Thompson proposes that complex descriptions found in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that reflect upon Bhu-mandala as a cosmic earth disc, offer an enigma. Thompson draws upon his training as a professional mathematician to examine the mathematical concept of “higher dimension” as potentially offering a complement of practical analytical tools. He also considers that while the speakers of the Bhagavatam offer descriptions ordinarily inaccessible through blunt sense perception, aspects of these features are nonetheless appreciable through the cultivation of higher levels of awareness. Thompson concludes that the principle of correspondence supports the argument that esoteric qualities illustrated in Puranic literature frequently correlate with mathematically recognizable astronomical features.
TRANSCRIPT: Astronomy. Radhadesh, Belgium - 1988 / (905)
Yadunandan: You are listening to Radio Krishna, a deeper dimension in radio, on 87.6 MHz… [music] ...In this Radio Krishna broadcast we shall listen to a lecture by Sadaputa das from America, in a recording from Belgium. Today’s topic is astronomy. If you, for example, read the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is one of the Puranic texts, you will find an astronomical description that doesn’t at all correspond to what we can see, at least not superficially. Why this is not necessarily a sign of Bhagavatam being mythical and imaginative, Sadaputa will explain in this lecture. He will touch on the topic of higher dimensions in the universe. An exciting lecture, so stay with us on Radio Krishna, and welcome to Sadaputa after some more music...
There are so-called supplementary Vedic literatures – also called Upa-Vedic literature – which deal with various material subject matters. And one of the subjects that is dealt with is astronomy. So, there is what is called the jyotish sastra. And you'll see that Srila Prabhupada refers at various times to jyotish sastra. Jyotish refers to ‘luminaries’, or stars and planets and so forth. So, the jyotish sastra consists of a number of works; among them there is the Surya-siddhanta. There’s also the Siddhanta-siromani. There are different historical Indian astronomers who lived within recent centuries such as Bhaskaracharya and Aryabhatta and others who have written different works which are, sort of, in this basic category of jyotish sastra. And then there are other works which are attributed to different demigods. For example, the Surya-siddhanta is a work on astronomy which is attributed to a messenger from the sun-god. The story there is that Maya Danava – the same Maya Danava we have the Bhagavatam – wanted to obtain some astronomical knowledge which was up to date, because the old knowledge had gotten out of date due to the passing of the ages. This is an interesting idea that that can happen to astronomical knowledge. So, he prayed to the sun-god to reveal this knowledge to him, and the sun-god deputed a messenger to go to Surya... to go to Maya Danava.. and teach him this astronomical knowledge. So that’s the setting of the Surya-siddhanta. Now, this jyotish sastra is apparently an accepted part of the Vedic literature and was accepted as such by Srila Prabhupada. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati translated the Surya-siddhanta from Sanskrit into Bengali and that translation is available. Essentially it’s a straight translation. In one purport in the Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Prabhupada says that Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati compiled the Surya-siddhanta and as a result of that he got this title “Bhaktisiddhanta”.
So, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati accepted the validity of the Surya-siddhanta. There’s a bibliography of the writings of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and you'll see there that in the period in his...when he was in his early 20’s, I believe, he produced two astronomical magazines. One was called Brihaspati and the other was called Jyotirvid. And in those magazines he published many different translations of works in this general area of jyotish sastra. So, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was very expert in this general area. In the Caitanya-caritamrta in different places, Srila Prabhupada will quote from, or refer to, the opinion of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati concerning the jyotish sastra. And it seems Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati wrote a commentary on the Caitanya-caritamrta called Anubhasya. I looked up some of the original commentaries by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati in which he makes reference to astronomical points, and you see there that he, for example, will quote extensively from the Siddhanta-siromani or the Surya-siddhanta. So he evidently accepted these works as authoritative. So, that’s some basic background. In general, the jyotish sastra is accepted by the Vaisnava acaryas and it’s a traditional accepted body of material. So therefore, it’s of some importance to us.
So, I’ll outline the picture of the solar system that you have in the jyotish sastra; in particular the Surya-siddhanta. Now, the Surya-siddhanta is mainly devoted to a system of calculations which enable you to determine the location of any planet in the sky at any given specified time. So, if you know the time measured in days, hours, minutes, and seconds, from the beginning of Kali-yuga – that’s the way you have to measure the time – then you can determine exactly where, let us say, Saturn is in the sky, or exactly where Venus is, and so forth. So that’s... the Surya-siddhanta is mainly devoted to those calculations.
So, the basic picture is geocentric. You have the earth in the center, and you have the sun out here moving in a circle going around the earth. Now, Venus for example, moves in a circle which has the center on the circle of the sun’s orbit. In fact, the center of this circle is the location of the sun itself and Venus is moving in that circle. So, the sun moves around like this, and Venus moves like this. So, this is the picture you have in the Surya-siddhanta. Mercury also moves in a circle around the sun... so it’s moving along like that. Now, Mars and Jupiter also move on double circle arrangements similar to this – Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The moon moves around the earth in a single circle, in the Surya-siddhanta system; which is smaller in diameter than the circle in which the sun moves. This is the picture given in the Surya-siddhanta. So, the first point to notice the Surya-siddhanta says the earth.. the moon is closer to the earth than the sun; that’s what the Surya-siddhanta says. So, we’ll get to the Bhagavatam in a moment. So, this basic way of describing the motions of the planets is similar to the system you find in classical Greek astronomy. Specifically the system of Ptolemy. And in Greek astronomy you say that this large circle on which the planet is moving is called a cycle and the smaller circle is called an epicycle. So, the Surya-siddhanta is similar to the system of Greek astronomy and the established opinion of Western scholars is that Indian astronomy was borrowed from the Greeks. So, this is a whole subject which has to be properly investigated. In India, you will find scholars who argue that it is not true that this system came from the Greeks, and they will give many lines of evidence indicating this; but it’s a whole controversial area. So, this is the way things are described in the Surya-siddhanta.
So, I should mention that the Surya-siddhanta has a lot of material in it. Which is quite interesting. And I will just mention one thing, namely, that you can find in the Surya-siddhanta the orbits, the diameters of the planets in an accurate form. Also, the distances to the various planets are accurately presented in the Surya-siddhanta. For example, in the heliocentric system – if, here is the sun, here is the earth, and here is the orbit of Venus – as the earth moves around in its orbit, and we draw a line like this, and if you draw another line to Venus moving in its orbit, you see that the basic picture that you get is the same as the basic picture you have here. And you can also draw a line between the earth and the sun, and a line between the sun and Venus. And you get the same pair of lines like the hands of a clock, which are moving relative to one another, in both pictures. Now, in one picture, you say the earth is in the center and the sun is moving. In the other picture, you say the sun is in the center and the earth is moving. But the relative motion of these two lines connecting the earth, sun, and Venus, is the same in both systems. And the relative lengths of the lines is also the same.
In the Surya-siddhanta, the distances indicating the lengths of these lines are measured in minutes of arc. It’s a very interesting mathematical system they have. A minute of arc is used as a measure of distance. And you might say, “well, how many miles are there in a minute of arc?” Well that’s not defined because, of course, the Surya-siddhanta doesn't say anything about miles – that’s an English measure of distance. So one cannot say what absolute distance a minute of arc has, but you can compare relative distances. So, the ratio between the distance between the sun and the earth, and the distance between the sun and Venus, according to the Surya-siddhanta, comes out to be the same as the ratio between the distance from the sun to the earth, and the distance from the sun to Venus, in modern astronomy. All the ratios, in fact, come out the same.
What it means is, that the solar system is being described as geometrically the same in the Surya-siddhanta as it’s described in modern astronomy. And this comes out if you examine the information in the Surya-siddhanta. Here’s another interesting feature of the Surya-siddhanta. If you see a planet – well, it looks like a star. How many with their eye, naked eye, can see that planet as a disc? No one can see the disc, at least with the kind of eyesight we have. But here’s some interesting information.
These are diameters of the planets. Now, in the Surya-siddhanta, you're given the value in yojanas. Actually, you're not directly given the value even in yojanas. What you're given is, the diameter of the planet in yojanas, as projected to the orbit of the moon. But, using the calculations in the Surya-siddhanta, you can calculate what the real diameter of the planet is. If you know what it is when projected down to the orbit of the moon, you can find the actual diameter. So, you have to convert the numbers from yojanas to miles. And there’s always the question of, “Well, how many miles in a yojana?” It appears there are two commonly used standards for the yojanas in India. One, is about 8 miles per yojana, which Srila Prabhupada refers to in the Bhagavatam. The other, is 5 miles per yojana. Aryabhata uses about 8. The Surya-siddhanta uses about 5 miles per yojana. But in any case, with that calibration, all of these diameters come out to correspond in an interesting way. For example, for the moon, you have 2,400 vs 2,160; it’s quite close. For Mercury, 3,008 vs 3,100. Now for Venus, it’s about half. The diameter given here is about half of the modern diameter, or very close to half. What is the actual ratio? I have it written here... it’s 1.89, is the ratio. For Earth, they're nearly the same; 8,000 vs 7,928. For Mars, it’s quite close. For Jupiter, again, it’s almost precisely one half. And for Saturn, it’s very close. What I would suggest, is that the two cases here where it comes out to one half, actually the Surya-siddhanta has the radius, instead of the diameter. At least, that’s a possibility. In any case, you find a lot of accurate figures here for diameters of planets in the Surya-siddhanta. So, that’s just an interesting point to make concerning the Surya-siddhanta because how could anyone have known these diameters in India, at a time before the invention of the telescope? You see, with a naked eye, as far as I know, practically no one can even see that the planets have discs, what to speak of measuring the diameter of the disc.
The method used today to measure the diameter of a planet involves two things. First of all, you know accurately how far away the planet is. Then, using a telescope, you very accurately measure the angle subtended by that planet. And, if you know an angle, and you know the distance of a line – say going from here to here – if you can measure this angle, and you know this distance, then you can determine this length of this line. So, that’s the method they use to find the diameters of the planets today. So, you need a telescope, definitely, using their method, plus accurate knowledge of the distances. So, how did they do it when the Surya-siddhanta was written, because some of these figures are definitely accurate? And, these that are nearly one half, are also suggestive; there’s just an error in the text – putting down radius rather than diameter. So, it’s an interesting point.
According to scholars, the Surya-siddhanta was written in the middle ages. They try to make all Vedic things relatively recent. But, in the middle ages, what could they have done to measure diameters of planets in India? So, that’s some information concerning the Surya-siddhanta.
These basic planets of Mercury, Venus, the earth, and so forth, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter – these have been known in India for a very long time and also in the West for a very long time. In fact, the days of the week are named after them. Monday is Moon day. Tuesday...is Mars, like martes in Spanish. I guess, in French, you have that, mardi referring to Mars. In Anglo-Saxon, Tiwes was the God of War, also. So, Tuesday, that’s the same thing. Wednesday, that was named after Oden. You know, Oden’s Day. And that’s associated with Mercury. Wednesday is the day of Mercury, and so forth. The same thing is there in India. The days of the week are also named after the planets. There’s Sukravar, Brihaspativar – Brahaspati is used to refer to Jupiter, and so forth.
The next thing then to do, is discuss the 5th Canto. So, this is an introduction to some of the material in the Surya-siddhanta and the jyotish sastra, in general. So now, in addition to that, we have the descriptions of the universe found in the 5th Canto of the Bhagavatam; in the Puranic literature in general, also, in the Mahabharata you find this kind of description. In all these literature one basic description is given, although in some Puranas the names get shifted around to some extent. So, the basic picture that you have is the following: The central feature of the universe according to the 5th Canto is something called Bhu-mandala. Bhu-mandala is described as being a disc about 4 billion miles in diameter, 50 koti yojanas, using 8 mile per yojana. That’s where the 4 billion mile figure comes from. Koti is 10 million; so 50, 10 millions of yojanas, is the diameter of Bhu-mandala.
So, I am showing this from the side. So, it’s like a thin flat plate with a very large diameter. With a diameter of 2 billion miles to compare that with the Western picture of the solar system, you go up to 3 times the orbital radius of Saturn. That gives you an idea of the scale of size there. So this Bhu-mandala is called the earthly planetary system. And it’s described that there are fourteen planetary systems, which are essentially planes. So, there are seven planes going above Bhu-mandala, and six below. Which, with Bhu-mandala, makes a total of fourteen. So, the ones above are called the upper planetary systems, and the ones below are called the lower planetary systems, and Bhu-mandala is the middle planetary system. So, these three divisions are called the three worlds; upper, middle, and lower. So, that’s the basic description. So, this Bhu-mandala is described as existing within a large spherical space. The upper planetary systems are arranged above that. They culminate finally in Brahmaloka or Satyaloka, which is the place of residence of Brahma. Then there’s different planets of great sages or planes or planetary systems of great sages such as Tapoloka, Maharloka, and Janaloka. There’s Svargaloka, which is the realm of the demigods. Below Bhu-mandala there are lower planetary systems. Interestingly enough, in the Bhagavatam, the distances are described in such a way that these are extremely close to the plane of Bhu-mandala itself. So, it’s although you have a stack of phonograph records that are right next to one another. So there are these planetary systems. Below them, there are the hellish worlds. And below that there’s the Garbodakasayi... Garbodaka ocean where Garbodakasayi Visnu is situated on Ananta Sesa. And the region below is filled with the Garbodaka Ocean. So, that’s the basic description seen in a cross section.
Now, in the center of Bhu-mandala there is a place called Jambudvipa, which we can locate right here. Now, one also wants to look down on Bhu-mandala from above. This is seen from the side, but if you look down from the vertical direction you get the following picture: Bhu-mandala is a large disc, so you have, the big circle like that in the center is Jambudvipa. And it’s described that there’s a series of ring-shaped oceans and islands. There’s Jambudvipa, which is a circular island. There’s an ocean – the salt ocean – surrounding that. Then there’s a ring-shaped region of land with a thickness, or width, twice the width of the salt ocean, surrounding that. I believe that one is called Plaksadvipa. Then there’s an ocean of thickness equal to that ring. Then another ring-shaped region of land, once again, twice as wide as that ocean. And so on for a series of seven ring-shaped islands with corresponding oceans. And these seven islands are called Saptadvipa, with Jambudvipa counted as the innermost one. So this is the layout on the surface of Bhu-mandala.
Jambudvipa itself is very large. It’s described as being 100.. yeah... it’s 100,000 yojanas in diameter, that disc. So, if you consider a yojana to be 8 miles then that’s 800,000 miles. So Jambudvipa itself has a structure which is described in detail in the 5th Canto of the Bhagavatam. It’s divided into 9 varsas by different mountain ranges. And in the center there’s a mountain called Mt. Meru. So, all the distances and sizes in the description of Bhu-mandala including the description of Jambudvipa are on what you might call a celestial level. Everything is extremely large, for example a typical height for a range of mountains in Jambudvipa would be 10,000 yojanas, which would come to 80,000 miles. And for comparison, the circumference of the earth going around the equator is about 25,000 miles. So, you have mountains which you couldn't fit onto the earth as we know it, as a small globe. So this Bhu-mandala which is being described is quite different from the earth as we know it. It’s a completely different structure. So, that’s a basic outline of a few features of the universe as described in the 5th Canto.
So, the immediate question that one encounters then is, how does this system as described here relate to the solar system as we understand it in Western terms? And indeed, how does it relate with the solar system as described in the jyotish sastra? Because in the Surya-siddhanta, the earth is also described as a small globe; that’s true in all of the jyotish sastra. And as I indicated there, the diameter of the earth is almost exactly the diameter as it’s understood today. So, then the question is: if the earth is described that way in the jyotish sastra, and this way in the 5th Canto of the Bhagavatam, how do you relate those two things?
So, this question is not new. As a matter of fact, if you look in the commentaries on the Bhagavatam which Srila Prabhupada was using in writing his purports – they're large green books of commentaries – you'll find that some of the commentators actually discussed this issue. In fact, there’s one commentator named Vamsidara who, I understand, was a contemporary, or close follower, of Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura. But he has a commentary in which he directly poses this very question. He says: “Well, on the one hand, in the jyotish sastra, the earth is an egg of clay, so-and-so-many yojanas in circumference. He uses the figure 5,000 yojanas in circumference. On the other hand, according to the Bhagavatam, the earth is a gigantic disc, 50 koti yojanas in diameter. So, how can we reconcile these two descriptions? It would appear that Vyasadeva has introduced contradictions into the Vedic literature – this is what he says. And then he answers this doubt by saying: “Actually, Vyasadeva hasn't introduced any contradictions.” And he goes on to explain how these various concepts relate to one another. And it would be nice to get a good translation of his explanation, but the Sanskrit is very difficult because it uses many words in which we really don't know the meaning. It’s very hard to know what he really meant. But in any event, the whole subject is discussed, even in the commentaries on the Srimad-Bhagavatam by previous acharyas.
So, one basic point that you can definitely make is that this Bhu-mandala is not the same thing as the earth as we know it. It’s an entirely different conception, and Bhu-mandala is predominantly celestial. You can see that just by doing a mathematical calculation. If the diameter here is 2 billion miles and if you can go all the way around the earth as we know it in 25,000 miles, then it must be that the overwhelming major portion of Bhu-mandala is far away from the earth in what we call outer space because what is 25,000 compared to 2 billion? So, Bhu-mandala is mainly out there in the heavens. Now, if you read the 5th Canto you'll find that all of Bhu-mandala is populated, but only in the particular part of Jambudvipa, known as Bharata-varsa, do you have human life as we know it. In all the other varsas of Jambudvipa and in all of these different divpas of Bhu-mandala, you have life on the level of, you might say, lower demigods. The inhabitants there live, say, for a period of 10,000 years typically. They never show signs of old age, their bodies never get wrinkled, or produce bad smells, there are very opulent circumstances and it’s described that these personalities have descended from the heavenly planets, but they still have some pious karma remaining. So, they're living in an opulent situation in these different parts of Bhu-mandala, using up their remaining pious credit. So, you don't find ordinary human beings who get cardiac conditions and pot bellies and so forth, in this region.
Now, it is also a fact, there’s another nomenclature describing the upper, middle, and lower, planetary systems. That is that the upper system is called Svarga, which means heavens, the middle system is called Bhauma-svarga, and the lower planetary systems are called Bila-svarga. So you have 3 Svargas. The word for heavens is used for all three of them. So essentially there’s the heavenly region proper, then there’s the earthly heaven and the subterranean heaven. So in the Bhagavatam you can read about Bila-svarga which is the subterranean heavenly planets. So, all of these things are referred to as heavens and the inhabitants are primarily like demigods. To get an idea of life there you can read a description of the liberation of Gagendra, the elephant. Because he was living on the Trikuta Mountain, which is an island in the ocean of milk. And one of these ring shaped oceans is the ocean of milk on Jambudvipa. And you see that there are demigods playing in the different caves of that mountain and so on. Gagendra was an elephant and he was attacked by a crocodile, but the battle between them went on for 1,000 years. So, it wasn't an ordinary elephant and ordinary crocodile.
So the question then is: if in fact Bhu-mandala is a plane extending through vast regions of space, far away from this earth as we know it, well, where is that plane, how are we to understand it in relation with the rest of the solar system? Well in fact, you can provide some tentative answers to that question which can help aid one in interpreting the 5th Canto. And the way to know where Bhu-mandala is situated in outer space is to consider the motion of the sun. So, in Bhu-mandala there is a particular ring-shaped mountain on one of these dvipas or ring-shaped islands which is called the Manasottara Mountain. So it’s a huge ring, let’s see, the radius of that ring is in the order of something like 100 million miles or so, I forget the exact figure, but it is very large and it is centered on Jambudvipa. So, it’s described that the sun is riding on a chariot above this ring-shaped mountain. Apparently, in India, they have a thing called an oil pressing machine in which you have, sort of, ring-shaped track and you have a single wheel and a central axis and oxen move around in a circle and the wheel rotates on the ring and the axis revolves around and you put whatever you want pressed under the wheel and it crushes it as it moves along; so that’s an oil pressing machine. Well, this chariot on the sun is described as being like an oil pressing machine in which the wheel runs along this Manasottara Mountain and the central axis connects to Jambudvipa.
So, the sun is moving along just above Manasottara Mountain; the distance above the mountain is 100,000 yojanas. Now, that is a considerable distance, but a more exact figure for the radius of this ring from here out to here is 15,146,000 yojanas. So the ratio between the height of the sun above the ring and the ring itself is 151, is what it comes out to. So, the point is, when looked at in scale, the sun is practically on the plane of Bhu-mandala, and it’s moving around that mountain on a circular track. So, that means that if you look at the sun in the sky, whatever point on Bhu-mandala the sun is above at that moment, is very close to the direction you're looking in the sky because the sun is very close to that point from a vantage point here. So, if you consider how the sun moves in the sky and you consider that the sun is moving around Bhu-mandala on this circular track then you can tell where Bhu-mandala must be situated in the sky.
So, the basic conclusion one arrives at from that is that the plane of Bhu-mandala corresponds to the path of the sun through the sky. And that is called the ecliptic. So, I should say a little bit about how the movement of the sun looks from the point of view on the earth. So, there is something called the celestial sphere. If you take the earth globe, imagine a very large sphere centered on the earth – you know, enormous – and what you do is, you take the latitude longitude lines on Earth and you project them out onto that sphere. So, there’s an equator going around that sphere which is called the celestial equator and you get that just by projecting out the equator of the earth. There are two poles; the North and South Celestial Poles, which you obtain by just extending the North Pole until it hits the sphere at the north end and extending it in the southern direction to hit the sphere at the southern end and the different lines of celestial latitude and longitude. So, this is called the celestial sphere.
Now, against this sphere the sun moves on a particular path which is a great circle on that sphere. And that circle is tilted at an angle of about 23.5 degrees from the celestial equator. And the sun moves on that path in one year through one complete circuit. And that path is called the ecliptic. So, the reason given here – and I'm not going into the details; one has to look at the particular verses in the Bhagavatam and so forth – suggests that the plane of Bhu-mandala corresponds to the plane of the ecliptic. So, if you want to, in a crude way, relate Bhu-mandala with the picture of the solar system we have in Western terms, Bhu-mandala corresponds to the plane of the sun’s orbit, or the earth’s orbit around the sun, or equivalently the sun’s orbit around the earth, depending on which you want to take as fixed. So, in that case the radical suggestion that the 5th Canto is making in connection with modern astronomy is that the plane of the solar system is not empty space except for a few planets like the earth, the moon and so forth, plus various asteroids and meteors and comets and so forth. Instead of being empty space there’s actually an inhabited realm out there which in fact is inhabited by beings on the level of demigods and so forth. So, the Vedic literature is saying that that’s out there.
Now, of course, we don't see that. If you look in outer space with a telescope you won’t see Bhu-mandala, you just see empty space in that plane. The Vedic literature is saying: well, there’s inhabited realm there. So, there’s that basic point. Now, once you’ve identified the location of Bhu-mandala, if we just proceed with this identification, then the upper planetary system must be in the direction of Celestial North from Bhu-mandala. So, if you take the plane of the ecliptic and if you position yourself you can determine where that is. In San Diego I can point it out, I'm not able to do that here. But from that plane you can determine where the pole star is, which indicates the direction of North. And going north from the plane of the ecliptic, you have the various planetary systems in the upper direction. And going towards the South from the plane of the ecliptic would be the lower planetary systems. So, according to this idea, towards the South you would have the Garbhodaka Ocean and so forth. So, of course all you see are stars at night and you can be sure that in ancient India people also just saw stars when they looked out in the sky at night, except perhaps for some yogis and mystics who might see a different thing. But in any event, a person with ordinary vision will just see stars. But outer space is divided up in this way. So, in this way it begins to make sense that you have a Svarga, a Bhauma-svarga, and a Bila-svarga – it’s all Svarga because it’s all out there except for the very tiny part of Jambudvipa which passes through where we are, which is... provides the earth itself.
Now that gives a beginning of an idea of how Bhu-mandala relates to the solar system and the earth as we know it, but still there are a lot of unanswered questions. One basic question is: how does the earth globe, as we understand it, relate to this plane with these enormous mountains which are typically larger than the earth itself? So, this is an area where one can only offer tentative answers. But, if you study the Bhagavatam and the kinds of things described there, you begin to get a certain understanding that does seem to make sense. And that is, essentially, that this system is of a higher dimensional nature. I use the word ‘higher dimensional’ loosely. It’s one of the most convenient terms to use to refer to this idea.
The idea is, that you can have worlds existing in parallel to the world we see, which are not accessible to our senses and which are accessible to the senses of persons with a greater degree of mystic power, or a higher elevation of consciousness. So that, for a human being it is not possible to see this larger structure in the universe, but a demigod can actually travel there and see that. Narada Muni could do so, certain yogis could do so, and so forth. So that’s the simple form, the basic idea. You find many descriptions in the Vedic literature of how demigods can travel in a way that, to us, looks completely mysterious. From our point of view they simply appear in a given place and then they disappear – from their point of view they're traveling. So very briefly, that would be the answer I would suggest for this. There are many different points that are relevant to this. If you go through Srila Prabhupada's books you'll find a number of interesting descriptions of Bhu-mandala. In several places in Srila Prabhupada’s books he describes Bhu-mandala as a system of globes floating in space. You can see that in particular in the Krsna Book, in the section where Krsna and Arjuna are going to see Maha Visnu. They take off in Krsna's chariot and they travel North, over various planetary systems. And Srila Prabhupada describes the dvipas as islands in the ocean of.. floating in the ocean of air. Now the Bhagavatam directly describes these dvipas as geographical subdivisions of a plane. But in certain places Srila Prabhupada refers to them as globes floating in space.
Now, likewise, the Bhagavatam describes Jambudvipa as part of the geography of this plane of Bhu-mandala, but our own experience is that the earth is a globe floating in space. Also, the Surya-siddhanta describes the earth as a globe floating in space and it has the right diameter for it. So, there seems to be some parallelism here. We have, on the one hand, a description of globes floating in space and on the other hand we have a description of planes and celestial scale geography with mountains bigger than the earth and so forth. So, it would appear to me one can at least suggest that there is a correlation between these in the sense that both of these descriptions are referring to one reality but from different aspects. And, can I make that more exact? I don't think at this point it’s wise to try to make it more exact. We see the two descriptions and the parallelism and we see that there is one reality being described here. I would suggest that there’s a higher dimensional connection between the globes floating in space including this earth, and the cosmic geography type description you have in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Now, a number of interesting points can be made that fill out this picture. There are many references in Srila Prabhupada’s books which identify specific parts of Bhu-mandala, which, according to the 5th Canto, are many thousands of yojanas in size, or hundreds of thousands of yojanas. With identifying these with particular parts on the surface of the earth, which are very small, small regions and so forth. So, we seem to have a principal of correspondence between celestial features in this Bhu-mandala and geographical areas on the earth. But if you think about it, you'll see a lot of this kind of thing in the Vedic literature. For example, nearly all of the rivers in India have celestial counterparts. Of course the Ganges is the most famous example. You see the Ganges flowing in India, and to ordinary mundane eyes the Ganges seems to come out of, sort of, an area of ice up at the Himalayas, at a certain point. On the other hand, we know that in the Vedic literature, the Ganges is a celestial river which at a certain point appears on the earth and then continues on its path. It actually begins at the upper covering of the universe near the pole star and comes all the way down to the earth. In purports, in different places, Srila Prabhupada points out that many different rivers in India are of similar nature. You have a celestial river and a counterpart on the earth. So, it would appear that this earth that we see has different parts which are counter parts of this Bhu-mandala description. Exactly how the connection works is hard to say.
I can give you another piece of information that also sheds some light on this but relates to this idea of celestial rivers and so forth. A yogi, Srila Prabhupada has pointed out, can travel from one place to another by, say, going into the Ganges at one place and emerging at another place. That can be done on the earth; you can go in at the Himalayas and emerge at Allahabad, or something like that. It’s not that you swim underwater, but it’s a mystic transfer. Likewise, it’s described in the Bhagavatam in one place that the four Kumaras entered the Ganges up near Brahmaloka, where they were living, and they emerged in the vicinity of Garbhodakasayi Visnu because they wanted to go meet Ananta Sesa. It describes that their hair was wet when they came out. So, this kind of mystical travel is possible. So, in the Bhagavatam and the Vedic literature in general, you have the idea of modes of travel which are inconceivable from the point of view of our ordinary ideas of space, but some extraordinary idea of space is implicit in the Vedic literature, so... maybe we should stop now and you can ask questions...yeah?
Question: Obviously one starts by trying to figure out what kind of ... well, how you could account for the observable phenomenon, by thinking in terms of a like multi-dimensional reality projected into three dimensions. Thinking like you were saying ...you made the remark that yogis perhaps with a different type of senses might perceive things differently, different kinds of bodies might also be able to ...They can travel through...through regions which we can’t. If you imagine that we are like limited three-dimensionally then, you know, then it may be that that’s understandable that you have all these uh... if we had a higher dimensional kind of body and senses maybe we could also be like Alice in Wonderland and pass through the mirror and be in a completely different ...
Answer: Well you see...
Q: ..area of Jambudvipa for instance...
A: ..if you ask what is the relation between this 5th Canto description and what we normally think of. Or between that and the Surya-siddhanta, which amounts to the same thing because it agrees closely to what we normally think of. What is the relation? The main difference is that there.. the 5th Canto description posits a lot more different entities existing in the solar system than we experience or that we posit in our own picture. By our own, I mean, what we’re accustomed of thinking of. So, of the things that are there, there’s some discrepancies between our picture and the 5th Canto picture I described some of those but there’s a broad agreement. So, you can say the 5th Canto, at least on a broad level, is describing the same kind of motion of the planets in the sky and so forth. It is simply positing that out there in the sky extending over this vast plane there is an inhabited world that in the Bhagavatam is called the Earth; or not Earth, of course, it’s called Bhu-mandala. So, we don’t see that, obviously. But Bhagavatam says that it’s there.
Now, in the Vedic literature there are many descriptions of parallel worlds starting with Vrindavan, obviously. The whole spiritual world is present in Vrindavan and even Brahma with his ordinary vision couldn’t see it there until Krsna revealed it to him, and then Brahma was utterly stunned to the point that he fainted upon seeing that. So, even a being with the senses of Brahma could not see the total spiritual world that is right there in Vrindavan unless Krsna revealed it to him. So, another example is the Navadvipa Mahatmya by Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes a parallel reality, if you’d like, in the area of Mayapur in which all kinds of pastimes are going on. And it’s a description of how Jiva Goswami went on a parikram with Lord Nityananda and at different points he was able to actually see these different pastimes that are going on there all the time. Other times he couldn’t see them. But it’s actually there. So, there are many descriptions of this kind. So, in the Vedic literature you definitely have the idea of what you might call parallel realities, or higher dimensional realities, which are not directly accessible to our senses but which are accessible to senses that are suitably elevated.
“You have listened to a broadcast from Radio Krishna, and specifically a recording from the Belgium Radhadesh temple, where Sadaputa, our scientist, spoke about Vedic astronomy and its relationship to Western astronomy. Yadunandan das was our host, producer and engineer. Thank you and until next time, Hare Krishna.“
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