Sadaputa Prabhu – My Personal Memories
By Shyamasundara Dasa
Dear Maharajas, Prabhus and Matajis,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I am in profound shock on hearing of the demise of my friend Sadaputa Prabhu. This month marked the 30th year of our friendship. I had the good fortune of working with Sadaputa Prabhu in the BI and living with him and other original BI members from 1978-79 in Atlanta and Philadelphia, and again later at his own branch of the BI in 1993-94 in San Diego.
Though my own personal assignment in the BI in 1978-79 was to study jyotish, at that time I was not very expert or knowledgeable in it, so in the mean time I was made Sadaputa’s assistant and he trained me as a researcher. He in fact gave me my first mission, which I have yet to complete, and which we were to work on as a team, he from the astronomical side and me from the astrological side. That mission was to prove that the assertion of scholars like David Pingree that astronomy and astrology were introduced into India by the Greeks in the 2nd and 3rd century AD was wrong. This assertion has far reaching implications for us, if the scholars are right then texts such as the Srimad Bhagavatam which has several astrological scenes in it (think of the vipras who read Parikshit’s horoscope at his time of birth or Gargamuni’s reading Krsna’s chart at the behest of Nanda maharaja, and the 5th cantos profuse use of astrological signs) is not from the beginning of Kaliyuga 3102 BC but rather a post Christian work. Since I was just beginning my study of jyotish I could not contribute much at that time (but have since done some serious investigations but more work is required) so I helped Sadaputa Prabhu in other ways by gathering data for his multi-faceted research projects. One that I clearly remember was his interest in certain geological phenomena that caused geological strata to be reversed, that is, that by a natural process it was found that in several parts of the world older geological formations would be at the top while the younger ones at the bottom in reverse chronological order, thus misleading any researcher who was unaware of the shift. This was a precursor to his book “Forbidden Archeology.”
I became a little frustrated with this work because my level of training in mathematics was far inferior to that of Sadaputa’s (I had quit university before completing my undergraduate degree in pure math) so I asked Swarupa Damodara (then brahmacari) if I could quit my study of jyotish and go back to school to finish my math degree so I could be of better use to Sadaputa Prabhu. Swarupa Damodara refused telling me that Srila Prabhupada wanted that the BI study jyotish and I was the man assigned to do it, so on that note I gave up my desire to be a mathematician and continued with jyotish.
Speaking of mathematics, it was Sadaputa’s natural genius and especially his expertise in mathematics that gave him a big edge over others. Mathematics is considered the “queen of the sciences” (no king being declared (-; ) and it is the language used by all other “hard sciences.” In the reductionist’s worldview everything is reduced to numbers thus for one who has mastered mathematics the door to other sciences is wide open. Or, as David Hilbert the famous German mathematician once put it “physics is much too difficult for physicists” implying they were very sloppy in their mathematical rigor and that only a mathematician could do it properly. Hence, because of Sadaputa’s mastery of mathematics and his ability to apply it to a wide range of subjects he could investigate areas from astronomy and cosmology to quantum physics, consciousness, artificial intelligence, and reverse speech. There was practically no area that his curiosity did not do serious investigation into. And even if the field of interest did not have a strong mathematical component, such as archeology, indology or ancient history, the rigor of his mathematical training gave him very sharp analytical abilities allowing him to quickly master the subject. Practically the only area where he was limited was his lack of training in classical languages such as Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Arabic, ancient Persian, Sumerian and such. He told me that he once met David Pingree of Brown University, a mathematician and respected scholar of the history of science who did have a mastery of these languages. Pingree asked Sadaputa if he knew Sanskrit, when Sadaputa said “no” then Pingree basically wrote him off and considered him unworthy for further discussion. Sadaputa was miffed by this and always wanted to study Sanskrit but he could not find the time to spend 2-3 years to learn it to his satisfaction. Of course this lack of Sanskrit knowledge did not stop Sadaputa Prabhu from shooting several gaping holes in Pingree’s theories on the history of the transmission of astronomical knowledge by writing his book “Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy.” I had the privilege of supplying Sadaputa Prabhu with several important texts from my private collection that he used to write that book, he also let me proof read it.
The Sadaputa that I knew and lived with was an extremely hard worker who could focus his mind like a laser beam and not allow himself to be distracted by anything. The negative side of this was that he would rarely if ever answer letters and later emails as he would be too busy. In the years that I was with him his sadhana was impeccable and much better than mine. He never missed mangala arotika, always chanted his rounds, did Deity worship and had a great appetite for Krsna prasadam. Don’t let the fact that he was skinny fool you he could really pack it away and would not refuse offerings for second or third helpings. He especially liked Italian food, which I would cook on a regular basis. His brain used up a lot of calories. To keep in shape everyday, like clock work, just before lunch he would run several miles.
He was very austere and just slept on the floor, often times surrounded by a mass of books that he had been studying. In San Diego we shared the same house and his room was next to mine. His bedroom had many large sliding mirror-faced doors for the closets, but Sadaputa covered over all the mirrors in his room with paper. I asked him why he did that? He responded that he didn’t want to become more bodily conscious than he already was.
Though he was trained as a hard scientist and was respected in that field he was also a mystic. I remember one discussion we had in Philadelphia, were he pointed out that historically as religious faith among the people gets eroded then the religious leaders lose their faith in the mystical aspects of life such as oracles, and astrology. He was not superstitious but understood that there were other ways of knowing things besides the reductionist worldview of mechanistic science. He brought the topic up because he noted way back in 1978-79 that already among certain leaders in ISKCON there was a tendency not to have faith in the sastras.
The Sadaputa that I knew was very loyal to Srila Prabhupada and dedicated his life to him, and he had complete faith in the sastras. He named his own publishing house “Govardhana Press” because he believed that Lord Krsna actually held up Govardhana hill. And he was very disturbed by trends in ISKCON which minimized the sastric worldview. Two incidents in this regard from 1993-94 stand out in my memory, one was in regard to the publication of Bhaktivinode’s “Krsna Samhita” and how several devotees were mis-interpreting the meaning of it. The second was his irritation and disenchantment with a popular ISKCON writer, lets call him X, where X published a book of his interviews of well known indologists. The episode that really drew the ire of Sadaputa was when X interviewed a scholar on the subject of the Ramayana, the scholar made disparaging remarks about the Ramayana describing the Kishkinda-khanda as a Disney-like episode with talking animals and laughed at the foolishness of those who believed this. What really upset Sadaputa to no end was that X didn’t defend our position (after all he is supposed to be a devotee) but instead joined the professor in laughing at the Ramayana. And what was worse was that since it was X’s own book he could have just edited that part out but instead chose to publish this offensive subject and present it to the members of ISKCON as his “intellectual” contribution. I cannot fully describe to you how much this bothered Sadaputa Prabhu.
Sadaputa already from the late 70’s had a dim view of those like the former Subhananda Prabhu who tried to curry favor with the academics only to lose their own Krsna consciousness, and this offensive work by X only cemented his view. Sadaputa made the following basic point: in actuality we do not really need the support of the scholars at least not to the extent that we should compromise our philosophy to make them like us, but rather the scholars needed us because they made their living by studying us. Hence we should be who we are without compromise and stand on our own merit. This of course did not mean that we should go out of way to offend them. He coined the term “academonic squalorship” to describe the mundane scholars and those among us who tried to accommodate them.
A related phenomena that disturbed him was the beginning of the trend in the early 1990s of devotees going back to university specifically to study Indology and related fields for preaching. His criticism was that many devotees were simply not cut out for that kind of work in the current “academonic” environment of most modern universities. He showed me texts from devotees who had gone back to school and who had now become confused and were struggling with their faith. These devotees were in his view being sent to the slaughter. The main difference between Sadaputa and them (aside from the fact that he was probably much more intelligent than them) was that he had become a scientist BEFORE becoming a devotee and hence he was no longer allured by the special kind of maya found in academia, whereas they were much easier prey. Also he was very solid in his understanding of sastra where as many of those being pushed to go back to school were junior devotees some of whom not having read of all of Srila Prabhupada’s books yet.
As one could tell from his humorous phrase “academonic squalorship” Sadaputa Prabhu also had a good sense of humor and the BI would often be the scene of witty exchanges and a lot of robust laughter.
Sadaputa’s dedication to Srila Prabhupada’s mission was clear from the examples he set. After the BI broke up in November 1979 I was sent to India while Sadaputa Prabhu eventually settled in Binghamton, New York which is where I met him in 1983 on my return from India. Sadaputa had taken a teaching position at the State University of New York, opened and subsidized a preaching center with other devotees and utilized his time in continuing his research and writing and published his work “Mechanistic and non-Mechanistic Science.” Because of his mathematical and computational skill he could find work anywhere and utilize his workplace conditions to carry on his research. He told me that once he took some freelance work with NASA as a computer programmer that allowed him access to data that interested him some of which was used in “Alien Identities.”
Speaking of “Alien Identities” one may wonder on the wide variety of topics that he published on. Was there any connection? Yes there was. He once spent a few hours discussing with me his master plan and how the present and future books were interrelated. For example while “Forbidden Archeology” was being written he saw that it was not sufficient to simply trash Darwinism but to also present an alternative to that failed theory hence he wrote “Alien Identities” to illustrate how life came from a higher source. And our project of 1993-94 was to write a sequel to “Alien Identities” on the subject of the history of ancient Vedic Kings which would demonstrate the connection of the Indian regnal dynasties to their celestial origins. I was helping him research this book because of my knowledge of ancient history especially Greek history that I had acquired as part of my mission to defeat Professor Pingree. Unfortunately “The History of Ancient Vedic Kings” project could not be completed for various reasons but Sadaputa had gathered quite a bit of data and probably had enough to publish a book on it. He personally told me several times after the BI moved to Alachua in 1994 that he had several manuscripts that had not been published yet. I am assuming that since then some of them like his book on virtual reality have been published but others have not. I sincerely hope that all his manuscripts will be preserved as well as the contents of his computers. And, that archives will be made and that learned members of ISKCON be given access to them by his family to continue his mission of serving Srila Prabhupada through scientific preaching. I specifically would like to have access to anything related to astronomy/astrology, cosmology, ancient history and cross-cultural phenomena.
He also made of series of science lectures useful for preachers. These are treasures of information that should be made widely available to our preachers especially those doing college preaching.
As one can see from the breadth of his published works that he touched on many fields, artificial intelligence, quantum mechanics, mathematics, ancient history, psychology etc many of which he was not specifically trained in. The fact that he was not trained in many of these subjects raised the eyebrows of some of his critics. I remember once in San Diego shortly after the publication of “Forbidden Archeology” that a person came to the BI and started to criticize Sadaputa and Drutakarma for writing a book for which they had no academic qualification. He demanded to know what was their qualification? At this point Sadaputa Prabhu picked up a copy of “Forbidden Archeology,” a hefty book, and slammed it down on the table with such force that it made a thunderous noise and shouted back to the critic “this is our qualification.” That was the end of that. Oh did I mention that he didn’t suffer fools lightly. (-:
A bit of trivia: the human profile of the front cover of “Forbidden Archeology” is Sadaputa’s head.
One point of interest regarding Sadaputa’s strategy was that he did not always try to destroy an opposing theory in every respect, that wasn’t always possible and in some cases people would not be accept even if he did. He told me that his strategy was to present the Vedic version as a plausible alternative to be seriously entertained. This reduces the labor, as one is not required to smash the opponent to bits in every respect. Considering that even though he had some assistants in many ways Sadaputa was a one-man-show thus this strategy served him well and allowed him to cover several topics over the course of his most productive years.
In regards to the cryptic meaning of the 5th canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam I once consulted the Brghu Nadi (type of astrological text) and asked if the statements in the 5th canto were true? In response the Brghu Nadi first mildly rebuked me for not having faith in the statements of the 5th canto, and then it went on to say that: yes everything stated in the 5th canto is true, but just as ghee is present in cow milk one can not get the benefit of the ghee unless one knows how to extract the ghee from the milk. Sadaputa Prabhu spent more than half of his life extracting the ghee out of the milk of the 5th canto and did so with great success.
There are many more things that could be written about Sadaputa Prabhu, I apologize for not doing so, I am still in a state of deep shock and could not rest after hearing of his death so I got up and put this together as best I could without any polishing.
I will deeply miss Sadaputa Prabhu, for even though we were not in constant contact just knowing that he was there if I needed information on some arcane subject was a solace. He was on my very short list of people to vet any book I would write regarding my attack on the modern history of Vedic astrology. Now who will I go to?
I have always had the greatest respect and admiration for Sadaputa’s dedication and service. The books he has written have most certainly pleased Srila Prabhupada, especially his kicking Darwin in the teeth. We are greatly saddened by his departure but know that his rewards for his service must be very great indeed. He was also fortunate that his death was sudden and that any discomfort was of short duration. There are after all worse things than death.
The main impact of his death on me is the reminder that time is short; I can not delay and must do something now. I do not at all fear death after what I went through last year. But what I greatly fear is that I will die before I am able to accomplish my mission. I therefore pray to Guru and Gauranga that since they spared me when I was on the point of death last year that they be kind to me and give me enough time to accomplish my mission.
Your humble servant
PS for those of you who are wondering Sadaputa was born on Feb 4, 1947, in Binghamton, NY. He told me back in 1978-79 that he was not sure of his time of birth but when I just now looked up his chart I had 15:00hr as the time I entered, I am not sure if this was a later correction that he told me in 1993-94, it is definitely an approximation. Still Gemini lagna with Mercury in the 9th and other configurations are quite fitting. We also note that his passing took place during his Moon-Jupiter period which as afflicted lords of 2nd and 7th is a classical text book example of mrtyu kala – time of death. So it seems that it is likely that he was born around 15:00.
What is also marked is having exalted Mars conjunct Sun in the 8th indicating his piercing into the mysteries and this opposite his Moon and Saturn showed his powers of laser-like ability to focus his mind. He was also a very emotionally sensitive person (Moon in Cancer) but he was very careful of revealing his true feelings as Moon is conjunct Saturn. I don’t want to go into a more detailed analysis as I am very tired and it may not be of much interest to non-astrologers.