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Astronomical Models of Lunar Position

Sunday, 31 October 2010 / Published in Articles / 6,790 views

By Thakur Haridas das

This article is inspired by two articles on written by Bibatsu Prabhu, regarding the apparent discrepancies between modern scientific and ancient Vedic descriptions of the universe. His articles touch upon a number of controversies.

Let us approach the topic in terms of the epistemological principles used by modern science and by Vedic science. I will apply these principles to the controversy concerning the distance of the moon from earth; the same principles can be applied to other controversies as well.

In Challenges to the Astronomical Paradigm, Bibatsu Prabhu asserts that westerners are taught to accept certain scientific hypotheses as dogma, and that we are prejudiced by this conditioning.

In A Brief History of Astronomical Theory and Western Cosmology he states that he has written the article “because of the scientific community’s departure from scriptural accounts.”

Bibatsu’s article expresses scepticism of devotees who are trained and expert in modern science, and raises very important epistemological questions.

What is the validity of modern science? Should we disregard scientific evidence and methods? Should we be satisfied to simply quote sastra? How can we be sure that we understand the meaning of sastric quotes?

What is valid knowledge? How is knowledge acquired? How do the methods of acquiring spiritual and physical knowledge compare? How can we be confident that we really know what we think we know?

As Vaisnava practitioners of bhakti yoga, we faithfully accept the teachings of Srila Prabhpuada, the great acharyas, and the Vedic literatures. At the same time, the many benefits of modern science and a scientific methodology are obvious.

Srila Prabhupada appreciated the scientific approach, and stressed that Krishna consciousness is scientific. He wrote, “Modern scientific research is just like Sankhya philosopy, which analyzes material elements. We are also Sankhya philosophers to some extent.” – SSR Tiny World of Modern Science (p.218)

Of course, Srila Prabhupada justifiably condemned atheistic interpretations of scientific theories such as the Big Bang and evolution, which go beyond the evidence and jump to unwarranted conclusions. He wanted his devotee scientists to counteract these false conclusions by proper and expert use of science itself.

I would like to offer simple definitions of modern physical science and of Vedic spiritual science to clarify this discussion. Both sciences involve reasonable faith in epistemological principles, but it is clear that Vaisnava scientists have more faith, which is both a blessing and a burden.

Srila Prabhupada neatly defines the Vedic scientific method: “Vedic literature, direct perception, history and hypothesis are the four kinds of evidential proofs. Everyone should stick to these principles for the realization of the Absolute Truth.” SB 11.19.7 quoted in Cc Madhya 9.362

These, then, are four valid epistemological methods or sources of knowledge for devotees: sastra, sense perception, historical precedent, and logical hypothesis. One who follows these methods is applying Vedic science.

In this regard, there is a nice article entitled The God Logic by Abhijit Toley in Back to Godhead, Nov/Dec 2010, which describes the application of scientific method to spiritual life.

How does Vedic science differ from modern material science?

Modern science has achieved remarkable success following a peer reviewed system of observation, identification, description, replicable experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena.

Science may include sophisticated mathematical models and experimental techniques. But, basically, physical science accepts just three types of evidence: sense perception, logical hypothesis and historical precedent.

Thus, the essential difference between Vedic science and modern materialistic science is faith in the Vedic literatures. Vaisnavas respect and accept Vedic literatures as divine mercy in the form of knowledge descending from above, which transcends the flaws of human limitations.

In A Brief History of Astronomical Theory and Western Cosmology Bibatsu Prabhu writes, “For acquiring knowledge, there are two basic methods; ascending and descending. . . . I recommend taking the straight and less troublesome path of descending knowledge.”

This recommendation may be suitable for one who is not interested in a scientific approach. But, as quoted above, Bhagavatam 11.19.7 recommends a more rigorous and scientific approach, including both ascending and descending methods!

Vedic literature, shabda brahman, descends. Pratyaksha, anumana, and itihasa comprise the ascending process in this world. All are accepted as valid pramana or evidence, although it may require much careful thought to keep them all in harmony.

The recommendation to apply both ascending and descending methods is echoed in Isopanishad: “Only one who can learn the process of nescience and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend. . . “ Isopanishad Mantra 11

And, “One should know perfectly the Personality of Godhead and His transcendental name, as well as the temporary material creation. . . “Isopanishad Mantra 13

Bibatsu Prabhu favors a less troublesome path, but we can’t just quote scripture, ignore empirical and logical evidence, and call it scientific. The scientific process recommended in Bhagavatam is rigorous and exhaustive.

As Krishna says in the chatur-shloki, “A person who searches after the Supreme Absolute Truth must certainly search in all circumstances, in all time and space, and both directly and indirectly.” SB 2.9.36

In the Mayapur Temple of the Vedic Planetarium Srila Prabhupada wants his scientific and Ph. D. disciples to create a Vedic model of the universe, which should explain the passing seasons, eclipses, phases of the moon, the diurnal rhythm of night and day, etc.

Such a model cannot be based only on sastra. To be scientific and convincing it must have explanatory and predictive power in the physical world. It should be based upon Vedic literatures, logical hypothesis, empirical observation, and established historical precedents.

The Bhu-mandala model of the universe described in Srimad-bhagavatam is thousands of years old, and apparently describes reality very differently than modern science. Bibatsu Prabhu argues that we should accept the Bhu-mandala description and reject the findings of modern science.

But how can we blindly accept? Lord Caitanya said that each verse of the Bhagavatam is pregnant with unlimited meanings. Do we understand correctly? Blind following is condemned. We should use our intelligence and the Vedic scientific method.

Sadaputa Prabhu’s Mysteries of the Sacred Universe extensively analyses the Bhu-mandala model. Sadaputa suggests that this model encodes multiple levels of meaning regarding astronomical, geographical and spiritual realms.

Although very old, Bhu-mandala has aspects similar to the modern model of the solar system. For example, the shape and size of the “shell” of the Bhu-mandala model is similar to the heliosphere detected by modern science. [A picture of the heliosphere from Wikipedia can be seen at]

The congruencies between the Bhu-mandala model and modern discoveries suggest that ancient Vedic astronomical science was very advanced. Sadaputa writes, “In Indian astronomy and in Indian culture in general, the idea is always prominent that knowledge dates back to a very remote era.”

As Vaishnavas we believe that ancient Vedic civilization was greatly advanced in both spiritual and material sciences. Hopefully, the Temple of Vedic Planetarium will attract young intelligent devotees to research and investigate the traces of ancient knowledge and to revive the Vedic culture.

Bibatsu Prabhu lists as a false dogma of science that “the moon is nearer than the sun.” He accepts that the moon is actually farther from the earth than the sun, based upon his interpretation of the Bhu-mandala model. We can call this the “distant moon” interpretation.

Let us consider this controversy through the lens of Vedic science and the four pramanas. Do we really understand the evidence? To approach this problem in a Vedic scientific manner, we should carefully and patiently examine all four types of evidence with detachment.

What does the Bhu-mandala model show?

The model shows that the Moon is farther from Bhu-mandala than the Sun is. Sadaputa Prabhu points out, “However, this distance refers to height above Bhu-mandala, and it does not say how far the sun is from the earth globe.”

Since we do not perceive Bhu-mandala, which is described as a flat disk billions of miles in diameter in the plane of the ecliptic, it is presumptuous to jump to the conclusion that the distances of moon and sun from Bhu-mandala are the same as their distances from the earth globe.

However, another Vedic literature does give evidence about the distances of the moon and sun from earth.

Srila Prabhupada accepted as authoritative Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s translation of, “the authentic astronomy book known as Surya-siddhanta.” [CC AL 3.8p]

Surya-siddhanta “explicitly assumes that eclipses are caused by the passage of the moon in front of the sun or into the earth’s shadow. It describes calculations based on this model that make it possible to predict the occurrence of both lunar and solar eclipses and compute the degree to which the disc of the sun or moon will be obscured.” – Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy by Richard L. Thompson (Sadaputa dasa)

Thus, according to Surya Siddhanta, the moon is closer to the earth than the sun.

Now consider sense perception, another valid type of evidence.

We can ourselves observe that only the side of the moon facing the sun is bright. As the moon approaches nearer to the sun, its crescent becomes thinner. It appears that the side away from the earth is lit by the sun, and the side toward the earth is dark. This indicates that the moon is between the earth and the sun, as Surya-siddhanta describes.

If the moon were farther than the sun, then even as it approached nearer to the sun it would still appear as a full moon because the side toward the sun would also face the earth. But this is not what we see. We can all make this common sense and logical observation.

Now, let us consider the moon landing, which impinges on the controversy regarding the relative distances of moon and sun. It seems that Srila Prabhupada made apparently contradictory statements in this regard, which we can try to reconcile with a Vedic scientific approach.

In many places Srila Prabhupada said that the astronauts did not go to the moon. But he also made many statements that they have gone to the moon. Two such statements follow.

“While the scientist and philosopher go to the moon but are disappointed in their attempts to stay there and live, the devotee makes an easy journey to other planets and ultimately goes back to Godhead.” SB 4.12.25 purport

“Though modern astronauts go to the moon with the help of spaceships, they undergo many difficulties, whereas a person with mystic perfection can extend his hand and touch the moon with his finger.” NOD p.10 (1970 paperback)

Srila Prabhupada has variously suggested that the moon landing was a hoax in the desert, that the astronauts mistakenly went to Rahu, that they went to the moon but were refused entry by demigod immigration, that they could not have gone to the moon because it is farther than the sun, etc.

To accept all these statements literally would be unreasonable because they are contradictory. We must try to understand them in a logical Vedic scientific framework, in the context of four types of pramana, and seek a reasonable explanation.

Srila Prabhupada had implicit faith in the Vedic literatures, which state that the moon is a heavenly planet where the inhabitants drink soma-rasa. The evidence from the moon landing was that the moon is a barren uninhabited place, which contradicts the sastric description.

Srila Prabhupada therefore gave various hypotheses to explain this discrepancy between sastra and the reports from the moon landing. Logical hypothesis is valid but it may prove to be false. There is no fault if a hypothesis turns out false, nor is Srila Prabhupada’s use of hypothetical explanations faulty in any way.

Ultimately, his essential point regarding the moon landing was that we have to accept the evidence of Vedic literature, even if other evidence apparently contradicts. This was Srila Prabhupada’s real sticking point, not whether or not men had landed on the moon.

Generally, when various kinds of evidence conflict, it is safe to assume that there is more to the situation than we perceive. It is not scientific to abandon valid evidence just because we don’t understand it. The challenge is to go deeper and try to resolve the mystery in a reasonable way.

Finally, regarding distance to the moon, what is the historical evidence?

Many nations claim to have sent manned or robotic missions to or around the moon and many more are planned. Here is an abbreviated list of such programs, some of which are ongoing:

Soviet Union’s Luna flyby and orbital satellites; Zond satellite flybys

USA’s NASA project Apollo, Surveyer Program landers, Ranger program, Lunar Orbiter, Explorer Orbiter, Galileo flyby, Clementine orbiter, Lunar Prospector, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite; Lunar Precurser Robotic Program

Japan’s Hiten orbiter, SELENE orbiter, RSAT, VSAT

European Space Agency SMART 1 orbiter

China’s Chang’e orbiters

India’s Chandrayaan 1 orbiter, Moon Impact Probe

(To these nations we may soon have to add Germany, as the German Aerospace Center (DLR) plans to send an unmanned space shuttle to the moon by 2013.)

These countries claim around 50 successful missions to impact or orbit the moon. (There were many other aborted or failed missions.) This evidence has to be considered. If the moon is not where modern science says it is, how can the claims of these missions be explained?

It is easy to criticize. But those who advocate the “distant moon” interpretation should provide a scientific model that accounts for astronomical phenomena, as Srila Prabhupada requested.

We are all eager to see a “distant moon” model, which can predict eclipses, tides, and phases of the moon accurately. That would be an amazing accomplishment. I am particularly interested to see how such a model will explain phases of the moon.

A “distant moon” model which is incapable of scientific explanation and prediction must be regarded as uncorroborated speculation. Hopefully, the model to be used for the Temple of Vedic Planetarium will be powerfully convincing and will satisfy Srila Prabhupada’s vision.

The author, Thakur Haridas das, received a B. S. In Mathematics at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1968, and continued his studies in Molecular Biology, Organic Chemistry, Physics, Logic and Philosophy until joining Seattle ISKCON in 1972. He is the president of Krishna Culture, which he founded in 1987.

20 Responses to “Astronomical Models of Lunar Position”

  1. Madhavananda Das (Orissa) says :

    Wonderful article Thakur! I appreciate all of the research you did to put this together. You are making all of us think. Thank you very much!

  2. Abhaya Mudra Dasi says :

    You are correct that the distance to the Sun horizontally is greater than the distance to the Moon. Nonetheless, vertically according to the holy Shrimad Bhagavatam 5.22.8, the Moon is 800,000 miles, or 100,000 yojanas, “above the rays of sunshine” (arka-gabhastibyah uparishta). Plus the 80,000 miles for the height of Mount Manasottara on which the Sun travels, makes 880,000 miles above the Earth. This is a formidable distance to overcome, which proves astronauts have not walked on the Moon. Shrila Prabhupada’s statement “they went to Rahu” is an obvious wry and witty jab at their delusional mentality, Rahu being the planet of smoke and mirrors in jyotish shastra. Theirs is a subjective view of the universe. Although their calculations may not be wrong, they are incomplete and lack depth into the entire picture provided by the Bhagavat.

    They say the Earth has a slight tilt of 5 degrees to the north. Shastra says the Moon’s orbit has a slight tilt to the North. They transfer things from objective to subjective and in this way confuse, or “eclipse,” the whole picture (like little Rahus). And how complete can a subjective view be, one that has been provided by empiricists with imperfect senses? You are a person, a three-dimensional creature, but you have no idea how your back looks; not without mirrors and not without the reference of another person. Shastra gives us this rear view. Shastra can describe you from your front and from your back. Therefore, we need to trust the complete picture provided by the Puranas. Only shastra can explain why the Rahu scientists see things the way they do.

    We are endeavoring to build a proper model of the universe at present, but it will take few years to complete. Your thirst will be satisfied.

  3. Pavamana says :

    With all due respect to the author, the basic premise cited here:

    “Srila Prabhupada neatly defines the Vedic scientific method: “Vedic literature, direct perception, history and hypothesis are the four kinds of evidential proofs. Everyone should stick to these principles for the realization of the Absolute Truth.” SB 11.19.7 quoted in Cc Madhya 9.362″

    cannot be used to infer that these are all equally valid. If we take Vedic literature as it is, we cannot refute it. The argument that cow dung is pure can be accepted, even though every other type of stool is not. The Vedic literature is taken to be above the empirical scientific arguments, logic and argument, and other sense based conclusions. If this is not the case, we can argue that Srila Prabhupada and his Srimad Bhagavatam purports can be proven wrong. What the author writes in this article basically saying the same thing- that the Founder Acharya Srila Prabhupada’s statements and opinions are to be taken less seriously than the empirical scientists. It is a question of whether we accept ascending knowledge or descending knowledge. We know which one Srila Prabhupada is using, and the scientific method isn’t it. Srila Prabhupada asked his devotee to refute the so-called scientists, not to try to find out how to refute him by using modern emprical methods! There are many narrations of supernatural activities performed by Lord Krishna that modern science says is impossible. Are we to conclude that these statements are only to be believed if modern science can corroborate them? Logic and argument, history, and other mundane evidences can be used in our preaching to try to convince someone to take up Krishna Consciousness, but it can never be used to contradict the Vedic conclusion.

  4. PriyavrataFFL says :

    The Srimad Bhagavatam presents many concepts that are completely beyond the limits of our mundane sense perception in this 3-dimensional prison. What may appear as contradictory statements from Srila Prabhupada could very well be a case of a higher being (SP) presenting one view from the human paradigm and then later another from that of higher dimensional beings like demigods and great saints. Although the history of the Apollo mission is somewhat controversial, the evidence for moon exploration in general is overwhelming, and so it is foolish to discount everything as a hoax. I believe that the statements in the SB suggesting the moon is farther away than the sun are presenting a paradigm that is simply beyond our sensual abilities. It is absolute truth — we just can’t see it at this time. The example of the “flat world” metaphor comes to mind.

    I don’t envy the devotees working on the Vedic Planetarium. How they are going to present a concept that is chaste to the SB description and yet understandable to the common man is a monumental undertaking. It may only be possible once there is an enormous shift in consciousness across the planet and collectively we are able to see and understand more of this very mysterious world we live in.

    Nothing should ever be taken at face value, neither the statements of modern empirical science or even statements of scripture, because in both cases, unless we have the ability to understand these statements we can very easily be cheated. Cheated by a cheater (as in the case of a self-serving scientist) or cheated by our own limited intelligence as we filter the statements through our tiny brains.

    Our great blessing is that we somehow were blessed by a true messenger of God and so even if we don’t understand everything it will never disqualify us from the benefit of being in the presence of God.

    Jay Srila Prabhupada!

    Pavamana’s comments are excellent.

  5. BhaktaRoyBaba says :

    Where you say, “Such a model cannot be based only on sastra. To be scientific and convincing it must have explanatory and predictive power in the physical world. It should be based upon Vedic literatures, logical hypothesis, empirical observation, and established historical precedents.”

    I must admit I was taken aback by part of this statement, and cannot agree with “logical hypothesis, empirical observation, and established historical precedents.”

    However the part where you say, “To be scientific and convincing it must have explanatory and predictive power in the physical world.”
    I can see that viewpoint as valid in the sense that if the knowledge revealed in the sastras are indeed science than they should be able to have an explanatory model.

    As to much of the rest of the article it seems you argue more from the point that modern mainstream science has more answers than the sastras. That might be the view of many. But it is not the view of all the scientists nor all learned people.Nor is it the view expressed in Srila Prabhupada’s books.
    Amazing things things are not easily accepted by the masses.Cutting edge breakthroughs are often rejected.
    The sastras describe things like the same concept as special relativity, atomic particles, string theory, the fact that space and time are curved, matter outside the universe, anti-matter and so many things.Prior to this century most of these would have been scoffed at by many.But now they don’t seem so far fetched do they? A nice example in one of the purports Prabhupada says, “The atom is the minute subtle form of eternal time.” (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 3.11.1).Science has not yet caught up to that single statement.Except maybe Dr. Albert Einstein.
    It is no wonder why learned men such as Dr. Einstein studied the Vedas, Bhagavad-Gita.He was one of the top scientists, so what need would he have of sastra?Well maybe you have heard, “the more one knows, the more questions are revealed.”
    Dr. Einstein’s formulas may imply that space-time is so curved that the current models of the earth and solar system need to be revised.

    I think all can respect your article and opinions expressed as at least wondering how things like the Vedic planetary models can be done practically.

    But cutting-edge models may appear impractical.For they are not just for men of today but the future.In 1,000 years who knows, maybe science will have caught up?

  6. sdmuni108 says :

    “the Moon is 800,000 miles, or 100,000 yojanas, “above the rays of sunshine” (arka-gabhastibyah uparishta)”
    I also recently noticed how Srila Prabhupada translated this Sanskrit sloka as “above the rays of the sunshine”, and then repeated the phrase in the purport.
    That left me to wonder; could there be some significance to his repeating “above the rays of sunshine,” instead of plainly saying, above the sun planet? Normally, we expect rays of light to disperse in all directions through open space, without being limited to a horizontal plane or a precise location.
    Likely others have considered this issue more thoroughly, and will hopefully share their insights.
    On a similar note involving discrepancies between the Puranic accounts and contemporary science: if a distant moon is offered as our current best attempt at faithfully modeling Puranic evidence; that would be a factual, honest presentation. After all, that is all material science is as well: an attempt to model empirical evidence with a hypothesis.
    “Only shastra can explain why the Rahu scientists see things the way they do.”
    On the other hand, if we claim “this is how it is; contrary perspectives are influenced by noxious Rahu scientists,” that might not be our most effective ploy. After all, even the ancient Greeks calculated distances between the earth and moon in accords with our modern “Rahu scientists.” Apparently, it is not hard to do with a few astronomical sightings and a little geometry.
    Promoting “Rahu scientists” as instigating discrepancies between the celestial descriptions found in the Puranas, and reams of astronomical data accumulated by hundreds of generations of empirical investigators, could be a smart move if the TOVP is meant to impress rural villagers and esoteric conspiracy buffs.
    But perhaps we might also wish to consider a more sophisticated response.

  7. Thakur Haridas das says :

    Mother Abhaya Mudra, how can we know that the 880,000 miles distance applies to the earth globe and the moon, when it refers to Bhu-mandala and “rays of the sun”?

    The Surya-siddhanta model and modern model give accurate predictions. We use these models for our calendars, tide tables, etc. Utility is the principle.

    That is not to say that the Bhu-mandala model is useless or incorrect. We accept Vedic literature implicitly as Srila Prabhupada taught. But it seems that there is more to it than meets our conditioned vision.

    The first verse of Srimad-bhagavatam states that even great sages and demigods are bewildered by the illusory representations of this material world.

    You are endeavoring to make a model, and say it will take a few years. Producing accurate equations of motion for celestial mechanics is difficult. But can you give even a conceptual idea or hint of how a “distant moon” model would account for the phases of the moon?

  8. Thakur Haridas das says :

    Pavamana Prabhu, I agree with you that we cannot refute Vedic literature. But we can misunderstand it.

    I did not mean to imply in any way that descending knowledge is to be taken less seriously than ascending knowledge. I apologize for my unclear expression. My point is, rather, that ascending knowledge, the other three pramanas, should not simply be disregarded. They also must be taken seriously.

    It is not a matter of either or. Vedic science is based upon all four pramanas.

    Srila Prabhupada exemplifies this scientific approach in the example which you cite about cow dung: “In Calcutta, a very prominent scientist and doctor analyzed cow dung and found that it contains all antiseptic properties.” [Isopanishad Introduction]

    We need an exegetical, or complete and balanced, view of sastra. If we just read that stool is impure and overlook the statement about the purity of cow dung, we may err.

    We have to consider all the sastra, and all the evidence.

    I agree with your conclusion that we can’t disregard sastric statements about Lord Krishna, the spiritual world, or anything else on the grounds that modern science does not corroborate. The great advantage of descending knowledge is that it provides evidence not otherwise available through the ascending process.

  9. Thakur Haridas das says :

    In response to Priyavrata Prabhu I can only offer my respectful obeisances. He has succinctly expressed my thoughts better than I can.

    To Bhakta Roy Baba, I believe that Einstein’s relativity theory has already been applied to small deviations from the predictions of Newtonian mechanics in Mercury’s orbit.

    Srila Prabhupada has translated: “Vedic literature, direct perception, history and hypothesis are the four kinds of evidential proofs. Everyone should stick to these principles for the realization of the Absolute Truth.” SB 11.19.7 quoted in Cc Madhya 9.362

    Why you “cannot agree with logical hypothesis, empirical observation, and established historical precedents” applying to a model in the Temple of Vedic Planetarium?

    You say that I seem to argue that “modern mainstream science has more answers than the sastras”. I apologize if my writing gave that unintended perception.

    A devotee’s entire life is guided by sastra, not by science. Science is irrefutably subordinate to sastra, but it is not irrelevant. Science is best understood properly as part of Vedic epistemology.

    Modern empirical science, done properly, is (in set theoretic terms) a proper subset of Vedic science or, in simple words, a small part of Vedic knowledge.

    I appreciate SD Muni’s thoughts. Yes, we could make a “distant moon” model as a hypothesis. But Srila Prabhupada wants the model to be scientific and to explain lunar phases, seasons, eclipses, etc.

    Therefore, we should take the empirical and scientific evidence into account, not ignore it.

    My repeated, most respectful obeisances to all of you and to all Vaisnava devotees.

  10. Abhaya Mudra Dasi says :

    Hare Krishna Thakur Haridas Prabhu, Obeisances!

    The sunshine does not cover the whole universe. That is how there is day and night. The Moon phases are formed by the coincidence of the Moon with the Sun light. It may sound very clear and basic but that is how it is. The model will reveal exactly how this works. The speed of the Sun and Moon is crucial. As Prabhupada says:

    “…We can see there are so many millions of planets, at night you can see, and each of them is peculiar, different from the others. Why they have failed to utilize the moon planet? It is a different atmosphere. It is different atmosphere. These rascals cannot go there. It is not possible. They have simply made false propaganda. They cannot go there. So because the atmosphere is different… There is also blazing fire surrounded by ice. That is the description. I am speaking from the description. And therefore at night it is so pleasing. You have got experience. Fire coming through ice, the rays, that is very pleasing. Therefore sunshine is making the whole thing very hot, and the moonshine making it pleasing. “(Srila Prabhupada Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture 6.1.33 — Honolulu, June 1, 1976)

    Did the co-called Moon rascal astronauts see ice on the Moon? No, they don’t even remember seeing stars in the sky. And stars are closer to the Moon than to bhu Mandala. They should have seen them very bright.

    When the sunshine coincides with the light of the Moon this is the invisible part in the Moon phase unlike the statements of scientists who claim that the Moon has no separate light and it reflects the sunshine and what we see like a phase of the Moon is its reflection of the Sun.

    Ketu is the light of the Sun, it has the power to “eclipse” the Moon and form the phases of the Moon. Ketu is 100 times bigger than Rahu. It seems that often even when we have an understanding about Rahu and how he causes the eclipses we have little knowledge about Ketu and how he causes the phases of the Moon. Sunshine is very important in relationship to the phases of the Moon. That is why Srila Prabhupada stated the Moon hovers above sunshine.

  11. sdmuni108 says :

    “I appreciate SD Muni’s thoughts. Yes, we could make a “distant moon” model as a hypothesis. But Srila Prabhupada wants the model to be scientific and to explain lunar phases, seasons, eclipses, etc.
    Therefore, we should take the empirical and scientific evidence into account, not ignore it.”
    It would be interesting to see Prabhupada’s thoughts on predicting the lunar phases, etc.
    My point about science, though, is they too are only dealing with hypotheses based on apparently repeating, confirmable events. I don’t think this form of perception is irrelevant, but neither can it be considered an ultimate perspective. There is no way to tell how close, or far, a scientific perspective is to perceiving a phenomenon as it is.
    I would suggest that in similar terms, there may be no way to know for sure how far our realizations at the moment perceive the full import regarding information laden within these Sanskrit slokas. And that is ok.
    Its complicated. For example, THDd brings up an issue of how to predict the phases of the moon. Well, whoever wrote down the fifth canto in its current form, what to speak of generations studying it thereafter – they all must have realized difficulties predicting phases of the moon with these SB descriptions. Basic astronomical events such as lunar phases were readily predicted well into the ancient past, and were much required for navigational and calendric purposes. In other words, using SB to predict lunar phases as we perceive them with our blunt senses wasn’t the crucial issue, for some reason.
    I do not claim to have the answer. But I do feel we can offer a model to the best of our ability as to what is written in those texts. If we present them as a model (and it is a model, and not the actual phenomena), then we can subsequently discuss the relevant issues concerning our present appreciation of the SB model in relation to current scientific models, which are themselves forever in flux. The real dynamics will found in these subsequent discussion, papers, debates, whatnot.
    We do not need to have all the answers now, nor will we ever. Rather, a credible “faithful” model, done to the best of our present ability, should suffice. But hopefully without an attitude that we know it all, which, I feel, would be disastrous. Sukadeva Goswami claims even Lord Brahma doesn’t quite get it perfectly. What to speak of us, or the material scientists.
    It is only a model, and one of the Puranic concept of space and time.

  12. anantaramdas says :

    Among other things, Mother Abhaya Mudra wrote:

    “Did the co-called Moon rascal astronauts see ice on the Moon? No, they don’t even remember seeing stars in the sky. And stars are closer to the Moon than to bhu Mandala. They should have seen them very bright.”

    If this is a genuine sample of our best approach to convince intellectual and scientific non-devotees about the glories of the Bhagavatam and devotional service, I fear we are headed toward destruction. We should better share some prasadam with them and invite them to join us in Harinam sankirtan.

  13. sdmuni108 says :

    “Did the so-called Moon rascal astronauts see ice on the Moon?”
    Woops!! Sounds like a poor choice for an example, as it now appears that “the so-called Moon rascals” have seen the ice.
    Concerning Prabhupada’s quotation, “Why they have failed to utilize the moon planet? It is a different atmosphere. It is different atmosphere. These rascals cannot go there.”
    Of course they could not go “there” – to Candraloka, the Moon as described in the Puranas. Obviously it has a different “atmosphere.” Prabhupada engaged a similar line of reasoning with a reporter in LA – a fascinating exchange.
    We also cannot go to Goloka Vrndavana simply by visiting a geological location in Uttar Pradesh. Prabhupada often talks about the need to be qualified to enter the “atmosphere” of Vrndavana, as well. Otherwise it looks very much like an ordinary Indian village to a tourist who’s consciousness is not in order.
    We would call such pilgrims, “Mundane rascal tourists.” Perhaps we could place a sign in front of the Krsna-Balarama Mandir: “Mundane rascal tourists can not enter here.”
    If one closely studies Prabhupada’s use of the rascal moniker, Prabhupada rather focuses on an asuric abuse of material science to upend scriptural integrity and thus deny the authority of God.
    For example, Prabhuapada states at the conclusion of his first morning walk from the LCFL discussions:
    “Yes. They’re misleading. Godlessness. As soon as you say, “God created”, immediately they become arrogant. That is our protest. If they accept God, then we give them all credit. That’s all right. Otherwise zero. We don’t deprecate their intention of advancement in knowledge. But we simply protest against their defying the authority of God. That is our point.”
    >>> Ref. VedaBase => Morning Walk — April 19, 1973, Los Angeles
    Surely there is a time and place to be a “little offensive,” as Prabhupada also put it. That time and place may not at every opportunity, unless one intends to lead a pep rally.

  14. sdmuni108 says :

    “Did the so-called Moon rascal astronauts see ice on the Moon?”


    Wiki excerpt describing the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan mission that apparently confirmed ice on the moon, with additional assistance from NASA radar equipment.


    Chandrayaan-1 (Sanskrit: moon vehicle) was India’s first unmanned lunar probe. It was launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation in October 2008, and operated until August 2009. The mission included a lunar orbiter and an impactor. India launched the spacecraft with a modified version of the PSLV, PSLV C11 on 22 October 2008 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Nellore District, Andhra Pradesh, about 80 km north of Chennai, at 06:22 IST (00:52 UTC). Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced the project on course in his Independence Day speech on 15 August 2003. The mission was a major boost to India’s space program, as India researched and developed its own technology in order to explore the Moon. The vehicle was successfully inserted into lunar orbit on 8 November 2008.

    On 14 November 2008, the Moon Impact Probe separated from the Chandrayaan orbiter at 20:06 and struck the south pole in a controlled manner, making India the fourth country to place its flag on the Moon. The probe impacted near Shackleton Crater at 20:31 ejecting underground soil that could be analysed for the presence of lunar water ice….

  15. PriyavrataFFL says :

    As a follow up to my points about our limited sense perception:

    The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. An object’s electromagnetic spectrum is the characteristic distribution of electromagnetic radiation emitted or absorbed by that particular object.

    The electromagnetic spectrum (EM) extends from below frequencies used for modern radio to gamma radiation at the short wavelength end, covering wavelengths from thousands of kilometers down to a fraction of the size of an atom.

    Electromagnetic radiation in the range of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be detected by the human eye is called visible light. A typical human eye will respond to wavelengths from about 380 to 750 nm .
    The entire electromagnetic spectrum ranges from 10 megameters to a very minute 1 picometer. In layman’s terms, this means that more than 99% of the total electromagnetic spectrum is completely beyond our ability to perceive! Think about that for a second. Human eyes can only perceive about 1% of the entire electromagnetic spectrum and yet, somewhat audaciously, we claim to understand the world around us!

  16. JaySriRadhe108 says :

    The following is what Srila Prabhupada has to say:

    Regarding details of the universe, be satisfied by reading only Bhagavatam.
    What is the use of reading other books — you are not going there. Some
    portion of the earth is flat. When you stand in any place you see flat, so
    for us to some extent it appears flat, but it is round.

    Simply keep faith that whatever we describe, that is a fact. After all, we
    are an insignificant creature in the universe, so whether you take the
    modern scientists or Sukadeva Goswami, it is inconceivable. It is best to
    keep faith in Sukadeva Goswami, because actually our only business is to go
    back to home, back to Godhead. So whether Sukadeva Goswami or the modern
    scientists are right or wrong, it is nothing interesting to us. We want to
    go back to home, back to Godhead — yanti mad-yajino’pi mam.

    >>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Madhava — Vrindaban 3 October, 1976

  17. mayesadasa says :

    Dear Prabhus,
    Please accept my obeisances.
    After spending some time with HDG Danavir Maharaja’s research team I continued working on this problem of the movement of Sun and Moon.
    This has led to three possible ideas which are worth consideration.
    First, that the Sun at its lowest ebb travels round us at circumference 864000000(winter-southeast), 756000000(spring and fall-east) and 648000000(summer-northeast)
    Purpose? Sun is gathering moisture in winter and releasing in summer–therefore we are never seeing sunglobe but rather clouds surrounding it.Therefore sun moves like a slowly ascending thread strung around top half of a globe contracting till it reaches zenith and descends expanding again.Sun appears approx same size because difference of distance though gaining and expelling water.
    Moon, I have figures(but not in front of me at moment), let us say 560000000(circumference) and describing an arc just like a figure C practically same distance from earth at all times–However, it passes in front of Sun between earth and Sun(during dark moon-Paksa) and as it losses daily in its approx 12-13 degrees it begins to move away from earth so that by the time it reaches Full Moon it has gone 1,600,000(actually using a verse from Surya siddhanta it is just a little less than 1,600,000) outside Sun’s path. Therefore, Moon does have a position Above the Sun but it does not maintain this position constantly. As moon waxes he moves back to his inside position.
    Bhu-mandala is always represented as flat in our drawings but this would necessitate the Sun crashing into Mandara mountain, whereas if Meru lies at center as on the center of a ball(meaniing that Bhu-mandala is roundish from center) then there is a slope to the oceans and lands around Jambudvipa allowing Sun to pass over mandara at an angle as it were. Otherwise we have to speculate that Bhu mandala is composed of a different kind of matter-subtle and this is not confirmed-in fact it is specifically staed otherwise in Mahabharata(I can provide quote)

    The idea of Sun above I have extrapolated from Srimad Bhagavatam.Sukadeva Gosvami gives us figures 864000000 and 756000000 in Fifth Canto. That Sun is pulling water from entire universe up to Dhruvaloka is confirmed in Matsya Purana.

    The idea of Moon is simply applied mathematics “and” an idea I considered, taken from a book on Angkor Vat, with diagrams.
    Your servant,Mayesa dasa ACBSP

  18. anantaramdas says :

    As a mathematics professor with some experience in scientific preaching, I can only say that Sruti Prabhu’s account of Danavir Maharaja’s research team has no chance of being effective preaching.

    Srila Prabhupada’s quote in the letter to Madhava Prabhu is quite revealing. “So whether Sukadeva Goswami or the modern scientists are right or wrong, it is nothing interesting to us.”

    This is interesting because Madhava was, and still is, involved with the Bhaktivedanta Institute. As such, he and others concern themselves with these topics.

    One important point we have to understand is that “modern scientists” (whatever that means) are not opposed to the Bhagavatam version BECAUSE, for the most part, they are unaware of its existence, especially in America and Europe. If the first introduction to the Bhagavatam that a “modern scientist” gets is a puranic cosmology shot, we will have done a tremendous disservice to that human being because most probably he or she will deride the Bhagavatam. Instead, we should focus on honoring prasadam with them and inviting them for harinam sankirtan. If we need to exchange philosophical ideas, we can talk about life and death, karma, and so many other subjects. Why are some devotees obsessed with presenting something they cannot present in a convincing way? For instance, if a modern scientist watches either Sadaputa Prabhu’s or Danavir Maharaja’s DVD’s on the cosmology of the universe, they will be turned off from devotional service, at least for this lifetime.

  19. sdmuni108 says :

    “As a mathematics professor with some experience in scientific preaching, I can only say that [fill in the blank] has no chance of being effective preaching.”
    This might be a pretty broad brush statement, near akin to the attitude presented by others similarly certain, if not enamored, with their points of view on the material energy, and then how to present it to intelligent people who presumably think all in one way (and perhaps in agreement with one’s own brand of material certainty?)
    Whatever route we take, it would be worthwhile presenting it with a sense of humility, and wonder. That does not mean it should be presented with a lack of confidence in the devotional paradigm. It will be a model of the descriptions found in the Srimad Bhagavatam, done to the best of our current abilities. How close, or far, it is to reality as it is, is anyone’s empirical guess.
    All of which reminds me of Sukadeva Goswami’s opening statement to his presentation on cosmology where he flatly declares no one understands the full extent of the material energy.
    “This material world is a transformation of the material qualities … yet no one could possibly explain it perfectly, even in a lifetime as long as that of Brahma…. O King, I shall nevertheless try ….” (SB 5.16.4)
    We have no way to scientifically confirm how well our current model (whatever it is) presents the fifth canto to its fullest extent. We certainly have no way to scientifically explain all the apparent discrepancies between a Puranic perspective, and that of contemporary, or even other ancient cosmological models presented outside the Puranic tradition.
    It is also good to remember there is nothing sacrosanct about modern scientific theory. They too will be overthrown in time with the addition of more sophisticated natural evidence, and more powerful explanatory hypotheses. It has happened many times in the recent past, and will continue to do so in the future—with or without our participation in this long conversation.
    However we present our ever mysterious Fifth Canto; it will be a challenge. None-the-less, Prabhupada desired we make the effort. At least about that much, there appears little to doubt.

  20. anantaramdas says :

    SD Muni Prabhu, I think you misunderstood my mood. When I wrote about my experience as a mathematics professor, I did it not because I am enamored with what I do (and in fact I plan to resign to this university professorship in a few months so I can open a small gurukula in New Talavan), but simply to establish some credibility in terms of how to preach to people I talk to on a regular basis. Nevertheless, you are right that humility is important. However, humility is the distinguishing quality of a Vaisnava.

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