By His Holiness Danavir Goswami
MOON AND MOUNT MERU
QUESTION: There may be simple explanations for observed phenomenon and described phenomenon, but we just don’t have the answers. If we accept the Vedas, then what we call the moon may be Rahu, as it “eats” the sun and gets “eaten” by the shadow of the earth. A self-luminous planet full of vegetation isn’t observable right now, but that doesn’t mean there never was one.
ANSWER: I don’t think the Vedic astronomers are mistaking the moon for another planet. It is called çaçi because the rabbit form is there. Also the Vedic astronomy and cosmology have been accurately predicting eclipses, sunrises, and moon phases for thousands of years, long before modern science popped out of the void.
Q1: So from a Vedic viewpoint, what causes the solar eclipse, and how can modern astronomers predict eclipses, if they are completely wrong? How can they say where on earth an eclipse can be seen best, years in advance, if their whole concept is wrong regarding cause and position?
A: Srila Prabhupada attributed much of modern science’s apparent success to observation. If one keeps historical records he can “predict” things that happen regularly. For example, a man tells his son that in three hours the water at the sea will recede forty feet. This is not exactly a prediction based on scientific understanding of what is really causing the tides to go in and out but rather simply an observation of a regular occurrence.
Q2: I don’t remember seeing where/how Vedic astronomy predicts eclipses except in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance in past-tense. Who does predicting at present in the Vedic sciences? Couldn’t they have helped Srila Prabhupada when he was seeking someone to draw out the Vedic cosmology? I would like to see their version of the Vedic cosmology and how they know when there will be an eclipse.
A: Vedic astronomy predicts these things. As far as Srila Prabhupada’s use of these sciences, he preferred to depend on Krishna more.
Q3: I appreciate the patience and time. These questions will be there. This evening I looked at the sun and moon and it looks like the sun is shining on the part of the moon that faces the sun. I’ve watched before and it looks like the sun is farther away according to the angle of the reflecting part of the moon. The bright part follows the direction towards the sun as they change their position in the sky with the sun appearing much farther away.
A: As we know, our senses and their perceptions are faulty.
Q4: I don’t think by merely recording the timing of events, one could accurately describe exactly when and where on earth an eclipse would happen. It seems that would be fairly general. I think it would take ongoing measurements to be precise. I still don’t know how eclipses are known according to the Vedic system or if they also just recorded the timing of events. I know that eclipses of the sun show a round object blocking the light and traveling across the face of the eclipsed object, and eclipses of the moon show what appears to be a round shadow crossing across the moon’s surface.
A: The Vedic science maps where the planets are and when they will be in line with each other.
Q5: Full moons always occur when the sun is in the opposite direction across the earth, meaning if you are facing the full moon, the sun will always be behind you. Similarly, half-moons will have the sun at 90 degree angle to the moon. Lunar eclipses are always upon a full moon, which puts the earth seemingly between the sun behind us and the eclipsing moon before us, suggesting that it is the shadow of the earth being projected over the moon, and that the sun is the source of the moonshine. The angle of the lighting seems to correlate between the sun and moon as though the sunlight is the source of the moonshine. It would be somewhat strange if such lighting were due to a self-luminous planet adjusting which portion of it was illuminated to always face the sun. In some strange way we could say that the earth was the source of the sunshine, as whatever part faces the sun is very bright.
A: This information is generally confirmed by Vedic calculations.
Q6: The moon always looks more like Krishna’s or Gauranga’s face to me rather than a rabbit. I admire meditation on Vedic cosmology. But we don’t apply Srila Prabhupada’s critique of scientists upon ourselves mocking our- selves, “Someday we will answer all the questions, someday, someday.” I have been hearing that since 1977, regarding Vedic cosmology versus as- tronomy, or “You either accept them or you accept us.” Either putting off the questions or threatening and bluffing somehow. “We” don’t have the same excuses that speculators have, “We” have the direct source of the truth. So why don’t we have better answers than the speculators regarding observed phenomena?
A: If we had mastery over the science we would be able to explain many phenomena. As it stands we can explain certain things very well but due to the lack of experts in the field some aspects may be yet to be explained. This does not diminish the science. Just as astrology is a great and accurate science but in Kali yuga experts are rare.
Q7: To bluff and say we need special eyes obtained by pious deeds to see what are described as common elements we see daily is tough. Its like saying, just believe, don’t question. I surrendered to Krishna with the understanding He would answer my questions regarding Vedic cosmology, and He hasn’t done it. How hard would that be for Him? Why didn’t He do it as Krishna when He was here or as Chaitanya when He was here? He didn’t think it would be necessary in Kali Yuga? The personalities preparing scriptures for the people in kali-yuga didn’t see a need for scriptures suited for us in kali-yuga?
A: Well a challenging spirit is an immediate disqualification. With spiritual advancement comes realization.
Q8: I remember in elementary school seeing the little models of the sun, moon, and earth that revolved, showing how they interacted. Can such a thing be made for the Vedic perception? If the most immediate and basic of heavenly bodies can’t be accurately depicted in understandable ways, how will everyone accept more elaborate descriptions?
A: We have already done that on the Vedic Cosmos DVD.
Q9: There is a large difference between the solar-centered and earth-centered solar system. You have to actually have a point around which a unit of things revolve in a model. So it would have to be determined if most of the planets revolve around the sun or they revolve around the earth. The determination would be based on what energies cause the orbits. If the earth was not present, would the planets still orbit the sun? If the sun wasn’t present, would the planets still orbit the earth? We would have to establish the acting of forces and lay out the model based on how those forces are working by strength. Otherwise the universe revolves around any point in space and there is no central force guiding everything.
A: Krsna is the cause of all causes. The earth is stationary. The sun and planets revolve around the polestar as pivot. Because our earth is so near to Meru which is directly under the polestar we can say the universe is geo-centric.
Q10: If we are so close to Mount Meru, what prevents us from seeing it, since we can see the Polestar, sun, moon etc.? This would be an obvious question by a majority of people visiting or reporting on a Vedic planetarium.
A: When we say close we mean still tens of thousands of miles away. During the daytime humans on earth cannot see more than about ten miles horizontally. The Vedas describe Mount Meru as being subtle and not visible to ordinary persons. We cannot understand the science if we accept some parts and reject other parts.
Q11: I agree with you that there may be no Vedic astronomers on the planet at present. I think it was Svavasa who told me that Srila Prabhupada said that it was a “lost science”.
A: Almost lost.
Q12: So that’s why I bother you, in that without any way to factualize what we have available, there is a lot of room to make big mistakes when there are questions. There are the “cargo-cults” who are tribes in the wilderness who worship airplanes and even make effigies of airplanes. They might be very dedicated and very submissive, and maybe even experience something extraordinary in their worship, I don’t know. I’m just pointing out that faith and obedience, maybe austerities and sincerity may produce effects, regardless of reality. I’m not saying that is the case with Krishna consciousness, but I have to leave it somewhat open. People are very determined in their beliefs, enough to go to war for. I wonder if they don’t create in and with their minds, that which they kill and die for. And how might it be possible to create a spiritual truth.
A: However, in our case we have the Vedas which are infallible and we have Vaisnava commentators, and we have Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati (astronomer) and Srila Prabhupada who said we can and should explain these things.
Q13: If the earth planet is located next to some smaller mountains near Mount Meru and the sun travels around Mount Meru, isn’t there a point where Mount Meru would be between the earth and the sun? It seems like the only way that the sun could always be shining on one side of the earth as the sun orbits, is if the earth was below Mount Meru and with no sun- blocking objects like mountains anywhere but north or south of the earth. So, I don’t think we can draw a picture of the earth planet sitting beside large mountains on a flat plane. I don’t know of any mention of how the sun shines upon Mount Meru. Except animations or drawings indicating that the sun kind of orbits around the sides of Mount Meru at a distance. That means the earth planet can’t be located anywhere the sun would be blocked by any of the mountains associated with Mount Meru, unless they don’t block sunlight. It kind of seems like north for Mount Meru has to be north for the earth planet, with the sun orbiting both, and Mount Meru being north of the earth. So the earth would have to be below, not beside, Mount Meru, to always have sunlight on some part of it without any blockage from Mount Meru and associated mountains. But, we can see the polestar, so Mount Meru isn’t north of the Earth unless the polestar is closer than Mount Meru, or Mount Meru doesn’t block our vision of things farther away.
A: Yes, that is correct. Meru does not block our vision of things farther away. The polestar is much further away from us than Meru. It is above Meru.
Q14: I’m wondering about seasonal changes and the sun’s relative position to the polestar. It seems from Vedic account, the Sun would travel closer and sometimes farther in relationship with the polestar in order to change its position on the horizon. Or the earth tilts.
A: Yes the sun goes up and down, this is called daksinayana and uttarayana motions.
Q15: If we are going around the sun once per year, then that would explain how the earth can have its 23.5 deg. angle to the sunlight falling at different spots on earth while maintaining a near constant relationship with the pole- star. That indicates a far greater distance to the polestar than to the Sun, if that is the case.
A: Yes, the polestar if far higher than the sun but closer in lateral distance to the earth than is the sun.
Q16: So, since the Earth doesn’t spin, is Mount Meru positioned above India?
A: It is situated north of our planet.
Q17: If the residences of heaven are illuminated by the sun, it would be interesting to understand how places that don’t reflect sunlight can be so lit up. Its possible that more subtle rays are emanating from the sun than what we perceive as sunlight.
A: Yes the sun empowers others luminaries.
Q18: Now when the islands and oceans of various substances are mentioned, we don’t see any obscuration of stars, Moon, Sun, etc. similar to Mount Meru. Are these descriptions of such familiar elements actually referring to a more subtle type of these things?
Q19: Is the present global map a partial and misleading map of what we stand on? If so, could we show how it is wrong?
A: The maps of the earth seem accurate but when estimating earth’s position in the universe and how the sun relates to it they have used the helio-centric model whereas the Vedas use the geo-centric model. Both are scientifically acceptable.
Q20: So, I’ve never heard of anyone being able to glimpse concentric islands and oceans in the sky even if they’ve been to the North and South poles, yet we easily see the moon, sun, stars etc.
A: No humans of our experience have traveled to these places nor would they be able to view them with their present physical make up.
Q21: And I think the sun is supposed to travel along one of these rings above a ringed mountain. I would think such a mountain would be illuminated by the sun and be visible.
A: It requires advanced bodies to perceive these phenomena and that requires great piety to acquire such bodies.
Q22: This is what the common reasoning would be, so what are the answers?
A: The Vedic view is complete and verifiable. That much can be displayed. To answer all possible questions may require some time for our devotees to become expert in these fields.
Q23: When I look at the moon and sun, as this morning at about 10 – 10:30
AM, it looks just like the moon is reflecting the sun’s luminosity and the sun is far higher than the moon.
A: Vedic information explains that the moon reflects the light of the sun and also has its own illumination invested in it from the sun.
Q24: Srila Prabhupada sometimes used the “modern” distance for the sun as being ninety-some million miles away. If that is considered along with the “modern” distance given for the moon as 1/4 million miles away, that would put the sun about 370 times farther away from us than the moon. That is what is accepted in most every university I think. And if it looks like it is true, then presenting something else will always create a conflict which will require explanation.
A: The Vedic view is that the sun and moon are similar distances from earth. Sometimes the moon is higher than the sun (during daksinayana).
Q25: From an airplane I can see approximately 150 miles in whatever direction I can look through a window. If I fly 12 hours at 500 miles per hour,
I could theoretically see a patch of earth covering 6,000 times 300 square miles. Or 6,000 miles in one direction in 12 hours.
Q26: How many days it would take to reach Mount Meru at tens of thousands of miles?
A: Here’s a conversation to ponder about why we cannot see Meru.
Prabhupäda: Lotus is also round. Lotus, that petal is also round. Lotus petal is round. So within one lotus petal this round or that round, there is.
Çatadhanya: And within their own limited sphere they can go this way or that way. But they don’t know the whole shape.
Tamäla Kåñëa: We have to draw the shape probably, because according to what we’ve drawn so far…
Prabhupäda: That you can do, but real thing is we can remain within the limit.
Tamäla Kåñëa: That we accept.
Prabhupäda: So within the limit…Suppose the lotus petal this way, that way, or this way…
Tamäla Kåñëa: You’re asking us to draw the details and make a planetarium very exact.
Prabhupäda: Yes. Lotus petal, it is round. So in one lotus petal you are conditioned. You cannot go.
Tamäla Kåñëa: So far that hasn’t been said, but that’s… You can say that Bhärata-varña is a petal of the lotus. But I think if you look at the Bhägavatam, it may… I’d have to see it, what it says. There’s a statement that it may be the inner portion of the lotus. I don’t know…[break] And what we do, it has to agree with the Bhägavatam.
Prabhupäda: Lotus petal… There are so many petals. You are conditioned with one petal.
Tamäla Kåñëa: That’s… If that’s the explanation, then it can be somehow adjusted.
Prabhupäda: You do not know what is going on outside.
Devotee: There’s so many round parts of a lotus petal.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Yes, that part…That could be adjusted. But there’s a place within it, you know, the center part, there’s no petals. In the middle of the lotus there’s like a… I don’t know what you call it, but a… It’s a flattish area. They show Kåñëa standing sometimes when they draw a picture of Kåñëa on a lotus.
Prabhupäda: That’s all right. But your place is in.
Tamäla Kåñëa: That we accept.
Prabhupäda: That we have to hear from authority.
Tamäla Kåñëa: We accept that. I’m just thinking…
Prabhupäda: Unless you are obstinate, you have to accept if you are convinced.
Tamäla Kåñëa: We accept.
Prabhupäda: There are so many millions of stars and moons that we cannot go.
Tamäla Kåñëa: As we are conditioned, as everyone is conditioned, our planetarium will have to show the actual facts.
Prabhupäda: Yes. That fact we have learned from Bhägavatam.
Tamäla Kåñëa: So, so far we have not drawn this fact correctly.
Prabhupäda: That is your inability. That is another thing.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Yeah, well that’s why we’re… That’s the question that we’ve raised. This question that we’ve raised is due to that.
Prabhupäda: That is you are unable to, but the fact is that you are conditioned. You cannot go beyond that conditioned
Tamäla Kåñëa: That’s accepted.
Prabhupäda: So we are also conditioned. But as far as possible we take description from Bhägavata, try to. That is our… Suppose here is India, here is Los Angeles. You start from India, Los Angeles…, or India, you’ll come to Los Angeles. And again return to India. Similarly you start from this again going.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Yes. That’s possible if you can fly this way, underneath.
Prabhupäda: But where is the underneath?
Tamäla Kåñëa: See Prabhupäda, we weren’t asking that issue. That’s not the question we were asking.
Prabhupäda: What is that issue?
Tamäla Kåñëa: Well, you’ve explained, if it’s a lotus petal, then you can fly around it. That’s all right. Then the answer is there. But if there’s no lotus petal and it’s simply flat, then it’s a problem. That a problem.
Prabhupäda: No, we don’t say flat.
Tamäla Kåñëa: We’ve pictured it like that. There’s some defect in our picture. If you recall, there’s a picture we drew…
Prabhupäda: So rectify it.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Yeah, well how?
Prabhupäda: That is the explanation. Petal.
Tamäla Kåñëa: See it doesn’t say petal anywhere in the Bhägavatam. It doesn’t say Bhärata-varña is a lotus petal.
Upendra: Neither does it say it’s flat, though.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Well I can get the Bhägavatam right now if you allow me to. It doesn’t say… I believe it says Jambüdvépa is the second part of the lotus, and there aren’t petals in the center.
Upendra: It’s a transcendental lotus flower.
Prabhupäda: You are prejudiced. That’s all. If I can understand, why don’t you understand? You are prejudiced.
Tamäla Kåñëa: 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. Prabhupäda: You are Western. You are prejudiced. That is reason. If I can understand why you…
Tamäla Kåñëa: I can understand blindly, but I don’t want to do that.
Prabhupäda: I do not understand blindly.
Tamäla Kåñëa: No.
Tamäla Kåñëa: But I don’t want to…
Prabhupäda: Still we differ. That means one of us is prejudiced.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Well it’s not Your Divine Grace. (laughter) I mean I’m sorry I have to take this thankless task to ask all these questions. Prabhupäda: You are also prejudiced. It is written in the çästra. In that sense we are also prejudiced.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Yeah, but we’re correctly prejudiced.
Prabhupäda: Just like I take Kåñëa’s word. Bas, fact. You can say that you are prejudiced, you see. This is the book.
Tamäla Kåñëa: That is a nice explanation, the petals.
Prabhupäda: Everyone is prejudiced. But who is rightly prejudiced who is wrongly prejudiced. That is everywhere. Just like materialistic person will think, “Brainwash. These rascals, they have given all up material enjoyment, and after some phantasmagoria they sacrifice everything. Brainwash.” And we are thinking, “Oh, these rascals, got this human form of body, he did not understand what is spiritual life.” Both of them— he is rascal and he is rascal. This is going on. Yä niçä sarva-bhütänäà tasyäà jägarti saàyamé. Is it not? They say, “Brainwash. Unnecessarily they’ve sacrificed everything.” And we say that he got the human form and unnecessarily he is working like cats and…
Tamäla Kåñëa: Both are saying the same thing. Obvious.
Prabhupäda: Yes. Now who is correct? Who will decide? I accuse you, you accuse me. But who is correct? Who will decide? That is çästra. There is no question of argument. That is called pratiñöhä. You will never come to any conclusion by arguing. I think you are wrong, you think I am wrong. Somebody must decide. Judge. And that is çästra.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Supposing they say…
Prabhupäda: They say, we are saying so many things. In the court there are two parties. I say something, another party says. The judge is there. He has now decision.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Then they’ll ask for the verse to prove it, and we must quote the correct çloka to substantiate our claim.
Prabhupäda: Yes. That the judge gives. Judges according to lawbook. Tad-vijïänärthaà sa gurum eväbhigacchet. So we have to approach the right person who can give the judgment. What is their answer about this, that by chemical combination they cannot produce life? Still why they are insisting?
Tamäla Kåñëa: They are rascals.
Prabhupäda: Then what is the value of rascal’s statement?
Tamäla Kåñëa: No value. Lunatic asylum.
Prabhupäda: Why if one is settled up that he’s a rascal, we should not hear anything. And why not? He has not gone to the moon. They are insisting, “Yes, we have gone,” by false propaganda. Why the one who makes false propaganda and one who says nonsense, we have to believe? Immediately, whatever he says, reject. There’s no argument. You have proved yourself rascal so we don’t accept any statement. What do you think?
Tamäla Kåñëa: Well I’m just trying to think of the description of Jambüdvépa.
Prabhupäda: Whatever you say. But be aware you are rascal.
Tamäla Kåñëa: But we have the practical task of…
Prabhupäda: No test.
Tamäla Kåñëa: No-task.
Prabhupäda: No test. Mother says here is your father. That’s all. Finish. You cannot test. Then you are rascal.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Not test. I said…
Prabhupäda: No, these things cannot be tested.
Tamäla Kåñëa: No, I’m not saying…
Prabhupäda: Mother says, “Here is your father.” That’s all. Finish. No test. No question. That is foolishness.
Tamäla Kåñëa: I was using the word “task.” That to… I’ll have to bring in Bhakti-prema Swami. Maybe he can speak better. I’m not able to explain. But according to the description in the Bhägavatam, everything that we’ve read, it is not petals. So let’s… I don’t know. On one hand you are asking us to follow the…
Prabhupäda: Bhägavatam, one portion may not be exactly like… Just like if you are in the midst of the petal, you cannot understand it is petal. You see it is flat. You have shown in the map, there is a point so many miles. So that petal, middle portion, you can take it flat. It is not flat. It is curved. Whatever conception you make, that is defective. Rascals. First of all you have to understand this. So don’t make it like this, like this, like this, like… Whatever it is said, that is all right. Therefore Kåñëa said açraddadhänäù. No faith. Faithless. We have challenged, by chemical combination make a small egg, sparrow’s egg, and produce.
Tamäla Kåñëa: They can’t do anything.
Prabhupäda: Then what is the value of your experiment? And still they are saying. This one point will kill them. Why do they not take this challenge? Huh?
Tamäla Kåñëa: They’re rascals. There’s no other answer. Only a rascal will go on maintaining that we can create life and they never have. Prabhupäda: And they are getting Nobel Prize. Just see. Such rascals. And we say on the authority of Bhagavad-gétä, apareyam. This is inferior and that is superior. So how you can make superior with inferior ingredients?
Tamäla Kåñëa: Impossible. Without the superior touch the inferior cannot have any life.
Prabhupäda: That’s a fact. They’re seeing every moment.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Everything has movement… If it’s matter it only moves because of some superior force, living force, pushing it or entering it or something.
Prabhupäda: The superior energy is utilizing inferior energy for His purpose. You are utilizing this inferior, the lump of matter, for serving my purpose. That is superior energy. It cannot use me for its purpose.
Tamäla Kåñëa: It has no purpose.
Prabhupäda: No. I can use it for my purpose. Therefore I am superior.
(aside:) Come on. (July 5, 1977, Våndävana)
Q27: I would imagine Mount Meru would be toward either the north or south pole, since the universe revolves around Mount Meru,
A: It is above the north pole.
Q28: It is somewhat interesting to me that the earth planet is mentioned within a sea along with nine other islands. Of course we can’t see them or the sea either, but some could consider the islands to be other planets and the sea to be what we think is space.
A: Srila Prabhupada does refer to that analogy.
Q29: In the model of Mount Meru I don’t recall how that fits with the model of the universe revolving like a chandelier around it. Is the “polestar” directly above Mount Meru ?
Q30: I was mistaken in previous writings with you regarding the rabbit and leaves. I thought you meant that the Moon had such features, but rather it is the earth observed from the Moon which has the rabbit and leaves as outlined by the continents.
A: The moon reflects those figures on the earth.
Q31: I’ve still been moon watching and took some photos with a digital camera. The illuminated area of the moon always faces the sun, the surface of the moon appears to be a cratered barren desert, and there appear to be no rivers, clouds, forests etc. on the moon.
A: We cannot trust our limited senses nor the instruments made by them.
Q32: The sun appears to be farther away if it is the source of the moon’s illumination. I haven’t seen anything resembling Rahu covering any other
heavenly object other than the moon and sun during eclipses which weighs in favor of the sun, moon and earth blocking each other at different times without the need for any other unobservable object in the sky.
A: Modern science and the Vedas concur that the eclipses are caused by the shadows. The Vedic view gives more information that Rahu is a planet comprising those shadows.
Q33: I watch ants in my house. They have no clue what I am generally, let alone what the universe is for me outside my house. Insects with one more sense perception (vision) have a far greater perception than the ants. So who knows what kind or how many senses/perceptions are available.
A: One must put aside the previous ideas—clean slate.
QUESTION 34: The literal translation so far doesn’t present the idea of any kind of multi-dimensionalism but rather that heavenly realms are inaccessible because the residents there would prevent one from going there, such as in regards to Bhima traveling to the abode of Kuvera?
ANSWER: It is multi-dimensional in that the celestial realm is more subtle than our perceptible realm.
Q35: In that sense, I wonder how we can understand that 80,000 mile high mountains can escape our perception, if indeed Mount Meru is attached to this planet as we experience it.
A: It is subtle. Also our vision is limited to not much more than 10 miles during the daytime.
Q36: In this day and age, isn’t it possible to fly aircraft all around the earth, or view it from satellites? That would seem to be one question that would arise. Many people fly regularly all around the earth, and even demoniac explorers would have motive to chart the entire earth using the most capable aircraft and space craft.
A: Perhaps they are circling around the earth or part of it although the fact is that traveling in a westerly direction does not necessarily mean the plane is circling the entire globe.
Q37: It would be an assumption that things are portrayed incorrectly by the current describers of the world and might indicate that they are presenting a falsehood even against their own findings.
A: They are like tiny insects in the basement of a skyscraper trying to describe how the building was built.
Q38: Another question might be, what prevents the inner shell of the uni- verse from reflecting the Sun’s rays? Is it a matter of space absorbing the Sun’s rays over the 2 billion miles between it and the inner shell?
A: The sun’s rays only extend for a certain distance and then they stop.
Q39: Parallax is mentioned once regarding how “modern” measurements are made toward heavenly bodies. I don’t know if devotees accept that man
can measure across the earth with any degree of accuracy, meaning whether man knows how far it is between cities on the earth over thousands of miles, but using a sighting instrument in each of two cities thousands of miles apart will give two angles towards a particular object. The more accurate the measuring of the angles and the distance between the sighting instrument will give a more accurate distance to a particular point in space. It is basic triangulation. On earth, we can get as far as 8,000 miles apart and still see in the same direction into space. So the angles and distances may have some inaccuracies involved, but using the same two points it is possible to determine what is closer and what is farther away. Things such as the Moon and Sun should be easy to see which is farther away. Using magnifying telescopes it should be possible to measure with triangulation the various distances between the planets and have some estimation how far away the stars are.
A: One problem with parallax is that eight thousand miles is such a tiny distance in comparison to the millions of miles distance between earth and the planets or stars that the triangle’s angles become practically inscrutable to measure or calculate.
Q40: A civilization not having a global platform to triangulate upon distant objects or have a revelation regarding the earth rotating as the cause for the universe to spin around in space could very easily have such a complex cosmology as the Srimad Bhagavatam and be incorrect.
A: If we omit Krsna and Brahma and Narada as sound authorities then yes the whole system could be deemed defective by persons with scanty knowledge.
Q41: If you can fly all around the earth globe in all directions and photograph the whole thing and then piece all the photos together into a seamless photo on a sphere such as a globe map, then where is the question of such small things like 80,000 mile tall mountains getting overlooked?
A: The 80,000 mile high mountains are situated on a different portion of bharata varsa. Our earth is disconnected from that part by the salt water ocean. The scriptures say that we cannot go to other islands.
Q42: Before thousands of people are persuaded to give their lives to spreading a message, perhaps blind faith should be set aside and a real look at the Fifth Canto and modern astronomy should be arranged.
A: Blind faith should be set aside but faith in sastra is not blind because it has been accurate for thousands of years before Galileo.
Q43: On the Bhagavatam’s side we have faith and respect for philosophy. On the other, have any devotees ever examined modern astronomy’s methods and systems for measuring celestial bodies ?
A: Their methods for measuring celestial bodies are based on the big bang theory, heliocentric models, telescopes, lots of changing speculative postulations and vested interests.
Q45: That the Vedic cosmology allegedly came from Surya two million years ago leaves a little room for decay. But that would indicate that Vyasadeva, Narada, and Lord Chaitanya are more or less accepting of a decayed science.
A: The Surya siddhanta and other jyoti sastras corroborate the Bhagavatam’s cosmology so where is the decay?
Q46: So its either modern science is lying (even beyond possible errors), or the Vedic civilization has lost or never had better astronomy.
A: Vedic astronomy is still effective and has never been proven wrong.
Q47: It shouldn’t be a matter of faith, but rather what the truth is. It shouldn’t
be who we choose to believe, but rather what the truth is.
A: The truth will not be ascertained by insects in the basement—they simply do not have the apparatus to determine it. Truth, especially on such a vast scale, must be received from higher authorities.
SIZE OF THE UNIVERSE
QUESTION 48: The real issue appears to be the ‘4 billion miles’ very tiny scale of the universe/ brahmandala verses the modern view that claims it is many thousands of light years in size. It seems to me an extremely important subject matter to resolve, because surely this would potentially effect the internal design of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium etc.
ANSWER: The Vedic, Puranic scriptures and the acaryas commentaries upon them are consistent. The only opinion that does not agree is that of modern science—but that is to be expected in many areas because their approach is empiric and speculative.
Q49: The clue to resolving the ‘4 billion miles’ issue is surely in the vertical dimensions in the 5th Canto. (i.e. the given distances from Mt. Meru to planets such as Tapaloka, Janaloka etc). These distances fit into the ‘4 billion miles’ conception, but you appear to agree that the vertical dimension does not represent physical distances between gross objects.
A: Why can they not fit in to a 4 billion mile universe?
Q50: If the universe is only 4 billion miles across it must be in a higher dimensional/ subtle way that is beyond our current understanding.
A: Certainly many aspects of the universe are subtle to us and we are limited in our understanding, but when the authorities repeatedly state its dimensions, it is improper for us to neglect them.
QUESTION 51: Where do we get information about Rahu’s orbit?
ANSWER (By HG Vamsi dasa from the Vedic Cosmos research team): In Srimad Bhagavatam 5.24.1 we find the vertical height of Rahu above the Bhumandala plane to be 90000 yojanas.
Çré Çukadeva Gosvämé said: My dear King, some historians, the speakers of the Puräëas, say that 10,000 yojanas [80,000 miles] below the sun is the planet known as Rähu, which moves like one of the stars. The presiding deity of that planet, who is the son of Siàhikä, is the most abominable of all asuras, but although he is completely unfit to assume the position of a demigod orplanetary deity, he has achieved that position by the grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Later I shall speak further about him.
Since the vertical height of Sun above Bhumandala plane, when it is in Daksinayana is 100000 yojanas and Rahu’s height is 10000 yojanas below the sun, the vertical height of Rahu above Bhumandala plane is 90000 yojanas. We have the horizontal distance of Sun from the center of Bhumandala plane and vertical distances of the Sun above Bhumandala plane in Srimad Bhagavatam. So we have the line of sight distance of Sun from the center of Bhumandala plane coming to be about 100,000,000 miles from the center of Bhumandala plane. And since our planet is close to center of Bhumandala plane the line of sight distance from our planet is also close to 100,000,000 miles.
Now from Vayu Purana, we have the information that vertical distance of 100000 yojanas for the sun is when it is Dakshinayana. And since it moves over Manasottara mountain, we have the horizontal distance also.
In Vayu Purana Adhyaya 53 (Chapter 19): Verses 90-100:
When Surya is in his Dakshinayana tracks he will be below all other planets. Then Candra moves above Surya with a large disc. The star belts moves above Candra. The stars, planets and Surya are situated in the same vertical line (plane) one above the other at different levels. During conjunction and disjunction people see them together or apart simultaneously.
Now in the verse Srimad Bhagavatam 5.24.2:
yad adas taraëer maëòalaà pratapatas tad vistarato yojanäyutam äcakñate
dvädaça-sahasraà somasya trayodaça-sahasraà rähor yaù parvaëi
tad-vyavadhäna-kåd vairänubandhaù süryä-candramasäv abhidhävati.
In the commentaries of Sri Viraraghava acarya for this verse we find:
The sun’s disc is 10,000 yojanas broad, the moon’s disc is 12,000 yojanas and that of Rahu is 13,000 yojanas. Because of his greater size, he is able to cover both the sun and moon sometimes.
The words used in describing the dimensions are ayutam, dvädaça-sahas- ram and trayodaça sahasram. In Vedic calendar, the names used for 11th,
12th and 13th day of the fortnight of waxing and waning moon are ekadasi, dvadasi, trayodasi. The word ayuta means ten thousand. The word sahasra means thousand. So from this we can understand that the dimensions mentioned here in this verse are ten thousand, twelve thousand and thirteen thousand yojanas.
If we consider the word to word meanings of the above verse:
taraneh—of the sun
tat—on that particular
mandalam—encirclement or orbit
So the meaning of the first few words comes out to be: On the particular orbit of that which eats the distributing heat of the sun.
From this we can get the idea that, the dimensions mentioned in this verse are arc lengths of the angular diameters of Sun and Moon on the orbit of Rahu. We have from the commentary of our acaryas that the ratios of the diameters of the sun, Moon and Rahu to be 10000: 12000: 13000 or in other words 0.5: 0.6:0.65. So Srimad Bhagavatam considers the approximate an- gular diameter of sun to be 0.5 degrees, the approximate angular diameter of Moon to be 0.6 degrees and the angular diameter of Rahu is 0.65 degrees or 0.011345 radians.
Mean radius of Rahu’s orbit = given diameter of Rahu/(angular diameter of Rahu in radians) = 13000/0.011345 = 1145916 yojanas.
So from this we get the approximate line of sight distance of Rahu from our planet to be 1145916 yojanas.
In Surya Siddhanta we find the following information about the orbit of Rahu. We know from the verses 12.81 and 82 of Surya Siddhanta that these orbits are representations of angular velocities. The orbit of Rahu given in SS is 80,572,864.00 yojanas. If we divide, 18,712,080,864,000,000, the outer circumference of universe, with 232,238000, the number of east ward revo- lutions of Rahu in an aeon, we get the orbit value given for Rahu.
We know from Srimad Bhagavatam 5.24.2 that Rähu is inimical toward both the sun and the moon, and therefore he always tries to cover the sun- shine and moonshine on the dark-moon day and full-moon night.
For Rahu to cover the sun shine and Moon shine, he should be closer than the Sun and Moon. This is one other strong point to show that the or- bits given in Surya Siddhanta are representations of angular velocities. The smaller the east ward angular velocity of the planet, the larger the computed representative orbit given in Surya Siddhanta will be. Hence the value for the given orbit for Rahu is greater than given orbit of Moon in Surya Siddhanta.
This clearly establishes that orbits given in Surya Siddhanta are not original orbits, but are representations of angular velocities, as Rahu should be closer than the Moon, to cover the moon shine.
Q52: This means that the sun, moon and planets are all lined up vertically at daksinayana? If so that means they have the same orbit at least at daksinayana? If moon is above sun at daksinayana then we have moon’s orbit at one point.
A: We can see the position of planets from two views, one side view and one front view. At the end of a yuga (for example Treta yuga), all the planets are in the same rasi, the beginning of Aries (Surya Siddhanta 1.57). So if we see from the side view, all the planet will be at 0 degrees polar longitude in their east ward motion in the zodiac and hence will appear in the same vertical line as their longitudes are the same. However, if we take the front view, depending on their horizontal distance from the center of Bhumandala plane, they can be at different horizontal distances. So even though they may be in the same vertical line, they need not have the same horizontal distances. Some of them may have same horizontal distances also. But we need more information for that.
All the details other than the one related to nine varshas, and the exact distance of Rahu are same. The distance of Rahu is coming to be around
11 lakh yojanas [8,800,000 miles] from our planet. And regarding the nine varsas dimensions, the addition is the details related to the verse 5.16.6.
Difference in the synonyms of the words for the verse 5.16.6 is highlighted below:
yasmin—in that Jambüdvépa; nava—nine; varñäëi—divisions of land; nava—nine; sahasräyämäny—measuring thousands of; yojana—four krosas or 8 miles; añöabhiù—by eight; maryädä—indicating the boundar- ies; giribhiù—by mountains; suvibhaktäni—nicely divided from one an- other; bhavanti—are.
The meaning of the verse from the above synonyms is:
In Jambüdvépa there are nine divisions of land. These nine varshas measure thousands of yojanas. There are eight mountains that mark the boundaries of these divisions and separate them nicely.
Then I provided verses from Puranas supporting the commentary of Srila Sridhara Swami mentioned below:
How can Jambhudvipa be all around one lakh (100000) yojanas in magnitude? It is thus: Meru is 16000 all around, Ilavrta 18000, the other six varsas 54000, six mountains account for 12000 and hence the total is one lakh on the south-north axis. On the east-west axis also, Meru and Ilavrta account for 34000, mountains 4000 and the remaining 62000 for two var- sas on the east and west, flowing unto the salty and hence, there is no contradiction.
Those are the additions to what we have already seen previously.
Q53: We calculate the distance from our earth to sun at about 100,000,000 miles. If Rahu is nearly 9 million miles from earth, that means the orbit of Rahu is much smaller than the sun and moon. Correct?
A: The orbit of Rahu is much smaller than the orbit of Sun and Moon.
Q54: This means that the sun, moon and planets are all lined up vertically at daksinayana? If so that means they have the same orbit at least at daksinayana?
A: From the above statements it appears that the vertical distances of the planets given in Srimad Bhagavatam are the vertical distances when Sun in Dakshinayana. So these vertical distances are applicable at Dashinayana. Since the planets also come in conjunction with each other, i.e. that are seen at the same line of sight with respect to each other. So it appears that the vertical distances of the planets change as the planets move with in their tracks.
Now we have the vertical distance of Moon above Bhumandala plane. Till now, we don’t have the horizontal distance. If we have the horizontal distance also then we can calculate the line of Sight distance of moon also.
Q55: If moon is above sun at daksinayana then we have moon’s orbit at one point?
A: Even though we don’t know the exact distance of moon, we know one thing for sure. The distance of Moon should be greater than 9 million miles, because during eclipses Rahu covers the Moon, so Moon should be farther than the orbit of Rahu. Since the distance of Moon is at least greater than
9 million miles, we know for sure that people did not go to Moon, as they claim. So Prabhupad was correct, when he said they did not go to Moon.