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Challenges to the Astronomical Paradigm

Monday, 18 October 2010 / Published in Articles / 4,159 views

By Brian Lee Petersen a/k/a Bibhatsu das (HDG)

Prabhupada: “You are prejudiced. That’s all. If I can understand, why don’t you understand? You are prejudiced.”
Tamal Krisna: “Well I can understand if I accept it as… I’m only trying to think as the persons who are going to make this planetarium.”
Prabhupada: “You are Western. You are prejudiced. That is reason…” (July 5, 1977, Vrindavana) (VC pg. 221)

The planetarium referred to by His Holiness Tamal Krsna Goswami, is now being constructed in Mayapura, India. If you google Temple of the Vedic Planetarium you will get an idea of the planned, outside appearance of the building. The projects’ greater challenge remains in determining the interior plan of instructive videos and cosmic models. These models will attempt to reveal a universe very different than what we learned in school. Considering our western upbringing, who among us can remain unprejudiced?

We were taught to accept as dogma, hypotheses such as the following: 1. The stars are like the sun. 2. The earth revolves around the sun once every year and rotates on its’ axis every 24 hours. 3. The planets are held in their orbit by the force of gravity. 4. The moon is nearer to the earth than the sun. 5. The universe is millions of light years in its’ expanse. Well, according to scripture, these statements are false. The Vedic Planetarium will allow scientists and the public to revisit and rethink these and other essential questions.

“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 propoganda.” (Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Swarupa Damodara, April 27, 1976) (VC pg. 187)

The stars are like the moon, and there is only one sun per universe
“naksatranam aham sasi” “among the stars I am the moon.” Purport: “…The theory that there are many suns within the universe is not accepted by Vedic literature… the moon is one of the stars, the twinkling stars are not suns but are similar to the moon.” (Bg 10.21)

“By the force of the pregnancy of Diti, the light of the sun and moon was impaired in all the planets,…” Purport: “It appears from this verse of Srimad Bhagavatam that the sun is the source of light for all the planets in the universe. The modern scientific theory which states that there are many suns in each universe is not supported by this verse. It is understood that in each universe there is only one sun, which supplies light to all the planets. In Bhagavad-Gita the moon is also stated to be one of the stars. There are many stars, and when we see them glittering at night we can understand that they are reflectors of light; just as moonlight is a reflection of sunlight, other planets also reflect sunlight, and there are many other planets which cannot be seen by our naked eyes….” (SB 3.15.2)
The earth is fixed; not moving
(1 Chronicles 16:30) “The world stands firm, never to be moved.” (Psalm 93:1) “…the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.”
Pushta Krishna: “Is the earth spinning?”
Srila Prabhupada: “No.”………..
Hauri-Sauri: “So the whole universe moves around. Every twenty-four hours it does one rotation. And then the sun is also round all that.”… (Morning walk-March 18, 1976, Mayapura). (VC pg.38-39)

“My final decision is that the universe is just like a tree, with root upwards. Just as a tree has branches and leaves so the universe is also composed of planets which are fixed up in the tree like the leaves, flowers, fruits, etc.of the tree. The pivot is the pole star, and the whole tree is rotating on this pivot. Mount Sumeru is the center, trunk,… The tree is turning and therefore, all the branches and leaves turn with the tree… There are pathways leading from one planet to another made of gold, copper, etc. and these are like the branches. We can see that at night, how the whole planetary system is turning around, the pole star being the pivot. Each planet has its orbit fixed but the sun is moving up and down, north and south. It is not that we shall accept the theory that the sun is fixed up and the others are going around the sun. That is not correct. Even the 7th star” (Srila Prabhpada is referring to Saturn, apparently) “is rotating once around the pole star in each 24 hours… The sun is going north and south and has its own orbit below the moon…” (Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Swarupa Damodara-Auckland, 27 April, 1976) (VC pg.190-191)
Included are excerpts from Bhu-gola Varnanam by Shri Vadiraja Tirtha(1480-1600), a senior disciple in the line of Shri Madhavacharya: “The wheels of the ‘Kala Chakra’ are twelve—nine for the nine planets, one for the ‘Sapta-rsis’ (Big Dipper), one for the stars, and one for the ‘Rasis’ (constellations)…. The courses are located differently in space and the Lord (Shishumara) holds them all in their courses at all times. The courses are all circular at different distances and altitudes,…” (BGT pg. 54) “There is one horizontally placed wheel of gold (not the gross material gold with which we are familiar), located just above the Manasottara mountain in Pushkaradvipa, the outermost of the seven islands. This wheel always goes round and round (clockwise from above; east to west) and is meant to take the entire Kala Chakra with it. Upon the main wheel of the Kala Chakra runs the sun’s chariot drawn by seven horses. This chariot has only one wheel and its course upon the Kala Chakra is right above the Manasottara mountain ring.” (BGT pg. 55-56) “They (sun, planets and stars) do certainly go one full round along with the Kala Chakra every day, keeping the Lord (Sishumara), and Sumeru mountain below, to their right.” (BGT pg. 59) “On account of the terraced formation of the seven islands, Puskaradvipa is the lowest (in Bhumandala); and therefore the setting point and rising point of the sun are at lower levels in comparison with the location of our part of the earth. Hence it looks as though the Kala Chakra goes down and comes up.” (BGT pg. 61)
What about gravity?
“When bulls are yoked together and tied to a central post to thresh rice, they tread around that pivot without deviating from their proper positions–one bull being closest to the post, another in the middle, and a third on the outside. Similarly, all the planets and all the hundreds and thousands of stars revolve around the polestar, the planet of Maharajah Druva, in their respective orbits, some higher and some lower. Fastened by the Supreme Personality of Godhead to the machine of material nature according to the results of their fruitive acts, they are driven around the polestar by the wind and will continue to be so until the end of creation. These planets float in the air within the vast sky, just as clouds with hundreds of tons of water float in the air…” (SB 5.23.3)
Purport: “According to the description of this verse, the hundreds and thousands of stars and the great planets such as the sun, the moon, Venus, Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter are not clustered together because of the law of gravity or any similar idea of the modern scientists… Material scientists want to avoid the ruling government of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore they imagine different conditions under which they suppose the planets move… the planets and stars are enabled to float by manipulations of the air. It is due to such manipulations that big, heavy clouds float and big eagles fly in the sky. Modern airplanes like the 747 jet aircraft work in a similar way: by controlling the air, they float high in the sky, resisting the tendency to fall to earth. Such adjustments of the air are all made possible by the cooperation of the principles of purusha (male) and prakriti (female). By the cooperation of material nature, which is considered to be prakriti, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is considered the purusha, all the affairs of the universe are going on nicely in their proper order.” (SB 5.23.3)
Wow, the cooperation of male and female; so love really does make the world go round! In this connection, please take note of the following scientific study: “Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research program, (PEAR), has conducted studies exploring the small but statistically significant effect that the human mind may have on machines. They use things like random event generators and have subjects try to mentally influence the outcomes of these devices. Results are also greater if a male and female work together, but same-sex pairs produce no significant results. Pairs of the opposite sex who are romantically involved produce the best results ― often seven times greater than when the same individuals are tested alone.” machine/trackback/,1294,68216,00.html”
The moon is further away and larger than the sun
“Above the rays of the sunshine by a distance of 100,000 yojanas [800,000 miles] is the moon, which travels at a speed faster than that of the sun…” Purport: “When we take into account that the moon is 100,000 yojanas, or 800,000 miles, above the rays of the sunshine, it is very surprising that the modern excursions to the moon could be possible. Since the moon is so distant, how space vehicles could go there is a doubtful mystery. Modern scientific calculations are subject to one change after another, and therefore they are uncertain. We have to accept the calculations of the Vedic literature. These Vedic calculations are steady; the astronomical calculations made long ago and recorded in the Vedic literature are correct even now. Whether the Vedic calculations or modern ones are better may remain a mystery for others, but as far as we are concerned, we accept the Vedic calculations to be correct.” (SB 5.22.8)
“The sun globe, which is a source of heat, extends for 10,000 yojanas [80,000 miles]. The moon extends for 20,000 yojanas [160,000 miles], and Rähu extends for 30,000 yojanas [240,000 miles]. Formerly, when nectar was being distributed, Rähu tried to create dissension between the sun and moon by interposing himself between them. Rähu is inimical toward both the sun and the moon, and therefore he always tries to cover the sunshine and moonshine on the dark-moon day and full-moon night.” Purport: “As stated herein, the sun extends for 10,000 yojanas, and the moon extends for twice that, or 20,000 yojanas. The word dvädasa should be understood to mean twice as much as ten, or twenty. In the opinion of Vijayadhvaja, the extent of Rähu should be twice that of the moon, or text of the Bhägavatam, Vijayadhvaja cites the following quotation concerning Rähu; rähu-soma-ravinam tu mandala dvi-gunoktitäm. This means that Rähu is twice as large as the moon, which is twice as large as the sun. This is the conclusion of the commentator Vijayemadhvaja.” (SB 5.24.2)
Apply literal or figurative interpretation?
Indian man: “It must be understood literally, you say?”
Prabhupada: “Yes, why not?….” (Interview with Professors O’Connell, Motilal and Shivaram – June 18, 1976, Toronto) (VC pg. 162-163)

Ms. Nixon: “.. One thing I’m very curious about: can the Vedas be taken symbolically as well as literally?”
Srila Prabhupada: “No. They must be taken as they are, not symbolically…” (Science of Self Realization; 1) (VC pg. 155)

How big is the universe?
It comes right down to point number 1: The stars are like the moon, and there is only one sun per universe. The essential misunderstanding of the actual nature of stars is responsible for the presumption that they are many light years distant.
Srimad Bhagavatam tells us our universe is 4 billion miles in diameter. Furthermore, everything can we see, with or without telescope, is within 1 billion miles of our earth (SB 5.20.34); or less than 90 minutes at the speed of light. From the earth it is 2 billion miles to the layers of material elements covering this universe, each ten times greater in width than the previous. Siddhanta-siromani, gives 18,712,069,200,000,000 x 8 miles as the outer circumference of layered coverings of this universe. (Cc. Madhya 21.84 Purport) That gives a radius of 2,979,628,853,503,184 x 8 miles one must travel from this earth, through insurmountable obstacles, to escape this prison of material energy. Krishna took Arjuna through all those coverings in order to visit Mahavishnu and bring back the brahmana’s sons. (SB 5.20.42-43)
Please understand that the wonderful world of radio, television, computers, air-conditioning, motorcycles and laser-surgery have all come from completely separate scientific disciplines! The modern conception of the universe (paradigm) is still in hypothetical and developmental stages; it continues to change. Those among us who remain prejudiced in light of the scriptural evidence will have further opportunity to be convinced by the Vedic Planetarium models and exhibits.
“The disease of the modern civilized man is his disbelief of everything in the revealed scriptures. Faithless nonbelievers cannot make progress in spiritual realization, for they cannot understand the spiritual potency…Revealed knowledge may in the beginning be unbelievable because of our paradoxical desire to verify everything with our tiny brains, but the speculative means of attaining knowledge is always imperfect… A staunch believer in the sastras, with all their diversities, is the right person from whom to gather real knowledge. Such knowledge may seem inconceivable in the beginning, but when put forward by the proper authority its meaning is revealed, and then one no longer has any doubts about it.” (Srila Prabhupada Purport, Cc. Adi 5.14)
Bibhatsu dasa (HDG) has studied Srila Prabhupada’s books for over 30 years.
Bg – Bhagavad Gita – BBT – translation and purport by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Cc – Chaitanya Charitamrita – BBT – translation and purport by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
SB – Shrimad Bhagavatam – BBT – translation and purport by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
VC – Vedic Cosmology – His Holiness Danavir Goswami – Rupanuga Vedic College –
BGT – Bhu-Gola Tattva – His Holiness Danavir Goswami – Rupanuga Vedic College –
The Holy Bible

Illustration – Comparative models of the solar system – Brahe & Thiruvenkata – “Mysteries of the Sacred Universe” by Richard Thompson

4 Responses to “Challenges to the Astronomical Paradigm”

  1. “We were taught to accept as dogma, hypotheses such as the following: 1. The stars are like the sun…”

    Well, not exactly. At least I was not taught to accept such things “as dogma”. I was taught to accept them as widely accepted scientific truths that were based on a rational body of cumulative, ascending knowledge that did not depend on faith in revealed scriptures but merely on observations and human reason. I was taught that if anyone came up with a better explanation, reasonable scientists should be willing to be won over.

    “The modern conception of the universe (paradigm) is still in hypothetical and developmental stages; it continues to change. Those among us who remain prejudiced in light of the scriptural evidence will have further opportunity to be convinced by the Vedic Planetarium models and exhibits.”

    Yes, but….

    “Prejudiced in light of scriptural evidence” seems a strange way to put it, at least to my admittedly prejudiced mind. Some theoretical paradigms are so widely accepted (based on a compelling, historically venerable body of scientific learning) that they are considered practically immune from attack. When people make fun of opponents of Darwinian evolution in Biology, they say, “Next you are going to challenge the theory of gravity”, and everyone laughs at how absurd that sounds.

    There is an accepted scientific method of hypothetical and developmental knowledge of the natural world, based upon objective empirical observations and a great body of scholarly discourse by thoughtful professionals extending over hundreds of years.

    If we are going to succeed in replacing established and fundamental paradigms in astronomy and physics and chemistry, we are going to have to have intellectual devotees who understand the reasons why scientists believe things their way and can give better reasons for believing things according to the Vedic Planetarium models and exhibits.

    Otherwise, we will just seem like Christian fundamentalists who make “Creationist” theme parks that show dinosaurs playing with people shortly after the world was supposedly created some 6,000 years ago. In other words, it will look like we are the ones who are merely accepting a “dogma” based on a stubborn faith in our chosen scriptures, without being able to offer any scientific or even philosophical reasons for our preference.

  2. sdmuni108 says :

    The author asks the reader: “What about gravity?” He seems to suggest the Puranas claim gravity does not exist.
    Upon further examination, here is how Prabhupada framed his argument utilized in this essay, but without the extra “…” :
    This verse from Brahma-samhita confirms that even the largest and most powerful planet, the sun, rotates within a fixed orbit, or kala-cakra, in obedience to the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This has nothing to do with gravity or any other imaginary laws created by the material scientists.
    Material scientists want to avoid the ruling government of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore they imagine different conditions under which they suppose the planets move. The only condition, however, is the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
    >>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 5.23.3
    Yes, if “gravity” is used as an excuse for deny “the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead,” then surely that is foolishness. Frankly, neither Isaac Newton, nor modern science, has any real clue what gravity actually is – on any level. Due to consistent observations of an apparently attractive force between material objects, Newton was able to calculate the effect of that force and thus more efficiently predict motion. But he never claimed to know what it was. Newton’s critics argued his description of gravity sounded like a mystical occult force – an unknown energy acting at a distance that invisibly traveled thru objects. Scientists still do not know what causes gravity, or what it is, in essence.
    Here is another interesting purport Prabhupada wrote about gravity worth considering:
    Gravitation is caused by the Supreme Lord, so He is also able to remove that law or do anything and everything at His will. If you know something like swimming, then the law of gravitation will not work, and who knows better than Krishna how to do everything, so Krishna can change anything, therefore we worship Him as the greatest Scientist.
    >>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Rupanuga — Tokyo 3 May, 1972
    Apparently, according to this purport, gravity is a very real phenomenon created by Krsna, Not only that, but Prabhupada appears to be instructing his followers to worship Krsna as the greatest Scientist, since He not only created gravity, but He knows all about how to manipulate it – among His many other talents. For Krsna, there are no fixed laws.

  3. bibhatsudasa says :

    Dear SD muni Prabhu: I did not mean to suggest that the Puranas deny the existense of gravity. My article is not exaustive of the full subject matter. I prefer to hold the readers interest through brief, to the point, information. An experienced devotee knows that Lord Baladeva is the real force of gravity.
    Readers may communicate directly with me:

  4. bibhatsudasa says :

    Dear Akruranatha das Prabhu:
    Your response to my article is certainly mirrored by many, and much in line with historical precedent. Indeed your opinion is common. I regret that you were unconvinced by my offering, particularly since you appear to represent the community of distinguished scientists.
    In my companion article I offer some reasons why astronomers believe as they do, and how they came to their presumptuous conclusions. I recommend taking another look at questions which were ‘answered’ hundreds of years ago.
    In response to your statement expressing your desire to give better reasons for believing according to VP models; scripture is the best reason. Of course, you are very welcome, indeed encouraged, to present your own arguments.
    My offering to Guru and Krishna remains as is.
    Yours truly, Bibhatsu dasa

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