De-emphasizing Krsna's Pronouns


Mar 8, CANADA (SUN) — Over a several month period of time various devotees began to notice what appeared to be a trend in the BTG, wherein lower-case pronouns were being used to describe Lord Krsna. Numerous letters were written by the devotees, who wondered if this was a new policy being established by the BBT. The following letter was received from Nagaraja dasa in response to these queries. Also included here is an explanatory letter from Jayadvaita Swami on the subject.

Elsewhere in the Sun. we are presenting letters written by other devotees on this subject. Coincidentally, today's edition also includes an editorial on book changes, which some may be consider to be a parallel topic to the proposed pronoun changes.

    February 11, 2006

    Dear ...... Prabhu,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    Some months ago, Jayadvaita Swami submitted a proposal to the BBT for using lower-case pronouns for God. I have attached that proposal to this email.

    As a result of that proposal, the BBT asked BTG to test the use of lower-case pronouns. So, in the spirit of cooperation, we are doing that. I am collecting responses from devotees, such as this email from you, and I will show them to the BBT members so that they can later decide whether to implement the policy or abandon it.

    Thank you for your concern.

    Hare Krsna.
    Your servant,
    Nagaraja dasa


BBT Style: Regarding lower case for "divine pronouns"

Since the beginning, the BBT style for capitalizing pronouns has been this:

The pronoun He is capitalized for Krsnaa and His Visnu-tattva expansions,
and She for Srimate Radharani. For two or more of these together, They is
capitalized; but when anyone else is included, they becomes lower case.
Hence Balarama is He, but Subhadra is she; and Krsna and Arjuna, and the
Jagannatha deities, and the Panca-tattva are all they. We, Him, Her, She,
and possessives are treated in a similar fashion.

Strong reasons can be advanced, however, for leaving aside our present
standard in favor of extending "down style' to all pronouns.

The editors of Chicago "urge a spare, down style" in the field of religion,
as in others. Specifically, they say that pronouns referring to God (or
Christ) "are today preferably not capitalized."

Does the use of lower case signify an impious lack of regard for the Deity?
The King James Bible, that great work of awe and reverence, affords God a
lower-case he. (For that matter, so does the Book of Mormon.)

In BBT publications, the style of pronouns in the plural can be puzzling.
Why are the Jagannatha deities or the Panca-tattva they?

More disturbing still is the use of a capitalized pronoun that belies the
context in which it appears -- as it often does. For example, Nanda Maharaja
says to Krsna:

My boy, You must be tired from so much wandering in the forest. Go home with
Your elder brother and take Your bath. I will look after the cows. Please
don't delay any longer or Your mother will be unhappy and scold me. Please
cooperate and go right now.

Here the pronoun with which Nanda addresses Krsna bears an honorific capital
though Nanda's mood towards Krsna is decidedly 'lower case.'

Similarly, ,Sisupala hurls at Krsna scurrilous insults, with a piously
reverent capital: "I think Krsna to be no better than a crow -- how can He
be fit to accept the first worship in this great sacrifice?"

And yet again, sometimes the capital not only clashes with a speaker's mood
but even gives away the story line. For example, when an unknown boy brings
milk, Madhavendra Puri asks:

Who are You? Where do You reside? And how did You know that I was fasting?

All such anomalies would be remedied by the consistent use of pronouns in
lower case. This is the style that Dravida and I both favor.

Though scholars and general readers may find lower case entirely natural, we
need to take into account that many ISKCON devotees are likely to see it as
a shocking sign that the BBT (probably influenced by demonic scholars) has
slid into treating Krsna "like an ordinary human being."

Some would no doubt point out that ,Srila Prabhupada, in his original
Bhagavatam, used upper-case pronouns. And in a talk with his editors on
December 4, 1969, he again endorsed upper-case pronouns.

Of course, in that original Bhagavatam ,Srila Prabhupada also sometimes used
upper-case Who. And in that 1969 conversation his general attitude was "the
fewer capitals the better."

And so, although we naturally defer to Srila Prabhupada's example in so many
areas, we need to ask ourselves whether typographic conventions should be
one of them. And since the 1969 exchange about pronouns was brief, we need
to ask ourselves whether to regard it as a definitive instruction or a
circumstantial comment.

In proposing lower case, one option open to us is to first try a lower-case
policy in BTG, where we can gauge feedback and revert to upper case should
we choose.

In any event, we propose the lower-case standard only for new books, not for
,Srila Prabhupada's already published titles.

Hare Krsna.


Here is the 1969 conversation:

Satsvarapa: Prabhupada, in editing, there are two different policies about
using capitals. One is to use as few capitals as possible or to use many
capitals, in grammar capitalized, or to use few. So sometimes your Nectar of
Devotion has got very few capitals. When Balarama is referred to as "he,"
there is no capital. But the other policy is to always put. . . Krsna's
Hands, capital H, Krsna's Feet, capital F, Krsna Who, capital W. Which is. .

Prabhupada: No, no, no. Don't follow that policy. That will not be very. . .
Then. . .

Satsvarupa: The less capitals the better?

Prabhupada: Yes. I think. What do you think?

Hayagriva: Well, I think, when referring to Krsna, we should always have a
capital H.

Prabhupada: Especially. Yes. Especially for Krsna, you can.

Hayagriva: And if we want to, for Radha, capital S.

Prabhupada: But Balarama is not different from Krsna.

Satsvarupa: So He is capital H.

Hayagriva: So He is capital H. But then, here we go. [laughter]

Prabhupada: No, no. You limit to these three. That will do.

Hayagriva: Limit to those three.

Prabhupada: Or Visn'u. Yes. Visnu.

Hayagriva: What about avataras, in reference to Christ or Buddha?

Prabhupada: Buddha is capital used. Jesus Christ is capital used.

Satsvarupa: Yes. But he. . . Like He. He means Buddha. Who.

Hayagriva: No, He.

Prabhupada: No. That you can use. . .

Satsvarupa: Small.

Prabhupada: Yes.

Satsvarupa: Then words like Krsna's "pastimes," "entourage," His "will."

Prabhupada: No, small.

Satsvarupa: Small.

Prabhupada: Yes.

Hayagriva: The possessions of Krsna, small.

Prabhupada: Small.

Satsvarupa: His hands and feet, small.

Brahmananda: Lotus feet?

Prabhupada: Yes.

Satsvarupa: Lotus flower?

Prabhupada: Yes. All small. Simply name. Stick to name.

Hayagriva: The pronoun, Krsna, who. The pronoun who, that's not...

Prabhupada: No, no. Use small.

Hayagriva: Thank you. There's so many. . . That causes a headache for

Prabhupada: No. It is better to make everything sound but slow. We want to
create this position of Back to Godhead as very authorized representation of
the science of God. In future people may refer to it, so we should very
cautiously and very nicely do it. It is very important thing, Back to
Godhead. If our movement is going to be recognized as scientific, God
consciousness movement, then this Back to Godhead will be referred as
authorized scripture. So therefore we have to prepare in such a way, nothing
non-conclusive can be introduced in this. That should be our policy. And
actually it is the position of Back to Godhead.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Discussion with BTG Staff -- December 24, 1969, Boston

In 1970 when I wrote Srila Prabhupada to ask which of the "scheduled
incarnations" in the First Canto are Visnu-tattva and which jiva-tattva in
order to know how to capitalize their pronouns, he seemed unclear about what
I meant: "All incarnations should be proper nouns and therefore
capitalized," he wrote. "It does not matter whether they are Visnutattva or
jivatattva, saktyavesa-avatara, or plenary expansion."


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