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In memoriam: Sriman Sadaputa prabhu

Monday, 22 September 2008 / Published in Hari-sauri dasa, In Memoriam / 5,416 views

By Hari-sauri dasa

Sriman Sadaputa prabhu – A Personal Tribute


July 9 1976 : members of the Bhaktivedanta Institute seated with Srila Prabhupada in Washington DC (lt. to rt): Svarupa Damodar das, Sadaputa das, Rupanuga das, Madhava das

Vedic culture dictates from the very beginning of our lives that we understand one central point: that life in this material world is temporary and precarious and our real business lies elsewhere. We should understand from the moment we can walk and talk that our tenure in these bodies is like ‘a drop of water on a shaking lotus leaf’ that there is ‘danger at every step’ and that as soon as we are born we are already ‘one day towards death’.

It should come then as neither surprise nor shock when we hear of the departure of yet another soul from one body to the next. It is expected and can come during any movement of time.

Yet despite this knowledge we do expect that all of us average human beings will live the normal course–a full life of ‘three score and ten’. And beyond that there are some whom, because of their personal qualification and abilities, because of their contribution to our own lives and because of their importance to human society at large, we earnestly hope and pray will live to a ripe old age. Sadaputa prabhu falls very squarely into this latter category.

It is with great dismay, shock and lamentation then that we have face the loss of his association at the relatively young age of 61.

The work of a great man will touch the life of more people than he himself can know. It will edify, uplift and improve; it will set a foundation on which future generations can live a better quality of life; it will provide sustenance and positive direction to a multitude of souls. In Sanskrit such a person is called ‘mahatma’.

It is my conviction, and I believe that of many, that Sadaputa prabhu is one such mahatma.The true import of the work of a great personality is often not immediately recognized except perhaps by a few. Forward thinkers and visionaries often leave a legacy that is not fully appreciated until long after their deaths.

Sadaputa prabhu was a genuine, certified genius. Often his work seemed, at least to a ordinary soul like me, to be brilliantly impenetrable. Some of his writing seemed to be so esoteric and abstract that it appeared to have come from another dimension of consciousness all together. The Srimad Bhagavatam is also a bit like that. Especially the Fifth Canto cosmology. It seems at first read to be incomprehensible and obscure, unrelated to the reality we think we know. These two are a good match.Sadaputa’s real gift lay in translating these theoretical and other-wordly constructs of the Bhagavatam into practical discernable truths that almost anyone can understand. He had a power of brain, an intellectual precision, a penetration of mind that could pluck from the ether the hidden verities of universal existence and make them manifest to we lower living beings of three dimensions.

I won’t detail his works here – I can’t!– but what I can do is offer a few personal reminisces of a person whom I admired and respected as much as anyone in this world.

In 1975 when I was temple commander of Krishna Balaram Mandir in Vrindavan, I remember a call came out that any devotee who had a university degree should make their presence known because Srila Prabhupada wanted to form a scientific/academic preaching division. This became known as the Bhaktivedanta Institute (BI). It caused a buzz of excitement and one or two members of our Vrindavan yatra sent their names in.

I didn’t hear anymore about this until the following year. By that time I had joined Srila Prabhupada’s personal entourage and I had become privy to the inner workings of His Divine Grace’s efforts to bring down a modern atheistic civilization which was driven by scientific materialism and replace it with a society based on Bhagavat-dharma.

Two aspects of that effort stand out:

In Mayapur during February-March 1976 Srila Prabhupada talked animatedly and frequently about his plan to establish a Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (TOVP). It was a revolutionary concept, a combination of two shrines–one depicting the realm of pure spiritual existence, along with one depicting the realm of material creation. The marriage of the two would show the integrated whole and smash the dissembling theories of the evolutionists and the life-comes-from-chemicals big-bang wallas. The Fifth Canto Srimad Bhagavatam had been published by mid-1975 and now with that impetus Srila Prabhupada stepped up his plans for the construction of his piece de resistence in his world headquarters from where Krsna consciousness would take over the world.

The other aspect was the formation of the BI. Srila Prabhupada met with the founding members–Svarupa Damodar, Sadaputa, Madhava, Ravindra Svarupa and Rupanuga–during his visit to Washington DC in July 1976. He had already begun writing letters to them linking their efforts directly with the TOVP. And in WDC through morning walks and frequent meetings in his rooms Srila Prabhupada gave focus and direction to their efforts to challenge the materialistic scientists and scholars.

It was a time of great optimism, fueled by Srila Prabhupada’s own determination and expositional insights into what his scientists informed him were the two great mysteries of modern science: the origins of species, and the origins of the universe. At that time, although few if any of us had any real grasp of the Fifth Canto cosmology, there was a hope that, because Srila Prabhupada desired it, its secrets would be understood and revealed.

Yet just a year later in 1977 one of the leaders of the BI approached Srila Prabhupada and declared that the Fifth Canto was indecipherable and that it would take a future generation to realize the dream of a Vedic planetarium. According to him (as he told it to me), Srila Prabhupada accepted this and told him to put the work aside.

Srila Prabhupada himself though did not give up on his plan. He continued to push his disciples to build the TOVP and present the Vedic cosmology for all the world to see. He had disciples in India tour the country seeking out panditas of the Vedas who could understand in practical terms the secrets of Puranic cosmology. One fellow was even given a plane ticket (if you knew how frugal Srila Prabhupada was in spending Krsna’s laksmi, you would know how significant this was) to fly from Madras to Bombay and present Srila Prabhupada with plans of the structure of the universe.

At their meeting on April 30 1977 Srila Prabhupada got straight to business and immediately asked him to make suitable drawings for the planetarium. The fellow had to admit he could not. Although he had claimed to be a devout reader of the Bhagavatam, he informed Srila Prabhupada that he had never considered it in the way that Srila Prabhupada now wanted him to. He was considered to be a leading expert but he was useless.

Not giving up, attempts continued with some of our own men spending weeks and months trying to decipher the Bhagavatam’s descriptions into something intelligible and tangible.

 To understand just how difficult a task it was, we can see from the conversation below on June 18, 1977 in Vrndavana that even Srila Prabhupada admitted that he could not assimilate all the information in the Fifth Canto and that he had had special assistance in his translation of it:

Prabhupada: Read something.

Bhakti-prema: And they can travel only 800 miles high, the birds in the sky, but according to Srimad-Bhagavatam, after 800 miles there is air to breath for a human being. But there is air for ghost and pisaca and other different species. But if we move… There are Siddhas and Caranas. They are also living there. And above that, there is Rahu planet. That means 80,000 miles high.

Prabhupada: That means Rahu planet we have connection.

Bhakti-prema: Yes. Rahu. And above that Rahu there is sun planet, and Sumeru mountain has connection with that because it is hurling again…

Yasodanandana: It says right here.

Prabhupada: Do it nicely.

Yasodanandana: It is mentioned that this Sumeru Parvata, the mountain’s height is the same as the width of Jambudvipa. So this mountain comes up to here, the same distance as this, 100,000 yojanas. So it’s perfectly… This is the same length on this side and also like this. It’s made like a big, a big cone on top. It describes, “Of that mountain, Sumeru Parvata, 16,000 yojanas, or 128,000 miles, are within, under.” So Sumeru is like this, and it also goes under the Jambudvipa planetary system. And therefore the mountain’s head above the earth, above here, there is 84,000 yojanas, 672,000 miles above the level. And the mountain’s width, the mountain on top, is considered to be 32,000 yojanas, or 256,000 miles. And in the bottom it’s 16,000 yojanas. Scientists cannot conceive of this. Their estimation of a mountain is that it must be bigger in the bottom and end up smaller at the top, but Mount Meru is twice as big in the top than it is in the bottom. They cannot understand. Next verse, it describes the different divisions. “Just north of Ilavrta-varsa and going further northward, one after another, are three mountains, namely Nila Mountain, Sveta Mountain, and Srngavan Mountain. These mark the borders of the three varsas, namely Ramyaka, Hiranmaya, and Kuru, and separate them from one another. The width of these mountains is…”

Prabhupada: And it was not possible for me to digest. (laughs) Somebody else helped me to… I am a layman. I do not know.

Tamala Krsna: How did you write it?

Prabhupada: That somebody, Krsna, helped me. That He manufactured.

Yasodanandana: And these mountains, they extend to the beaches. “It is considered, according to the Bhaga…”

Prabhupada: When I was writing, I was praying Krsna that “I do not actually accommodate all this knowledge. Please help me.” Yes. That’s all right. [end quote]

Still we tried because Srila Prabhupada wanted it. When he left us late that year his wishes were unfulfilled.

Our main hope was our scientists. Srila Prabhupada had allocated a large amount of funds from his BBT to ensure their work progressed. Unfortunately it was not long before the BI ran into heavy water. After an initial optimistic start with all the members moving to Atlanta for a concentrated preaching effort, within a few short years it had become fragmented.

Members went their own ways (long story!) and Sadaputa prabhu chose to further his studies in quantum physics and mathematical biology in America and at Cambridge in England. At the same time he remained intensely dedicated to Prabhupada’s mission. He was a frequent contributor to Back To Godhead magazine and he began writing books exploring fields of investigation that would support the Vedic explanations of life and the universe.

Significantly, he retained an overriding interest in the task of cracking open the mysteries of the Fifth Canto. While everyone else had given up hope, he worked diligently to solve what many had come to feel was an impossible task. I think it is safe to say that throughout the 1980s many, if not all devotees shied away from Fifth Canto cosmology. It was the Bhagavatam so we had to accept it. But explain it? How do you explain that there is a mountain made of gold 672,000 miles high; oceans of milk, ghee, honey, sugar cane juice etc; that the sun runs its course on a one-wheeled chariot?

For many devotees Srila Prabhupada’s many statements that the moon is further away from the earth than the sun (”First comes Sunday, then Monday. Why this order?” – remember that one?) and that they had never gone to the moon, were difficult to digest and for some, they were just a plain embarrassment.

But Srila Prabhupada had given the order. On April 27 1976 he had written to Svarupa Damodara:

Now our Ph.D’s must collaborate and study the 5th Canto to make a model for building the Vedic Planetarium. My final decision is that the universe is just like a tree, with root upwards …

So now you all Ph.D.’s must carefully study the details of the 5th Canto and make a working model of the universe. If we can explain the passing seasons, eclipses, phases of the moon, passing of day and night, etc. then it will be very powerful propaganda.

I am sending this letter to you, and you can make photocopies of it and send to our other Ph.D.’s and begin serious research into the matter in detail. But one thing, I am convinced that the universe is just like a great tree as described therein.”

Taking this order on his head Sadaputa seriously applied himself to the task. By 1989 he produced his seminal work Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy. It was a revelation, an exposition of the text that for the first time made devotees believe that the Firth Canto could indeed be presented in a relevant, comprehensible way.

Sadaputa had achieved a task so singular in nature that in the past millennia it seems noone has come even close to it. What had descended into myth even within the culture it supports he had presented in a scientifically credible way. There were still many questions to answer but he showed a way forward when there was no hope of progress. The TOVP, Srila Prabhupada’s beacon of light, could now be built according to his desire.

If Srila Prabhupada himself said that he personally did not have sufficient capacity to grasp the descriptions of the Fifth Canto and that he relied on Krsna Himself to enable him to translate it, what does that say of Sadaputa prabhu?

In 1990 I moved to San Diego. At that time San Diego had become a thriving hub of preaching activity. BTG was stationed there. ISKCON World Review was there. Sadaputa prabhu had moved there with his team of Madhavendra Puri, Krsna Krpa and Drutakarma prabhus. Sadaputa and Drutakarma were just completing another ground-breaking publication Forbidden Archaeology and Sadaputa had also completed another major contribution Alien Identities.

As well as this he and his men had developed some videos showing how modern educational institutions, especially in the field of science, were operating what he dubbed a ‘knowledge filter’ whereby consciously and unconsciously any information that did not fit with the current paradigm of evolution was simply not presented to the students.

I remember going with Sadaputa and his team to the UCSD and watching as they presented one of their videos to a group of about 30 students and a couple of professors. It was a marvelous experience. Confronted with effective scientific refutation of the ‘life comes from chemicals’ theory, the students sat stunned. One of the professors tried to challenge by citing an experiment done in the late 1920’s by one of the foundational fathers of modern science. Madhavendra Puri instantly replied, politely but convincingly refuting the professor by citing another experiment by the same person which showed the first experiment to be inadequate. The professor was unable to reply. Sadaputa’s men knew their stuff. He had trained them well.

It was an exciting time and I, along with others, developed a desire to somehow help Sadaputa in his mission and advertize or propagate his work. From talks with Sadaputa it was clear that he was ready to present his cosmological and other ideas to the world. He had plans for a small planetarium and he had the exhibits worked out. He wanted to try it out in America first before considering Mayapur. Only the opportunity was lacking.

Unexpectedly, in 1991 I got a chance to provide that. By that time I had moved to Los Angeles. One day I bumped into an old friend, Narayan prabhu who had formerly been temple president in our Costa Rica center in 1976 during Prabhupada’s time. He was now doing business and having some success. As we talked he mentioned his ambition to build a multi-million dollar cultural center in Hawaii.

I saw the opportunity and suggested to him that he instead utilize his money to build a cultural center cum planetarium with Sadaputa prabhu. His initial reaction was to laugh. The Fifth Canto! You must be crazy! Not possible! Somehow I convinced him to talk personally with Sadaputa. When he did he became convinced that it was not only viable but would be powerful preaching.

Thus a team was formed to bring this about. Narayan prabhu was the financier. I contacted an old and close friend Advaita Candra prabhu to help with the business planning. He was working at that time on a plan to sell ‘walk-thru’ aquariums in several cities in America so he was already familiar with the genre. Sadaputa prabhu was the brains behind the show and I was the coordinator.

Sadaputa, Advaita and myself traveled to several science museums in the US. After some research we came to know that Srila Prabhupada had requested Ambarish prabhu to build a cultural center and planetarium in Washington DC. I contacted Ambarish prabhu and he was initially skeptical (again that ‘Oh no, not the Fifth Canto!) and then cautiously supportive with the reassurance that Sadaputa could actually pull it off without making us a laughing stock.

Thus in 1992 at the Mayapur GBC meetings we submitted a plan under the auspices of a newly formed non-profit entity ‘Vedic Cultural Foundation’ to develop a medium sized Vedic cultural and science museum with a planetarium on our ISKCON Potomac property. The GBC passed the proposal.

What happened? We returned to America with the good news, only to find that Narayan prabhu’s business had gone bust and our funding was finished. We were not able to find alternative funding so the project was shelved. It seemed like our year of endeavor had come to naught; but there was the celebrated silver lining.

During our Mayapur visit we chanced to met with Padasevanam das, a fairly new devotee who had recently been appointed as architect for the Mayapur TOVP. I was surprised to find that Padasevanam was unaware of most of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions for the planetarium, and he had no idea of Sadaputa’s work. He had been told to make the planetarium a completely separate building from the main temple. News that Srila Prabhupada had said to put it in the main dome came as a revelation to him.

I brought Sadaputa prabhu and Padasevanam together. Harikesa Swami, the SMPDC leader, was also unaware of Sadaputa’s work and after their meetings their plans were revised. Sadaputa was officially brought onto the Mayapur TOVP team and the planetarium was returned back into the main building.

For some years things seemed to progress but then in 1998 Harikesa left the project, the funding collapsed and Sadaputa prabhu had to temporarily set aside his work on the TOVP. It was another time of frustration for him but his desire remained burning bright.

After some years things began to move ahead again. Ambarish prabhu became the chairman of the Mayapur project development and a new design was made. A team of scholars was formed under the leadership of Ravindra Svarupa prabhu to study in detail the Vedic cosmology and Sadaputa prabhu was participating as a key member of their executive committee.

As the building became more detailed with floor plans and the GBC gave its blessings to go ahead, it became clear that one vital element in the main dome needed urgent attention. Srila Prabhupada had always described the planetary situation as a kind of inverted tree and in a letter from November 1976 he described a giant chandelier hanging within the dome that would depict the movements of the major planets–sun, moon, earth, pole star etc.

This year then, 2008, after consultations with the TOVP cosmology and construction teams, Sadaputa prabhu was commissioned to design this wonderous edifice which would show at a glance the Bhagavatam’s description of our cosmos. He had all the necessary skills and knowledge plus the practical bent of mind needed to accomplish the task.

As the TOVP exhibits coordinator, I convened a meeting on June 10 2008 at Brahma Tirtha prabhu’s house in Gainesville FL to begin the work of planning the exhibits that will go in the TOVP planetarium wing and theater. A couple of days prior to the meeting I had the chance to visit Sadaputa prabhu at his house. Tamraparni and Stitha Dhi Muni prabhus invited me along to what had become weekly darshana in which they would share their realizations and mainly just become inspired by the insights and realizations flowing from Sadaputa’s remarkable brain.

It was a reunion of sorts. I hadn’t seen Sadaputa prabhu since 1995 when I moved from Alachua to Mayapur. Now here we were together again, in similar roles that we had before when we were planning the science museum in 1991-92. I was gratified that he was happy to see me, and naturally I was happy to see him. We spent a couple of hours going over his vision of the planetarium and its use, he re-iterating the shows he would like to develop and what he wanted to convey through them. It was edifying and enlivening to see that he had lost none of his old enthusiasm nor his clarity of thought. He was keen to participate and that was a great reassurance.

In attendance at the main meeting were Jayapataka Swami, Sadaputa prabhu, Ravindra Svarupa prabhu, Drutakarma prabhu, cosmology team coordinator Sraddhadevi dasi, architects Anup and Vilasini Sharma, Nitya Trpta dasi, Brahma Tirtha prabhu and myself. We had a one hour presentation from GOTO, a company that has built hundreds of planetariums around the world including a recent one at the Community college in Gainesville.

We spent an excellent day laying the foundations for future development of exhibits. One outcome was that Sadaputa prabhu would submit drafts outlining the various shows he would present in the planetarium theater. He assured us that he had enough material to keep the planetarium working to capacity.

True to form, in the two months that followed, Sadaputa prabhu worked methodically and efficiently on the design of the planetary chandelier. With his knowledge of the Fifth Canto and his learning in physics and mathematics, he came up with a thirteen page paper which gives sufficient detail to enable the chandelier to be built. The next step was for him to create a computer model of his descriptive and then move to the actual engineering of it. He submitted his proposal in mid-September–just days before his departure.

So near, yet so far. Where does this leave us?

I don’t think its an exaggeration to say ‘no Sadaputa, no planetarium.’ Still we are confident we can move forward despite the tremendous loss of his physical presence. Why? Because he was industrious enough to write and publish all his thoughts and realizations. If we can decipher his writings and manifest them into 3-dimensional time and space we can perpetuate his genius through generations to come. Thanks to Sadaputa prabhu’s brilliance Srila Prabhupada’s dream can be fulfilled.

I don’t think the debt to Sadaputa prabhu can be calculated because the impact of his work has yet to be felt. But felt it will be, of that I have no doubt. The TOVP will provide the ideal avenue through which to present his incredible contribution. It is our duty to build it not only for Srila Prabhupada, but also now for his dear disciple, Sriman Sadaputa prabhu.

There are many things more to be said about this singular individual but I will leave that to others who have better knowledge of his work. I can only speak from my own meager experience and understanding.

I will leave the last word to Srila Prabhupada, something His Divine Grace said at the first official meeting of the BI with him on July 3, 1976 in Washington DC which I am happy to have recorded in Transcendental Diary Vol. 3:

“After a quiet day, the members of the Bhaktivedanta Institute gathered in the early evening in Srila Prabhupada’s room to present a slide show. It was the first official meeting of the Institute with His Divine Grace. They will use these slides to illustrate their upcoming book, Life Comes from Life. Svarupa Damodara and Sadaputa prabhus also intend to use it in their college preaching.

Svarupa Damodara requested Srila Prabhupada to make specific comments on the content so they could know if their presentation was suitable. The premise of the presentation, as Svarupa Damodara had stated in the morning class, was the axiomatic acceptance of an Absolute Truth. “So this is Sankhya philosophy. As Srila Prabhupada comments in Srimad-Bhagavatam in the Third Canto, the Sankhya philosophy is especially meant for persons who are conditioned by this material world, and by understanding the science of devotional service and Sankhya philosophy, one can become free from the modes of material nature. So we want to propose that in order to understand the distinction between life and matter, one must at least have a glimpse of the Absolute Truth, at least some idea of the Absolute Truth. Otherwise, it is completely impossible to understand the difference between what is life and what is matter. That is why scientists nowadays are so much confused about the concept of life and matter.”

Even before seeing the slides, Srila Prabhupada had significant comments to make. “That Absolute Truth is explained in the Vedanta-sutra, janmady asya yatah. Absolute Truth is that from whom everything comes into existence, everything emanates. Now that has been discussed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam because Srimad-Bhagavatam is the natural commentary by the same author. So he begins janmady asya yato ‘nvayad itaratas carthesv abhijnah. This word is used. He’s not dead body, dead matter — abhijnah, like that. Just like a mother gives birth to a child. She knows everything, how the child was born in the womb, how it developed, how it is coming. At least, on the whole, she knows everything. Similarly, the original source of everything it is immediately informed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, that abhijnah, experienced, knows everything. Anvayad itaratas ca, directly and indirectly, everything it knows. So the origin of everything cannot be a dead man. That is the beginning of Srimad-Bhagavatam.”

Sadaputa prabhu, a Ph.D. in mathematics, in response to a question from Prabhupada, confirmed that mathematical calculations begin with an imaginary starting point, the square root of minus one.

Prabhupada said, “Yes, if mathematics begins with imaginary something, why not Absolute Truth? That Absolute Truth must be life. As Bhagavata explains, He must be aware of everything. That means life. Now the question is, How He became experienced? Svarat, independent. Just like we require experience, knowledge, from somebody else. Experienced knowledge is not gained automatically; but the Absolute means that He is full of knowledge. How He got knowledge? Svarat, independently. That is the description. You have to imagine at least like that. It is Vedic injunction, it is the fact, that Absolute Truth is independently cognizant of everything. That is Absolute Truth.”

When Svarupa Damodara listed some of the attributes of the Absolute Truth from the Srimad-Bhagavatam and pointed out that there it says the Absolute cannot be understood except by devotional service, Srila Prabhupada interjected. “Yes. We raise the question, we challenge these rascals because we are following the path of devotion. We are not scientists. And we could not challenge unless we were convinced. How it is possible? Suppose I am layman, how I am challenging these big, big scientists? Because we have known it through devotional service. So this is science. That is the difference. In Bhagavad-gita it is said bhaktya mam abhijanati: ‘One can understand Me through bhakti.’ And the Vedic injunction is that yasmin vijnate sarvam evam vijnatam bhavati (Mundaka Upanisad 1.3): ‘If somehow or other one knows the Absolute Truth, then he knows everything.’ That is the benefit of knowing the Absolute Truth.

“So a devotee knows everything. How it is possible? One may challenge, ‘How a person can know everything?’ So Krsna immediately replies that ‘I help him specifically.’ Tesam evanukampartham: ‘Just to show My personal, especial favor upon him, I light up the torch of knowledge, and he knows everything.’ So if Krsna helps one to know everything, who can check it? That is not possible. This science must be there. We are not all-powerful. Krsna is all-powerful, means He can do everything.”

With the groundwork laid for their discussion, the scientists began their show. …

Then Sadaputa prabhu presented a series of slides to show how by mathematical calculations and by physical states, it is impossible for life to come by chance. He began by describing two factors — the laws of nature as defined by the scientists, and the element of chance. “These laws describe very simple forces, pushes and pulls between atoms and things like that. And so intuitively it is very hard to imagine why such simple forces should cause anything complex to organize itself together. Now the scientists customarily make the assertion that laws like this are universal, but one thing we can notice is they have no proof of that. These laws which they say are universal are only studied in certain limited experimental situations with inanimate matter, and then they extrapolate and they say that they apply to everything. But actually the equations are so hard to solve even for reasonably simple molecules that they can’t actually test out their assertion. So it’s actually just a bluffing statement. So in this slide we want to point out how limited their concept of the laws of nature is.

“The next slide, according to the scientist’s idea, there are two things going on — these laws and also chance. So this is a calculation showing what happens if you just have chance acting to form one of these proteins that Svarupa Damodara was talking about. Here you calculate, suppose you threw a protein together at chance — and here we even allow a ten percent error, you’re allowing to get it wrong among ten percent of the proteins — but still, chance comes out to ten minus two hundred and forty-fourth power. Now the scientists are always saying if you wait for a long enough time, even something very unlikely can happen; but here we have a calculation of how long you’d have to wait according to mathematics and the probability theory. And even if you assume an unrealistically high rate of forming proteins at random, still you’d have to wait, according to this, ten to the hundred and sixty-seventh power billion years — and that’s a little bit too long,” he added dryly.

Prabhupada laughed along with all of us at the sheer enormity of the figures. “Hare Krsna. That is mathematics!”

Svarupa Damodara added that it was longer than Lord Brahma’s life.

Sadaputa drew his conclusion on this point. “Mathematics shows that chance alone could never begin to produce the things that go into life, because this, say, is just for one protein, but it’s estimated in the simplest cell that they experiment with that there are some three thousand proteins. This is what they estimate. And in a single cell of the human body, they estimate three hundred thousand, or even three million. It’s just an estimate. But it shows that chance is completely unrealistic.”

Sadaputa went on to show by information theory again how any complex system could not arise by its own volition. Rather the conclusion must be drawn that for anything complex to manifest, the information for it to do so must be contained within the laws from which it springs.

Then he went beyond the theoretical discussion to demonstrate the sophistication found in manifest physical states. He gave the example of a simple bacterium, which has a reversible motor built into it, which spins a spiral flagellum, and by so doing, propels itself through the water, just like a submarine. “Actually, the scientific explanation [for this] is completely impossible, because they would say that either by chance it came about all at once — and the chances are way too small, so that would never happen — or else it would have to come by small stages somehow. But what would be a small stage in the formation of a workable motor? One can’t even think of how that would work. So it doesn’t make much sense.

“So what we wanted to argue was that these living structures are very highly complex, they have a very great amount of information needed to specify them, and mathematically it follows that this evolution process can’t happen, because the probability is way down, it’s something impossible.”

In the next few slides he brought quantum mechanics into the picture. His intention is to describe consciousness as being something nonphysical and nonchemical. He explained that modern physics realizes that you can’t account for or describe physical processes without accounting for the observer. He then described a means whereby the observer can be understood to be nonphysical.

His final section was fascinating, dealing with inspiration. Sadaputa looked into the lives of several famous men and found, according to their own statements, that their abilities to excel in their particular fields came to them from an outside source and not from themselves. “Srila Prabhupada has said that intelligence is the form direction of Supersoul. So it’s interesting, it’s really striking to observe how various people create things in mathematics and science and art. We made two examples here. This one is a mathematician named Gauss. He lived in the nineteenth century, and his concern was to solve mathematical problems. The interesting thing is that in a very difficult mathematical problem, the person never solves it by figuring it out consciously, step by step. But what happens is that he tries very hard to figure it out for a long time, and nothing happens, and then all of a sudden the answer comes to him.”

He quoted Gauss. “I’ve succeeded not on account of my painful effort, but by the grace of God. Like a sudden flash of lightning, the riddle happened to be solved. I myself cannot say what was the conducting thread which connected what I previously knew with what made my success possible.”

Srila Prabhupada smiled. “So the chance theory is the grace of God.”

A little surprised, Svarupa Damodara asked, “That is the grace of God?”

Srila Prabhupada was chuckling. “Because if God sees that the rascal is trying for so many years, ‘All right, give him a chance.’”

Prabhupada’s wit had everyone laughing heartily. “That is His mercifulness. So what they call chance theory, that is grace of God. All the possibilities taken together he is given by God. That he does not know. He takes it as chance. But there is no question of chance; it is the gift of God.”

Sadaputa presented Mozart as his final example, who admitted that entire symphonic compositions would just blossom into his mind. “Whence do they come I do not know, and I have nothing to do with it.”

Sadaputa’s next slides demonstrated the principle that laws of a simple makeup cannot give rise to structures of a higher complexity; only higher-ordered laws can cause complex forms.

Prabhupada appreciated this reasoning and quoted Bhagavad-gita [9.10]. “That higher-order laws is explained: mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram/ hetunanena kaunteya jagat viparivartate. Things are going down on account of the superior direction.”

Srila Prabhupada’s quote was exactly appropriate, for when Sadaputa flashed the next slide up on the screen, it was a picture of Lord Visnu as the source of the higher-order laws. And Srila Prabhupada smiled. “There.” He immediately quoted several more verses including 7.19. “Here is vasudevah sarvam iti. Find out this verse. This is Vasudeva. From Him, everything is coming. That is real knowledge.”

I began to read out the verse, which says that after many births, a person who is in actual knowledge, a great soul or mahatma, surrenders to Krsna, knowing Him to be the source of everything. Such a person is very rare. But before I finished the first line, Prabhupada interrupted. “It is conclusion, vasudevah sarvam iti. So you are mahatma, su-durlabhah, not ordinary rascal mathematician. But you are real mathematician, that vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma su-durlabhah.” [end quote]

I opened this eulogy by stating that Sriman Sadaputa prabhu was one of those rarest of souls, a genuine mahatma. Srila Prabhupada thought so too.

And a final point to note. As Srila Prabhupada told his scientists at the beginning of their meeting, “So a devotee knows everything. How it is possible? One may challenge, ‘How a person can know everything?’ So Krsna immediately replies that ‘I help him specifically.’ Tesam evanukampartham: ‘Just to show My personal, especial favor upon him, I light up the torch of knowledge, and he knows everything.’ So if Krsna helps one to know everything, who can check it? That is not possible. This science must be there. We are not all-powerful. Krsna is all-powerful, means He can do everything.”

Considering the realizations and knowledge displayed by Sadaputa prabhu, we can only wonder at the nature of his relationship with the Lord and the special favor he gained. That is a devotee.

Your humble servant, Hari-sauri dasa

I gave a class here in Mayapur on Saturday September 20 in praise of Sadaputa prabhu. If anyone would like to hear it please click here.

One Response to “In memoriam: Sriman Sadaputa prabhu”

  1. Thank you, Hari Sauri, for this beautiful article.

    I especially appreciate the attention to details of ISKCON history about the BI and the Planetarium project. This kind of history is enlightening and (I think it is fair to say) unknown to most of us.

    Your historical writing like “Transcendental Diary” is very important, valuable service, very nicely done by you, for which we are deply grateful. To learn these kinds of authentic details helps us to understand this amazing phenomenon of Srila Prabhupada’s establishment of ISKCON and its various projects and branches.

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