BI / TOVP Cosmography Workshop November 1–3, 2019, in Gainesville[Krishna-kripa das: Because I worked with Sadaputa Prabhu for 17 years, and helped with the publishing of his Mysteries of the Sacred Universe book and video, devotees from the Bhaktivedanta Institute of Gainesville encouraged me to attend their joint workshop on cosmography with devotees involved in the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium. This occurred the first three days of November. People made different interesting points about the Bhagavata Cosmology and how to present it. Because of an agreement on confidentiality, I cannot say who said what, although I would like to give the speakers credit for their ideas. Here I share some new or interesting ideas I gained from it which may be of interest to others.]
We do not really know anything, and in fact, we all, theist and atheist, take leaps of faith and doubt.
While distributing books as a brahmacari I met a disciple of Srila Prabhupada who had left the movement when the Fifth Canto came out. I had heard of such people, but I had never met one. So coming to an understanding of the Fifth Canto description of the universe is important.
Sukadeva Goswami starts his discussion of cosmology by saying, “My dear King, there is no limit to the expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s material energy. This material world is a transformation of the material qualities [sattva-guna, rajo-guna and tamo-guna], yet no one could possibly explain it perfectly, even in a lifetime as long as that of Brahma. No one in the material world is perfect, and an imperfect person could not describe this material universe accurately, even after continued speculation. O King, I shall nevertheless try to explain to you the principal regions, such as Bhuloka, with their names, forms, measurements and various symptoms.” (SB 5.16.4)
Srila Prabhupada comments: “The limits of the expansions of Govinda, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, cannot be estimated by anyone, even a person as perfect as Brahma, not to speak of tiny scientists whose senses and instruments are all imperfect and who cannot give us information of even this one universe. We should therefore be satisfied with the information obtainable from Vedic sources as spoken by authorities like Sukadeva Gosvami.”
Plato’s allegory of the cave can be useful to us.
Platonic-Pythagorean schools emphasized mathematics, and considered it could train the mind so it could think of transcendence.
During the Middle Ages, prominent Christian natural philosophers such as Jean Buridan and Nicolas Oresme argued that both geocentric and models described the same motion, and given the available evidence it was not possible to conclusively prove which was the more accurate model.
Aristotle argued that the crescent shape of the earth’s shadow on the moon during an eclipse indicates the earth is round. He also argued that when viewing a ship rise over the horizon you see the mast first, as additional evidence that the earth curves and is therefore a globe.
Copernicus who was a Roman Catholic priest, worked for the Church on calendar reform as a mathematician and astronomer. Copernicus would write: “as though seated on a royal throne, the Sun governs the family of planets revolving around it.” Possibly a sentiment reminiscent of Surya Narayana.
Galileo was a Roman Catholic, his daughter a nun. Thus on a personal level, he was not opposed to the Church but had difficulties with some leaders. A basic search using the term “Galileo affair” brings up numerous popular as well as academic sites offering details.
The Catholics had incorporated Greek natural philosophy into their educational system, and thus to promote a sun-centered view would involve rewriting textbooks. They had expressed a willingness to consider this at the time of Galileo if the natural science in support of heliocentric motion could be conclusively proven beyond reasonable doubt. Galileo did not yet have sufficiently convincing comprehensive evidence, while many of his scientific arguments were considered faulty, both then and now.
Darwin wrote in a letter to Charles Lyell not long after the publication of Origin of Species, “I am content that man will probably advance, and care not much whether we are looked at as mere savages in a remotely distant future.”
In our discussions, we should keep in mind that the cosmology chapters of the Fifth Canto of the Bhagavatam are in fact a description of a universal form. This is directly stated at the beginning and end of these chapters.
These quotes here are from the beginning of the cosmology chapters:
“When the mind is fixed upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His external feature made of the material modes of nature — the gross universal form — it is brought to the platform of pure goodness. In that transcendental position, one can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva, who in His subtler form is self-effulgent and beyond the modes of nature. O my lord, please describe vividly how that form, which covers the entire universe, is perceived.” (SB 5.16.3)
And here is what’s said at the end of the cosmology chapters.
“In the beginning [the second and third cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam] I have already described how one can progress on the path of liberation. In the Puranas the vast universal existence, which is like an egg divided into fourteen parts, is described. This vast form is considered the external body of the Lord, created by His energy and qualities. It is generally called the virat-rupa. If one reads the description of this external form of the Lord with great faith, or if one hears about it or explains it to others to propagate bhagavata-dharma, or Krishna consciousness, his faith and devotion in spiritual consciousness, Krishna consciousness, will gradually increase. Although developing this consciousness is very difficult, by this process one can purify himself and gradually come to an awareness of the Supreme Absolute Truth.” (SB 5.26.38)
“One who is interested in liberation, who accepts the path of liberation and is not attracted to the path of conditional life, is called yati, or a devotee. Such a person should first control his mind by thinking of the virat-rupa, the gigantic universal form of the Lord, and then gradually think of the spiritual form of Krishna [sac-cid-ananda-vigraha] after hearing of both forms. Thus one’s mind is fixed in samadhi. By devotional service one can then realize the spiritual form of the Lord, which is the destination of devotees. Thus his life becomes successful.” (SB 5.26.39)
“My dear King, I have now described for you this planet earth, other planetary systems, and their lands [varsas], rivers and mountains. I have also described the sky, the oceans, the lower planetary systems, the directions, the hellish planetary systems and the stars. These constitute the virat-rupa, the gigantic material form of the Lord, on which all living entities repose. Thus I have explained the wonderful expanse of the external body of the Lord.” (SB 5.26.40)
Three types of universal form descriptions:
1. revealed as to Arjuna and Yashoda
2. authoritative descriptions from authorities
3. invitations to envision mentally a universal form
The cosmology chapters in the Fifth Canto of the Bhagavatam are part of an authoritatively described universal form.
In all these universal form descriptions there are those things that are visible and those that are invisible. What is the status of these?
So there are some verses and purports that raise doubts.
“The conception of the virat universal form of the Lord, as appearing in the material world, is imaginary. It is to enable the less intelligent [and neophytes] to adjust to the idea of the Lord’s having form. But factually the Lord has no material form.” (SB 1.3.30)
“As Paramatma, or Supersoul, the Lord is within each and every material form, even within the atoms, but the outward material form is but an imagination, both for the Lord and for the living being. The present forms of the conditioned souls are also not factual. The conclusion is that the material conception of the body of the Lord as virat is imaginary. Both the Lord and the living beings are living spirits and have original spiritual bodies.” (SB 1.3.30, purport)
Although in one sense, the universal form is imaginary, it does not mean we can take it all as imagined, and thus that the measurements do not have meaning. In another purport, Srila Prabhupada takes the virat-rupa as being similar to the arca-vigraha, and says both are forms of Krishna. They have dimension. Although this is true, we still have to maintain some humility, as shown in these quotes.[Lord Brahma said to Narada:] “Since neither Lord Siva nor you nor I could ascertain the limits of spiritual happiness, how can other demigods know it? And because all of us are bewildered by the illusory, external energy of the Supreme Lord, we can see only this manifested cosmos according to our individual ability.” (SB 2.6.37)
“The demigods, semi-demigods, Gandharvas, etc., are all highly intelligent persons in the upper planets, the human beings are inhabitants of the intermediate planets, and the asuras are inhabitants of the lower planets. All of them have their respective conceptions and estimations of the Absolute Truth, as does the scientist or the empiric philosopher in human society.” (SB 2.6.37, purport)
“Everyone thinks, in terms of individual capacity, that this universe, which is manifested before us, is all in all. And so the scientist in the human society of the twentieth century calculates the beginning and end of the universe in his own way. But what can the scientists know? Even Brahma himself was once bewildered …” (SB 2.6.37, purport)
“We should simply be satisfied with the statements of authorities like Sukadeva Gosvami and appreciate how the entire cosmic manifestation has been made possible by the external energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The measurements given herein, such as 10,000 yojanas or 100,000 yojanas, should be considered correct because they have been given by Sukadeva Gosvami. Our experimental knowledge can neither verify nor disprove the statements of Srimad-Bhagavatam. We should simply hear these statements from the authorities. If we can appreciate the extensive energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that will benefit us.” (SB 5.16.10, purport)
Theophany is visible evidence of God’s manifestations.
I have analyzed the universal form descriptions in the Bhagavatam, and they vary according to the person hearing them, the person speaking them, and the purpose they are made for.
A very important point is that all the universal forms proceed from the original form of Krishna.
The universal form descriptions help people understand where they come from, where they are at, and that are all things are related to the original form of the Lord.
Q: Regarding Bhu-mandala and our meditation on it as the virat rupa, how much of it do you regard as a model? How much do we take as actual?
A: We are meant to understand it as far as our intelligence allows, as the Bhagavatam says.
Sadaputa Prabhu makes the point that the length of the day calculations are practically perfectly accurate at Delhi, where the conversation took place, but diverge as you go further away, thus indicating that actual knowledge is being given in the discussion.
Scientists have come up with what they call the “standard cosmological model” or Lambda-CDM.
Previously there were 10 or 15 serious problems in modern cosmology. Now there are 100 problems.
As devotees we should not trivialize the complexity of the universe.
There are parts of the universe that we have never seen because we have never received any light from there.
Stars can last one trillion years. No other traditional cosmology deals with trillions of years besides the Vedic cosmology.
In the secular world the standard is a 12-minute presentation with 3 minutes for questions. If we cannot keep to the times we promise, people in the secular world will not take us seriously.
There are 200,000 satellites going around the earth.
If we disagree with basic well-established facts about the earth, we are appealing to either:
1. Vast conspiracies.
2. Knowledge stolen by illusion.
3. The understanding that the Puranas are not describing the observable universe.
The Bhagavatam has the most complete cosmology of the Puranas.
Warped Passages, a book by physicist Lisa Randall, describes hidden dimensions.
Theory of branes indicates the universe may be small.
There is an idea that the laws of physics may not work uniformly throughout the universe.
The Bhagavatam heights correlate with the “modern mean distances to the planets.” There is the greatest correlation with the difference between maximum and minimum distances, pretty good correlation with the maximum distances, and the least correlation with the mean distances.
On the heavenly planets, as the demigods experience time to be very different from us, they also experience space to be very different from us.
There is a difference between the chariot of the sun and the abode of the sun, and their locations could be different as well.
The TOVP wants exhibits, and the BI wants publications.
I am happy to be here and talk about these important topics that have been on my mind for years.
Is it actually the job of BI to discredit scientific theories to make room for Puranic?
The burning questions are for me:
1. the relationship between bhu-mandala and bhu-gola
2. the size of the universe
3. the vertical dimension
The scale of time space is expanding not the universe itself. Thus the experience of a kilometer would be quite different when the time space expands.
Iron is the most stable element in the universe. Nickel is also very stable. That is why planets have iron and nickel cores.
Things heavier than iron and nickel are formed by collisions of stars and galaxies.
Some scientists say Jupiter was a failed star.
Scientists say our star is a second generation star formed from matter ejected from a supernova, and that is why the heavier elements are present in our solar system.
We can tell the elements the stars are made of from the spectra of light coming from the stars. Size is indicated by the brightness of the stars.
Using telescopes and trigonometry with parallax we can measure the distance of stars up to 100 million light years.
The experiments show that the theory of stars being nuclear furnaces using lighter elements to create heavier elements is justifiable.
This discussion reminds me of the calculation of time from the atom chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam, with atoms combining to form hexatoms, and so on.
The first thing that expands is space, which is consistent with the Vedic idea that everything begins with space.
Some scientists (e.g. Roger Penrose et al.) are saying that this universe did not begin from an initial singularity but rather from a reduced state of a previously expired universe. This is because the singularity idea is problematic.
It is well known there are problems with the singularity idea.
The big bang was not an explosion but a quick manifestation.
Sukadeva Goswami was speaking to an audience composed of a variety of people, but no one was inquiring about details. It appears he was giving a summary for a general audience.
I take it as a literal presentation. If that does not work, we can see about other ways of seeing it.
When you have the potter’s wheel analogy and the two motions, it gets complex because of the 23.5 degree tilt. Sadaputa solved that by taking Bhu-mandala as the ecliptic plane because otherwise you would have to deal with the sun moving in a spiraling motion. Prana Gauranga Prabhu explains the spiraling up and down motion of the sun during the seasons. This is in addition to the movement of the whole chariot.
The purpose of the cosmological descriptions is to create faith, and we should make sure we do this in our representations of it.
Ujjain had a position of considerable importance in the field of Indian astronomy. Great works on astronomy such as the Surya-siddhanta and the Panch Siddhanta were written there. According to Indian astronomers, the Tropic of Cancer is supposed to pass through Ujjain. It is also the first meridian of longitude of the Hindu geographers. From about the 4th century B.C. Ujjain enjoyed the reputation of being a center of learning as well and the Prime Meridian, like the ‘Greenwich’ of the ancient world.
Pavaneshwar Prabhu’s book, Bhagavata Cosmology, is based on a model of a follower of Madhvacarya named Vidaraja Tirtha (1480–1600). He claims features such as Mount Meru, which we cannot see, are composed of some kind of subtle imperceptible matter.
To explain to our contemporaries the Bhagavata Cosmology, it is helpful to hear how a great Vaishnava acarya explained it to his contemporaries.
Loka is defined as that which you can perceive, which indicates that if you take birth in a certain place you are endowed with the senses you need to perceive it.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam presents an actual description of the universe, Srila Prabhupada accepted it that way, and he wanted us to present it that way in the TOVP.
Our senses cannot necessary perceive it as it is.
This can be presented directly or indirectly.
Generally we should accept the direct meaning, although indirect meanings may have value.
Sadaputa Prabhu explained in a letter to Tamal Krishna Goswami that he explained the universe in Mysteries of the Sacred Universe the way he did because he was worried that people would consider the Fifth Canto cosmology to be mythological and thus reject the whole literature.
BI is meant to preach to the scientists in their language. TOVP is to attract all the people of the world to Mayapur.
You need presentations both for people familiar with popular science and for people who are experts in science.
TOVP tends to focus on the presentations for those familiar with popular science rather than presentations for professionals in science.
It is important that in trying to relate how we see the universe in our experience to the description of Bhu-mandala that we do not interpret either in a trivial way.
I personally think that the Srimad-Bhagavatam describes the universe as Lord Brahma sees it and only a very few other people. Even Agastya Muni had to be especially empowered to see the seven islands and oceans.
I see the Jyotisa Sastra describes our experience.
The goal is to make a model that has fidelity to the Bhagavatam.
Although most of the audience is general, I think it is important to make sure that the arguments are sophisticated enough so that intellectuals appreciate them.
In the west wing we will show the Puranic and Siddhantic models side by side, and show how both work and are resonant. The main presentation is the Bhagavata Cosmology as described and modeled as it is as far as possible. In the history of ISKCON, by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, people who were very beginning artists were able, by his direction, to produce valuable and accurate artistic representations.
They have Graphic Guides done by Ph.D.s but for a general audience, thus a Ph.D. can see they are accurate but a layman can understand them.
I see there are multiple ways Bhagavata Cosmology has been presented by serious devotees.
We are not going to have an argument. We are going to have a discussion.
Sanskrit is such a rich language one statement can have many meanings, all of which can be considered direct and all of equal value.
It is important we accurately represent the direct meaning in the model. Still presenting material from commentaries is valuable.
There can be several direct meanings as well as several indirect meanings.
We do not experience some aspects of Bhu-mandala. Why? Maybe it is hyperplane, a plane tangent to ours but in a higher dimension.
The vertical direction could be explained as an extrusion of the celestial sphere that is not a spatial transformation but an elevation in the modes of material nature.
Going to the subterranean heavens is like going into a casino. There is a lot of opulence but also a lot of ignorance.
There is a relationship between time and the modes. For example, in New York City, which is in the mode of passion, time speeds up, while in Upstate New York or in Maine, which is more in goodness, time slows down.
Perhaps we cannot perceive things because of different combinations of the gunas.
Looking at the same galaxy in different ways, you see different things.
Everyone, including the scientists, knows we cannot perceive everything. We have to explain why our senses cannot perceive certain things in order to give a good explanation.
Clockwise and anticlockwise movement of the sun involves hyperplanes.
Vishnu Purana divides Bharata-varsa into nine divisions, and only the last one is inhabited by humans. It is encircled by a sea, and it is 1000 yojanas, which is the size of the earth’s diameter. The experiences of the four yugas are limited to this region.
There are different geometries that may used to describe features of the Bhagavata Cosmology.
When we go into the Kali-yuga, we become more tamasic and thus less of the universe is presently accessible to us as human beings than before.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura in Tattva-viveka views the different philosophies he was aware of from the point of view of the paramahamsa.
We should not immediately jump to appeal to supernatural explanations. We should see how far we can go with other explanations first.
Carana Renu Devi Dasi’s model:
CRdd’s model uses a “Bhu-mandala floor” and a “rotating star dome,” with a 10’ Mt. Meru and Jambudvipa on Temple room floor. She suggests placing Bilva-svarga, Ananta Sesa, and hells below the level of the temple hall.
Belt of the zodiac (ecliptic plane) at 23.4° tilt, thus Meru lines up with the north polar axis. Planets, sun and moon orbit here, each on their own tracks with their based on “simple observation.” Higher regions to be artistically portrayed along the galleries or within lower regions of the main dome.
Not a chandelier model.
Exhibits: present scientific explanations and connections with modern science.
Sadaputa Prabhu’s model:
Equatorial plane horizontal, small earth (1–2 in.) in center, connected to Dhruvaloka mounted on ceiling, rotating rod for daily motion. Bhu-mandala as the ecliptic plane, 23.5° tilt, rotates with rod but also moves counterclockwise on its own track as proper motion. The sun spiraling up and down will model the passing of the seasons, and also accounts for day and night.
If Bhu-mandala is physical, must be subtle energy, invisible and intangible to senses, or perhaps it is purely a geometrical model for describing celestial motion.
Two Merus: Puranic: 84,000 yojanas high in center of Jambudvipa. Surya-siddhanta: 1 yojana high at North Pole.
Uses Tiruvenkata Swami’s model for planetary orbits because it’s supported by Vaishnava tradition, it harmonizes with model’s structural details, good match with known astronomy.
Suggests two levels:
chandelier suspended from the ceiling above deities
Bhu-mandala flat on floor, sun’s chariot on circular track, planets orbit the sun
Rsiraja Prabhu offers a semantic interpretation, along the lines of Rasaraja Prabhu’s work, suggesting a new space time geometry. He does this by redefining terms, e.g.:
Distance: the semantic distance between two objects or the time it takes to send information from one to another
Vertical dimension: successive stages of guna development through or different levels of abstraction
Oceans: disconnection between activities
Mountain: energy barrier or hardship in going from one domain to another
There are difficulties correlating this model with scientific observation.
His idea of relating distance to consciousness is useful. In fact one can derive useful ‘golden nuggets’ from the works of such devotees, even if one doesn’t agree with all their conclusions.
The idea is that there are other geometries that can better explain what we see in the Puranas.
Prahlada Prabhu, Janmastami Prabhu’s son, was so outraged that any of his friends believed that the earth was flat that he brought his friends to a lake that was nine miles long, and using a boat and a laser he was able to show the curvature of the earth to their satisfaction.
There were globe models that the Greeks had.
You have to be careful to understand the difference between Bhu-mandala and the earth under your feet, otherwise you can get absurd results.
I never saw the TOVP as an entity unto itself. I did not see it that way, and I do not think Srila Prabhupada saw it that way.
If we present things in a mood of accommodating people it is a different mood than explaining the veracity of something.
We had conversations with Srila Prabhupada in the beginning before the Fifth Canto was even printed for many, many hours, and I asked Srila Prabhupada about what we did not understand. He wanted it to make sense, and he was very concerned about that.
If you need people to believe the model, you have a problem. If you do not need people to believe it, you do not have a problem.
The BI is meant to bring the ideas we have learned all these years into the minds of incredibly intelligent people. Even if you get one guy to think in a different way, you have done a lot.
The real understanding of the sastra is not a physical model but different qualities.
How you interpret things very much depends on how you see things, not that there is a single way of seeing things.
The chandelier was meant just to show the planets.
The chandelier is meant to be a thing of wonder. In the temple there are meant to be levels of presentation of the universe meant to attract us to go to the spiritual realm.
The Madhvacarya followers in Udupi are the most learned Vaishnavas as far as the cosmography is concerned. They have a developed mathematical background.
Sridhara Maharaja said, “Do not consider it is static. Everything is always in motion.”
I think that Srila Prabhupada realized that the task was inhuman and thus, he once told Jayapataka Swami, “Make it smaller and just have some planets flying above the deities.”
When I was discussing with Sadaputa Prabhu, I suggested we have light frequencies and sound frequencies for each planet which would provide a concert and light show for the pleasure of the deity.
In other temples, you see deities of the nine planets around the side of the main deities but not above them.
Angkor Wat is the model we had in those days. Other temples are modeled after that.
There was another idea of having a pyramid with a planetarium in it before you come to the actual temple building.
Sadaputa Prabhu saved practically every paper that crossed his desk, so we have all kinds of materials from the history of Bhaktivedanta Institute going back to its inception in the mid 1970s.
Sadaputa Prabhu is right to bring attention to areas where modern and Vedic astronomy ‘agree’. However Danavir Goswami is also right to remind us that the ultimate authority for devotees is the Vedic paradigm.
The astrolabe in a museum in Geneva has Sanskrit inscriptions on it, adding weight to Sadaputa Prabhu’s planisphere and astrolabe models.
The odds that the close correlation between the sizes of the concentric rings of Bhu-mandala and the geocentric orbits of the solar system is merely a coincidence is more than 10,000 to one against.
The rings of Bhu-mandala relate to the geocentric orbits on the planets in Phase Space.
The geocentric orbit of Uranus was encoded in the Puranas, yet it was not discovered by Western astronomers until 1781.
One can accept both the Puranic and Siddhanta version of the universe, even if they appear to contradict each other. They are from different points of view, different levels of consciousness.
Encoded into the Surya-siddhanta are very close correlations with modern astronomy, especially when it comes to the relative distances and the diameters of the planets.
There are logarithmic maps of the universe. One was shared as an example of the fact that perhaps the universe as a whole cannot be approached as something restricted to linear space.
The vertical dimension of the Vedic universe does not represent physical / linear distance in space.
Two common themes:
The demigods experience the universe differently from us.
There are nonphysical aspects to the universe that we as devotees cannot ignore.
Most of Jambudvipa is a collection of heavenly realms which have karmic or some other connections with the global earth we can perceive (Bharata-varsa). Together they form part of the Greater Earth as experienced by the higher demigods.
The traveling upward of 80,000 miles refers to the movement of the subtle body. This accounts for the massive dimensions of the mountains of Jambudvipa. It could be that heavenly realms are accessible from various places within the mountainous regions of central Asia. However only those with the qualification can use such gateways.
One may require increasing higher qualification as one enters realms nearer to Mt. Meru. Thus Jambudvipa is ‘stepped’.
The lower planets can be reached by going within the earth, but they are not necessarily within the earth physically. Rather there are gateways to those realms under the earth.
You can have a vertical graph ordering planets by temperature. It was used as an example of how the vertical direction of the Vedic universe is not in the sequence of the physical locations of planets.
An example was given of a mother and child sitting close to each other and meanwhile the teacher is further away. In terms of mental capacity the mother has more in common with the teacher and is thus closer in a subtle way. Similarly, the earth and moon are close to each other physically, but in a subtle sense the sun is ‘nearer’ than the moon.
Perhaps in mystic travel a yogi would encounter the sun before the moon.
The Vedic universe was compared to an upside down cosmic tree, with the single, original trunk in the highest part of the universe identified as Lord Brahma’s abode.
The demigods are seeing more dimensions than we are.
It could be that Brahma can see everything in the universe, but his ongoing descendants see increasingly less and less of it. The higher beings can see lower beings, but the lower beings cannot see them. The more a being’s consciousness is focused on gross matter, the further down the tree it is, and the less it can ‘see’.
Perhaps planets have an additional dimension of ‘height’, i.e. places like the moon and Venus have gross level identities which are completely inhabitable, but in the higher more subtle dimension they are heavenly worlds. It’s a little like comparing the ground imprint of a two dimensional single side of a shape (its gross identity) with the full three-dimensional shape (full identity).
To travel from the earth to the heavenly aspect related to Venus (for example), one would need to travel both through gross-linear space as well as in another more subtle way.
In terms of sacred geometry, there are connections between Bhu-mandala and yantras. Also connections with vastu purusha mandalas, temple architecture such as Angkor Wat and the nine grahas.
It was also brought to the devotees’ attention that Maha Meru is a three-dimensional version of the Sri Yantra. Maha Meru includes Mt. Meru at its top center, which was used to support the proposal that Bhu-mandala is not completely flat. It is only relatively flat in the context of its role as the geocentric solar system. This was further supported by sharing illustrations by Vaishnavas of the medieval period, who represented Bhu-mandala as ‘stepped’ and leading up to Meru at its center. That type of progression, namely climbing steps of consciousness, also exists in the Surya-siddhanta and the Matsya Purana.
When it comes to the heavenly dvipas (planets) of Bhu-mandala (together with their exotic oceans), it was argued that they belong to much higher vertical locations in the universe but they may be accessible via gateways within this solar system.
Some realms in Bhu-mandala, such as Plaksadvipa do not have an orbital relationship with a recognizable planet in the solar system. It could be that it is a realm which exists on a much higher ‘vibration’ but has no planetary imprint on the gross sensory level.
Perhaps a Bhu-mandala on the floor of the TOVP showing the geocentric movements of the solar system would be wonderful.
Subterranean planets could be represented underground.
Use holograms. Updating exhibits would be easier, and guests, especially the youth, would find use of the latest technology attractive.
I see LA is like a subterranean heavenly planet.
Hitler sent a whole expedition to Antarctica looking for the hollow earth.
Places within the earth may be portals or gateways to lower planetary systems.
Not only within the earth but also on the surface of the earth. Bhima entered the realm of the Nagas by going into the water. In Hawaii it is said people enter other realms by entering volcanoes.
The Righteous Mind is a great book I recommend reading. We are not trying to change others’ minds but achieve a mutual understanding. Keep in mind the difference between details and principles.
Srila Prabhupada asked me to rewrite the Fifth Canto. He was not joking. He was talking about a future action. The ideas given in a book are a representation of them. What we are hearing now is different from how people were hearing them. I am not talking about the Sanskrit. Usually when you hear “Prabhupada said to rewrite the Fifth Canto”, you black out, thinking it is impossible. To do it, you have to think about how to present it in our way of understanding. I do not like the world “subtle” because it does not actually describe what we want to say.
Prabhupada I could talk to because he was more far out than all the rest of us together. His experience was so vast he could relate to everything. Once I sat next to Srila Prabhupada when he was singing a bhajana and I experienced it with all my five senses at once. He looked at me and smiled, appreciating my new experience. If you have an experience then you can describe it realistically not otherwise. We have problems if we limit ourselves to the physical. People talk about different energetic dimensions. Our advantage is that we can enter into energetic dimensions. The change of perception makes understanding possible.
When many people proposed cosmological models I recommended that we go with Carana Renu’s model showing the sun moving through the rasis because it was directly there in the Bhagavatam. Sadaputa has things not directly in the Bhagavatam itself, and Antardvipa had stuff from other Puranas. Danavira Swami’s spherical earth off the coast of Jambudvipa is also not directly there in the Bhagavatam.
We have a problem in explaining a direct meaning if we start with our experience of earth and relate it to Bhu-mandala because how do we see our earth in the Bhagavatam?
I include the material from bona fide Vaishnavas’ commentaries on the Srimad-Bhagavatam. It can fill in the gaps, but if it appears to disagree with Srila Prabhupada’s version, we go with Srila Prabhupada’s version.
Brahmapuri is 10 million yojanas, which is larger than the top of Mount Meru itself. How do we understand this?
Srila Prabhupada accepted the direct meaning. It is simple. The planets move east to west around Dhruva the pole star.
There do appear to be irreconcilable differences. Another point is that if you take Surya-siddhanta and Srimad-Bhagavatam material and weave it together, although the sources are direct, the result is a personal interpretation and therefore no longer direct.
It is a representation of the direct meaning. There is the example of the village on the Ganges. It is not literally on the river itself.
I feel it is impossible to say we have a direct meaning as there will always be a degree of interpretation in it. The ideas of who we are, where we are, and how to get out are also direct meanings. There can be other indirect meanings that do not detract from the direct meaning but enhance our greater appreciation of God’s creation.
We are trying to make the best presentation possible to the groups we hope to reach.
Sastra has volume while we just see in 2D. The acarya can see the extra dimensions. Srila Prabhupada gave the direct meaning which we should follow as far as possible.
If we see a sphere coming through a plane, we see different sized circles. Which is right? Unless we are previously given knowledge that it is a sphere, we cannot say.
We hope to create an experience for the public. I feel with the mandate comes the ability to manifest it.
If we are humble, cooperative, and connected, empowerment becomes possible. Through cooperation we can avoid synthesizing direct sources in a way that misinterprets them.
Brahma is instructed in yoga-nidra, but when he wakes up he does not recall it. Ultimately he does penance and he is inspired by Krishna, and he sees everything in his heart.
Radhika Ramana Prabhu, who is a great scholar, always makes the point that if the direct meaning does not make sense, then we have to go to indirect meanings. The Bhagavatam describes Bhu-mandala both as the equatorial plane and as the ecliptic plane, and that does not make sense.
There are many direct interpretations in the Bhagavatam. How do we determine which to choose?
The only way is purifying ourselves and working together.
We can dovetail peer review in Krishna consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada wanted us to show that the Bhagavatam is good science. Surya-siddhanta is a good tool for us because Srila Prabhupada suggested it.
All use of language is subjective to some degree. For example, whether a meaning can be classed as literal or not, depends upon the context and the culture of the users. One must also consider the multiple meanings of English words themselves. For example, to a geologist the word mountain means a ‘massive mound of rock’ but the inhabitants of an ancient valley community might immediately understand that the text is referring to a type of ‘huge boundary’.
The work of the BI is not to judge the chandelier model but suggest it may not be set in stone.
It is not Vaishnava to condemn science but only its neglect of the Supreme Lord.
Srila Prabhupada wanted us to bring God back into science.
We have an awful lot of work to do, and not enough for one conference or a series of conferences, but it will take generations to do it all.
Srila Prabhupada wanted BI devotees to clarify the presentation in the TOVP, and this has always been understood by the managers of the TOVP project. Originally it was all the BI devotees, but later Sadaputa Prabhu came forward and applied his talents to the cosmology. Then he was gone, and there was no other clear BI group focused on cosmology until this Gainesville group formed. Originally there was a single Mayapur TOVP group. Now Ambarisa is working on part, and Jayapataka Maharaja is working on another. It is important to understand that we are the current voice of this line of a tradition that has been going on for sometime, and it is a great responsibility. We take the knowledge we have received, present it according to our ability, and hand the ball to the next team. It is not a new project. We have a new audience. We want to be loyal to our tradition.
Before the TOVP during Srila Prabhupada’s time, there was an idea of presenting exhibits with scientific devotees’ input.
Our material needs should not over endeavored for, but for spiritual service, however, there is no limit to the endeavor.
Our ultimate goal is we have a Radha Madhava temple, and we want people to appreciate it.
I have stressed that the chandelier be modular and changeable.
One leading devotee mentioned that he had doubts about a mechanical model in light of advancing technology.
The Bhagavata Cosmology is describing a real structure. There are positions for people of different consciousness.
Formerly scientists did not understand there are living entities with bodies living 8,000 meters beneath the sea.
Why don’t we see Mount Meru? We do not have access to that location. It is not a question of a suitable telescope as it is in another dimension.
Bhugola is such we cannot see beyond it. We are earth bound. We cannot see beyond the sixteen elements.
Dealing with this issue will force us to understand deeper what we as conditioned jivas can perceive.
Just because you cannot see something does not mean it does not exist or that it is a different substance.
Srila Prabhupada used the analogy of a bull tied to a post to our being limited in what we can see.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said not to reject the Bhagavatam because it does not know astronomy.
I see our not seeing things as being like on a web site that a pay wall may block one from seeing different aspects of the web site.
We cannot really definitely say if that which is beyond the pay wall is of the same nature or a different nature as what we presently experience.
I think we have to explain the whole nature of maya, and why the living entities are conditioned differently.
One devotee explains that on the different levels of the universe there are different percentages of the eight elements in the bodies of the residents there.
We have to research our own metaphysics. Atmatattva tells a story of a person who went into meditation, and saw mountainous beings who said, “You are not supposed to be here.” Then he found his meditation broke and he could not get back to that place.
Most is beyond our conception though not all.
Sadaputa made the point that Lokaloka Mountain is said to be the limit of grahas (planets with astrological meaning) visible to the naked eye, and that is just beyond the orbit of Saturn. In this context, Lokaloka may not be a physical rocky mountain, but a mountain in the sense that it is a type of boundary in space.
Understanding the relationship of the Lord with the universe is the beginning of Krishna consciousness.
I think this verse sums it up: “My dear King, I have now described for you this planet earth, other planetary systems, and their lands [varsas], rivers and mountains. I have also described the sky, the oceans, the lower planetary systems, the directions, the hellish planetary systems and the stars. These constitute the virat-rupa, the gigantic material form of the Lord, on which all living entities repose. Thus I have explained the wonderful expanse of the external body of the Lord.” (SB 5.26.40) The message is to show where we are in the universe, so we understand we are part of something greater.
Sadaputa says in his purpose of the BI lecture, the first of the Origins series, that the purpose of the BI is to present aspects of science to attract the scientists and to give engagement to scientific minded devotees.
I see it is all about engaging people. Knowledge not static but dynamic.
I have a mandate. I have to do this very seriously. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura conceived of a theistic exhibition, and he was one of the greatest astronomers. It is the first time for something of this magnitude. It is the fulfillment of the mission. All relevant science for human progress is to be found in Srimad-Bhagavatam. The more we can show that, the more we can change the face of the earth. Srila Prabhupada prophesied this. He said it will achieve more than Columbus.
The Bhagavata Cosmology is an attack on the materialistic concept. It is a test for us to get past, a rite of passage, or a filter system. It appears in the middle of the Bhagavatam, and it prepares us to accept Krishna in the later cantos.
We should bear in mind that audiences in previous times would have been able to appreciate the underlying metaphysics and this would have enabled them to conceive of the Bhu-mandala description as the virat-rupa much more clearly perhaps than we do.
The Fifth Canto shows where we can go after this life, and gives us the option of stopping the repeated births. Because it is so far out, it has been difficult and somewhat impossible for some people to be Krishna conscious. Srila Prabhupada was aware of this and wanted us to make it more understandable and to seem more feasible.
It is meant to show the Lord is glorified all over the universe. I see this is along the lines of Brhad-bhagavatamrita.
The key is to build the faith of the viewers. If we are unable to do this it will be too easy for people to take it as mythological and reject it.
Just reading Srimad-Bhagavatam is an act of devotion and leads us to transcendence. We are churning this, and we do not know what will come out. Some poison, some nectar. Now that we have achieved humanity, we can inquire about the Absolute Truth. If through our models, we can inspire people to inquire about the Absolute Truth, that is our success. We do not need to give people answers but the means to find the answers themselves.
Personalism is one contribution we have, in relation to ourselves, the cosmos, and Krishna. This has to shake your soul. When you leave, you will become a new person, having changed for the better. And the time could not be better. Previously people did not consider animals had consciousness …
One anti-cult book said that the Hare Krishnas believe God lies on a bed of water and breathes out millions of universes. They thought it was evil, but I thought it was cool. Now scientists are talking about multiple universes. I see the Fifth Canto is the demigods for a moment exposing their world to us, and we are shocked by it, just as Yashoda was shocked to see the universe in Krishna’s mouth.
I think we should think about what we can do for the TOVP, not what the TOVP can do for us.
We have an entry level, three floors of exhibits, and a dome theater. Originally we will start with one floor of exhibits and the dome theater because we will not be able to get it all ready by the opening day.
I think the abbreviated version will deal with mostly the philosophical exhibits which the BI is not so essential for.
We have an initial outline for all the exhibits. The three floors deal with
1. consciousness and the soul
I favor doing full development and producing virtual reality models of the exhibits. Among other things that will motivate people to contribute to it. This should go on intensively and continually.
The BI needs to be fairly assertive and practical in order to get its points and objectives across to the TOVP team.
I had low expectations and high hopes so no disappointments.
I think we should make a book for the BBT and put all we discussed in it for the benefit of the devotees.
Although you cannot point to a lot of practical things, I would say that we are building relationships that are very important for this project, and on the foundation of these relationships we will make progress toward the goals that Srila Prabhupada wanted.
I feel it was very important to discuss these important issues with people who have actually considered them.
This is not something we are doing which is necessary to attain love of God. It is something for us who have an interest in doing it.