BTP article forces apology and admission of error




Back To Prabhupada, Issue 30, Winter 2010/11

In BTP 28, we published an article entitled “Lord Krishna turned into cartoon fiction”, about the “Little Krishna” cartoon series (LK), which can be read here.
In response to this article, the ISKCON Bangalore devotees involved in making LK (henceforward “BD”), issued a statement in the form of a series of questions and answers, which, as will be seen below, was basically just a series of admissions conceding all the main points made in our BTP 28 article. This statement was published on the “official forum of ISKCON Bangalore” on November 17th, 2010, not long after BTP 28 had been received by devotees all over the world. Extracts from BD’s statement are reproduced in the shaded panels below, with our response underneath.

Admission 1: We made great blunder

"What about the use of the word “fable”?
Ans: We admit, it was a faux pas. […] We sincerely apologize to the worldwide community of followers of Srila Prabhupada for the blunder in using the word fable to describe Krishna’s pastimes. […] We too shudder at the thought that our beloved Lord’s pastimes can ever be described as fables.”

Yes, this is indeed a blunder of gigantic proportions, because if it is claimed that Krishna’s pastimes, and hence Krishna, are just a “fable”, i.e. do not even exist, then it makes everything else meaningless. And to broadcast such a blasphemous statement is a great offence to Lord Krishna, which will naturally make us all shudder.

Admission 2: We will continue great blunder

"…the text (use of word “fable”) that appears in the beginning of the DVD was finalized by our co-producers and did not come for our review. In future editions, the text will be corrected. […] Our primary and dominant intention has been to depict the glorious pastimes of Krishna in a powerful presentation, using modern technology of 3D animation, music and interesting scripts to engage the attention of children of our times.”

a) Regardless of how it is claimed the text was added, BD still took the decision that it was more important to continue broadcasting this blasphemous text rather than correct it. Indeed, this course of action will continue, with BD admitting they will still be continuing to promote and sell LK in its current blunderous form. And it’s only because of the BTP article, that now, almost a year after the blasphemous DVD was launched, we even get an apology and a claim that a correction will be made only if and when a future edition is produced.
b) If the primary intention was to depict Krishna’s glorious pastimes, then such a massive blunder would have been immediately corrected rather than continued, regardless of the cost and inconvenience incurred. For there is nothing “glorious” about claiming that Krishna and His pastimes are fake.
c) If the co-producers were indeed alone responsible for broadcasting this blasphemous statement as BD claim, then it simply highlights that BD specifically chose LK to be co-produced by a party that does not even believe in Krishna and His pastimes. This is an unusual choice for co-producers, if BD’s main consideration was to ensure strict adherence to Srila Prabhupada’s teachings regarding how Krishna and His pastimes are presented.

Admission 3: Not considering Srila Prabhupada

We were careful about selecting the titles for the DVDs and used the word “legendary” to mean “well known, famous and renowned.” ”

As documented in our original BTP 28 article, Srila Prabhupada specifically stated that “legendary” is the word used to refer to Krishna’s pastimes as being mythological fiction, or a fable. Given this, a follower of Srila Prabhupada could easily have chosen an alternative word to describe Krishna which Srila Prabhupada himself used that has no mythological connotation. Yet, BD admit they were specifically “careful” to choose this word to describe Krishna.

Admission 4: Not from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings

Why have you used several other stories in Little Krishna that Srila Prabhupada has not mentioned in the Krishna book?
Ans: […] in a visual medium, there is a need for short anecdotes (apart from the main story, called Story B by script writers) that help to establish the mood of the story and define the relationship between the various characters. […] In this way we have taken the anecdotes for Story B from various Vaishnava literatures. […] This is only a partial list. […] we needed a lot of information that helps to reveal the qualities of Krishna and other characters”

BD admit that the series is full of content which is not given by Srila Prabhupada.
Admission 5: Fictional sections

Have you ever exercised certain narrative freedom in the films? Ans: Yes there have been certain sections where we have exercised certain creative and narrative freedom.”

BD admit that LK not only contains content not from Srila Prabhupada, but also that some of it is just plain made-up, taken from the realms of their own imagination (“creative and narrative freedom” is a euphemism meaning “invented by the film-makers”). This is condemned by Srila Prabhupada:
"One who follows his imaginations about the Supreme Personality of Godhead is condemned."(Srimad Bhagavatam, 10.3.32, purport)

Admission 6: Animation is escapist fantasy from reality

In a child’s world animated characters are real and not mere representations. They are very real, lovable and adorable persons that children love to relate with, distinctly different from the cold, harsh world of reality.”

BD admit that the animated cartoon is a medium which presents a world for children that is “distinctly different” from the “world of reality”.

Admission 7: Krishna represented as a silly cartoon caricature

Are you aware that Srila Prabhupada did not want Krishna to be represented as a cartoon character?
Ans: Yes we are aware of the letter Srila Prabhupada wrote in 1971. […] Animation in the 1970’s when Srila Prabhupada wrote this letter was mostly cartoony with lighthearted, silly, frivolous and merely entertaining characters like Mickey Mouse, Tom and Jerry. Comical and cartoony representations are caricatures of the characters. The style of drawings are not in keeping with realistic physical proportions. But in the last 20 years there has been a sea change in the animation style. With advanced computer graphics and 3D modeling, a great deal of realistic characters and backgrounds and high quality animation has become possible to convey more serious messages, and still be appealing to children’s minds.”

a) BD argue that Srila Prabhupada’s prohibition against Krishna not being represented as a cartoon character was only applicable until cartoon technology improved to a level that BD would in the future decide was realistic enough. However, as there is no statement from Srila Prabhupada directly stating this, BD are overturning Srila Prabhupada’s prohibition based only on their own speculation.
b) BD have managed to interpret Srila Prabhupada’s prohibition against Krishna being represented as a cartoon character to mean that Srila Prabhupada actually wanted the opposite to be done in the future. Such a standard of interpretation potentially allows one to reach any conclusion one wishes, regardless of what Srila Prabhupada actually ordered.

c) Ironically, though BD have claimed that Srila Prabhupada only objected to cartoon characters due to their not having “realistic physical proportions”, LK suffers from the same defect! Approved depictions of pastimes of the boyhood Krishna given in Srila Prabhupada’s pre-1977 Krishna Book, depict Krishna with “realistic physical proportions”, so that the full length of Krishna’s body is approximately 6 times the size of His head, and His arms (including hands) are 2 to 3 times the size of His head. Depictions of the same pastimes in LK have Krishna with a squashed body and short arms, so that the full length of His body is approximately only 4 times the size of His head, while His arms are no more than 1.5 times the size of His head. Therefore, according to BD themselves, LK’s lack of “realistic physical proportions”, means that Krishna appears like “light-hearted, silly, frivolous and merely entertaining characters like Mickey Mouse […] caricatures of the characters”.

Admission 8: No animation order from Srila Prabhupada

All of these considerations (presented below – headings added) led us to conclude that presenting the pastimes of Krishna in animation is an important project and we earnestly hoped that Srila Prabhupada would be pleased.”

Art and technology convergence:

In modern times, animation has been a convergence of art and technology and this too can be used to depict and celebrate Krishna and His pastimes in a powerful presentation.

Advances in technology:

With advanced computer graphics and 3D modeling, a great deal of realistic characters and backgrounds and high quality animation has become possible to convey more serious messages, and still be appealing to children’s minds.

Devotee encouragement:

We discussed this project with a few of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples in Los Angeles like Bharadvaja Das, Parikshit Das and a few others (we forget all their names now) and all of them encouraged us in this project.

Senior devotee opinion:

One senior devotee in our movement when asked about the Little Krishna project said, “One additional conviction I have is that these are more like 3D video illustrations (and not like cartoons of the type SP wrote about).

Book illustrations are good:

ISKCON devotees the world over have published several children’s books with illustrations. These illustrations have been made appealing to children’s minds and we have seen that these books have indisputably benefitted the development of Krishna consciousness of children.

Suitable for kids:

Animation is a visual language primarily suited for smaller children of our present times.

Perfect for kids:

From this point of view, animation of Krishna and His world fits the bill perfectly for children.

Kids like cartoons:

This confirmed our assessment of how powerful an influence an animated film can be on the minds of young children.

Film is powerful media:

Srila Prabhupada too realized the immense power of the film media, to propagate Krishna consciousness.

None of the considerations include an order from Srila Prabhupada that “presenting the pastimes of Krishna in animation is an important project”. Yet, this would be the only consideration relevant for a follower of Srila Prabhupada to conclude that “presenting the pastimes of Krishna in animation is an important project”. Rather, BD admit, that instead, their considerations have included everything, from the opinions of others to what kids like, other than an order from Srila Prabhupada authorising their cartoon project.

Guru hoax parallel

As quoted above, BD have offered certain justifications for the LK project. These justifications bear striking similarities to the rationalisations used by the guru hoax project:
Srila Prabhupada’s teachings are deficient
The GBC have gone outside Srila Prabhupada’s teachings when they have needed information which they claim Srila Prabhupada’s teachings do not provide. An example of this is in the case of “re-initiation”. BD have justified the need for going outside Srila Prabhupada’s teachings because they needed “visual” information for LK. But Srila Prabhupada has never stated that his teachings do not provide this information, or that if they did not, we should go outside them. On the contrary, Srila Prabhupada has stated that his Krishna Book is fully complete, and therefore, there is never any reason to go outside it:

“Regarding Picture […] #6 of Krsna and Balarama fighting as bulls is completely rejected by me. It is not good. You have made it demoniac. Make Them as they are themselves, as boys fighting. Never show like this. Everything is there in the Krsna Book. Don't imagine.”
(Letter to: Jadurani, Vrindaban, 9 August, 1974)
What’s good for the audience
Guru hoaxer His Holiness Sivarama Swami justified writing a book that presents Krishna in a way that is substantially different than the way that Srila Prabhupada presented Him, by stating:

""The story line is meant to generate a more readable literature. Devotees, especially in modern times, are less inclined to read straight philosophy than an attractive story that illustrates points of philosophy. If by reading the latter they become versed in the principles of Krsna tattva, surely our purpose in spreading Krsna consciousness is served."
(Sivarama Swami, Na paraye'ham p.20)
Similarly, BD have presented as a justification for their LK project that they are presenting something that is very suitable and appealing to its potential audience, even if they have presented Krishna in a way which differs from how Srila Prabhupada has said Krishna should be presented.
Opinion of others
Due to not having the requisite orders from Srila Prabhupada, the GBC have presented, when needing to prop up their guru hoax, the authority of the opinions of "senior" devotees from the Gaudiya Matha. Now BD have presented, as authority, the opinions of various "senior" devotees who agree with LK, as a justification for the project. But the only opinion that counts, is the opinion of Srila Prabhupada.

Prediction comes true

In the original BTP article, we had presented Srila Prabhupada’s warnings as to why a project such as LK should not be done: because Krishna is not a “plaything”; He should not be depicted as a cartoon character; the result will appear like a “fairy tale” and “fantasy”. BD decided to ignore these warnings from Srila Prabhupada and, according to their own admissions above, what actually resulted was:

Krishna portrayed as a cartoon caricature fantasy fable.
The lesson to be learned: we disobey Srila Prabhupada at our peril.

Conclusion

In our original BTP article we simply presented Srila Prabhupada’s statements verbatim as they applied to LK. And here we have simply presented BD’s admissions verbatim confirming every point made in our original article. Thus, with even those behind the LK project themselves agreeing, there can be no dispute over the conclusion of the original BTP article: that LK constituted a “non-Prabhupada presentation of Lord Krishna and His pastimes”.

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