The Editorial Review Panel Shares Its “Editorial Principles”
 

Over the years, devotees have expressed interest in knowing more about The Bhaktivedanta Book

Trust’s book editing policies and practices, especially in making corrections to Srila Prabhupada’s books

after his physical departure.
 

To address the devotees’ concerns and to ensure the fidelity of Srila Prabhupada’s published works, on

October 17, 2019, the BBT and the GBC conjointly selected and assembled an independent panel of

devotees qualified by their devotional standing and deep study of Srila Prabhupada’s books. A number

of the panel members are also experienced in editing and editorial processes. This panel is called the

Editorial Review Panel (ERP [previously known as the RRP]).
 

The ERP’s first order of business was to define the editorial principles they would use to evaluate the

editing the BBT has done, especially since 1977. Their paper, “Editorial Principles,” (ratified by the

Global BBT on July 13, 2021) follows. Aside from a description of the editorial principles themselves,

you will also find the list of ERP members, information on how the editorial principles were formulated,

more about the ERP’s mandate, and what will be done with the ERP’s work.
 

This paper is intended to be a “living document” – that is, it may be amended whenever the review work

requires that a principle be added or made clearer or expanded upon to encompass examples the

reviewers encounter. Both editing and the reviewing of it are dynamic processes, and inevitably not

everything will fit neatly into one category or another; so we’ve left room for this paper to develop, as

needed. An amendment will be made when it helps the ERP to more closely align with Srila

Prabhupada’s instructions. For this reason, the BBT may approve and publish an occasional revision of

the “Editorial Principles” to keep the ERP’s process transparent.
 

Your servants

Global BBT

 

Editorial Principles for the Editorial Review Panel


About the Editorial Review Panel (ERP)
 

From a group of 40 prospects put forward by the BBT, GBC, and SABHA, a shortlist of possible

members of the Editorial Review Panel was voted on at the GBC midterm meeting held in October

2019. The final resolution creating the ERP, using this shortlist for members, was made by the BBT

shortly thereafter. The ERP has met approximately every two weeks since January 2020.
 

The panel comprises devotee scholars and experienced editors: Bhakti Vijnana Goswami, Bhanu Swami,

Kalachandji dasa, Kesava Bharati dasa Goswami, Krishna Kshetra Swami, Krishnarupa devi dasi, and

Radhika Ramana dasa. ERP members will serve one-year terms and will be reviewed and recertified

annually by BBT Global.
 

The ERP’s mandate is to review proposed and previously published edits to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books in

the English language, with a focus on edits that were made after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s departure. The panel

will not review images or content written by the publishers, such as the publisher’s introductory

material, image captions, or cover copy.
 

The ERP’s recommendations will be by consensus, based on the following set of principles formulated

by the panel. If the BBT Editorial Board disagrees with an ERP assessment, the issue will be arbitrated

by the Global BBT Trustees/Directors and the GBC. The final arbitration process is still being worked

out in collaboration with the GBC.
 

ERP members are free to confer with experts outside the panel.

About This Document

The Editorial Review Panel (ERP) decided in early 2020 that our work should be guided by a set of

principles grounded in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instructions for editing his books and the experience of Śrīla

Prabhupāda’s editors and publishers. Thus we convened a subcommittee to research Śrīla Prabhupāda’s

instructions on editing, and another subcommittee to formulate principles based on those instructions.

Our hope is that these principles will provide a shared, transparent basis for our discussions and

assessments. We should note that the purpose of this document is neither to approve nor to disapprove

the work of the BBT editors, but only to provide guidelines for the ERP in its review of the revisions of

Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books after his departure. Furthermore, the document is meant to be read and applied

as a whole, for the principles are interrelated and no principle should be applied in isolation.
 

Similarly, every statement by Śrīla Prabhupāda on the matter of editing should be understood not in

isolation, but in relation to his other statements on the subject and in relation to the experience of his

editors. Śrīla Prabhupāda instructed his editors not to make needless changes to his writing, but he also

asked them to edit it for grammar and for “phrasing for force and clarity,” and there are numerous

examples of both types of instructions (see Principles). Statements that encourage editing and those that

discourage needless changes are both essential for understanding Śrīla Prabhupāda’s desires for the

editing of his books.

On July 22, 1977, just a few months before his departure and shortly after the well-known “rascal

editors” conversation, Śrīla Prabhupāda conveyed his instructions on the editing of his books via his

personal secretary, Tamal Krishna Goswami, who wrote to Ramesvara dasa that in regard to “the many

mistakes due to [using Ramesvara dasa’s categories] 1) typographical errors, 2) mistakes made by

[previous] English and Sanskrit editors because of maya or poor fund of knowledge, and 3)

transcendental mistakes dictated by His Divine Grace Himself . . . it is the duty of the editor to right the

situation.” He followed, “Your suggestion that in the future any mistakes which are found can be

reported to Satsvarupa Maharaja, Jayadvaita Prabhu, Radha Ballabha Prabhu, or yourself, and after

sufficient investigation and confirmation these mistakes can be rectified is accepted.”
 

“Although [Śrīla Prabhupāda] has certain doubts in regard to the perfectness of our service,” Maharaja

continued, “He is quite confident that you will do the needful to make any corrections that are required.”

Clarifying that these instructions came from Śrīla Prabhupāda himself, he added by hand, “I explained

the contents of your letter and Satsvarupa’s, and Radha Ballabha and He [Śrīla Prabhupāda] seemed

satisfied that things were not being unauthorizedly changed, while at the same time whatever corrections

needed to be done were being made.”
 

Later that day, having acknowledged that devotees’ (including editors’) service wasn’t perfect in an

absolute sense, Tamal Krishna Goswami wrote to Radha Ballabha dasa, “[A]ll of the mistakes should be

corrected. . . Please just try to make all the corrections in the new editions and everything will be

alright, and of course don’t make any unnecessary changes.”
 

Although there is no explicit evidence that Śrīla Prabhupāda instructed devotees to edit his books after

his departure, there is also no evidence that he stated that the editing should not continue as he had

instructed or that devotees should not continue to follow his instructions on this matter as they did on

others.
 

Still, due to the lack of direct, specific instruction and to the fact that Śrīla Prabhupāda often consulted

with his editors but is no longer physically present to do so, any editing done after his lifetime should be

especially conservative and cautious.
 

Among the challenges for this panel are to identify and understand His Divine Grace’s instructions in

regard to editing his books, to reconcile and/or find a proper balance between those instructions that

might seem to conflict, to determine how—or whether—those instructions should be applied

posthumously (post-samadhi), and to treat all proposals for change with appropriate care.

Part 1: Principles that Limit Editorial Changes
 

Principle 1

Any editing done after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lifetime should be especially conservative and cautious.

When in doubt, we should leave things as they are, and make changes only when necessary. (For criteria

for changes, see principles 8–13).
 

Justification

>Srīla Prabhupāda is no longer present physically to approve or disapprove substantive changes,

something that is the prerogative of the author. As he wrote in a 1976 letter, “I will have to see

personally what are the mistakes in the synonyms and also how you intend to correct them. I was

not satisfied with the corrections that were made before. . . the corrected material must be sent to

me for the final approval.” Similarly, he wrote in 1968, “Regarding Srimad-Bhagavatam, please

send me the chapters which you have already revised. I want to see it, how it is being done.” In

1967, Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote in regard to Teachings of Lord Caitanya, “While typing the

records after your editing make it in duplicate and send me one copy to see how you are doing

it.”
 

>Indeed, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s editors repeatedly asked for his approval of various changes, and he

was always willing to give feedback by letter or in person, as is documented in the next

principle. At times, Śrīla Prabhupāda invited his editors to join him wherever he might be, to

consult face to face, or paused his travels to be accessible to them. None of this consultation is

possible today.
 

>To ascertain Śrīla Prabhupāda’s desires for posthumous editing, we must try to understand what

he wanted based on the instructions for editing that he gave during his presence and the

testimonials of those who were close to him at the time.
 

> If posthumous editing is done without clear principles, it can become a process of endless change

to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, based on personal opinion, which Śrīla Prabhupāda warned us

against repeatedly. “Too much editing is not required” (letter, 1967); “I also do not like too much

editorial work” (letter, 1967).  It is the editors’ task to understand the author’s intent and work in accordance with it. At the same time, the ERP members recognize the limits of even a sincere disciple’s ability to fully

understand the author’s intent when the author is a pure devotee. As stated in the Caitanyacaritāmṛta (Madhya 23.39) and often quoted by Śrīla Prabhupāda: “Even the most learned man cannot understand the words, activities and symptoms of a person situated in love of Godhead.”


>The ERP takes its work of assessing revisions in the same spirit that Ramesvara Swami

expressed in his 1977 letter to Tamāl Krishna Goswami: “If the editors, like Jayadvaita, keep

firm faith that Srila Prabhupada is infallible and edit only as a sacred act of devotion, trying to be

Prabhupāda’s instrument, then the results we all want are achieved.”
 

Principle 2

When there are variant readings between two versions of a book produced during Śrīla Prabhupāda’s

lifetime and both readings are reasonable, the reading found in the latest version is given preference.

(See principles 12 and 13 for exceptions.)
 

Justification
           >Śrīla Prabhupāda sometimes requested specific changes to published books that were then

incorporated into later editions. For example, in several conversations in 1975 and 1976 he

corrected the translation of go-rakṣya in the Bhagavad-gītā from “cattle-raising” to “cow

protection.” Besides correcting mistakes, Śrīla Prabhupāda also occasionally changed his mind

about how something should be written. For example, in a lecture on SB 6.1.28–29, Śrīla

Prabhupāda clarified that Ajāmila called out the name of Nārāyaṇa only once, not three times.

(The dictation transcript states that Ajāmila called out three times.) Since a particular change (or

particular type of change) found in a later edition might have been specifically requested or

approved by Śrīla Prabhupāda, it is risky to reverse editorial changes.
 

>Śrīla Prabhupāda’s editors regularly consulted with him about specific changes and about editing

in general. Here are a few of the many examples of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s close involvement in the

editing of his books: Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote in a 1976 letter, “Your changes which I have seen

of the Sanskrit synonyms is also approved by me. Tanmayatraya [sic] refers to the fact that the

trees and the father were absorbed in the same feelings.” In 1969, Śrīla Prabhupāda had a

conversation with his editors discussing, among other things, the capitalization of nouns and

pronouns connected to Krishna and His avatars. In no fewer than four letters, Śrīla Prabhupāda

requested to see the edited version of Easy Journey to Other Planets: “Regarding your seeking

publication of Easy Journey to Other Planets, I am very glad to hear this, and I understand that

Kirtanananda Swami has a nicely edited copy of this. I have already asked him to send me this

copy, and when I examine it, I will send it immediately to you” (1969). Ramesvara Swami, in his

1977 letter, recalls how Śrīla Prabhupāda spent hours considering changes suggested by his

editors during the Caitanya-caritāmṛta publication marathon. Jayādvaita Swami also recalls,

“The second edition of First Canto appeared during Śrīla Prabhupāda’s physical presence. Before

it came out, I personally brought to him my revisions of the verses for the first one or two

chapters. He at once had me begin to read them aloud in his presence, as he listened with

attention. After I had read the first few verses, he interrupted and asked me: ‘So, what have you

done?’ I replied that I had revised the verses to make them closer to what he himself had

originally said. Śrīla Prabhupāda responded, ‘What I have said?’ I replied yes. His Divine Grace

then said, ‘Then it is all right.’ And that was that. The work was approved” (Responsible

Publishing, p. 2).
 

>Śrīla Prabhupāda repeatedly spoke with pride about the editions published in his presence and

made authorial claims upon them. He often had his books read out loud—to benefit visitors, to

teach his disciples, and/or for his own pleasure. In one instance among many, Prabhupāda

showed his books to the Irish poet Desmond O’Grady, told him about the great numbers being

printed and distributed around the world, and had his disciple read out loud the translation and

purport to Bhagavad-gītā 14.26. Similarly, in The Great Transcendental Adventure Kurma dasa

recalls, “Prabhupāda’s chastisement went on for some minutes more. Then he suggested that

someone bring a book and begin reading. As the devotees read aloud, they felt their ignorance

dissipate” (“10 Days in Perth, 1975”). And, of course, Śrīla Prabhupāda instructed his disciples

to distribute his books widely and took great joy in hearing of the results.
 

>As the author, Śrīla Prabhupāda was ultimately responsible for the editing quality of his books—

a responsibility he took very seriously, as evidenced by numerous letters and conversations.

Depending on what was needed, Prabhupāda praised his editors or reprimanded them, became

closely involved in the minutiae of editing or stayed aloof, bestowed editorial responsibility on

an individual or took it away. There is ample recorded evidence for each of the above actions. As

such, we accept the editorial changes made during Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lifetime, unless there is a

specific reason (of the kind outlined in principles 8–12) to question a particular change.
 

Principle 3

There are sometimes inconsistencies in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, such as inconsistencies between the

Sanskrit, word-for-word translations, full translations, and purports, or between one section of a book

and another section of the same book or a different one. There should be no attempt to make Śrīla

Prabhupāda consistent—in language or ideas—with himself or with other acharyas, unless the

inconsistency ought to be corrected based on principles 8–12.
 

Justification

>Śrīla Prabhupāda often gave different instructions or emphasized different points depending

on context. Such variations offer multiple benefits to the reader, such as demonstrating how

the philosophy of Krishna consciousness can be applied in various situations and how

shastra can have multiple layers of meaning. On more than one occasion, Śrīla Prabhupāda

instructed his followers to study his books from many angles of vision. For example: “I am

very much stressing nowadays that my students shall increase their reading of my books and

try to understand them from different angles of vision. Each sloka can be seen from many,

many angles of vision, so become practiced in seeing things like this” (letter, 1972).

> Historically in our sampradāya, it has been the role of commentators to resolve apparent

inconsistencies in sacred texts, and they do so through explanation, not by changing the

mūla (root or base) text.

> When inconsistencies are introduced by obvious editorial error, they should be changed. “If

there are discrepancies in your editing techniques between the beginning and later chapters,

please inform me what they are so we can make the corrections here” (letter, 1976). See

principles 11 and 12 for further discussion of this exception.
 

Principle 4

Śrīla Prabhupāda’s language should not be updated solely to match contemporary English usage.
 

Justification

> Language is constantly changing, and so updating Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books to match

contemporary English usage or social standards would require an endless process of editing.

>While editing, we should preserve Śrīla Prabhupāda’s voice, including his unique manner of

using the English language. Śrīla Prabhupāda instructed, “I have received back the edited papers

on Srimad-Bhagavatam. Brahmananda & others cannot change the style” (letter, 1968).

Similarly: “The style of Srimad-Bhagavatam just as I had printed earlier in the First Canto

editions is very nice. Go on with this style for all our Bhagavatam editions” (letter, 1970).

> Although Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books need not be updated to match the latest English usage, they

must be grammatically correct and clear in meaning. We discuss this further in principles 8 and

10.
 

Principle 5

Śrīla Prabhupāda’s statements should not be modified in response to current scientific views or social

standards.
 

Justification

>It is the role of commentators and annotators, not editors, to explain Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books in

relation to current scientific or social views. Clearly, therefore, it is also not the role of editors to

leave things out from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books that they consider against current scientific or

social views.

> There may be more than one way to respond to current scientific and social views based on Śrīla

Prabhupāda’s teachings. By modifying Śrīla Prabhupāda’s statements on such matters, editors

may inadvertently choose one response over another.

> Scientific consensus and social standards are constantly in flux, and they vary from one part of

the world to another. Thus, changing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words in response to such concerns

would result in an endless process of revision that would likely introduce the editors’ views into

Prabhupāda’s books. In a letter to one of his editors, Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote, “Regarding the

scientists, they will always find something new because their knowledge is not yet standardized.

They will go on making new discoveries, on account of their imperfect knowledge” (1975). Śrīla

Prabhupāda instructed in regard to Back to Godhead magazine, “I like your ‘topical articles’

also. Keep them simple and Krishna Conscious, avoiding too much bending to the public taste,

but if they are appropriate to current problems, then it is nice proposal” (letter, 1971).

> A possible exception to this principle may be in regard to statements that could cause significant

social or political damage to the Krishna consciousness movement. We allow for this rare

exception on the basis of the following conversation with Śrīla Prabhupāda, which took place in

1976:

Pusta Krishna: It might be necessary to edit the books because in these countries when they

start reading about God and how we say this government is rascal, rascal, this and that, that . . .

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Pusta Krishna: Do you think it is necessary?

Prabhupāda: It will be necessary when there will be criticism.

Gopal Krishna: Later on, but at the present moment they have shown interest in our books, so

we'll give it the way it is.

Prabhupāda: Yes. That we can correct. There is no . . . [break]

> Although the above statement provides a possibility to amend difficult statements that may have

grave consequences, any such changes should be made only rarely—with the utmost hesitation,

with broad consultation, and as minimally as possible—and each should be archived in BBT

records. Another way to treat such statements would be to include an editorial annotation within

the book. All these measures are necessary because we can no longer consult with Śrīla

Prabhupāda on the appropriateness of such a change, as per principle 1.
 

Principle 6

“Transcendental” errors—or apparent errors—by the author, such as narrative details or Sanskrit

translations that differ from the standard understanding, should not be changed. (This does not include

errors of the kind discussed in principles 8–12 below.)
 

Justification
           > In his purports, Śrīla Prabhupāda occasionally seems to misremember details of narrative

sequence. Sometimes his retelling of a narrative differs from the traditional account. For

example, he states that the Rājasūya sacrifice was performed after the Battle of Kurukṣetra (SB.

1.9.41, purport), and that Nakula and Sahadeva were begotten by Pandu himself (SB. 1.13.3–4,

purport), and that arat means “due to fear” (in the synonyms and translation of SB. 1.14.11). In

its “Guidance for Future Editors,” the BBT directs its editors to preserve such statements on the

basis of the following statement by Śrīla Prabhupāda: “You’ll find, therefore, in the comments of

Bhāgavatam by different acharyas even there are some discrepancies, they are accepted as

ārṣa-prayoga. It should remain as it is” (lecture, 1976).

> The principle of ārṣa-prayoga (“the usage of the sages”) is traditionally employed to protect the

words of the Vedas from criticisms of improper grammar or understanding. For example, the

Caitanya-caritāmṛta explains the word order in the verse kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam as

intentional and perfect on the basis of ārṣa-prayoga: “Mistakes, illusions, cheating and defective

perception do not occur in the sayings of the authoritative sages [ārṣa].”

> There are occasions when shastra contains apparent metrical flaws, grammatical mistakes, or

inconsistencies in narrative. The acharyas note such discrepancies in their commentaries and

explain them by various methods, such as kalpa-bheda (i.e., the līlā happens differently in

different yuga cycles), rather than regarding the discrepancies as faults.

> Similarly, Śrīla Prabhupāda asked us to take any “discrepancies” in the writings of the acharyas

in the spirit of ārṣa-prayoga, as seen in the quote above. In the Caitanya-bhāgavata (Ādi

11.100–22), Īśvara Purī requests Caitanya Mahāprabhu to check his book, Kṛṣṇa-līlāmṛta, for

any flaws. Mahāprabhu refuses, stating that only a sinful person seeks faults in a devotee’s

words, because Krishna is pleased with a devotee’s poetry, even if it contains basic grammatical

mistakes.

> Śrīla Prabhupāda applied the principle of ārṣa-prayoga to mistakes in his own writings: “So far

your telling me that some devotees consider that because there may be some grammatical

discrepancies in my Srimad-Bhagavatam, first canto, then they may also be allowed to translate

with errors accepted, that is just like imitating Raslila. When you do all other things like Krishna,

they (sic) you can do Raslila. So if these other writers can do like me and spread Krishna

Consciousness all over the world by becoming big Vedic scholars, then they can do. If one is too

big, there is no mistake. Arsapreyaya means there may be discrepancies but it is all right. Just

like Shakespeare, sometimes there are odd usages of language, but he is accepted as authority. I

have explained all these things in my Preface to First Canto” (letter, 1972). In the Preface to the

First Canto (and on many other occasions), Śrīla Prabhupāda quoted the famous verse by Nārada

Muni (SB 1.5.11) to request the reader to overlook any shortcomings in his presentation of the

book.

> Furthermore, the acharyas often give esoteric or creative interpretations to Sanskrit words, in

accord with their realization. Such interpretation is the prerogative of an acharya. What appears

to be a mistake may in fact be an esoteric understanding that is inaccessible to us.

> Nevertheless, Śrīla Prabhupāda placed clear limits on the principle of ārṣa-prayoga in regard to

the work of his own editors. He repeatedly insisted that his books should be free of grammatical

and spelling mistakes (as seen in Principle 8 below), just as Īśvara Purī insisted that Śrī Caitanya

edit his book, despite Mahāprabhu’s resistance. Śrīla Prabhupāda resolved the apparent

contradiction between ārṣa-prayoga and the duties of an editor as follows:

“It is not that we may present anything crude translation and that is acceptable. No, even though

the transcendental subject matter of Vedic literature is still spiritually potent despite the crudest

translation, still, because we have got facility to make it perfect, that is our philosophy. When I

translated Srimad-Bhagavatam I had not the facility so you may notice grammatical

discrepancies” (letter, 1972).

“It is not our philosophy to print errors. Of course, our spiritual subject matter is transcendental

and therefore it remains potent despite mistakes in grammar, spelling, etc. But this type of

translation may only be allowed if there is no other way to correct it, then it is all right. But if

you know the correct order, then you must make it perfect. That is our philosophy: everything

perfect for Krishna” (letter, 1972).

In other words, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books should be considered flawless due to their perfect

message, even if mistakes remain, but it is still the editors’ duty to correct errors according to the

guidelines given by Śrīla Prabhupāda.

 Thus, the principle of ārṣa-prayoga, although powerful, is not all-encompassing, and we attempt

to outline the limits of ārṣa-prayoga in principles 8–13 below.

Principle 7

Repetition and redundancy should be preserved, unless an edit is supported by principles 8–13.
 

Justification

> Repetition is found throughout our scriptures to encourage meditation, to emphasize important

points, and to aid memorization, among other reasons. The presence of repetition is often an

opportunity for commentators to explain the same word or phrase with different meanings.

> Śrīla Prabhupāda often repeated his instructions. In numerous purports, lectures, and letters, he

mentions the fact that he has already stated something previously, and then goes on to state it

again. “That I have explained many times” (lecture, 1972). “As previously stated . . .” (Gītā 7.14

purport).

> Selective reduction of repetition by editors would place them in the untenable position of

determining whether a repetition does or does not have devotional or instructional value. Śrīla

Prabhupāda expressed his satisfaction that his editor was “not omitting anything” (letter, 1968).
 

Part 2: Principles that Permit Editorial Changes
 

Principle 8

Straightforward errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling (in English and Sanskrit) should be

corrected, with as little disruption to the text as possible.
 

Justification

> Śrīla Prabhupāda repeatedly asked for his books to be edited for spelling and grammar, both in

English and Sanskrit, as seen in numerous letters. “In every publication house all printing matters

are edited at least three times. So we should be very much careful about grammatical and

printing mistakes. That will mar the prestige of the Press and the Institution” (letter, 1969). “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 or of the Sanskrit names”

(letter, 1970). “But you must see that all work is thoroughly correct by mutual checking so that

errors of spelling and grammar will not appear in the printing” (letter, 1970). “The spelling

should also be standard, and based on his work. So far the word ‘Ksatriya’, this is the correct

spelling” (letter, 1968). “Now here [the actual meaning] is ‘O sages,’ and the word meaning

[given in the book] is ‘of the munis.’ Just see. Such a rascal Sanskrit scholar. Here it is

addressed, sambodhana [vocative], and they touch [make?] it ‘munayaḥ—of the munis’ ”

(conversation, 1977).

> We should be particularly careful about changing punctuation, as small changes in punctuation

can have significant effects on meaning.

Principle 9

Minor, straightforward errors of fact relating to names, places, and so on ought to be corrected with as

little disruption to the text as possible. By “straightforward errors of fact” we mean those things that are

not matters of interpretation or realization.
 

Justification

>Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted his books to be free of mistakes and worthy of being presented to

learned persons. “We have to do things now very dexterously, simply we have to see that in our

book there is no spelling or grammatical mistake. We do not mind for any good style, our style is

Hare Krishna, but, still, we should not present a shabby thing” (letter, 1970). “So your efforts in

the matter of our Sanskrit editing are effectively improving our books more and more with

scholarly standards. . . . Regarding the missing verse #13 from the manuscript of second chapter,

Second Canto, I give you the following: . . .” (letter, 1970).

 

> Śrīla Prabhupāda himself corrected straightforward matters of fact. For example, in a 1970 letter,

he wrote, “Regarding the Topmost Yoga, in the blueprint there are many mistakes. I am pointing

to out some of them as follows: Page 2 ‘decided to kill his sister.’ not sisters, because only

Devaki was there. . . Then on page 48: ‘on the bank of the Ganges near Didbee’. This is not

‘Didbee’, it is ‘Delhi’.”

> Preferably, the mistake should be corrected based on another statement in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s

books, so that there is internal evidence to support the change.

> When an apparent mistake is repeated by Śrīla Prabhupāda multiple times in different contexts,

or if there is ambiguity in the verse upon which Prabhupāda is commenting, or if there is room

for multiple interpretations, we should not make a change, since such a change would be neither

minor nor straightforward.
 

Principle 10

Edits to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books are sometimes required in order to remedy a lack of clarity, but they

must be kept as minimal as possible. There is a difference between remedying a lack of clarity and

adding substance to make things “more clear.” The former lies within the bounds of editorial work,

whereas the latter can open the floodgates to interpolation.
 

Justification

> Śrīla Prabhupāda instructed his editors not to make needless changes, but he also asked them to

edit for grammar and force and clarity. There are numerous examples of both types of

instructions, and some are quite forceful. This one instruction encapsulates both aspects:

“Regarding Srimad-Bhagavatam, please send me the chapters which you have already revised. I

want to see it, how it is being done. I am glad that you are not omitting anything, but just making

grammatical correction, and phrasing for force and clarity, and adding Pradyumna's

transliteration” (letter, 1968).

> For example, Śrīla Prabhupāda corrected lack of clarity in a 1970 letter: “ ‘The Lord’s

compromise was that He had Vasudeva propose to the brother-in-law . . .’ This sentence is

obscure. The actual fact is Vasudeva made a compromise and said to his brother-in-law, ‘such

and such.’ ”
 

Principle 11

When a mistake is introduced into Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books by a prior editor, proofreader, transcriber,

typist, or designer as a result of mechanical causes (e.g., mishearing, eye-skip, lost manuscript pages,

etc.), such a mistake should be corrected.
 

Justification

> Śrīla Prabhupāda relied on his editors in order to ensure that his books were free of mistakes, but

the editors sometimes introduced mistakes as a result of inexperience or rushed publishing

deadlines. Śrīla Prabhupāda had high standards for his publishing team; he often gave them tight

deadlines (e.g., “one month for one book,” “finish the job quickly”) or a specific quota of pages

to edit (“thirty pages daily”), while also asking for high quality (“do it slowly and surely,”

“everything sound but slow”).

> Some of the most obvious errors in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books are a result of the kinds of

mechanical mistakes that are common when editors are rushed or inexperienced. For example,

during the Caitanya-caritāmṛta marathon, the “impossible” task of editing, proofreading,

typesetting, laying out, illustrating, and printing seventeen books in two months meant that many

mistakes were still printed in the 1975 version. Śrīla Prabhupāda was aware of such mistakes

introduced by his editors, and he consistently asked for them to be corrected. In a 1968 letter, he

wrote about his editors’ lack of Sanskrit knowledge: “All these discrepancies are happening on

account of my students being unaware of Sanskrit language. Therefore, I requested Pradyumna

to learn Sanskrit very seriously.” In a 1969 conversation, Śrīla Prabhupāda addressed the

problem of transcribers not being able to understand his English accent:

Satsvarupa: There’s one thing. . . . It seems to be easy, but it’s very difficult to hear your voice.

Prabhupāda: That will require practice. He may commit some mistake in the beginning, but

when he is practiced, he will do the right thing. So that you cannot avoid. You cannot change my

voice.

Satsvarupa: No. But I can hear it. I can understand it.

Kirtanananda: Yes, but you can’t go on forever, doing typing.

Brahmananda: We’ve learned, so someone else can.

Satsvarupa: So, just now you’ve sent a Krsna tape. Should I, rather than do that, give it to

Bhagavan?

Prabhupāda: No. First of all test him, who will do that. Test him here, whether he can

understand.

In a 1970 letter, Prabhupāda points out “negligences” by his editors: “In KRSNA chapter #87, on

page 4, the last line, it is said, ‘known as budbuvasa, which is manifested by Govinda.’ I do not

know what is this editing. The correct word is Bhurbhuvasvah as it is in the Gayatri mantra and

everybody knows it. This ‘budbuvasa’ is an extraordinary word, neither it is Sanskrit nor

English, so how it has avoided the vigilance of so many editors? So if none of the editors knew

this word, why was it pushed? There should be no such negligences like this, nothing uncertain

should be pushed. Now what other discrepancies there may be like this? Or what is the use of

such editing? Everything must be done very carefully and attentively.”

> There does not seem to be any good reason to preserve mistakes that are clearly caused by

inexperienced or rushed editors and typists. While traveling with Śrīla Prabhupāda in 1972,

Pradyumna dasa wrote the following to Jayadvaita dasa: “Here’s an important point: Srila

Prabhupada was looking at the new edition of Second Canto the other day and he called me up

because he had found some mistakes. The first mistake was in the first verse of the Third

Chapter. There the first line of the Devanagari script is placed last, and the last line is placed

first. I don't know how this mistake has occurred; . . . Prabhupada said that if there is one mistake

in one book, then you spoil the whole book. Murder the whole book. So also besides Sanskrit

errors, there have been many, many English errors also, which; [sic] are very obvious, just like

these two above-mentioned errors, so Prabhupada has been emphasizing lately about the great

need for making our books free from errors. ‘What’s done has been done’ but now we should try

to do two things: make sure that errors like these won’t occur again, and start a listing of past

mistakes in each book so that we can correct them when they are reprinted.”

> While the decisions to correct such mistakes are always subjective to some degree, there are

well-established methods, such as the comparison of manuscripts, to determine whether a change

has been introduced due to mechanical errors.

 

Principle 12

Corrections are sometimes required after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lifetime to correct errors made by editors

during his lifetime, such as when changes were made unnecessarily, when changes were made

incorrectly, or when changes should have been made but were not—altering or losing the intended

meaning or content. This should be done cautiously, respecting Principle 2.
 

Justification

> As seen in his letters and conversations, Śrīla Prabhupāda entrusted his editors with the task of

putting his words into proper English, but he lost faith in some of them because of moral failings

or editorial overreach. This is evident, for example, in conversations held on February 27 and

June 22, 1977.

> The process Śrīla Prabhupāda used to publish his books was unlike the typical process used by

authors and publishers today. He rarely revised his work after the initial dictation and rarely read

the edited manuscripts minutely before publication, instead entrusting his editors with both tasks.

He wrote in a 1970 letter, “Regarding the Topmost Yoga, in the blueprint there are many

mistakes. I am pointing out some of them as follows: [Śrīla Prabhupāda lists half a dozen

corrections.] . . . In this way I have read the book sporadically, not very minutely. I think it

should be gone through once more very carefully and all the mistakes that are still existing there

should be corrected. If the books are printed with spelling mistakes and other mistakes, that will

be a discredit for our publication. So please see that editorial work is done very nicely.”

> As such, there are occasional unjustified edits that made their way into Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books

without his knowledge or approval. Such editorial overreach is not protected by the principle

ārṣa-prayoga and can be reversed. For example, editors sometimes removed repetitive or unclear

sentences, but inadvertently lost valuable content in the process. Before approving any

restorations, the ERP should verify that the change was indeed introduced by an editor, by

comparing the questionable phrase with prior versions of the work or by other means.

> The ERP’s mandate is not to re-edit Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, and the latitude given to editors in

the author’s absence is much narrower than in his presence. As such, the reversal of changes

made during Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lifetime should be done sparingly and only when the prior

editor’s work is clearly out of bounds. Whether or not there is good reason for a prior editor’s

change is of course a subjective decision, which should be made only after giving due

consideration to the other principles in this document.
 

Principle 13

When a revision is warranted (based on the principles given above), earlier versions (e.g., a transcript or

earlier published edition) can be used to revise the text and bring it closer to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words.
 

Justification

> This principle provides an exception to Principle 2. When it becomes necessary to make a

change (based on principles 8–12), such a change should bring the text closer to Śrīla

Prabhupāda’s words in earlier versions or manuscripts (if such versions are available), rather

than introduce words of the editors’ composition. Śrīla Prabhupāda allowed his editors to consult

earlier versions when an issue needed to be resolved: “[I]f you like to use the original

manuscript, then if it is possible, you can use it” (letter, 1975).
 

Coda

The panelists recognize that editing (and editorial review) is a subjective process and that there is an

inherent tension between preservation and correction. Therefore, the intention, devotion, and fidelity of

the editor (or reviewer) are paramount. As Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote in 1968, “Rayarama may not be as

qualified as you are, but his one qualification, that he is fully surrendered to Krishna and his Spiritual

Master, is the first class recommendation for his editing any one of our literatures, because editing of

Vedic literatures does not depend on academic education. It is clearly stated in the Upanisads that one

who has implicit faith in God as well as in the Spiritual Master, to him only the import of Vedic

literature is revealed.”

End

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