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The surprising events surrounding the initial publication of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
The Macmillan Miracle
By Sriman Satyaraja Prabhu
The Bhagavad-gita was important to Srila Prabhupada. He saw it as the perfect book to convey Krishna consciousness, as it consists of the Lord’s own words and His interactions with His loving devotee. In 1939, just seven years after Prabhupada was initiated by his spiritual master, he wrote a lengthy introduction to the book in English, presaging his full translation and commentary, which appeared soon after he began his mission in the West.
When Prabhupada arrived in New York in 1965, he gave priority to his work on the Gita. In India he had already completed a translation, spanning well over a thousand pages, but it was stolen. In March 1966, Prabhupada was adjusting to life in the Western world when he met with another loss: his typewriter, cassette recorder, and several books were taken from him. But he was resilient and determined to complete his work. In 1967 he finished the new manuscript, again over a thousand pages, and resolved to get a major publisher so that his message would be heard throughout the world.
At the time, Allen Ginsberg, famous poet of the Beat Generation, was visiting the New York temple, and he was enjoying a friendly relationship with Srila Prabhupada. Since Ginsberg was an experienced published author, Prabhupada asked him to show the manuscript to his benefactors, which Ginsberg did. But they were unimpressed, claiming the book had little commercial value.
Prabhupada then gave the manuscript to Rayarama Dasa, an early disciple with some experience in the publishing world. Rayarama, too, was unsuccessful in his attempts, his contacts explaining their hesitation in much the same way that Ginsberg’s did.