, except for one word that was unnecessarily inserted.  The word “best” changes the meaning of the sentence quite a bit. Although Srila Prabhupada says without any diversion that the Bhagavad-gita is understood by a person who has similar qualities like Arjuna, the 1972 edition makes it appear that persons who do not possess qualities similar to Arjuna can also understand the Bhagavad-gita. Only their understanding is perhaps not the best. We find such insertion completely unnecessary and confusing. Srila Prabhupada here in this portion explains that Arjuna was a perfect devotee who has attained, or who is eternally situated in his svarupa siddhi (perfection of one’s relationship with the Lord). This is not the position of every devotee. Only a devotee on the top most platform of spiritual life is so situated.

…Arjuna was a devotee in relationship with the Lord as a friend. The Lord can become a friend. Of course, this friendship and the conception of friendship which we have got in the mundane world, there is a gulf of difference. This is transcendental friendship which… Not that everyone will have the relationship with the Lord. Everyone has got a particular relationship with the Lord and that particular relationship is evoked by the perfection of devotional service. At the present status of our life we have not only forgotten the Supreme Lord, but also we have forgotten our eternal relationship with the Lord. Every living being, out of many, many millions and billions of living beings, each and every living being has got a particular relationship with the Lord eternally. That is called svarupa. Svarupa. And by the process of devotional service one can revive that svarupa of oneself. And that stage is called svarupa-siddhi, perfection of one’s constitutional position. So Arjuna was a devotee and he was in touch with the Supreme Lord in friendship.

Introduction to Gitopanisad (Earliest Recording of Srila Prabhupada in the Bhaktivednta Archives) Bhagavad-gita Introduction,  New York, February 19-20, 1966.

So when Srila Prabhupada says that the Bhagavad-gita is understood by a person with similar qualities like Arjuna, he speaks of svarupa siddhi, in other words full and complete understanding for the purpose of disseminating the teachings to others. Srila Prabhupada says here:

So here it is clearly mentioned, the Lord says to Arjuna that “I am speaking or I am making you the first man of the parampara. Because the old parampara or disciplic succession is now broken, therefore I wish to establish again another parampara in the same line of thought as it was coming down from the sun-god to others. So you, you take it and you distribute it. Or the system, the yoga system of Bhagavad-gita may now be distributed through you. You become the authority of understanding Bhagavad-gita.”

Introduction to Gitopanisad (Earliest Recording of Srila Prabhupada in the Bhaktivednta Archives) Bhagavad-gita Introduction,  New York, February 19-20, 1966.

No one can become an authority of understanding the Bhagavad-gita unless he has attained the svarupa siddhi. It is not that Arjuna or person with qualities similar to Arjuna understand the best and some neophyte devotees also understand but not so much. The meaning here is definite: No one else can understand unless he has qualities similar to Arjuna.

What is interesting is that we find a similar type of editing in the 2.41, where the word “best”has been inserted with the same minimisation effect. This time in connection with how Krsna consciousness is practised under the able guidance of the spiritual master. Please take a look:

Service in Krsna consciousness is however practiced under the able guidance of the spiritual master who is the bona fide representative of Krsna. The bona fide spiritual master knows the nature of the student and thus he can guide him how to act in Krsna consciousness.

Bg 2.41 manuscript

Service in Krsna consciousness is, however, best practiced under the able guidance of a spiritual master who is a bona fide representative of Krsna, who knows the nature of the student and who can guide him to act in Krsna consciousness.

Bg 2.41 1972 edition

Srila Prabhupada clearly writes that Krsna consciousness is practised under the guidance of the spiritual master. The 1972 leaves a loophole. You can practise Krsna consciousness even without the spiritual master. Only the practise will not be the best. In other words, the practise might be a little bit more difficult, but you can still achieve perfection. Such interpretation can be derived from this passage after the editing has been done in the 1972 edition. Was this a conscious policy to minimise certain ideas expressed by Srila Prabhupada by the editor? It is hard to say. At any rate, the original words of Srila Prabhupada should be left intact.

Purujit Dasa is a monk teaching and practising bhakti-yoga according to the teachings of His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of the international Hare Krishna movement. He also serves as the head priest of the B.L.I.S.S.

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