Srila Prabhupada quotes on Misinterpretation of Bhagavad GIta

April 14, 2021 in Articles by Laksman dasa

Inline image
Inline image
Inline image

Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out on Misinterpretation of Bhagavad Gita

Hare Krsna, all glories to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and all Vaisnavas. The following quotes give some instructions on misinterpretations of Bhagavad Gita.

Source: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NcynTQ3sIX8Axt7Qnq9tb6gU5oALya2f/view?usp=sharing

Prabhupāda: There is nothing doubtful; everything is very plain. But we, by our rascaldom, we make it doubt. By our rascal interpretation. Everyone can understand. Just like dharma-kṣetre kuru-kṣetre samavetā yuyutsavaḥ [Bg. 1.1]. The Kurukṣetra is dharma-kṣetra. Still Kurukṣetra is there in India, and it is dharma-kṣetre. People go there for performing religious ritualistic ceremonies. So where is the difficulty to understand? And five thousand years ago the Kurus and Pāṇḍavas, they assembled there for fighting—that is clearly stated, dharma-kṣetre kuru-kṣetre samavetā yuyutsavaḥ [Bg. 1.1]. Who were they? Māmakāḥ pāṇḍavāś caiva: “My sons and the sons of Pāṇḍu,” Kuru-Pāṇḍava. So where is the difficulty to understand? But by misinterpretation they’ll write volumes of books and spoil the whole thing. This is going on. This business should be stopped. Then we will be benefited. Everyone is misinterpreting. Is it not a fact they are misinterpreting? What do you think? Conversations : 1976 Conversations : July, 1976 : Evening Darsana — July 11, 1976, New York : 760711ed.ny : 

Prabhupāda: Then you present them. That is, I have taken, that this is the summum bonum of Indian culture, Bhagavad-gītā. Bhagavad-gītā is accepted all over the world as the greatest book of knowledge, so take this standard and preach, and people will be enlightened, without misinterpretation Conversations : 1976 Conversations : July, 1976 : Evening Darsana — July 11, 1976, New York : 760711ed.ny : 

Prabhupāda: This is marvelous. You give the real thing, and it will act. If you give false things, naṣṭa, so superficially it is (Sanskrit), but if it is spoiled, it will create disease. Our leaders, our politicians, our swamis and yogis, they have spoiled Bhagavad-gītā by misinterpretation. Then what benefit he’ll derive? They are spoiling, and they are followers. Now whatever is done is done. You can reform it and again it will be all right. Now call, if there is any question 

Conversations : 1977 Conversations : May, 1977 : Room Conversation — May 8, 1977, Hrishikesh : 770508r3.hri : 

The Western philosophers mostly of the Sankhya school have less aquaintance with the Vedanta Darsana and philosophers like Kant, Mill, Aristotle or Schopenhauer etc all belong to either of the above five Darsanas except Vedanta because limited human thinking power cannot go beyond that stage. But Vedanta Darsana is far beyond the limited mental speculation of the human brain conditioned by material nature. Unfortunately Sankara who belonged to the Mayavada school made a misinterpretation of the Vedanta for his own purpose to convert the Buddhists in India.

Letters : 1951 Correspondence : Letter to: Mr. Bailey — Allahabad 2 October, 1951 : 51-10-02 : 

I am so glad to learn that you are eager to preach but we should know it that we cannot preach without being solid in our standing as devotee. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu said that “apani acari prabhu jivare sikhaya.” This means that Lord Caitanya wanted that one should preach by behaving himself exactly what he preaches. So our Krsna consciousness movement, preaching, depends on personal behavior. If you want to preach the gospel of Lord Jesus Christ on the principles of Bhagavad-gita you will find so many differences. Those who are following Jesus Christ, let them follow strictly to the principles of the Bible. “Thou shalt not kill” is now being misinterpreted by Christian priests. Now they say “Thou shall not murder.” This means trying to save themselves from the crime of animal killing. So you cannot teach such unscrupled followers the message of Bhagavad-gita. If you want to preach Bible you can tell them why there will be misinterpretation. In N.Y. there is a big press that prints “Watchtower.” They are forcefully criticizing Christian behavior. I read that one Christian priest allowed a marriage between two men—homosex. So these things are going on. So your proposal for preaching the gospel on the basis of Bhagavad-gita will not be successful. If you want to do that I cannot check you but I cannot allow you to do such things from within our society. You have to understand our philosophy perfectly, follow the regulative principles, and then in fact you can edit our books and papers. Letters : 1971 Correspondence : October : Letter to: Rayarama — Bombay 22 October, 1971 : 71-10-22 : 

Out of many millions of persons, they try to understand what is the perfection of life, and out of many such millions of persons who are in the line of understanding perfection of life, some of them or some one may understand Kṛṣṇa. Muhyanti yat sūrayaḥ. Just like Brahmā was also bewildered whether Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Brahmā, the first creature of this universe, he’s also… muhyanti yat sūrayaḥ. Therefore we should take advantage of this opportunity. Kṛṣṇa is explaining Himself in the Bhagavad-gītā, about Himself. That is the highest perfection of life, simply to understand Bhagavad-gītā as it is. As spoken by Kṛṣṇa. Then one’s life is perfect. But unfortunately, so many scholars and swamis, they are misinterpreting Kṛṣṇa and Bhagavad-gītā. The people are placed in darkness. They are already in darkness. By misinterpretation, they are putting them in darkness. They cannot understand Kṛṣṇa. For practical example you can see in European countries the Bhagavad-gītā was being studied at least for two hundred, three hundred years, but there was not a single devotee of Kṛṣṇa, not even. Within the history. And now they are studying Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, you will find thousands of kṛṣṇa-bhaktas. They are not given the chance to understand Bhagavad-gītā by misinterpretation. “This means that, this means that, Kṛṣṇa means this, Kurukṣetra means body.” Misinterpretation, misled. Therefore we are presenting Bhagavad-gītā as it is, and people are accepting and becoming seriously devotee of Kṛṣṇa. They are surprised, the newspaper reporters. They inquire from me, “Swamiji, why younger generation is attracted with this movement?” And younger generation, they are inquisitive. Old fools, whatever they have learned they have to forget again. Then they will, it will take some time. They have learned something wrong. So one has to be washed of these wrong impressions; then he can come to the point of understanding Kṛṣṇa. But these young hearts, they are receptive. They are seeing, “Here is nice.” They are accepting. They are chanting now on the streets. You have heard that record, Hare Kṛṣṇa Conversations : 1973 Conversations : September, 1973 : Room Conversation — September 19, 1973, Bombay : 730919rc.bom : 

Prabhupāda: No, no. First of all try to understand that what is the defect. The defect is that malinterpretation, bad interpretation. Interpretation is required when a thing you cannot understand. But if a thing is clearly understood, why you interpret to mislead the leader? That is our protest. It is clearly understood. Kṛṣṇa says, man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru [Bg. 18.65]. Sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja [Bg. 18.66]. Then what right you have got to say that “It is not Kṛṣṇa; it is something else”? That has misled our country. Do you admit or not? This misinterpretation. Why should you misinterpret in the Bhagavad-gītā? If you have got a different philosophy, you can write your own books, but why through Bhagavad-gītā? This is very dangerous. This is very, very dangerous. It has spoiled the whole country. You write your own philosophy. But why do you take advantage of Bhagavad-gītā and misinterpret it and mislead the people? That is my protest.Conversations : 1974 Conversations : April, 1974 : Press Conference — April 18, 1974, Hyderabad : 740418pc.hyd : 

Prabhupāda: So this is the easiest process, that you learn Bhagavad-gītā. Don’t misinterpret. There is no question of misinterpretation. They, by their, what is called, crippled mind, they misinterpret. Otherwise there is no question of. Where is the difficulty to understand? So Kṛṣṇa says, “Anyone who preaches this Kṛṣṇa philosophy, He is My dearmost person.” So if you are recognized by Kṛṣṇa, then that is saṁsiddhiḥ hari-toṣaṇam. That is wanted. Boliye. Any question? (Pause) No question? Tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā [Bg. 4.34]. There must be paripraśna, yes or no Conversations : 1975 Conversations : March, 1975 : Room Conversation with Indian Guests — March 13, 1975, Tehran : 750313r2.teh

Prabhupāda: There is nothing doubtful; everything is very plain. But we, by our rascaldom, we make it doubt. By our rascal interpretation. Everyone can understand. Just like dharma-kṣetre kuru-kṣetre samavetā yuyutsavaḥ [Bg. 1.1]. The Kurukṣetra is dharma-kṣetra. Still Kurukṣetra is there in India, and it is dharma-kṣetre. People go there for performing religious ritualistic ceremonies. So where is the difficulty to understand? And five thousand years ago the Kurus and Pāṇḍavas, they assembled there for fighting—that is clearly stated, dharma-kṣetre kuru-kṣetre samavetā yuyutsavaḥ [Bg. 1.1]. Who were they? Māmakāḥ pāṇḍavāś caiva: “My sons and the sons of Pāṇḍu,” Kuru-Pāṇḍava. So where is the difficulty to understand? But by misinterpretation they’ll write volumes of books and spoil the whole thing. This is going on. This business should be stopped. Then we will be benefited. Everyone is misinterpreting. Is it not a fact they are misinterpreting? What do you think? Conversations : 1976 Conversations : July, 1976 : Evening Darsana — July 11, 1976, New York : 760711ed.ny : 

So the point is Bhagavad-gītā is well known all over the world. Not now… Because we are preaching Bhagavad-gītā through this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, and millions of people are interested… We have got so many books, and the calculation is already submitted. They are accepting this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement through literature, and big, big scholars, professors, librarian, they are purchasing our books very nicely. The total collection daily is five to six lakhs of rupees. So now this Kṛṣṇa movement is being appreciated all over the world. Unfortunately, although Bhagavad-gītā is spoken in this land of Bhāratavarṣa, Chandigarh, the Kurukṣetra, we do not allow Kṛṣṇa to speak. This is our misfortune. Kṛṣṇa spoke these words of Bhagavad-gītā. Many scholars, many so-called saintly persons, they have misinterpreted the words of Bhagavad-gītā. They did not allow to speak Kṛṣṇa. They wanted to speak on behalf of Kṛṣṇa… Not on behalf of Kṛṣṇa. I am sorry. They wanted to speak about themself. If one speaks on behalf of Kṛṣṇa, he is guru. But if one manufactures some idea from the words of Kṛṣṇa by misinterpretation and does not allow Kṛṣṇa to speak, it is a great dangerous position. That has become actually the fact in India. Otherwise such a big culture, complete culture… From the Bhagavad-gītā, any question you can raise, the answer is there. Political, social, religious, philosophical, cultural—any way you study Bhagavad-gītā, the complete answer is there. Therefore our request is that let Kṛṣṇa speak for Himself. Don’t try to misinterpret the words of Kṛṣṇa or the words in the Bhagavad-gītā. That will spoil it. Just like in the beginning it is said, Lectures : General Lectures : Address to Rotary Club — Chandigarh, October 17, 1976 : 761017LE.CHA : 

So Kṛṣṇa can be understood only by devotion. Bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ [Bg. 18.55]. So we have to take this process, śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇu. So our only request is that to understand Kṛṣṇa is not very difficult if we read Bhagavad-gītā perfectly, seriously. Then Kṛṣṇa is understood. And as soon as you understand Kṛṣṇa… Because Kṛṣṇa is explaining Himself, what is the difficulty to understand Kṛṣṇa? Hm? If you, Mr. Birla, you explain that “I am like this. I have got so much money, I have got so many business, I have got so many factories,” if you explain, then where is my difficulty? But if I speculate, “Mr. Birla may be…, so much (indistinct) may be had.” That is always imperfect. But if you understand directly from Mr. Birla, then it is clear. So Kṛṣṇa, God, is explaining Himself, “I am like…” Asaṁśayaṁ samagraṁ māṁ yathā jñāsyasi tac chṛṇu [Bg. 7.1]. So there is not very difficult to understand Kṛṣṇa if we simply… But if we interpret foolishly, and try to understand Kṛṣṇa by misinterpretation, then the business is finished. Don’t do that. Simply try to understand Kṛṣṇa as He is explaining Himself, then your life is successful. How it is successful Lectures : General Lectures : Lecture Engagement at Birla House — Bombay, December 17, 1975 : 751217LE.BOM : 

Prabhupāda: Well, if the translation is all right, it is proper. But there are so many rubbish translations. You see. There are so many rubbish translations. Misinterpretation. That is dangerous. Translation, if there is right translation, it is all right.  Lectures : General Lectures : Lecture — Jakarta, March 1, 1973 : 730301LE.JKT : 

So it is understood from any source of scriptural injunction that the Supreme Lord, or Kṛṣṇa, is the maintainer of the individual living entities, and it is the duty of the individual entity to feel obliged to the Supreme Lord. This is the whole background of religious principle. Without this acknowledgement, there is chaos, as it is happening in our daily experience at the present moment. Everyone is trying to become the Supreme Lord, either socially, politically or individually. Therefore there is competition for this false lordship and there is chaos all over the world, individually, nationally, socially or collectively. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is trying to establish the supremacy of the Absolute Personality of Godhead. The human society is meant for this understanding because this consciousness makes his life successful. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is not a new introduction of the mental speculators. Actually this movement was started by Kṛṣṇa Himself in the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra. At least five thousand years ago the movement was presented by Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā. From this Bhagavad-gītā we can understand that this system of consciousness was spoken by Him long, long before—He imparted to the sun-god Vivasvān. That calculation goes to show that before the repetition of the Bhagavad-gītā in the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra, it was once before explained at least forty million years ago. So this movement is not at all new. It is coming down from disciplic succession, and in India from all great leaders of the Vedic society like Śaṅkarācārya, Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇu Svāmī, Nimbārka, and lately, about 480 years ago, Lord Caitanya. The principle is still being followed today. This Bhagavad-gītā is also very widely persued in all parts of the world by great scholars, philosophers, and religionists. But in most cases the principle is not followed as it is. Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement means to present the principles of the Bhagavad-gītā as it is, without any misinterpretation. Lectures : General Lectures : Press Release — Los Angeles, December 22, 1968 : 681222LE.LA

Prabhupāda: Of course, there cannot be any interpretation in the Bible. Then there is no authority of Bible. If you interpret something… Just like “Call a spade a spade.” So if you call something else, that is a different thing. He’s not spiritual master. Just like this is watch. Everybody has called it watch, and if I call it spectacle, then what is the value of my being spiritual master? I’m misleading. (laughter) It is watch, that I must say. So when there is misinterpretation, he’s not a bona fide spiritual master. He’s not spiritual master, what is called a bona fide. If I want to teach you how to see this watch, I can say that “This is called watch and this is called hand and this is called time indication; this is, this called…,” so that is nice. And if I say that “Everybody says it is watch. I say it is spectacle,” then what kind of a spiritual master I am? Reject him immediately. That intelligence you must have, who is a pseudo spiritual master or real spiritual master. Otherwise you’ll be cheated. And that is being done. Everyone is interpreting in his own way. The Bhagavad-gītā, there are thousands of editions, and they have tried to interpret in their own way, all nonsense. They should be all thrown away. Simply you have to read Bhagavad-gītā as it is. Then you’ll understand. There is no question of interpretation. Then the authority is gone. As soon as you interpret, then there is no authority. Lawbook. Do you mean to say in the court if you say before the judge, “My dear lord, I interpret this passage in this way,” will it be accepted? The judge will at once say, “Who are you to interpret? You have no right.” Then what is the authority of this lawbook if everyone comes, “I interpret in this way”? And interpretation when required? When a thing is not understood. If I say, “It is watch,” and everyone understands that “This is watch, yes,” then where is the opportunity of interpreting that this is spectacle? If anyone can understand the clear passage… Just like in the Bible, “God said, ‘Let there be creation,’ and there was creation.” Where is the question of interpretation? Yes, God created. You cannot create. Where is the opportunity of interpretation? So unnecessary interpretation is not required and that is not bona fide, and those who are interpreting unnecessarily, they should be rejected immediately. Immediately, without any consideration. God said, “Let there be creation.” So there was creation. Simple thing. Where is the question of interpretation? What can be the interpretation here? Suggest that this can be interpretation. Am I right? In the beginning of the Bible it is said like that? “God said, ‘Let there be creation,’ and there was creation. So what is your interpretation? Tell me what is your interpretation. Is there any possibility of interpretation? Can any one of you suggest? Then where is the opportunity of interpretation? One can explain. That is different thing, but the fact that God created, that will remain. That you cannot change. Now, how that creative process took place, that is explained in Bhāgavatam: First of all, there was sky, then there was sound, then there was this, that. This is the process of creation, that is another thing. But the fact, the primary fact that God created, that will remain at any circumstances. Not the rascal scientist says, “Oh, there was a chunk and it is split up, and there was these planets. Perhaps this and likely this,” all this nonsense. They’ll simply interpret, “likely,” “perhaps.” That is not science—”likely,” “perhaps.” Why perhaps? Here is clear statement, “God created.” That’s all. Finish. Yes. Lectures : General Lectures : Lecture — Seattle, October 2, 1968 : 681002LE.SEA :