Srila Prabhupada’s editors were various. His first steady editor was Rayarama Dasa, an early disciple who worked professionally as a freelance writer for comic books. By the time I joined Srila Prabhupada’s society, in 1968, Rayarama was among what Srila Prabhupada called “the main pillars of the society.”5 Next came Hayagriva Dasa, whom Srila Prabhupada met in 1966 while walking down a street on New York’s Lower East Side. Hayagriva (then known as Howard Wheeler) had an MA in English, and as he relates, Srila Prabhupada (then most often referred to simply as “the Swami”) had work for him to do:
Noticing that he has been typing, I offer to type for him, and he hands me the manuscript of the First Chapter, Second Canto, of Vyasadeva’s Srimad-Bhagavatam.
“You can type this?”
“Oh yes,” I say.
He is delighted. We roll a small typewriter table out of the corner, and I begin work. His manuscript is single spaced without margins on flimsy, yellowing Indian paper. It appears that the Swami tried to squeeze every word possible onto the pages. I have to use a ruler to keep from losing my place.
The first words read: “O the king.” I naturally wonder whether “O” is the king’s name, and “the king” stands in apposition. After concluding that “O King” is intended instead, I consult the Swami.
“Yes,” he says. “Change it, then.”
As I retype another paragraph, I notice certain grammatical discrepancies, perhaps typical of Bengalis who learned English from British headmasters in the early 1900s. Considerable editing is required to get the text to conform with current American usage. After pointing out a few changes, I tell the Swami that if he so desired, I could make all the proper corrections.
“Very good,” he says, smiling. “Do it! Put it nicely.”
Thus my editorial services begin.
I type all morning in the room where he reads, translates, welcomes visitors, and “takes rest.” There is a tin footlocker, used as a desk, and a rug on which he sits and sometimes sleeps. Apart from my typewriter table, there is no other furniture. As I type, I hear him cooking in the kitchen, and can smell the butter being boiled to make ghee. I finish the chapter: twenty pages, double spaced with wide margins. The original had filled only eight pages.
“Let me know if there’s any more work,” I tell him. “I can take it back to Mott Street and type there.”
“More? Yes,” he says. “There is lots more.”
He opens the closet door and pulls out two large bundles tied with saffron cloth. Within, he shows me thousands of pages of single spaced, marginless manuscripts of literatures unknown in the Western world. I stand before them, astounded.
“It’s a lifetime of typing,” I protest.
“Oh, yes!” he smiles happily. “Many lifetimes.”
(Hayagriva Dasa, pp. 15–16)
Another early disciple, Satsvarupa Dasa (later Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami), did considerable editing on Srila Prabhupada’s early dictated works. Gaurasundara Dasa and others also tried their hand at editing. In 1970 I gradually began, and later in the 1970s, Dravida Dasa.
For Sanskrit, Srila Prabhupada’s first editor was Pradyumna Dasa, who continued to serve as the main Sanskrit editor throughout Srila Prabhupada’s life. Among the other editors in what eventually became the BBT Sanskrit department were Nitai Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa, Santosha Dasa, Jayasacinandana Dasa, and Gopiparanadhana Dasa.