By Ambarisa dasa, Ravindra Svarupa dasa, Sraddhadevi dasi
His Grace Sadaputa dasa Adhikari: An Appreciation
From members of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium Mayapura Project
In grief and dismay at the recent unexpected departure from this world of our dear friend and most valued colleague Sadaputa Prabhu, we cannot even begin to calculate the extent of our loss to ourselves as individuals and to our project.
The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium Mayapura Project is engaged in the task of fulfilling Srila Prabhupada’s important direction for the construction of a Temple of the Vedic Planetarium at Mayapura. Prabhupada desired this temple to house the main Deities of Mayapura and also to present to the public, in a vivid and persuasive manner, the sacred Vedic cosmology as imparted in Srimad Bhagavatam. The members of our project are those who have accepted the obligation to carry out this difficult and demanding order. Sadaputa Prabhu was a vital member of this project’it was actually his work that made many of us believe that we could in fact present the 5th canto for public consumption.
Among the teams who are dedicated to the various elements of the project is the Vedic Planetarium Research Committee. This committee plans, initiates, and oversees research in several areas: in sastra, beginning of course with Bhagavatam and its commentators; in the secondary literature, that is, western and Indian scholarship; in history, especially of Indian cosmological and astronomical traditions and of other ancient cosmologies; in theology and philosophy; and in modern astronomy and cosmology.
Sadaputa Prabhu was a key member of this research committee. Even before the planetarium project was started, he had conducted investigations in the relevant areas. The results he published in two books: Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy (1989) and Mysteries of the Sacred Universe: The Cosmology of the Bhagavata Purana (2000). Both works display his penetrating intelligence, his mathematical gifts, his mastery of modern physics and astronomy, and his characteristic broadness of vision which led him to look at archaic sciences and cosmologies, as well as modern ‘fringe’ phenomena such a parapsychology and UFOlogy, in fresh and new ways.
In addition, Sadaputa Prabhu was leading the effort in the ‘Chandelier project.’ Prabhupada had wanted an accurate mechanical model of the heavens to be constructed according to Vedic knowledge and hung ‘like a chandelier’ from the dome over the Deities in the temple. Thus visitors could see the heavenly bodies all moving in regular manner as calculated by traditional Vedic astronomy. Sadaputa Prabhu just recently completed a proposed design for this cosmological centerpiece.
Ambarisa dasa remembers:
Sadaputa Prabhu was involved one way or another in the Mayapur Project practically longer than anyone I know. Because of the convolutions in management over the years, he was not able to be intimately involved during some periods, but his work was the scientific cornerstone of the exhibits and discourse Srila Prabhupada wanted to be presented by the project. He will be woefully missed as we move forward, and will always hold a pioneering position in the execution of this cherished dream of Srila Prabhupada.
Ravindra Svarupa dasa recalls his first encounter with Sadaputa Prabhu:
In retrospect, my first meeting with Sadaputa in 1973 gave me so precisely what I needed for my faith in Srila Prabhupada’the right content, at the right time’that its providential nature is obvious. Sadaputa Prabhu’then simply ‘Richard’ or Richard Prabhu’ (the title ‘Bhakta’ for uninitiated devotees was introduced later)’showed up at the Philadelphia temple sometime in 1972. I was new both as a devotee and as temple president. My wife and children and I had moved into the ashram at the beginning of 1971, just after I had completed my course work for a PhD in religion at Temple Universe. To complete the requirements for a PhD I had next to write a doctoral dissertation; Srila Prabhupada’to nearly everyone’s astonishment’had instructed me to go on and get the degree. On November 21, 1971 Prabhupada wrote me:
I am very much pleased that you have been educated in religion and philosophy. Now your knowledge can be put to real use. Otherwise what is the use of philosophy’ . . . So far your dissertation, you can study the topic of mundane philosophy vs. Krishna Consciousness. Perhaps the biggest rascal of them all is Darwin, and if you like you may disprove Darwin very scientifically according to the presence of the soul, and I shall give you hints along the way how to do it.
The suggestion to ‘disprove Darwin’ knocked me for a loop. In my childhood, growing up in Texas and Oklahoma, I had been overexposed to Christians who did not accept Darwin, and to me they the seemed militantly ignorant fanatics. Did Krishna consciousness mean that I would have to become like that’ Moreover, although I recognized that Krishna consciousness entailed the falsehood of Darwinism, actually disproving him in a rational and scientifically way never occurred to me as a practical, and even possible, course. I had no idea how it could be done convincingly. In my experience, the Christians put forth blind faith and a few embarrassingly bad arguments. What to do’
I accepted that Prabhupada was correct, yet I had not the slightest notion of how he was correct.
Then Sadaputa Prabhu showed up, a brand new, uninitiated devotee from New Vrindavan. I was astonished to discoverer that he had just received his PhD in mathematics from Cornell University. Another highly suspicious, even dangerous character!
I showed him the letter I had received from Prabhupada, and confessed my misgivings. And he said: ‘Oh, yes, Darwin is wrong! I figured that out even before I got involved with Krishna consciousness. Actually,’ he continued, ‘it’s not just me. Most mathematicians know that Darwin is wrong. They just don’t say anything because they know how much it will upset the biologists.’
With these words all my misgivings fell away; my faith in Srila Prabhupada deepened. In the next few days, Sadaputa laid out for me the various cases for showing the error of the fundamental Darwinistic view that complex organization arises from disorganization by chance alone. Several of the arguments he gave me then saw publication later in his book Mechanistic and Nonmechanistic Science: An Investigation into the Nature of Consciousness and Form (1981).
This was the beginning of a long relationship that was most valuable to me, both for his personal association and for fruitfulness in increasing faith in and understanding of Krishna consciousness.
Those of us in the project who were fortunate enough to work with Sadaputa Prabhu will miss him immensely: his ability for extended concentrated work, for lucid reasoning, for brilliant creativity, all of it flavored with a delightfully droll sense of humor - all of this encouraged, inspired, and helped us. All of us in the Vedic Planetarium Temple project feel his absence.
We send our condolences to his wife, his children, and all his other friends and associates, in whose loss we share.