This essay is not an attempt to defend the misbehavior of anyone. However, we beg to remind everyone that even if a devotee does something unsavory at some point, his previous service does not retroactively become an abomination, in need of being purged, replaced or remedied. Would it make sense to re-do the paintings of a devotee artist who later fell into maya? Or to dismantle and re-build a temple constructed with funds collected by methods later called into question, or by devotees whose character turned out to be less than ideal? We should all thank God that our spiritual bank balance cannot be depleted and our particular bank is way too big to fail.
As most of us are aware, Hayagriva prabhu had some serious failings that manifested at different times in his history with Prabhupada's mission. In December of 1972, several months after editing of the MacMillan Gita was completed, Srila Prabhupada received reports of Hayagriva deviating from the principles, yet he gave no order, instruction, suggestion or even hint that his work on the MacMillan Gita should be re-done. Whatever opinion others may have of Hayagriva's character or editorial work is irrelevant. The author of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, highly esteemed Hayagriva's literary skills, authorized him to take charge of editing his book, and approved and signed off on the 1972 MacMillan edition of the Gita. The references below show Srila Prabhupada's great regard for Hayagriva's editing and writing ability during the period the '72 Gita was in prepublication, from December, 1969 through the summer of 1972. At least during this period, we know that Srila Prabhupada had categorical faith in Hayagriva as an editor.
Letter to Brahmananda December 10, 1969
I have received also your press management report, so the only thing to be amended there is that all books especially must be twice edited, once by Satsvarupa and once by Hayagriva.
Discussion with BTG Staff December 24, 1969
Hayagrīva: Then he does the first editing. After it's typed up off the Dictaphone, Satsvarūpa does the first editing. Then I go over what he has gone over and check the manuscript...
Prabhupāda: Yes. What you do, he goes. And what he does, you go. Then final. In this way. But the last editing should be checked twice. The Dictaphone, then checked by him and then by you. Or checked by you and then by him. That's all.
Hayagrīva: Yes. And Pradyumna does the Sanskrit after.
Prabhupāda: Yes. That's all. That is printing department.
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 Syama February 23, 1970
Please ask Hayagriva Prabhu to finish the Bhagavad-gita As It Is with full explanation and text...
Letter to Hayagriva February 23, 1970
I am very glad to know that you have sent the final manuscript of KRSNA book to Brahmananda and that it now reads very well. Thank you very much....
Regarding your change of the title to "Kamsa Begins His Persecutions,'' it is alright. I am enclosing herewith a preface which I have written for the Krsna book. Please edit it nicely and send one copy of the edited version back to me, and another to Brahmananda for printing.
Krsna Book Preface February 26, 1970
And at last my ever-willing blessings are bestowed upon Sriman Syamasundara dasa Adhikari, Sriman Brahmananda dasa Brahmacari, Sriman Hayagriva dasa Adhikari, Sriman Satsvarupa dasa Adhikari, Srimati Devahuti-devi dasi, Srimati Jadurani-devi dasi, Sriman Muralidhara dasa Brahmacari, Sriman Bharadvaja dasa Adhikari and Sriman Pradyumna dasa Adhikari, etc., for their hard labor in different ways to make this publication a great success.
Letter to Hayagriva March 9, 1970
I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 4 March, 1970, along with the edited copy of the Foreword to KRSNA. Thank you very much. The few alterations of dates is approved by me, so it is alright....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 March 19, 1970
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 12 March, 1970, along with a poem "All glories to Sri Gurudeva . . .'' etc. This poem and your many other writings give me the impression that you are naturally thoughtful and philosophical, and thus I am very much hopeful that in future you can give to the world many nice things presented to the understanding of the thoughtful men in this age.
In that way, I wanted you to live with me and be engaged in writing such things, getting ideas from me. But we will have to wait for a few days more, and then I shall ask you to leave completely from your present occupation in the university.
Letter to Hayagriva April 18, 1970
So what you are now doing on the Bhagavad Gita manuscript is alright, do it nicely. I have got the second part of Krsna also. I want to send it to you, so when you are free let me know and I will send it.
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 Hayagriva May 22, 1970
Yes, I have received the tape as well as your "Chant'' booklet. I am sorry they were not acknowledged earlier. I have asked Boston to send you the KRSNA tapes for part II. They are already edited, and it is nice, still you can have a final glance over it. After your final editing is the work retyped by Syama dasi.
Letter to Hayagriva September 19, 1970
Please accept my blessings. I am in receipt of your letter dated Sept. 5, 1970, and the essay "THE SPIRITUAL MASTER: EMISSARY OF THE SUPREME PERSON'' enclosed therein. I have read it, and am glad that you have understood the matter so thoroughly, and have now substantiated your conclusions with so much scriptural proof.
Letter to Hayagriva November 8, 1970
Your essay "The Spiritual Master: Emissary of the Supreme Person'' is so nice, so why not have ISKCON PRESS publish it and then all our students can study it.
Letter to Hayagriva 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...Regarding the missing verses, I will see if it is required and will send you at a later date.
Letter to Hayagriva March 23, 1971
I have read your article, "Constitution of the Soul." It is very nice. Such articles with scientific observation should be published in BTG.
Letter to Hayagriva January 18, 1972
But I am very pleased that you are writing constantly, so I would recommend that you write different essays on our philosophy....You may also edit and compile my early 1966 lectures into a book. That is very nice proposal.
Letter to Hayagriva March 22, 1972
I am so much engladdened by the news that you are producing many books, faster than they can print, so this is especially pleasing to me and I have wanted all along that you should especially do this work of writing and editing. This means that you will advance nicely because you will have to become very thoughtful and go deep into the subject matter. The titles are nice, so may you live long and always do this service.
If you have the idea to write a book based on Chaitanya Charitamrita, that is nice, I approve....so we shall be sending more and more material because you say that you can edit any amount we can supply, so I take that as a challenge and I shall try to see if you can keep up with me.
Letter to Hayagriva April 27, 1972
I wish also that you join me when I return to Los Angeles so that the editing work may go on very efficiently. With both Pradyumna and yourself at my side then the work will go on very speedily. It is my serious desire to devote the fag end of my life to translating Srimad Bhagavatam and so many other Vaisnava literatures so by assisting me in this regards you will be performing the highest service to Krsna.
Conversation with the GBC May 25, 1972
Prabhupāda: So, Hayagriva Prabhu is taking charge of pushing this movement by help in editorial work. So that is most important because we are distributing books. Our writing will be gospel.
Letter to Hayagriva July 7, 1972
I am very much pleased to learn that you are more settled in mind and peaceful, and that you are now editing my books nicely. That is what I always wanted, that you shall simply edit books....Now you go on in this spirit independently of any other responsibilities and produce books more and more, profusely.
I have read some portion of your Chaitanya Charitamrta, and it is nice.
Remembrance from Bhutatma dasa
Most evenings when he was in New Dwarka, Srila Prabhupada would hold darshan in his garden. On one such occasion, he asked for a devotee to read aloud from Krishna Book, while he sat blissfully on his dais and listened with rapt attention. Following a passage describing the Lord's "silver-electric blue" two-armed form, Prabhupada paused the reader, taking a moment to directly express his appreciation for the editing work done by Hayagriva Prabhu.
Despite the above endorsements by Srila Prabhupada there has been a robust campaign to discredit Hayagriva and his work. But does this not also undermine Srila Prabhupada's authority, discretion, and autonomy in the selection of his editor? Do we not believe His Divine Grace consulted his editor, oversaw and approved his work? Doesn't such a campaign to discredit Hayagriva's work also discredit Srila Prabhupada's work? Although conducted with subtlety and innuendo, the effort to discredit Hayagriva has been so effective that now when Srila Prabhupada's '72 edition of the Gita is mentioned in ISKCON it is often spoken of with contempt. Some devotees, including ISKCON leaders, refuse to read from the book or even touch it, labeling it with pejorative disdain as a "ritvik book".
We beg everyone to note, as the following quotes confirm, that Jayadvaita Swami is in complete agreement with Srila Prabhupada that Hayagriva was an expert editor.
Conversation between Govinda dasi and Jayadvaita Swami, Honolulu, Jan 19, 2003
Jayadvaita: Uh, again Hayagriva, I think is, as you said he was, expert in poetry, he was an expert editor. Uh, if I had to do the work that he did, I couldn’t have done it, and even now, I don’t think I have the same kind of skills that he had, in many arts.
Srila Prabhupada Letter to Satsvarupa- January 29, 1972
Concerning Hayagriva, he is unquestionably a very expert editor, so you please try to help him and encourage him to perform that service. If he can remain happy in Krishna's service then there is no measure to the value of his work.
This is Srila Prabhupada's own opinion and Jayadvaita Maharaja concurs. What faithful follower would disagree?
Now that we know Jayadvaita Maharaja is in agreement with Prabhupada that Hayagriva was an expert editor, and as we know Jayadvaita Maharaja to be an honorable Vaishnava, we are confident he will do the right thing by insisting that those who look up to him, curtail their criticism of the MacMillan edition of the Bhagavad-gita and Srila Prabhupada's appointed editor, Hayagriva prabhu. We also call upon him to repudiate those who act with duplicity by showing appreciation for the '72 Gita in public while working behind the scenes to disparage the same book and hamper its success. Jayadvaita Maharaja has announced that the original version is not in demand but the BBT has always kept it in print and available to those who want it. Yet reliable BBT insiders have revealed that the MacMillan edition has not always been in print and we know from experience that it has not always been available for purchase. We wonder how Jayadvaita Maharaja's own BBT staff as well as numerous temple authorities have misunderstood his intentions and rather than having both editions on hand they dissuade people from buying the original by vilifying it and failing to put it on display on book tables and in temple stores. What's more, temples and book distributors have been discouraged or prohibited from ordering and distributing it. Perhaps this is the reason the '72 Gita is not in demand.
We call upon Jayadvaita Maharaja, as a respectable brahmana Vaishnava and an ISKCON leader with a history of standing up for the truth, to look into this and do the needful to correct such discrepancies. Since these discrepancies have occurred on his watch, we pray he will not turn a blind eye, so that his reputation for truthfulness is not sullied by the actions of overzealous subordinates.
Srila Prabhupada lecture
Bhagavad-gita 2.32 September 2, 1973
A brahmana will never speak lie, at any cost. It is stated that even if his enemy inquires something confidential from him, he'll say, "Yes, this is my position." This is truthfulness. He'll not even, I mean to say, guile, against his enemy. He should be truthful.
Who's Really Responsible?
We should also remember that Hayagriva possessed a master's degree in English. During the period he was editing Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita he was also an English professor at Ohio State University. In addition, he edited several other books by Srila Prabhupada, wrote for BTG as well as other publications, started the Pittsburgh temple, was president of New Vrndavana and served as one of the first twelve Governing Body Commissioners appointed by His Divine Grace. On top of all this he had a wife and small child to care for. Aside from issues of editing and writing, the volume of correspondence between Srila Prabhupada and Hayagriva concerning his other responsibilities is staggering. Considering all his many important services, is it not reasonable to expect that Haygriva would leave minor editorial details to a copy editor--which is really the job of the copy editor and is the system used by professional publishers? Which raises another question: Were the thousands of "mistakes" that Jayadvaita Swami complains about and that have been blamed on Hayagriva, in reality, mistakes missed by the copy editor?
Although ISKCON Press at that time (BBT was not formed until May of '72) was certainly not as sophisticated as a large publishing house, from our best assessment of the evidence, Jayadvaita prabhu's service was tantamount to that of the copy editor*. While Hayagriva das Adhikari had numerous important services to juggle, Jayadvaita das Brahmacari had only one important service to perform--that of copy editor. If, back in 1972, there were as many mistakes in the book as he would have us believe, the responsibility for correcting them would have fallen on his shoulders. Is it possible Jayadvaita Swami's editing campaign is a latent attempt to cover his own tracks?
* According to Jayadvaita Swami's personal site, jswami.info, in his article, Who Did What, Jayadvaita Swami lists the different devotees involved in editing Srila Prabhupada's books through the years. Based on his own statement, he was the editor responsible for "final checking or polishing or supplying missing material" (i.e. copy editor) for the 1972 Bhagavad-gita As It Is. His article provides the following information:
Book Year Editor(s)
Bhagavad-gita As It Is (unabridged) 1972 Rayarama, Hayagriva (Jayadvaita)
In the beginning of the same article, Jayadvaita Swami states:
Editors mentioned in parentheses did minor work, usually in the form of final checking or polishing or supplying missing material.