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VISHNU at the Thailand Airport

Saturday, 13 September 2008 / Published in News / 19,242 views




By Akruranatha das

Yesterday I received an email from Anuttama Prabhu (not Rukmini’s husband the GBC, but the other D. C. Anuttama), with some photos of a huge display in an airport in Thailand of the devas and asuras churning the milk ocean, very beautifully done in Thai style.

I am forwarding the pictures to Dandavats editors so hopefully they can reproduce some of them here.

This kind of dazzling 3-D depictions of scenes from Srimad Bhagavatam would be very attractive to display in Mayapur at the TOVP. It is like the F. A. T. E. project on a grand scale, depicting parampara descriptions from Bhagavatam.

In my mind’s eye, the inside of the TOVP will be something like that. When you walk into the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (or the NY one) you see all kinds of dioramas and stuffed animals (big wooly mammoth, giant blue whale, more or less fictitious depictions of scenes from daily cro-magnon and neanderthal life, hunting a sabre tooth tiger, etc.)

To have at least one big place in Mayapur where Srimad Bhagavatam is on display like that would really glorify Srimad Bhagavatam. It would be a great attraction for people from all over India and all over the world.

If there are magnificent displays inside, that will be a big draw, and will make huge propaganda for Krishna consciousness. People will want post cards of the different exhibits, which will become more famous than the Smithsonian’s mastadon or the Louvre’s “Mona Lisa.”

Compared to what is inside, the whole question of the design of the exterior building kind of pales. Why does it have to be built according to vastu rules? Did Prabhupada request that? (I do not pretend to know whether he did or didn’t, but if he didn’t, then aren’t we being like the disciple who brings milk when the guru requests water?)

14 comments

  1. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I was very impressed by this large diorama. It must be in Bangkok (I do not know any other large Thai airport).

    Anuttama Prabhu sent these pictures out to a big email group. Other devotees wrote back, also amazed. It seems that some Thai people really know these stories, too. One devotee commented that it looks as if it is taken straight out of Prabhupada’s Bhagavatam, and of course, it does.

    Before I read the Bhagavatam, I used to look at the color plates and read the captions (didn’t everybody?) It really whet my appetite for actually reading the texts and purports.

    Book distributors will tell you, it is the illustrations which mostly attract people to the books. Similarly, a museum or planetarium with a display of large dioramas depicting the actual structure of the universe will be very attractive.

    It will give us a real, tangible sense of our place in the universe as well as our destination, Krishna’s abode, and how to get there (purusah sa parah partha bhaktya labhyas tv ananyaya).

    I have seen some Christian theme parks, “God Land” and so on. Most are modeled after amusement parks (rather than museums), and they lack the mood of reverence and depth of the subject matter.

    Besides, they really do not know the science of God very well, so the impression is more of a blind, “we joined the right group” kind of thing. They do not have the Bhagavatam, and they fill in the gaps with their own speculations.

    I do not want to disparage their attempts to glorify Jesus, but the TOVP will be something new and different, on a whole different order of scope and potency, backed up by an entire, perfect, God-centered world view, which can be found in scriptures and commentaries by saintly acaryas in disciplic succession going back thousands of years and more.

    We have to do this, on Prabhupada’s order, and do it fast. It will be a great benediction to the world. We cannot afford paralysis and delay.

    I am eager to hear about the displays that are being planned for the inside of the TOVP, including references to any of Srila Prabhupada’s explicit instructions about what he wanted us to do.

    All glories to the intelligent devotees who have been working on designing the displays inside. Please let us know some of your ideas, some of the difficulties or differences of opinion, some of the solutions and triumphs. You will see an outpouring of support from the worldwide community, of good wishes but also financially.

  2. 0
    ccd ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Akruranatha Prabhu,

    It is clearly a good example of what can be achieved if certain standard of presentation is maintained and professional artists are involved.

    There is a notion that Prabhupada wanted a western style, dome planetarium. However there is no record of this. The planetarium Prabhupada wanted was to follow the pattern of the four dhamas. This sculpture falls very clearly in devi-dhama presentation, with other dhamas include Hari-dhama and Goloka-dhama, along with abode of Siva.

    You are not incorrect to suggest that that there is a tendency to ‘pretend’ following exactly, but in reality bringing milk when the guru requests water? Prabhupada was very specific about both projects, Mayapur Candrodaya mandir (with all altars dedicated to Lord Caitanya in different forms, ‘radha krishna nahe anya’, ‘panca tattava’ and ‘sampradaya acharya’). He was very specific about the planetarium as well, he never ever indicated that he wants to have a projector type dome planetarium.

  3. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    H.H. Radhanatha Swami recently gave a class at ISV (ISKCON of Silicon Valley, in San Jose), in which he spoke about “transcendental competition”.

    He described how in transcendental competition, we do not want to see our competitors fall to wrack and ruin. We would never think of trying to sabotage them. That kind of envy does not exist among pure devotees.

    Instead, we appreciate how nicely they are serving Krishna, which makes us very happy, and inspires us to try to surpass them. Then they see the quality of our service and try to surpass us. In this way, everything is increasing the pleasure of Krishna and the devotees.

    Seeing these photos from a major international airport inspires in us a sense of transcendental competition. I have no idea who these artists are who created this depiction of Kurmavatara and so many details of the ocean churning, but it makes me happy to see the Lord’s pastimes being depicted on such a grand scale in such a public place.

    ksitir iha vipulatare tisthati tava prsthe, dharani dharana kina cakra garisthe, kesava dhrta kurma sarira jaya jagadisa hare!

    Then I think, ISKCON has done things like that with F.A.T.E., but we will certainly surpass it in the TOVP. Millions of people will visit the TOVP every year, and this will inspire more and more devotional service and sankirtan.

    As far as the devotees who have raised concerns about the environment, crowds, pollution, the local economy, terrorism, managing and maintaining the planetarium, etc., these are all very important concerns that have to be taken into account and solved nicely, but the show must go on, as they say.

    It has to be done correctly and we should not let our eagerness or impatience lead to wasteful blunders (if we can help it), but we also cannot afford to be paralysed by indecision, confusion, and disunity. It is a huge yajna and there is all kinds of opportunities for serving in different capacities to address different potential problems.

    I agree with those who have said that what is inside the TOVP is more important than the outside of the structure. There has to be a sound structure that will last a long time and will not be too hard to maintain and renovate, so that energy and resources can be spent on improving the quality of what goes inside.

    It will be a Bhagavatam Smithsonian. There will be knowledgable “docents” and a nice gift/bookstore where Prabhupada’s books will fly off the shelves by the millions.

  4. 0
    Braja Sevaki ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    ccd wrote:

    > There is a notion that Prabhupada wanted a western style, dome planetarium. However there is no record of > this.

    I’m sorry to have to say this, but this comment is, to be blunt, daft. Surely you can’t be serious? If so, where have you been!

  5. 0
    Braja Sevaki ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Akruranath prabhu wrote:

    > I was very impressed by this large diorama. It must be in Bangkok (I do not know any other large Thai
    > airport).

    It’s in Bangkok’s new airport, Suvarnabhumi. There is a lot of evidence of Vedic culture in their tradition, and in fact their king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, (who is also referred to as “Maharaja”) is known as Rama IX. His name and titles are all derivates of Sanskrit words, and in fact Wikipedia gives the following translation breakdown, which I found interesting:

    # Phra (“sacred,” cognate of the Indian word vara, “excellent”)
    # Bat (“foot,” from Sanskrit pāda, English “foot”)
    # Somdet (“lord, excellency”)
    # Phra (“sacred,” cognate of the Indian word “vara”, “excellent”)
    # Poraminthara (“the great,” from Sanskrit parama+indra)
    # Maha (“great,” from Sanskrit, “maha”)
    # Bhumibol (“Strength of the Land,” from Sanskrit bhumi+bala, “bhumi” means land and “bol” means strength)
    # Adulyadej (“Incomparable power,” from Sanskrit atulya+teja, “adulya” means incomparable and “dej” means power)

    Besides this, there are murtis all over Bangkok of the Lord and demigods: murtis of Visnu, Brahma, and Siva, Visnu on Garuda, Ganesa, and even Umadevi. Although they’re in public places like the front of malls and 5 star hotels, they’re not just colorful cultural additions or beautiful “statues:” people actually come and worship them. But the most popular is Lord Brahma. On one of the longest main streets in Bangkok, Sukhumvit Road, there is a beautiful golden deity of a 4-headed Lord Brahma on one corner of a large intersection. Every evening thousands of people come and worship him, offering him flowers and fruit, and praying to him. There are traditional Thai dancers also who perform nightly for Brahma: it’s a real spectacle to see.

    http://thestar.com.my/archives/2008/5/3/lifetravel/p20brahma.jpg

  6. 0
    vibhavakrsna das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hare Krsna Akruranath Prabhu,

    Please accept my humble obeisances at your lotus feet. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    You are absolutely correct. This is Bangkok airport. I was there couple of months back and even i was shocked to see this beautiful presentation of Vedic culture in this part of the world. This convinced me of Prabhupada’s words that this whole planet was Bharat Varsa and ruled by one King once upon a time. I was there for a week for a buisness program and i could see some remains of vedic culture there.
    The names of the people and especially their present King who is known as Rama Vth. Another wonderful experience i had was when they called for dinner in a Thai restraunt. Although they serve all sorts of nasty food there and what all i could have there was a glass of orange juice. But they way served was totally vedic…. we were told to take out our shoes before entering and later food was served on wooden small tables 1″ high which means you have to sit down and eat.

    Then came the most surprising moment. There was some cultural show going on simultaneously and here i saw the depiction of RAMAYANA through music. Everybody seemed to be aware of this epic.

    Unfortunately couldn’t meet any devotees there. I think we have some devotees there not aware of any centre there. Just wanted to add on to something you wrote and yes i strongly agree that these kind of depictions should be there in the Vedic Planetarium.

    your humble servant,
    vibhava krsna das

  7. 0
    ravinjay says:

    Hare Krishna!
    I do not find this so surprising as Asia is influenced by the Vedic literature. You should see Bali or Yogyakarta in Indonesia which is also filled with gods although Indonesia is a Muslim country. I have heard about this last year near around the time it was built. My dad when to see it and got me some chocolates of it which contains a milk chocolate Asura head and a white chocolate Deva head. They should really built something like this is Mayapur like the Bhagavad-gita museum. Having it about Srimad Bhagavatam is a very nice idea!

    Your Servant,
    Bhakta Ravinjay

  8. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Braja Sevaki Prabhvi,

    Thank you for all the information about Thailand and their current king, Rama IX, and their tradition of worshiping small murtis of (mostly) demigods in public places.

    You are obviously very intelligent and commited to the Mayapur project, but if I may say so you do not have to be quite so “blunt” and impatient with Caitanya Candrodaya Prabhu, who is also a learned, talented devotee who (as far as I know) has contributed numerous hours of service on the Mayapur TOVP project at a different time.

    As I understand it, what he meant by a “western-style, dome planetarium” was one with a big blank dome ceiling onto which is projected images of the night sky, constelations, galaxies, novas, nebulae, close up views of planets, and illustrations of scientific theories based on ascending empirical knowledge. (CC Prabhu, please correct me if I am wrong).

    Personally, I do not pretend to know anything about the instructions Srila Prabhupada gave for the inside of the planetarium, but what CC Prabhu is saying — that Prabhupada wanted depictions of devi mahesa hari dhamesu tesu tesu, goloka eva nivasaty akhilatma bhuto — sounds right to me. I want to hear from those who are working on the inside displays about this.

    The way I see it, mundane scientists are looking with their imperfect eyes, and imperfect improvements like telescopes and other instruments and tests, many of which are based on imperfect theories about how nature works. In this way they develop a body of knowledge which they admit is not perfect, which will be subject to revisions and corrections — even major shifts in paradigms — but which they are attached to as the “only way” to know and describe the universe.

    The Srimad Bhagavatam teaches a different and better way to see the universe, in connection with Krishna, through bhakti. Devotees learn to see Absolute Truth through the eyes of authentic descriptions by acaryas, and everything becomes revealed to them in their heart just as the sun lights up everything in the daytime. Their knowledge is perfect, beyond the four defects.

    The poor scientists do not know how to see with their hearts. The imperfect knowledge they provide can be useful (in applied technology), but it cannot free people from the cycle of birth and death.

    The TOVP should not be an imitation of the mundane scientific approach to astronomy. It should be a grand illustration of the perfect descriptions of Srimad Bhagavatam.

  9. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.12 comes to mind:

    tac chraddadhana munayo, jnana-vairagya-yuktaya
    pasyanty atmani catmanam, bhaktya sruta-grhitaya

    “The seriously inquisitive student or sage, well equipped with knowledge and detachment, realizes that Absolute Truth by rendering devotional service in terms of what he has heard from the Vedanta-sruti.”

    Bsically, we have to receive the message of Bhagavatam from the established personality of devotee, Srila Prabhupada (and on up the parampara through Sukadeva, Vyasa, Narada).

    The word “grhitaya” means “well received.” In the Purport Prabhupada also uses the word “assimilation”. I heard H.H. Romapada Maharaja give a lecture on this word “grhitaya” several years ago in San Jose (I do not remember if it was from this specific verse). The idea is that we really have to take the authorized descriptions of Godhead into our heart with full faith through the process of devotional service.

    premanjana-cchurita-bhaktivilocanena santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti

    “pasyanty atmani catmanam” “pasyanti” means they see. Rather than using a faulty telescope and a faulty eye, the devotee knows how to actually directly see the Truth, without doubt, including how the temporary material world is related to Krishna, how it is a place for jivas who misuse their free will to act out illusory, temporary and miserable efforts at enjoying independently of Krishna and His devotional service, and how such jivas are suffering repeated birth and death in different species of life according to the modes of material nature with which they associate. And how to get free (Haribol!)

    “sevonmukhi hi jihvadau. . .” Devotees see everything with purified senses. This is their telescope, the bhakti telescope, harinam telescope.

    Mayavadis say the world is false, and thus they do not have to challenge the mundane scientists directly. They are birds of a feather, really, in that both mayavadis and materialistic scientists are bent on ignoring Krishna and on how everything is resting on Him, as a transformation of His various energies, which are in fact inconceivably simultaneously different and nondifferent from Him.

    Prabhupada’s description of the Bhagavatam lights up everything. Where there is Godhead there is no nescience. Even the requisite jnana and vairagya follow automatically from hearing him.

    The TOVP will be a powerful illustration of Prabhupada’s Bhagavatam descriptions, to greatly benedict the world.

  10. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I have been to Thailand a couple of times, on my way to India. Once the airlines lost our luggage and we had to stay several days. My wife was very eager to get to Vrndavan and was suffering like anything, but I was so much in maya that actually I was very happy to explore Bangkok like a first-class tourist.

    It is true that Ramayana (and to a lesser extent Mahabharata) are very popular in the classical culture there. The main old palace in Bangkok is decorated with many scenes from Ramayana (I do not know if they really understand Rama as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the way we do, but they know and love the story).

    There are definitely devotees there in Bangkok. For one thing Guru Krpa and his family lives there. But I also hear from time to time about other devotees starting an ISKCON temple there. My May/June BTG gives this Bangkok address: “Soi3, Tanon Itsarapap, Toonburi/ Tel. +66 (02) 944-5346 or (089) 7810623/ swami.bvv.narasimha@pamho. net”

    It is interesting the way the Thai people seem to still faithfully revere their royal family. They seem to be an admirable and beautiful people.

    Also, being a Therawada Buddhist country, the people in general there like to offer alms and respects to monks, in the hope of acquiring merit. Now the special, powerful “merit” of Srila Prabhupada’s books has come to their land. I hope an ISKCON temple there flourishes and that Thailand becomes a Vaisnava kingdom some day.

    Its true about the untouchable food, though. Pity. They drown everything in shrimp paste and fish sauce. They make nice vegetarian preparations with coconut, peanut, ginger, galanga, chili, but then they ruin it by dumping foul smelling fishy stuff on it. They are addicted to that taste. :-(

    When I was a child in the U.S., we did not have any Thai restaurants, at least where I was. Now they are everywhere. It just shows how quickly culture can change. Similarly there can be ISKCON temples and restaurants everywhere, overnight.

    I liked what CC Prabhu said about “what can be achieved if certain standard of presentation is maintained and professional artists are involved.” Of course by “professional” he meant highly-skilled, not that they work for pay.

    All glories to all of our ISKCON artists, and the entire old BBT art department! I just saw Brahma Muhurta’s video about Dhrti and Ramdas’ painting school in Vrindavan. Developing fine skills to use in Krishna’s service is so important.

  11. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    When I Heard the Learned Astronomer
    By Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

    When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
    When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
    When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
    and measure them,
    When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
    much applause in the lecture-room,
    How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
    Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
    Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

    I always liked this poem. The “perfect silence” may have an impersonalist ring to it, but I take it as being “silent” in the sense of absence of annoying material sound vibration (like the mundane astronomer’s theories and speculations).

    After all, he is looking at God’s creation, the beautiful night sky, in the “mystical moist night-air” (I love that phrase!) He is not looking at a candle, or imagining a white light inside a sense deprivation tank.

    The inside of the TOVP will not be a place for the kind of “learn’d astronomers” who made Walt Whitman tired and sick.

    Sometimes I like to think that if all the great literary and intellectual giants in history (and the big literary lions and philosophers of today) had a chance to just attentively and submissively read Srila Prabhupada’s books (never mind the anachronism for those who died before Prabhupadas books were published), fairly, with an open mind, and with a little bit of humility and service attitude, they would all understand and be completely convinced.

    Anyway, for all the current and future geniuses out there, we now have our chance to try to get them to read and appreciate.

    I skimmed an article in “Mental Floss” magazine the other day, about some uranium deposit in Africa somewhere (Gabon?) that appears to be a naturally occurring nuclear reactor (i.e., chain reactions were happening naturally in the earth). The thing is, the data from this geological site suggest somehow that a fundamental Physics constant concerning the weak interactive force (one of the four fundamental forces, along with strong force, gravity and electromagnetic) was not really so constant. According to the author of this article, it was the kind of finding that could shake the whole foundations of Physics.

    People don’t have to stop doing Physics, Astronomy, Medicine. They just need to add Prabhupada’s books, which can completely satisfy the soul.

  12. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It’s like “Easy Journey to Other Planets.”

    I mean, if I want to go to India, I can go in a clunky airplane, based on the charts and coordinates plotted by mundane cartographers, geographers and navigators.

    (Based on what I have heard from Indradyumna Swami and others, I do not think I ever want to fly in Russia.) :-)

    (I am not even sure I would fly “ISKCON Air” just yet, if there were one. I’d have to be convinced that the pilots and airplane mechanics had the skills and equipment to get me there safely. I do not mean to be pessimistic, though. I am sure devotees would be great pilots, mechanics and air traffic controllers, if they wanted to. Why not? I hope someday all the pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, researchers, astronomers and everyone will be devotees. Haribol!)

    But if I want to go to Krishna (or even Surya, Candra, Varuna, Mahesh), I need to learn more subtle (even transcendental) methods. We cannot see the real Vrndavana or Mayapur just by buying a ticket. God is inside everything, everywhere, and yet He is transcendental and aloof. We cannot see Him unless we “have the eyes to see”.

    Prabhupada’s books give us the eyes to see, if we can just appreciate them with proper submission and service and reverence and complete faith. (We can serve them – great service! – by carefully reading them, and by distributing and glorifying them, too.)

    The illustrations prepared by skillful artists per Srila Prabhupada’s directions are “windows to the spiritual world”.

    Similarly, depictions of devi dhama, mahesh dhama, hari dhama and goloka dhama, presented by skilled artisans in the beautiful Mayapur planetarium temple, replete with specific scenes authentically depicting descriptions of the revealed scriptures, will be windows or doorways into the transcendental, realized knowledge of Srimad Bhagavatam and Sri Brahma Samhita.

    This TOVP will really glorify and distribute Prabhupada’s books on a grand scale, especially if our skilled artists can create beautiful presentations of the appropriate scenes, and our skilled brahmanas can be on hand to explain everything perfectly and answer all questions of the visitors.

    The mundane astronomers and scientists offer to take us, either in clunky space ships or on the wings of imaginitive speculations, to dead planets and arid conceptions of reality. They may be good at what they do, but it’s no good for us (or them).

    Where we really must go is, Back to Godhead!

  13. 0
    ccd ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Thank you Akruranatha Prabhu. Prabhupada had spend hours and hours with his early design team discussing diaramas and paintings that are supposed to be in the TVP, he further discussed it with Brahmananda Swami and got him to write a long letter on how exactly TVP should be, (both externally and internally), Prabhupada then countersigned the letter, something he would do only for very important letters by his GBCs. Same system of presentation was used by him in discussions with Surabha, and Surabhas design internally contained different exhibits on the different level of the universe, thus his multistory design (that Prabhupada approved as well according to Sivarama Maharajas letter). Exhibits were culminating in Goloka exhibit. In a way Prabhupada continued tradition of dioramas that was so much loved by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, on the bigger scale that is. I agree with Akruranatha Prabhu that it does not seems to be that there could be confusion as to how to design the planetarium. And yes the projector sky planetarium dome was clearly absent in all designs approved by Prabhupada. So many of these projector domes, we it analogue or now with digital projectors, laser shows and even dome movies are everywhere. I have sampled only a small portion of them (yes it was for the service… ). They are all coming from a different paradigm, so what is the use of adjusting our Bhagavata vision to the limited spatial models, who cares for the shows of the night sky as it would appear from any point of latitude on Earth? There are so many planetariums. Planetariums have become well-nigh ubiquitous, with some privately owned. A rough estimate is that in the United States there is one planetarium per 100 thousands of US residents. Its Vedic Bhagavata planetarium that we are talking about… so this exhibit of Churning of the Milk Ocean is a great example what to do. Natural light and means of escape in case of fire are critical, but maybe that is besides the point… ys ccd

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