“Can’t See All” (SB 3.13.43)
Thompson begins his presentation by stating: “I thought I would say a little about something inconceivable to the brain of even the most erudite scientist.” He then proceeds to interweave Puranic descriptions of thousand-headed demigods with the multi-dimensional Kaluza-Klein theory, originally derived from Einstein's equations and now considered a precursor to contemporary string theory.
TRANSCRIPT: Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 3, Chapter 13, Text 43. “Can’t See All.” Alachua - February 2, 1996 / (031)
Who else but You, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, could deliver the earth from within the water? It is not very wonderful for You, however, because You acted most wonderfully in the creation of the universe. By Your energy You have created this wonderful cosmic manifestation.
Purport by Śrīla Prabhupāda:
When a scientist discovers something impressive to the ignorant mass of people, the common man, without inquiry, accepts such a discovery as wonderful. But the intelligent man is not struck with wonder by such discoveries. He gives all credit to the person who created the wonderful brain of the scientist. A common man is also struck with wonder by the wonderful action of material nature, and he gives all credit to the cosmic manifestation. The learned Kṛṣṇa conscious person, however, knows well that behind the cosmic manifestation is the brain of Kṛṣṇa, as confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (9.10): mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sa-carācaram. Since Kṛṣṇa can direct the wonderful cosmic manifestation, it is not at all wonderful for Him to assume the gigantic form of a boar and thus deliver the earth from the mire of the water. A devotee is therefore not astonished to see the wonderful boar because he knows that the Lord is able to act far more wonderfully by His potencies, which are inconceivable to the brain of even the most erudite scientist.
So, I thought I would say a little bit about something inconceivable to the brain of even the most erudite scientist, namely the shape of the earth. Let's see, is the earth flat or is it round? Well, of course the Flat Earth Society is a sort of archetypal fringe organization, in which you will only find people completely devoid of anything resembling sanity. So, we certainly couldn't say that it's flat! But what is the shape of the earth? I thought I would read from some conversations with Śrīla Prabhupāda in Vṛindāvana, which dealt with this topic. Let's see, there are two conversations, which shed some light on the topic. And they're kind of interesting.
Let's see, the first one, this was in Vṛindāvana, July 5th, 1977. So, devotees who are there were discussing with Śrīla Prabhupāda about the shape of the earth. And they were seeing that in the Fifth Canto it seemed as though the earth was flat, basically. Rather mountainous to be sure, but still not exactly a globe that you could go around. And they were raising a question about: Well, suppose you start in Los Angeles and you go to Japan and then you go across to India, let's say, New Delhi and you keep on going over to London, when you cross over to New York, and you wind up in Los Angeles. How do we explain that? So, they were asking this question. So, we have:
Bhakti Prema: This... we have to reply to this question. They say if we go, we start from Los Angeles and arrive Japan, according to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam...
Prabhupāda: Japan and Los Angeles and India, that is not the whole thing.
Bhakti Prema: Yeah, that is not the whole thing, but it is a basic point.
Prabhupāda: Ha, insignificant!
Bhakti Prema: According to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, if we start from London...
Prabhupāda: That argument also I have refuted. Just like animal, he is bound up, he is rotating around the lawn and within that there may be Japan, there may be Calcutta, there may be Los Angeles. You can think this is there, but that is not all. Within that rounding circle, whatever it is there, you may think this is all, but that is not all. He is limited condition. Within that limitation, he's speaking, but Himalaya and other things far beyond their limitation. That I have already explained. He's speaking within his limitation. Our position should be to correctly represent what is described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, but if there is some question we should ask. Just like I'm answering to the reasonable point, that if you are conditioned, within your condition you can see, you can experience, but beyond that you have no right to see. What is Los Angeles, Calcutta, Japan – this is very insignificant space. And they're talking of that. We are talking that Himalaya mountain we have crossed over Himalaya. We have conquered outer space, how can they think of it?
So, this is one conversation. So, the example here is of a bull or an ox which is hooked up to a central post, so that it goes around in a circle for threshing grain. So the animal has its senses constrained so that it's going around in that circle, but it's part of a larger continuum. But because of the arrangement of the harness and so forth, the ox only can go around within a circle. So, this is an analogy to illustrate the idea of restriction of the senses. So Śrīla Prabhupāda made the interesting statement that if you are conditioned, within your condition you can see – you can experience – but beyond that you have no right to see. So, this is a restriction that actually limits your power to see, within certain limitations. so Śrīla Prabhupāda is explaining, then, that this area that we know about in which you have Los Angeles, Calcutta, Japan, and London, in those places, is a very insignificant part of the total picture.
So, that's one conversation. Now there's another one that he had, which also sheds some interesting light on this question. Actually, this wasn't during the same day. They're talking about the same topic. So Śrīla Prabhupāda was referring to the fact that the earth is compared to a lotus flower in the Bhāgavatam. So, let's see, where do we start here?
Prabhupāda: So, within the limit, suppose the lotus petal this way, that way or this way.
Tamal Krishna: You're asking us to draw the details and make a planetarium very exact.
Prabhupāda: Yes. Lotus petal, it is round, so in one lotus petal you are conditioned, you cannot go.
Tamal Krishna. So far that hasn't been said but that's... if you say that Bhārata-varṣa is the petal of the lotus, but I think if you look at the Bhāgavatam it may... I'd have to see it. What it says, there is a statement that it may be the inner portion of the lotus. And what we do, it has to agree with the Bhāgavatam.”
Prabhupāda: Lotus petal, there are so many petals. You are conditioned with one petal.
Tamal Krishna: If that's the explanation, then it can be somehow adjusted.
Prabhupāda: You do not know what is going on outside.
Devotee: There's so many round parts of a lotus petal.
Tamal Krishna: Yes, that part could be adjusted, if there's a place within it, you know the center part, there's no petals. In the middle of the lotus, there's like… I don't know what you call it, it's a flattish area. They show Kṛṣṇa standing sometimes when they draw a picture of Kṛṣṇa on a lotus.
Prabhupāda: That's all right, if your place is in.
Tamal Krishna: That we accept.
Prabhupāda: That we have to hear from authority.
Tamal Krishna: We accept that, I'm just thinking...
Prabhupāda: Unless you're obstinate you have to accept, if you are convinced.
Tamal Krishna: We accept.
Prabhupāda: There are so many millions of stars and moons that we cannot go.
Tamal Krishna: (Let's see, where does it go? Here…) As we are conditioned, so everyone is conditioned. Our planetarium will have to show the actual facts.
Prabhupāda: Yes, that fact we have learned from Bhāgavatam.
Tamal Krishna: So far we have not drawn this fact correctly.
Prabhupāda: That is your inability. That is another thing.
So, there are different questions. He finally... Prabhupāda says, “That is the explanation – petal.”
So, just to put together these two conversations, one comes up with an interesting picture of the situation of the earth. There is a description in the Bhāgavatam in which Bhu-mandala – well, specifically Jambūdvīpa – is compared to a lotus. Now in the center of a lotus that's fully developed, there's a sort of seed pod, which is a cone-shaped object in the center, where all the seeds are located. So, that corresponds to Mount Meru. And then extending out from that, there are lots of petals. So Śrīla Prabhupāda is comparing the place where we are to such a petal. So, but then again you can still say even if you think of a petal coming out from a flower, that doesn't really explain how the earth could be the globe, because where's the stalk that connects the petal? But Śrīla Prabhupāda also gave the example of the animal bound to the central post to illustrate a fundamental limitation on one's senses. You could also say: Well if we're on a petal, then why can't we see the other petals? You can imagine if you're standing on a lotus flower on one petal, if you could shrink down, you could see all the other petals next to you. But Śrīla Prabhupāda says here specifically that you couldn't see the other petals. So, there are other places in the Bhāgavatam where you see the same principle in action. For example, I’ve given the case of Lord Brahmā, in fact, going down the stem of the lotus on which he was born, trying to find its origin. And of course in the paintings that we see, you can easily see what the origin is because there's Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu down there, as you can plainly see. But Brahmā couldn't see that – that was not within the power of his vision.
So, this idea of a limitation of vision is there. This relates to the concept of higher dimensions, as I’ve mentioned before, and another illustration you can give is this example of people with varying numbers of heads and arms. For example, consider the pictures you see of Ravana having ten heads. The artists usually have a bit of trouble portraying that, as you see several heads in a row with the necks hanging down in space. So this is a bit difficult. Now if you really want to put ten necks going into one torso, unless you make the shoulders very broad, this becomes a bit awkward. You can imagine, of course, accommodating ten heads if you, let’s say, made the necks very thin, or something like that. But then there's the description of Lord Brahmā’s visit to Dvārakā in which Kṛṣṇa revealed to him all the Brahmās from other universes, and there you have Brahmās with hundreds of millions of heads, for example. Actually, there's a painting by Jadurāṇī in the Teachings of Lord Caitanya in which she tried to portray this. It is rather difficult – you see what looks sort of like a Christmas tree of heads.
But it turns out though, that if you go to higher dimensional space, you can accommodate all of these things. In fact, another example would be the many arms that come out of one shoulder; for example, Bāṇāsura had a thousand arms. So, from one shoulder, you'd have 500 arms coming out, assuming that he's symmetrical. So, if you have 500 arms, you might make them sort of like spaghetti – very thin. But that wouldn't be a very good representation. But actually, they should be normal arms, but how is it that they don't get in the way of each other? That becomes the question.
Well, as a matter of fact, they can be accommodated within a higher-dimensional space. In fact, I even made a little computer model of that on one occasion. And I have a videotape of it. I didn't try to have a thousand arms coming out of one shoulder, but I used four-dimensional space and had two arms coming out of one shoulder in such a way that in three dimensions they project into an overlapping region. So, the two arms seem to overlap, but in fact they don't overlap, because they're in a higher dimensional-space. And you can easily accommodate, then, the two arms in four dimensions. If you go to many dimensions you could have as many arms as you wanted coming out of one shoulder, and they would all interact without any problem. You can consider in this case the logic of Bāṇāsura operating the bows and arrows that he was using to shoot at Kṛṣṇa. It said that with 500 arms on one side, he was holding 500 bows; and he was simultaneously drawing the bow strings back with his other 500 hands to fire arrows at Kṛṣṇa.
Now, you can see the problem there is that if you have 500 bows aimed in the same direction, they must be on top of one another. So, you could say: Well, they pass through each other. But then the 500 arrows also pass through each other, but each arrow is constrained by the bow that's firing that arrow – the bowstring is pushing the arrow and so forth. So, the bowstring doesn't pass through that arrow, but it does pass through the other 499 arrows and so on. But in the higher-dimensional space where you have room for everything, there's no problem. You can have all these bows and arrows being manipulated simultaneously, and they don't interfere with one another. So, that's actually a possibility. So this concept comes up again and again in the Bhāgavatam. Another example where you sometimes see paintings would be the heads of the Kāliya-nāga; there are some paintings in which you see the lower section of Kāliya is extremely thick. You have a lot of necks coming up sort of looking like very thin strands extending up. So that's an attempt to show how you could have thousands of heads coming out of one body, but again I suspect it's a higher-dimensional situation. So, you don't have to have that awkward thick section of the Kāliya serpent.
So, in any case, going back to the earth, what one would have would be that just as Ravana has many heads coming out of one neck, so you have many globes arrayed with higher-dimensional connections forming the earth, and we are constrained to one of those. So, we can only see one, and to us that looks like the whole thing, but actually there are many of them. So that's the analogy that Śrīla Prabhupāda makes here with the many petals and we're constrained to one particular petal. So that would mean then that the total earth is something much bigger than anything we're accustomed to imagining, because in fact the earth as we know it is just a small part of the total manifestation of the earth. So in that sense, Śrīla Prabhupāda says that this area with Los Angeles, Calcutta, Londonm and so forth is insignificant compared to the totality.
So, that's a little bit about the earth. Going back to Lord Varāha… of course, then this is the earth that Lord Varāha lifted. So, if the earth that Lord Varāha lifted is like that, then what can you say about Lord Varāha? He must also be multi-dimensional then, which of course makes sense if you consider the total pastime of the lifting of the earth from an ocean. So, what that means then is that Kṛṣṇa's potency is completely inconceivable, which of course was one basic point Śrīla Prabhupāda made in the purport. So, it's getting a little bit late; I’ll stop there. Are there questions or comments?
Answer: Well, you see, higher dimensions include three dimensions. So, you can have the arrows lined up in one particular dimension, let's say the x-axis. They're all going to point right down the x-axis, but they extend in other dimensions: y, z, w, q, and so forth. So therefore, at the level of bows, they don't interfere but they're aimed along x. Now you can keep them aimed along x, but then the next step you have to do is shift the w and y and z-coordinates and so forth, so that they all are going through the same space when they hit the target. That would be a necessary feature of this particular model, but you can do that.
A: Might be like that. Actually, you'd see them superimposed. I had to… you may have heard of in computer graphics there's something called 3D studio. So, I had to invent 4D studio in order to make this picture. 4D Studio is under work... under development now and it will be released shortly. It's going to be purchased by Microsoft. They don't know yet that they have an application for it. There's a very big market. But in any case, you can actually represent that. By the way, I should also add as a final thing, you may think: Well, this is something from the mythology of the Bhāgavatam! But people are doing experiments with this multi-dimensional space. I even have some videotape. This of course gets one into a controversial area, but here's the idea. Suppose you have two wooden rings, and just for the sake of argument, let's say they're made of two different kinds of wood: one is pine and one is oak, and they're not broken. So, you could examine the rings and you could see that they haven't been cut and glued together, because if you want you to go around with a microscope and make sure there was no splicing. Now, suppose those two rings were interlocked. How could it happen? One oak ring and one pine ring, that haven't been broken, as you can tell by inspection, and they're interlocked. So, that would be mysterious if you were shown something like that.
So, people have tried to achieve that with the idea that subtle entities can move objects in another dimension. It's actually very easy to see that if you had two rings that are separate – being separately carved – and if you could move one ring, let’s say, a little bit, let's say in the w dimension leaving x, y, and z. Then in the x, y, and z dimensions you could pass them like this and there'd be no collision because they're in different w positions. Then shift the other rings w back to zero again, now they're interlocked. So, I have some photographs of objects like this, which have been linked. So, in any case…
A: Photographs. There's a guy down in Vero Beach who claims to have the objects. Well I’ve seen, but I can't say that I inspected them with a microscope to make sure there were no cuts. You see there's... there’re various limits to one's investigation, but anyway, I just thought I'd mention that because this idea of higher dimensions and all that is involved with it, may also be something with empirical verification, interestingly enough. Yeah, Puskara?
A: If you want to go through the śāstra you'll find… I know that. He picked up Bhū-maṇḍala without a doubt, the whole thing.
A: No, it's not. It's more like a disk that extends four billion miles. It's very clear that he picked up the whole of Bhū-maṇḍala. So, there are both commentaries and specific verses that say that. Also, if you look in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, it's very elaborately described how he picked up the whole of the Bhū-maṇḍala. Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura – I mentioned this in another class – Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura did a calculation in which he shrank in Bhū-maṇḍala a little bit from the shell of the universe – I mentioned this last time – by 17,000, yojanas I believe it was. Now this provided a gap so that Bhū-maṇḍala could move up and down; and Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura said specifically this enabled Lord Varāha to lift the earth, because if it went right out to the shell, then it couldn't move. So, he provided a gap so that it could move up and down.
So, yeah, it's explicitly stated. However, then again, Śrīla Prabhupāda has said that Bhū-maṇḍala is a system of globes, which is another consideration. But then how could that be? So, if you look into the whole thing, you get into this whole topic of higher-dimensions and so forth. You can't simply make a three-dimensional model of it, that's what I would propose. So, any case, yeah?
A: You can say. Just like you're familiar with x, y, and z. Well, why stop with x, y, and z – suppose there's a w and additional coordinates? Mathematicians have worked this out, there's... they generally deal with what they call n-dimensional space, where n is any number you want to pick – n could be a billion, billion if you like. So, you can have higher-dimensional space. And so that's the idea I'm introducing there. Yeah?
A: Well, one has to recognize that some things may be difficult to prove, but I just mentioned this idea of an empirical verification of the higher dimensions. Now, to show that immediately for the entire earth may not be such an easy thing, but maybe for those little rings and so forth, you can begin to get the idea. In fact, people were, to my knowledge, first thinking about this back in the 19th century. There is a German scientist named Zöllner, a physicist in fact, who was thinking of this. And he started doing experiments back then in which rings would be made to link or a single loop of string that's not broken would develop a knot in it. Imagine you have a continuous loop of string: without breaking it can you put a knot in the string? And he demonstrated that. But you can't do that in three dimensions, but you can see very easily if you can go into a fourth dimension you could put a knot in the string, without breaking the string.
So, it's possible that there may be some evidence that these things could exist. By the way, another interesting point is in physics, in the most respectable area of modern physics, there's something called the Kaluza-Klein Theory. You may have heard about Einstein and his search for a grand unified theory; he wanted to unify electricity and gravity in one formula. Well, way back in the 1930s a man named Kaluza thought of a way to do it. He said “We'll add another dimension of space and we’ll write Einstein’s own equations for five-dimensional space.” Einstein already had four dimensions because he treats time as a dimension. So he already had four-dimensional space. So Kaluza said, “We'll add a fifth dimension and write down Einstein's equations just with the modification for going to the additional dimension.” And that gave him a theory that included electromagnetism and gravity in one unified formula. And it worked. So, he wrote… [break]... but maybe that's not the only way you could… there are other possibilities there. So there’s more to this whole subject thing than meets the eye.