Tuesday, August 05, 2008


I hear that some person or persons are conducting some kind of ill-conceived campaign against my editing Satya Narayan Prabhu's translation of Bhagavat-sandarbha. Such is the way of the world. I have enemies whom I have not wronged.

But let me say, first of all, that Satya Narayan's Bhagavat-sandarbha will be better than any edition of this book, in any language whatever. I am looking at several editions as I do this work and I say this with utmost confidence. And I include my editing work as a contributing factor to this enhanced quality.

Let me tell you a few of the features that will set this edition apart:

(1) The reading of the Sanskrit edition itself is being revised. Currently, the Puri Das edition is the standard for all the Sandarbhas and was used by Haridas Shastri and Shyamlal Hakim, who are the most recent publishers of translations in Hindi. There are other editions of Bhagavat-sandarbha, the most recent in Bengali is that done by Kanailal Adhikari and published by Bodhayan Maharaj of Gopinath Gaudiya Math.

But Puri Das's edition is not perfect, and much of the numbering, arranging of divisions in the anucchedas, breaking up of sentences, etc., needs improvement. We are thoughtfully and carefully doing the same.

The Sanskrit of Puri Das's edition, along with its alternate readings will be posted on the Grantha Mandir for the benefit of those who want to study the translation more closely. As a sidenote, one defect of the Puri Das editions is that no analysis or hierarchization of the manuscripts and other editions used was made. In a true critical edition, one has to come up with a scheme for choosing the best readings, other than "I like this one better." Normally, an introduction should discuss the merits and demerits of each of the sources, with their dates.

Printed editions should be correlated to handwritten manuscripts. Sources and pedigrees of manuscripts should be named, e.g., if a manuscript of Bhagavat-sandarbha comes from the Radha Damodar mandir, then we should certainly give it a certain priority, especially if it is in Sri Jiva's own handwriting! That would turn all other manuscripts and printed editions into commentary or correction at best.

We know that Jiva revised many of his works, and indeed the entire Sandarbha project was something of a team effort with Gopala Bhatta, in which Jiva was himself the editor. Early editions of these works may have been sent to Bengal and then later revised. There is some indication of this in the Jadavpur University editions, which apparently are based on old Bengali manuscripts. There are many passages missing in this edition which may well have been added later by Jiva and are now found in the Vrindavan editions. Such differences are of significance in getting insight to Sri Jiva's thought. Another source of comparison is the Krama-sandarbha, which though based on the Sat-sandarbha may have been finalized at a different time and thus occasionally contains interesting and noteworthy alternative readings.

(2) Satya Narayan's edition will be much more meticulous than any previous edition in making the relation of the verses to Jiva's commentaries clear. The version of the Bhagavat-sandarbha that was published on Rocana's site is from an older edition of Satya Narayan's work, and is not Kushakratha's as some might think. But this edition also uses Prabhupada's translations, which were not written in the context of Jiva's argumentation. These translations thus often cloud the issue and distract the mind from the logical processes that are being followed.

But it is not only the translations of the verses, but also the correspondence of the commentaries to the translation, so that one never loses sight of what Jiva is actually refering to in the Bhagavatam when he says something.

Here I must say, though, that without Satya Narayan's insight, I would have personally found it impossible to do justice to a translation of this work. Even puzzling over Hindi and Bengali translations (which often make it quite easy to obfuscate), it is not always easy to make clear sense of the Sanskrit. But SN is unfailingly correct and clear. He may have some shortcomings in his expression or in his English (even though this version was already worked on by Kundali, who could not read the original however, and perhaps others), but I rarely have argument with his interpretation.

(3) Moreover, Satya Narayan's commentary is insightful and learned. There is in fact no other edition of the Sandarbhas that elaborates on the text in such a clear manner. (There are very few commentaries that I know of. Haridas Shastri mixes comment with translation, which is never a good idea.)

SN brings the logical categories and style of argumentation to life, and serves as a primer in nyaya, sankhya, grammar, and many other of the tools of the Sanskrit pandits trade. Furthermore, he contextualizes the illustrative verses, recounting the lilas in which they appear, thus adding a bit of lightness and color to what can sometimes be grueling. He constantly clarifies and summarizes overall arguments, shows the continuity between texts, etc. His commentary is never superfluous.

In this effort, we have de-Iskconized the language, but not de-devotionalized it. While maintaining the highest scholarly standards, SN never masks his support for Jiva's point of view.

In all this, I am acting as a humble servant, attempting to do my honest best to serve the intent of the translator and, where necessary, the original author. This work has languished far too long, as it was first compiled more than 15 years ago when Satya Narayan was still in Iskcon. He has made many improvements since then and would like to see it finally published. I don't think he is in the mood for further delays, and he is understandably impatient with my slow progress. But I doubt that he would like to change horses in midstream now, in view of the lack of reliable and diligent editors of quality and in view of the necessity for any work to show a consistency of style and approach.

SN told me that some members of the Vaishnava community had told me that they threatened to boycott any edition of the work that I participated in, but he simply laughed. His concern is with the quality of the edition that he will publish and he has expressed confidence in me. So to those who think that they will be able to sway his determination, you are welcome to try. But I suggest rather that you wait until the book is published and then buy it and then study it closely. You will be rewarded, I can assure you.

हाथी चले बाजार कुत्ता भौंके हजार
साधु का दुर्भाव नहीं जब निन्दे संसार

चण्डालः किमयं द्विजातिरथवा शूद्रोऽथवा तापसः
किं वा तत्त्वविवेकापेशलमतिर्योगीश्वरो कोऽपि वा ।
इत्युत्पन्नविकल्पजल्पमुखरैः सम्भाष्यमाणा जनैः
न क्रुद्धाः पथि नैव तुष्टमनसो यान्ति स्वयं योगिनः ॥

बुरी नजरवाले, तेरा मुंह काला !



Jagat said...

I don't think there will be much effect, either. Anyway, I just thought I would glorify the work that has been done and that I am doing. I am working, but it is still slow going. So hopefully I will finish my bit by the end of the summer.

SN's commentary is clearly separated from the text, and the layout should definitely be better than Tattva-sandarbha.

Jagat said...

Of course, SN has already told me that it is a handicap for him that Iskcon people will not buy his books.

How many Madhurya-kadambinis were sold? And yet, it is a great book and was very well done. Everybody should buy a copy! (I don't even have one here, but I will see that a couple of copies get into Swami Veda's library.)

Ultimately, the audience for such books is small. I guess SN's best hope for a market would be university libraries and scholars. He needs a distributor and a marketing strategy. Hoping people will come knocking on your door has limited hopes for success.

visnudas said...

Actually, Baba- in my little backwater my ISKCON friends are great fans of SN's (and your)writing. They don't seem to have the strange affliction that makes them less forgiving of (kula/grama/vamsh/personal) variation or hetero-doxy among other Vaishnavas than among members of entirely other sects.
I have noticed how often Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is quoted and mentioned among Gaudiyas and yet heaven forbid an IGM quote a parivar-vaishnava and vice-versa.
You also are on this list. Persona-non-grata but xyz bom bolo tantrick baba is quoted favorably.
Care to explain?

Anonymous said...

Who cares about who edited a book? Isn't it the content which is important? Oh well - if somebody boycotts SN's Bhagavat Sandarbha it's their bad luck!

BTW, I find it pretty ironic that an ex-Gaudiya, neo-Buddhist philanthropist like Ananda can't keep away from Gaudiya Vaisnava forums and add his 2 cents now and again.

Or does this herald a second coming of Madhavananda???

Jagat said...

XYZ Bom Baba is being quoted in IGM circles?

Anyway, I agree that the content is what counts, that's why I am not too disturbed by this bit of trivia. But I am deeply into the work right now, and it was fun talking a little about it.

Anonymous said...

Since when did Mandala and BG Narasingha Mj.launch a boycott campaign?

Jagat said...

This is probably a reference to the reactions that came when I was still translating for Mandala and I wrote an article about Bhaktivinoda Thakur's "three books" that many people took objection to. Nrisingha Maharaj led the charge and my engagement with Mandala pretty much stopped thereafter. But there were other factors involved where Mandala is concerned and I don't really think that this was the only reason.

Besides Narasingha's objections, I also received letters from Bodhayan Maharaj and Ramdas that were very critical of my article.

Rocana in his recent letter to me also mentioned that article as one of the reasons that he is unhappy with me.

"I trust you also understand my position on your now infamous comments against HDG Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. I have read your follow-up explanations, but still cannot accept what you've written, or your reasons for doing so. I'm sure you've had trouble relating to many of Srila Prabhupada's followers since going public with that material, and I appreciate that it may be a painful situation..."