Changes to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta
Below is an exchange of correspondence, referred to in the Caitanya-caritamrta-Page 1 section of Srila Prabhupäda: The Prominent Link, between Dhira Govinda däsa and a BBT representative. The topic is a change that was made on the first page of the most recent edition of Sri-Caitanya-caritamrita. Following the correspondence I make some comments.
Dec. 19, 1999
Dear … Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhuapda.
Below is the letter I sent to … with the BBT question that he has referred to you. Thank for your attention in this matter. Hare Krsna.
Dhira Govinda dasa
December 13, 1999
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I have a BBT-related question.
On my Prabhupada Vedabase, which I obtained from the BBT archives in 1996, a paragraph from the introduction to Chapter One of the Caitanya-caritamrta reads:
"The direct disciple of Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami was Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, who accepted Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti as his servitor. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura accepted Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji, who initiated Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who in turn initiated Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, the spiritual master of Om Visnupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, the divine master of our humble self."
In the recent edition of Caitanya-caritamrta (9-volume edition) the passage reads:
"The direct disciple of Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami was Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, who accepted Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti as his servitor. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura accepted Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji, the spiritual master of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who in turn accepted Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, the spiritual master of Om Visnupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, the divine master of our humble self."
On the Vedabase edition, which I assume is the original version dating back to the 1970s, it is stated that Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji initiated Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who in turn initiated Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji. In the 9-volume edition it is stated "...Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji, the spiritual master of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who in turn accepted Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji..."
I'm curious about the reason for the change. Did the original editors make a mistake- e.g., not properly hearing Srila Prabhupada's voice on tape? Or is it assumed that Srila Prabhupada made a historical mistake when he stated that Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji initiated Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and the 9-volume editors corrected this mistake? Or for some other reason?
Thank you for your attention in this matter. Hare Krsna.
Dhira Govinda dasa
[end of letter written by Dhira Govinda dasa]
Haribol Dhira Govinda Prabhu
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Thank you for your inquiry concerning the Caitanya-caritamrta changes. I agonized over this one for some time, consulting several senior devotees before making this change. Here was my thinking: First of all, there is no tape of this passage. Rather, it derives from an excerpt of the CC Srila Prabhupada published in March of 1960 in the BTG. Here is how the passage read there (from the latest VedaBase):
Viswanath Chakrabarty accepted Jagannath Das Babajee from whom Srila Bhaktivinode Thakore was initiated and Srila Gour Kishore Das Babajee the spiritual master of Om Vishnupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad-the Divine spiritual Master of our humble self.
Notice that while Srila Prabhupada does say that Bhaktivinode Thakura was initiated by Jagannatha das Babaji, he doesn't say that Gaura Kishora das Babaji was initiated by Bhaktivinode, which was added in the 1975 edition of the CC. Historically, neither is accurate if we accept the usual sense in which Srila Prabhupada used the word "initiated." So just on the grounds of bringing the new edition closer to the original words Srila Prabhupada wrote, no longer having Bhaktivinode initiating Gaura-kisora is justified. But we are still left with Jagannatha das initiating Bhaktivinode.
Before we proceed, I tracked down the source upon which Srila Prabhupada based this passage in his BTG and CC, and that is the song by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati called "Sri Guru-parampara". You'll find it in the latest edition of the Songs of the Vaisnava Acaryas, and it is included in the supplementary literature on the latest Vedabase. The actual relationship among all the principals is illuminated there.
The final bit of research that went into my decision was finding support for Srila Prabhupada's strict use of the word "initiated". I found this at Adi11.13:
Among his many disciples, Sriman Srinivasa Acarya was the most famous and the most dear, but it is doubtful that he was his initiated disciple.
This indicates that in this very book (CC) Srila Prabhupada reserved the phrase "initiated disciple" for a formal initiation, and that he felt that the word "disciple" is perfectly appropriate for someone who receives siksa but not diksa from a superior.
So now we have these considerations:
On the side of not changing the "initiated" phrases we have the strong bias against changing the books unless absolutely necessary and the fact that Srila Prabhupada did indeed say that Jagannatha das Babaji initiated Bhaktivinode.
On the side of changing we have this:
How the parampara is listed and perceived is very significant for all devotees. Many devotees know, and soon all devotees will know, that Jagannatha das Babaji did not initiate Bhaktivinode Thakur in any way that is normally understood from Srila Prabhupada's books, other statements, or practice.
Removing the idea that Bhaktivinode initiated Gaura-kisora (a removal supported by the ms) but leaving the other "initiated" will seem to be a gross oversight, since neither initiation is historically accurate.
Leaving one or both "initiated"s will strongly imply that the use of the phrases "direct disciple" and even "accepted [as his disciple]" indicate formal initiation as we know it in ISKCON, which is far from the truth. (Narottama may have "accepted" Visvanatha as his servitor, but it wasn't on the physical plane, since there is a gap between their lifetimes; likewise between Visvanath and Jagannatha das.)
This last was the weightiest argument, in my view, for changing the passage.
So, after weighing these arguments carefully and consulting with several learned Godbrothers (who came out in favor of change, but not unanimously) and agonizing for several days, I decided to remove the "initiated"s.
Hoping this meets you well, I remain
[end of letter written by the BBT representative]
Of concern is that the explanation for deleting the word “initiated” seems to be largely based on the understanding of the word “initiated”, “as we know it in ISKCON”. Perhaps when Srila Prabhupada used the word “initiated”, he did so deliberately, and the meaning of the term as it has come to be understood in ISKCON is faulty. That is, instead of making changes in this passage based on what we think Srila Prabhupada may have meant, it may be fruitful to consider that the current conception in the organization of the word “initiated” is not perfectly consistent with Srila Prabhupada’s understanding of the concept.
One possible way that this could be true is by referring to one of the definitions that Srila Prabhupada often gave for diksa, or initiation. Namely, Srila Prabhupada frequently equated diksa with the process of imparting transcendental knowledge, or divya-jnana. In the purport of Madhya-léla, 15:108, Srila Prabhupada quotes Srila Jiva Goswami as follows. “Diksa is the process by which one can awaken his transcendental knowledge and vanquish all reactions caused by sinful activity. A person expert in the study of the revealed scriptures knows this process as diksa.” Also, in the purport to Madhya-léla, 4:112, Srila Prabhupada writes “Diksa actually means initiating a disciple with transcendental knowledge by which he becomes freed from all material contamination.” In a lecture on July 29, 1968, Srila Prabhupada said “This is called initiation. Or initiation from the very beginning. This is called diksa. The Sanskrit term is called diksa. Diksa means... Di, divya-jnanam, transcendental knowledge, and ksa, iksa. Iksa means darsana, to see, or ksapayati, explain. That is called diksa.” This is similarly confirmed in several lectures and conversations (e.g., June 17, 1976 initiation lecture; July 11, 1976 lecture; February 22, 1973 lecture; December 29, 1973 lecture; January 27, 1977 conversation).
Perhaps Srila Prabhupada was referring to diksa, or initiation, in the sense of “transmitting transcendental knowledge” when he used the word “initiated” to describe the relationship between Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji and Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur. The ISKCON Governing Body Commission has asserted that Srila Prabhupada is the “preeminent siksa guru” for all ISKCON members and that “ISKCON members shall be trained to place their faith, trust and allegiance first and foremost in the Founder-Acarya who is the preeminent siksa guru for every member of ISKCON.” The Vaisnava who is the preeminent instructor, or siksa guru, and who, more than any other Vaisnava, is worthy of faith, trust and allegiance, may also be considered to be the primary deliverer of transcendental knowledge. Imparting transcendental knowledge, or divya-jnana, is the essence of initiation, and thus the primary deliverer of transcendental knowledge may be considered to be the diksa guru, at least in a transcendental sense, though not necessarily in a formal sense.
In expounding these thoughts my hope is that, with a clearer, deeper, and perhaps synthetic understanding of initiation, or diksa, our Vaisnava society may be able to bridge some gaps and resolve some divisive conflicts. This paper makes no pretense to resolve issues, though I believe that the points described herein are important for discussion. Srila Prabhupada wrote (CC Adi 1:35 purport) "A devotee must have only one initiating spiritual master because in the scriptures acceptance of more than one is always forbidden.” We know that Vipina Vihari Goswami initiated Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, but Srila Prabhupada also wrote, in the original version of Caitanya-Caritamrita, that Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji initiated Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur. Perhaps changing Srila Prabhupada’s words is the appropriate solution to resolve this, though perhaps it may also be fruitful to consider other solutions by looking more closely at various definitions of “diksa” and “initiation”. Hare Krsna.