In the 2003 Honolulu conversation (reposted in the appendix) Jayadvaita Swami stated:
"He [Prabhupada] wasn’t involved at any stage of the production [of the unabridged Bhagavad-gita]"
"all I really wanted to do is contribute to the history of the Gita."
Yet there appears to be a disconnect between Jayadvaita Swami's version of history and the evidence on record. It is well known that Srila Prabhupada indicated on many occasions that he wanted to be relieved from management to concentrate on writing. However, due to various shortcomings on our part we saw him take the helm time and time again to correct the course of his mission. We get the vivid impression from Jayadvaita Swami that Srila Prabhupada entrusted all aspects of book production and publishing to his disciples, thus perpetrating the myth that His Divine Grace was a passive author who, once the writing was done, simply handed the ball off to Jayadvaita and a few others to finish everything; that he wasn't necessarily concerned with or even fully aware of the nuts and bolts of the process and that he didn't always see the big picture. And that somehow Jayadvaita knew what His Divine Grace would have approved or not approved.
Conversation between Govinda dasi and Jayadvaita Swami- Honolulu, Jan 19, 2003
"I could tell you that some of the verses that some of the BBT staff questioned, Prabhupada would never have approved. I can say with confidence, Prabhupada would never have approved. Some of the very few verses that we had issues with, there’s no question in my mind that Prabhupada didn’t see them."
Might this be a tad presumptuous? Could it be that Jayadvaita wasn't aware of how involved Srila Prabhupada was in the production and publication of his Bhagavad-gita and that he (Jayadvaita) was not the only person Prabhupada was communicating and interacting with?
The following conversations and correspondence are just a sampling of the communications between His Divine Grace and others from 1969 thru 1972 regarding the publishing of his unabridged Bhagavad-gita As It Is. For the sake of brevity, we have only used excerpts from these communications. We encourage everyone to look at the full text in the Bhaktivedanta Vedabase to understand Srila Prabhupada's depth of involvement in the details of publishing, and to study the complete history of events to truly appreciate the astonishing number of people, publications and issues Srila Prabhupada was dealing with. These citations show that in addition to writing, His Divine Grace was involved in approving layouts, deciding on book binding, directing artists, corresponding with his editors, studying printing options, contacting MacMillan, reviewing contracts, fund raising and more. Again, these citations only reference his work on the unabridged Gita--Srila Prabhupada was working on several titles simultaneously. And book publishing was but one facet of his mission.
(emphasis is added in the following)
Letter to Satsvarupa- Los Angeles, June 27, 1969
Regarding Madan Mohan...he must continue the work of indexing very nicely the original Bhagavad-gita As It Is. As soon as this indexing is finished, I shall publish another revised and enlarged edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is at my own cost. I was not happy to publish it [abridged edition] through MacMillan as they have crippled the explanations for so many important verses.
Discussion with BTG Staff- Boston, December 24, 1969
Srila Prabhupada sets the wheels in motion
There are several existing manuscripts
He tells Jayadvaita, "So whatever is lacking, you ask me. I will supply you."
He approves the translations edited by Macmillan
Prabhupada One thing may appear to be very simple and to other, terse, but you do your own duty. Another thing: where is the Bhagavad-gita with my full translation
and synonyms? Where is that manuscript?
Hayagriva I have... There are several existing manuscripts. I have... The manuscript I went over is in Columbus.
Hayagriva The total manuscript is there.
Prabhupada So we have to prepare for next publication, revised and enlarged, giving in the same process: original verse, transliteration, synonyms, and translation, and purport....
Jayadvaita There's another manuscript of Bhagavad-gita also in New York, the original.
Prabhupada Oh. You have got?
Jayadvaita Yes. It's in New York except for the first two chapters. Everything else is there.
Prabhupada So first two chapters might be with Janardana. But you have got the whole thing, Hayagriva.
Hayagriva Yes. That has been... I have gone over that, the one I have. The one that is in New York, no one has gone over that.
Jayadvaita Some of it has been edited by Rayarama, but you can see around it and go to the original behind it.
Prabhupada So whatever is lacking, you ask me. I will supply you.
Hayagriva Well, I have nothing lacking. But I would like to see that version.
Jayadvaita That's with a dictaphone. So it's...
Hayagriva I would like to see that in going over mine. I'll have to go over it chapter by chapter. But I will compare the version I have with that version, and... I know the translations themselves, they were somewhat changed in Bhagavad-gita As It Is as it came out in Macmillan. Did you like those translations?
Prabhupada Whichever is better, you think. That's all. You can follow this Macmillan.
Hayagriva That was the second... They're good. I think they're very good.
Prabhupada Yes. You can follow that translation. Simply synonyms he can add, transliterations.
Hayagriva And we have all the purports. We can include everything. Nothing will be deleted. Everything will be in there.
Prabhupada That's all right.
Letter to Hayagriva- January 14, 1970
Regarding our enlarged, revised Bhagavad-gita As It Is, if possible you can conveniently give an enlarged introduction also.
Letter to Pradyumna- Los Angeles, February 22, 1970
I have read the transliteration of Bhagavad-gita verses, but I think you have to do it very carefully because there are some mistakes in some of the verses. But I am sure in your next reading they will be all corrected.
So your next compositions shall be Bhagavad-gita As It Is, revised and enlarged edition. Please do it nicely.
Letter to Syama, February 23, 1970
Please ask Hayagriva Prabhu to finish the Bhagavad-gita with full explanation and text, and as soon as it is finished I shall send you some new tapes which you shall work husband and wife conjointly and you will be very pleased.
Letter to Hayagriva- Los Angeles, March 9, 1970
I am so glad to learn that the Gita is going on nicely. Perhaps you know that Mandali Bhadra wants to translate into German, so as you finish one chapter you may send one copy to him immediately for being translated into German.
Letter to Hayagriva- Los Angeles, April 18, 1970
So what you are now doing on the Bhagavad Gita manuscript is alright, do it nicely....
Regarding the editing process, I am glad to know that they are improving and doing nicely, but finally you should see each manuscript before printing. That should be the arrangement.
Letter to Jadurani- Los Angeles, July 11, 1970
Regarding the picture for the cover of Bhagavad-gita AS IT IS, revised and enlarged edition, yes, if the painting for the cover is similar to the picture which you sent from the Bhagavad-gita in Pictures that will be alright. Regarding further pictures for the Bhagavad-gita, if you want suggestions from me then I can give you hints with reference to important verses in the Gita;
Letter to MacMillan Company- Los Angeles, July 18, 1970
Regarding my book, THE BHAGAVAD GITA AS IT IS, I beg to inform you that when I had originally submitted the manuscript to Mr. James Wade he informed me that it had to be considerably shortened due to production requirements.
Since the publication of the book in 1968, which I understand is now in its third printing, I desire to publish the GITA according to the original manuscript....Please inform me whether MacMillan wants to publish this expanded version of the GITA. I look forward to receiving your early reply.
Letter to MacMillan Company- Los Angeles, August 5, 1970
If MacMillan does not desire to publish this expanded version, then I will have it published elsewhere immediately.
Letter to Satsvarupa- Bombay, November 4, 1970
I am prepared to give up dealing with Dai Nippon if ISKCON Press can print my books. What is being done with the manuscript of the unabridged Bhagavad-gita As It Is? It should be printed as soon as possible.
Letter to Hayagriva- Bombay, November 24, 1970
Regarding Printing of Bhagavad-gita complete and unabridged edition, it may be printed with our ISKCON PRESS and 5,000 copies may be sent, printed and folded to Bombay because I notice in your ISKCON PRESS newsletter that Advaita has expressed his opinion that if sent by ship without folding first, it would not be possible for the books to be properly folded and printed here in India. Regarding the missing verses, I will see if it is required and will send you at a later date.
Letter to Advaita- Surat, December 19, 1970
I had never considered either closing down our ISKCON Press or removing your responsibility for managing the press affairs. You may immediately resume your former activities and work the press according to your best ability because I am very eager to see our own press printing the majority of our publications. The first thing now should be the printing of the new, enlarged edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
Letter to Satsvarupa- Surat, December 19, 1970
I have seen the layout proposal for the first pages of our new edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is and it is fully approved by me.... You may inform Jadurani that the picture she has sent is alright with necessary adjustments. Krsna is of course to be pictured in the same dress in all the scenes of the Kuruksetra delivery of Bhagavad-gita because the episode took place all within about one half hour. Some ideas are: 1) Duryodhana and Dronacarya conferring in a tent just before the battle. 2) A ratha with four horses drawn before the ranks of soldiers and akshouhini carrying Krsna and Arjuna. 3) Arjuna morose; leaving weapons aside he is almost crying. 4) A man pictured dead and also living. Krsna says to Arjuna, "the wise mourn not for the dead or the living.'' 5) pictures of an individual from babyhood to youthhood, in manhood and in old age and death. The figure of the soul in each different body remains the same indicating that the body changes, not the soul. 6) Krsna instructing the Sun-god; Vivasvan instructing Manu (his son). I will send you more ideas later if required by you.
Letter to Satsvarupa- Surat, December 28, 1970
You can offer my thanks to Advaita. The dummy Bhagavad-gita sent by him is approved by me. If it is possible it may be improved further.
Letter to Bali-mardana- Calcutta, January 6, 1971
Immediately I want $17,000 for printing Bhagavad-gita As It Is in new enlarged and revised edition, so try to help in this connection.
Letter to Satsvarupa- Allahabad, January 11, 1971
Regarding the Preface to Bhagavad-gita I shall send that as soon as I have got some time to write one. In the meantime you can go ahead with the remainder of layout work.
Letter to Satsvarupa- Calcutta, February 9, 1971
Please accept my blessings. I hope that everything is going on well there with the production of Bhagavad-gita. In this regards please make the following addition to the text:
Chapter IX, The Most Confidential Knowledge, in the purport of the 34th verse you will read "Krishna is not an ordinary human being; He is the Absolute Truth, His Body, Mind and He Himself are One and Absolute''. Immediately therefore you can add the following: In the Kurma Purana, as it is quoted by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami in his Anubhasya comments of Caitanya Caritamrta, 5th chapter Ādi lila, verses 41-48, "deha dehi bibhedo 'yang nesvare vidyate kvacit'' which means that there is no difference in Krishna, the Supreme Lord, between Himself and His body.
Letter to Advaita- Gorakhpur, February 10, 1971
Please inform me immediately how you stand in the matter of the $17,000 needed to print Bhagavad-gita As It Is. I want that it should be printed by the time I return to the States at the end of March. So if there is any lack of the money, I shall immediately take steps to arrange it for you so the printing can begin at once. We are expecting to remain in Gorakhpur for about one month, so you can reply me immediately to the above address.
Letter to Karandhara- Bombay, March 16, 1971
Yes, you may give the donors an honorable mention page in Bhagavad-gita.
Letter to Advaita- Bombay, March 18, 1971
Regarding Bhagavad-gita As It Is, this book is very urgently required. You had previously quoted a price of $17,000. So why print in Dai Nippon for $20,000 and lose $3,000? If it is possible to print on our press, that is better, but if not then Dai Nippon may do the printing.
Letter to Hayagriva- Bombay, March 23, 1971
I have already sent to you the purports for B.G. Chapter 9, verses 16-25, 27 (no 26). I will send the purport to verse 28 very soon. So far the index is concerned, speed it as far as possible; I am very anxious to print.
Letter to Jadurani- Bombay, April 1, 1971
The philosophy should be illustrated, but everything must be done with clear intelligence according to the Parampara revealation of the Absolute Truth and Krsna will give you good understanding for the purpose. The picture of the upside down tree drawn by Bharadraja as a sample is good. The roots of the trees are like pillars growing large and making the tree strong. Regarding the descriptions in Bhagavad-gita Ch XV in verse 1 the leaves are described as the Vedic hymns and in the 2nd verse, the sense objects or vishaya are compared with the twigs. The jiva in the heart of the living entity appears as a sparkling star along with Supersoul depicted as four-handed Visnu as He appears on the cover of "Isopanisad'' or similar.
Letter to Rupanuga- Bombay, April 9, 1971
You say that Bhagavatam printing is going on, but what about Bhagavad-gita As It Is? Some San Francisco Indian friends promised to pay $20,000, for this. So somehow get this money and manage to print Bhagavad-gita as quickly as possible, without stopping. Best thing is to get Bhagavad-gita printed on our own press, some soft bound and some hard bound, regularly sewn.
Letter to Krsnakanti- Bombay, April 11, 1971
Try and get KRSNA book and Bhagavad-gita AS IT IS recommended by the professors.
Letter to Advaita- Bombay, April 17, 1971
I have written as you know to Dai Nippon regarding the printing of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, but I do not know what is the actual position of the manuscript. Neither I know whether you want to print this book with Dai Nippon or on ISKCON PRESS. In San Francisco the Indians wanted to pay $20,000 for the printing cost, so what is the position now? Are the pictures ready? the index, Sanskrit and English editing, the missing purports, layout, composition, etc.??
Letter to Abhirama- Malaysia, May 5, 1971
So far as distributing the fifteen thousand dollars, I would advise you to send this money to ISKCON PRESS for printing Bhagavad-gita As It Is enlarged edition. They require about $20,000 out of which I have asked Karandhara Prabhu to send them $5,000 from the Book Fund. Similarly, if Lyndan Prabhu can contribute $15,000 then the present problem of printing this book is solved.
Letter to Advaita- Calcutta, May 17, 1971
My Dear Advaita,
Please accept my blessings and offer the same to all the Press staff. I am in due receipt of your letter dated 27th April, 1971 and have noted the contents carefully. Yes, I have sent off the Preface to the enlarged edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, sent from Sydney, and you should have received it by now....
Yes, very soon I shall go there. In the meantime get busy with the printing of Bhagavad-gita and that will encourage me to come there sooner.
ON MAY 12, 1971, SRILA PRABHUPADA SIGNS HIS PREFACE TO THE UNABRIDGED EDITION OF BHAGAVAD-GITA AS IT IS
Letter to Jadurani- Bombay, June 8, 1971
Arjuna was not present when Krishna spoke Bhagavad-gita to the sun god. He was present on a different occasion. So the picture is all right. The painting of the chariot of the body is nice.
Letter to Rupanuga, Bhagavan, Satsvarupa- Bombay, June 15, 1971
The preface to the enlarged edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is was sent to you long ago, from Australia. It was sent on 12th May, 1971 and you should have received it by now. I do not know why it is missing. So I am enclosing a second copy herewith.
Letter to Kirtanananda- London 22 August, 1971
I understand that during the festival Hayagriva Prabhu was not there. How is that? Where he is now? The index of BHagavad Gita is very much delayed. Kindly ask him to send the complete index immediately for which the complete work is suffering.
Letter to Karandhara- Mombassa, Kenya, September 19, 1971
Regarding the MacMillan agreement, Brahmananda says that he left everything with Rupanuga when he left N.Y. So kindly inquire from him. So far I know the agreement was made that my royalty would be paid directly to the society. In the beginning they paid me $1,000. and later on I think I got another $600. Besides this I have never received any money from them. If they paid anything it may have been paid directly to N.Y. ISKCON. So you can inquire and do the needful....
What has happened to the Bhagavad-gita quotation? Mr. Ogata told me to wait due to the fluctuating monetary standard, but for how long? Without the quotation we cannot send the manuscript. So please inquire.
Letter to Karandhara- Nairobi, October 3, 1971
I think you have already advised N.Y. to send the full manuscript for Bhagavad-gita As It Is to Dai Nippon. If not you can advise them immediately.
Letter to Advaita- Calcutta, November 1, 1971
Regarding Bhagavad-gita, if the Morocco binding is as costly as the hard binding, then we will prefer hard binding.
Letter to Bahulasva- Vrindaban, November 30, 1971
You may request the Prof. E. Dimac and Prof. Van Buitenin to review and write a forward for our Bhagavad-gita As It Is. That is very nice. I am very glad that you understand the importance of these books.
Letter to Rupanuga- Vrindaban, November 30, 1971
As far as Bhagavad-gita is concerned, I do not know why it is delayed. For the last three years you've been saying Bhagavad-gita is going to be printed and the last deadline was given by Advaita that it would be printed by the 1st October, 1971. Unfortunately, nothing has been done by now. Now it is December, 1971. If for printing one book it takes so much time I do not know how the other 60 books will be printed. I am very much depressed.
Letter to Rupanuga- Delhi, December 5, 1971
...I am very glad to know that MacMillan Co. is enthusiastic to print our Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 30,000 paperback and 10,000 hardback. Now you carry out all negotiations very carefully, and reserve for us all editing rights.
Letter to Sudama- Bombay, February 4, 1972
I will be very glad if you can print Bhagavad-gita As It Is in Japanese version, and that will be sufficient to convince many Japanese boys and girls to become devotees of Krishna.
Letter to Rupanuga- Calcutta, February 22, 1972
I noticed that on the carbon-copy [Macmillan] contract you neglected to initial the last clause (b) of Section XX Special Provisions, although you had done so on the original copy. In addition, I have added the phrase to XII. Competitive Material as follows: "as well as the 48 pages of illustrations for which the Author reserves the right to publish for any purpose he may determine,'' as per your instructions in the letter to Syamasundara. dated February 15, 1972.
Letter to Jayadvaita- Calcutta, March 5, 1972
My dear Jayadvaita, Please accept my blessings. I have also received your letter along with Bali Mardan's....As I have informed, Pradyumna and Syamasundara will be sending you regularly completed transcriptions of my translation work by post, that will avoid the high cost of sending tapes, which besides are very expensive and may be lost easily in mail, and because I am here if they have questions I can answer and make the final proofreading, and this will expedite everything. One thing, now you say the date for printing by MacMillan Co. is set for August 1st, but last time you said June 1st, so I am wondering how long this delaying business shall go on? Our Bhagavad-gita As It Is is so much important to the world for uplifting it from darkest condition of ignorance, but still we cannot give them it, that is our neglect. I shall appreciate if you can help to expedite the printing of BGAII as quickly as possible.
Letter to Bali-mardana- Bombay, March 22, 1972
I have received your letter of March 11, 1972, along with copy of MacMillan contract. Now, first thing is don't sign any contracts without hearing from me, I am thinking about the matter. There is some opinion that it may not be very much advantageous for us to enter such contracts with Macmillan Company. But first I want to know the opinion of Karandhara and others like Rupanuga and Bhagavan. So far Bhagavad-gita As It Is, that is already signed, so we must continue as we have agreed.
Letter to Jayadvaita- Los Angeles, May 28, 1972
My Dear Jayadvaita, Please accept my blessings. I have received your letter dated May 26th, 1972, along with the blue-print copies of Bhagavad-gita As It Is from MacMillan Company. It is very nice. So I shall be looking forward to seeing the entire manuscript and book sometime around first July, 1972.
ON MAY 29TH 1972, THE DAY AFTER SRILA PRABHUPADA APPROVES THE BHAGAVAD-GITA BLUE-PRINT, HE SIGNS THE BHAKTIVEDANTA BOOK TRUST FOUNDING DOCUMENT THUS CREATING THE BBT.
Letter to Tejiyas- Los Angeles, June 12, 1972
So far Mr. Iswar Puri of Atmaram Book Store, let him make a concrete contract to publish our MacMillan version of Bhagavad-gita in cheap edition. You can send one copy of the contract to me and one copy to Bali Mardan at ISKCON Press in New York. I do not know if we are covered by copyright in India or not.
In 1973, Brahmananda Svami summarizes the publication of the Macmillan Gita in a Back to Godhead article:
The Books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
by Brahmananda Svami- Back to Godhead Magazine #52, 1973
Srila Prabhupada had never been entirely satisfied with Macmillan's edition of his Gita because they had drastically shortened it for business reasons. However, when the book was well into its fifth printing, Macmillan informed him that they would be honored to bring out the complete edition, including the Sanskrit slokas. All other published editions of the Gita were decreasing in sales, they reported, whereas Srila Prabhupada's was steadily increasing. Therefore, in the fall of 1972, the Macmillan Company released the complete edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, containing the entire text of Srila Prabhupada's original manuscript, fully indexed and cross-referenced, along with more than fifty color plates. Finally, this was indeed the complete and authoritative edition of Bhagavad-gita that we had hoped for.
Jayadvaita Swami stated:
"all I really wanted to do is contribute to the history of the Gita."
“He [Prabhupada] wasn’t involved at any stage of the production.”
(reposted from the first installment of Proof Positive)
Conversation between Govinda dasi and Jayadvaita Swami- Honolulu, Jan 19, 2003
(emphasis is added)
Jayadvaita Maharaja …It differs in uh, [inaudible] uh, in addition to that, of course, Prabhupada did see the galley proofs in 1968 of the abridged edition. He never saw the proofs in 1972. He wasn’t involved at any stage of the production, except, um, mainly for expressing impatience at how slow it was being turned out—a slowness for which I was partly responsible. Um, but he didn’t go over, didn’t go over the manuscript…
Govinda dasi Srila Prabhupada didn’t see the galley proofs?
Jayadvaita Maharaja No, he did not. [inaudible] Prabhupada didn’t see the galley proofs of the 1972 edition. But he did see the galley proofs, and we have galley proofs with Prabhupada’s handwriting and directions, just in very few places, for the original edition. But he didn’t see the galley proofs for the 1972 one…
Govinda dasi There must be some preliminary, something that he went over, if he didn’t see the final galley proofs.
Jayadvaita Maharaja Not that I remember.
Govinda dasi Then he had to have… I mean, I…
Jayadvaita Maharaja As far as I remember, he didn’t. He was just… the main thing that he was asking was, “Where is it? I’ve been hearing, ‘Just now coming, just now coming;’ I've been hearing that for some time now—where is the book?” The main thing that we were hearing from Prabhupada was, “Where is it?” And, um, Prabhupada at that time was already traveling extensively, um, around the world, and, uh, there was just none of this, there was no opportunity to like send Prabhupada back and forth, like sending him the second chapter and getting it back and asking questions; it just didn’t happen.
Govinda dasi Hayagriva was living with Srila Prabhupada in ’68, and they were going over things, and that was after this book [the abridged edition] was printed. So that must have been for the ’72 one.
Jayadvaita Maharaja He may have, for some brief time, spent some time with Prabhupada. It’s possible. Um, but the final product was certainly not, um, something that Prabhupada, um, you know, pored over the original, he just didn’t have, couldn’t possibly have the… I could tell you that some of the verses that some of the BBT staff questioned, Prabhupada would never have approved. I can say with confidence, Prabhupada would never have approved. Some of the very few verses that we had issues with, there’s no question in my mind that Prabhupada didn’t see them.
later in the same conversation:
Jayadvaita Maharaja Just all I really wanted to do is contribute to the history of the Gita and say that, um, what Prabhupada saw and signed off on, um, in 1968, was the abridged edition. And the unabridged edition he really didn’t see in its preparation for
its, um, pre-publication stages, except perhaps there were some meetings at some point...