"Higher Dimensional Travel" (SB 10.3.14)
Thompson considers the classic satirical novel, Flatland: A Romance in Many Dimensions (1884), to help illustrate higher dimensional qualities inherent to Puranic descriptions. Just as “Flatlanders” are limited to two-dimensional perception, similarly standard human perception is generally restricted to three-dimensional experience. Thompson’s presentation sparks a lively discussion about the unfolding of matter after the Big Bang, as well as whether an astronaut travelling to the Moon by rocket, could directly experience Chandraloka as described in the Puranas.
TRANSCRIPT: Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 10, Chapter 3, Text 14. “Higher Dimensional Travel.” San Diego - 1986-03-08 / (117)
RLT: sa eva svaprakṛtyedaṁ
Audience: sa eva svaprakṛtyedaṁ
RLT: sṛṣṭvāgre tri-guṇātmakam
Aud: sṛṣṭvāgre tri-guṇātmakam
RLT: tad anu tvaṁ hy apraviṣṭaḥ
Aud: tad anu tvaṁ hy apraviṣṭaḥ
RLT: praviṣṭa iva bhāvyase
Aud: praviṣṭa iva bhāvyase
RLT: sa eva svaprakṛtyedaṁ
Aud: sa eva svaprakṛtyedaṁ
RLT: sṛṣṭvāgre tri-guṇātmakam
Aud: sṛṣṭvāgre tri-guṇātmakam
RLT: tad anu tvaṁ hy apraviṣṭaḥ
Aud: tad anu tvaṁ hy apraviṣṭaḥ
RLT: praviṣṭa iva bhāvyase
Aud: praviṣṭa iva bhāvyase
RLT: Idam - this material world
Aud: This material world.
RLT: After creating.
Aud: After creating.
RLT: In the beginning
Aud: In the beginning
RLT: Made of three modes of energy
Aud: Made of three modes of energy
RLT: tat anu
Aud: tat anu
RLT: Your Lordship
Aud: Your Lordship
RLT: Although you did not enter
Aud: Although you did not enter
RLT: praviṣṭaḥ iva
Aud: praviṣṭaḥ iva
RLT: You appear to have entered
Aud: You appear to have entered
RLT: Are so understood.
Aud: Are so understood.
My Lord, You are the same person who in the beginning created this material world by His personal external energy. After the creation of this world of three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas, You appear to have entered it, although, in fact, You have not.
Please repeat. My Lord.
Aud: My Lord.
RLT: You are the same person who in the beginning.
Aud: You are the same person who in the beginning.
RLT: Created this material world.
Aud: Created this material world.
RLT: By his personal external energy.
Aud: By his personal external energy.
RLT: After the creation of this world of three gunas.
Aud: After the creation of this world of three gunas.
RLT: Sattva, rajas and tamas.
Aud: Sattva, rajas and tamas.
RLT: You appeared to have entered it.
Aud: You appeared to have entered it.
RLT: Although in fact, you have not.
Aud: Although in fact, you have not.
RLT: Purport by Srila Prabhupada:
In Bhagavad-gita (7.4) the Supreme Personality of Godhead clearly explains:
bhūmir āpo ’nalo vāyuḥ
khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me
bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā
This material world of three modes of nature – sattva-guṇa, rajo-guṇa and tamo-guṇa – is a composition of earth, water, fire, air, mind, intelligence, and false ego, all of which are energies coming from Krishna, yet Krishna, being always transcendental, is aloof from this material world. Those who are not in pure knowledge think that Krishna is a product of matter and that His body is material like ours (avajānanti māṁ mūḍhāḥ). In fact, however, Krishna is always aloof from this material world.
In the Vedic literature, we find the creation described in relationship to Maha-Vishnu. As stated in the Brahma-samhita (5.35):
eko ’py asau racayituṁ jagad-aṇḍa-koṭiṁ
yac-chaktir asti jagad-aṇḍa-cayā yad-antaḥ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
"I worship the primeval Lord Govinda, the original Personality of Godhead. By His plenary expansion is Maha-Vishnu, He enters material nature. Then He enters every universe as Garbhodaksayi Vishnu, and He enters all the elements, including every atom of matter as Ksirodakasayi Vishnu. Such manifestations of cosmic creation are innumerable both in the universes and in the individual atoms." Govinda is partially exhibited as antaryami, the Supersoul, who enters this material world (aṇḍāntara-stha) and who is also within the atom. The Brahma-samhita (5.48) further says:
jīvanti loma-vilajā jagad-aṇḍa-nāthāḥ
viṣṇur mahān sa iha yasya kalā-viśeṣo
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
This verse describes Maha-Vishnu as a plenary expansion of Krishna. Maha Vishnu lies on the Causal Ocean and when He exhales, millions of brahmandas, or universes, come from the pores of His body. And when Maha-Vishnu inhales, all these brahmandas disappear. Thus, the millions of brahmandas controlled by the Brahmas and other demigods come and go in this material world through the breathing of Maha Vishnu.
Foolish persons think that when Krishna appears as the son of Vasudeva, He is limited like an ordinary child. But Vasudeva was aware that although the Lord had appeared as his son, the Lord had not entered Devaki’s womb and then come out. Rather, the Lord was always there. The Supreme Lord is all-pervading, present within and without. Praviṣṭa ivabhāvyase: He only seemed to have entered the womb of Devaki and to have now appeared as Vasudeva's child. The expression of this knowledge by Vasudeva indicates that Vasudeva knew how these events took place. Vasudeva was certainly a devotee of the Lord in full knowledge, and we must learn from devotees like him. Bhagavad-gita (4.34) therefore, recommends:
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
"Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge onto you because he has seen the truth." Vasudeva begot the Supreme Personality of Godhead, yet he was in full knowledge of how the Supreme Lord appears and disappears. He was, therefore, tattva-darśī, a seer of the truth, because he personally saw how the Supreme Absolute Truth appeared as his son. Vasudeva was not in ignorance thinking that because the Supreme Godhead had appeared as his son, the Lord had become limited. The Lord is unlimitedly existing and all-pervading inside and outside. Thus there is no question of His appearance or disappearance.
cakṣur unmīlitaṁ yena
tasmai śrī-gurave namaḥ
śrī-caitanya-mano-'bhīṣṭaṁ sthāpitaṁ yena bhū-tale
svayaṁ rūpaḥ kadā mahyaṁ dadāti sva-padāntikam.
So the translation:
My Lord you are the same person who in the beginning created this material world by his personal external energy. After the creation of this world, the three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas, who appear to have entered it, although, in fact, you have not.
So Vasudeva is glorifying Lord Krsna who had appeared as his son. And in this purport, Srila Prabhupada is describing this point that everything is within Krsna and Krsna is simultaneously within everything. And this is materially inconceivable, but it is the starting point of the Vedic understanding. So, it's perfectly possible for something to be real and yet be materially inconceivable because matter is not the totality of all that exists. Rather, it's merely one aspect of what exists.
So, you can give the example of Flatland. Once there was a fellow who wrote a story about a two-dimensional world in which there were two-dimensional beings. So, this world existed within a plane and these beings had their two-dimensional lives moving around. Actually, this was a political satire. The person was making comments about British politics at the time. But, in this two-dimensional world, it was really very difficult for the beings there to understand what three-dimensional reality would be like. In fact, they couldn't understand it because of course, in three dimensions you can go in one direction and then there's another direction perpendicular to that's completely independent of it. And then you can go in a third direction, which is independent of the other two. So that's what it means to have three dimensions.
So in this two-dimensional world, that's not possible, or even imaginable. Once you've determined two perpendicular directions, there's nowhere else to go. So, these two-dimensional beings simply couldn't imagine three dimensions. Even though this two-dimensional world was in a plane situated in three-dimensional space. So, the two-dimensional world was obtained by taking three-dimensional reality and restricting it to a subset or a plane. And within that restricted subset, it was impossible to understand the higher reality.
So, that’s certainly true of the relation between the spiritual reality and the material realm of existence. This is a restricted aspect of reality. And so, therefore, it is not possible to explain all of reality in terms of this material realm. Nonetheless, there are two different ways of understanding a higher reality if you happen to be stuck in a lower reality. So, one of these ways is in terms of reasoning. Actually, it is possible for a two-dimensional being, assuming that you could have such a thing, to discuss three-dimensional reality. One can make postulates and deduce logically what the nature of three-dimensional reality would be like in relation to the two-dimensional reality. In fact, mathematicians do that all the time because they talk about four-dimensional space, for example. So, you can actually write down a series of postulates describing what four-dimensional space would be like and deduce things about it logically and so on. You can do this sort of thing, but that doesn't give you any actual experience of four-dimensional space.
So, the other way, though, is to actually have some experience of the higher reality. So, we can take this Flatland example, sort of embroider it a bit, and imagine that actually it's not really flat. But these two-dimensional beings have a three-dimensional thickness, but it's very small. So they're very thin and their senses are so constructed that they can't see that. They're not able to perceive it, but actually, they're three-dimensional or even better yet. You can imagine that within each of these two-dimensional bodies, there's a soul which is three-dimensional. You can represent that by a little sphere. And that's linked up with the senses of this two-dimensional body. So as long as that sphere entity is only operating through the senses of that two-dimensional body, it can only deal in two-dimensional terms. But if it's actually three-dimensional, then it should be able to experience directly on a three-dimensional level.
So, the idea is that since actually we are spiritual in nature, our own nature is beyond this limited material realm of existence. And it's a question of coming to realize that. That's a question of how we utilize our senses. So, as far as the logic of the matter is concerned, one can start with the initial premise that the basis of everything is Krsna, and that Krsna is a person and that all impersonal manifestations are generated from the personal form of Krsna.
So, that's the opposite of the materialist concept of what a person is. The idea of the materialist is that there's some matter which is regarded as ‘stuff’ existing… well usually, it's imagined as existing, distributed through three-dimensional space. Then the idea is a person is a particular conglomeration of this stuff which has been pushed into a particular shape. And because of the laws of cause and effect, once you have the stuff in a certain shape, then one shape succeeds another automatically by cause and effect. And that's what a person is; just a succession of shapes in different conditions which are made out of matter. But this idea has drastic limitations even when it comes to describing a human being.
But the Vedic conception is that actually personality is the original thing. So, initially there's the personality of Krsna and from Krsna impersonal energies can emanate; and an energy of Krsna becomes impersonal insofar as you restrict its features and aspects and properties. So, this process of restriction though is only apparent. That is, it involves the arrangement of how the senses work of living beings. So actually Krsna is fully present everywhere in his energy because the energy is the same thing as Krsna – Krsna and his energy are non-different. But by restricting the way in which the senses of the living entity work, Krsna can create an arrangement of energy in which everything seems to be impersonal. You seem to just have some substance, which is extending throughout space. So in that way, Krsna generates this material world.
Actually, Brahma, when he first was beginning the process of creation he described that he performed sacrifices to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but the ingredients of sacrifice were the parts of the body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And of course, initially, that sounds perhaps a bit strange because it sounds like you're cutting up somebody's body and offering it up as a sacrifice. It's a rather gruesome sounding thing. But actually what that refers to is that everything that Brahma had at his disposal was, in fact, the energy of Krsna. And Krsna, in fact, was fully present in that energy. So that in the ultimate analysis there is nothing except Krsna. But at the same time, Krsna is completely transcendental to his energy. So how can that be?
Well, Krsna, being the controller of the senses can arrange for some of his energy to operate in this way in which you don't see his presence there. And since he's in full control of everything, he does not come under this illusion. So, for the conditioned living being, there's the illusion that this material energy is operating in a certain way and he thinks that he's in this material realm and that that constitutes the total reality. But Krsna never comes under that kind of illusion because, in fact, he's controlling the whole thing at all times.
Therefore it is said that Krsna appeared to have entered the womb of Devaki but in fact, he was always there. Actually, there are various examples of this given the Śrīmad-Bhagavatam. For example, when a Maharaja Pariksit was in the womb of Uttara and the brahmastra weapon came to destroy him, at that point, Krsna appeared there and restored his body which actually had been scorched by this brahmastra. So, Krsna did a bit of instant creation there, which Srila Prabhupada points out that actually, Krsna was already there. It's not that he had to come from outside somewhere and go into the womb of Uttara either by gross or by mystical means, but actually, he was always there. And of course, in the Krsna book, there are two examples in which mother Yasoda looks into the mouth of Krsna and she sees all the universes there. And she also sees mother Yasoda looking into the mouth of Krsna which shows the nature of Krsna's position.
So, in manifesting this material energy there's a process of creation and Srila Prabhupada is citing from the Brahma-samhita that Maha-Vishnu generates these innumerable universes by this process of exhalation. Actually, there are many different aspects to the creation which are described within the Śrīmad-Bhagavatam and superficially, one may think that these contradict one another. For example, it said that Maha-Vishnu glances over the material energy and this generates the different universes. And it’s said that he exhales and the universes come out through his breathing and from his pores. And as I was describing before, it’s said that he creates using his effulgence. And then furthermore, it is said that Siva or Sambu is the creator of the material universes and let’s see, there's a whole series of statements.
Then there's the description of the creation of the universal form in which various senses and so forth become manifested. There it's described that the different senses and organs and so forth become manifested and different demigods enter into this universal form and take their places but then nothing can happen. They're in a situation similar to the situation in which in a dream, you want to do something but you can't move. So it's described like that. But then the Supersoul enters with the chit potency and the whole thing goes into operation. That's another description. And then, of course, there's the description of the emergence of Brahma from the lotus flower and so on. So all of these different accounts refer to different aspects of the one process of creation. And of course, in total, we can't even fully understand that process. So, let's see, I might make a couple of comments about this generation of the universes.
Actually, it would seem that we have, you might say, a unique level of knowledge being revealed to us through the Srimad-Bhagavatam, because we're given some information about the universe which even Brahma himself did not know at one time. Because it's described that initially, or at least for some period of time, Brahma was thinking that he was the only Brahma and that this universe in which he presided was the material universe. But then Krsna revealed to him that actually there were innumerable universes and innumerable Brahmas preceding over him. And in fact, this universe is the smallest of the universes. Actually, it's described that in other universes, the Brahmas have different numbers of heads.
And actually, I was seeing recently that in order to deal with the material energy, you have to engage in what is known as time-sharing. This is something that they have in computers. If you have one of these large mainframe computers, as they call them, they arrange it so that it can work on many different problems at once. And it switches from one to the other in rapid order. So that one person using the computer as the impression that he has the machine all to himself, but actually several hundred people might be using it at one time. So that's called time-sharing. But you can see that in practice if a large number of people are using such a computer, the system slows down to a very noticeable degree. So, you type in your response and sit there waiting and the computer just sits there say for five minutes or something like that before it gives you a simple response.
So, it seems that in managing the material energy, one needs a large information processing capacity. So, in order to be able to do that, Brahma in this universe was equipped with four heads. These aren't ordinary heads either. But in other universes, the Brahmas are equipped with varying numbers of heads going up into millions or billions. So, you can only imagine what those universes must be like. This, by the way, gives another indication of this idea of higher dimensionality because how can you have millions of heads on one body anyway? Actually, Jadharani tried to make a painting of that, which is in some... Teachings of Lord Caitanya for one thing and it shows these Brahmas that look somewhat like Christmas trees decorated with heads. So that's the artist's attempt to portray what this must be like, but falls a little bit short.
So, we have the information that there are these innumerable brahmandas or realms governed by Brahmas. But the Brahma, at one time apparently was not aware of that. So even his knowledge is limited. This shows the futility of trying to ascertain all of these things by empirical observation. That's the program of the scientists, of course. They want to understand everything using their own senses and the different instruments that they can build and so forth.
However, it's described that the senses of Brahma are so powerful that this entire universe is within his hand, just like a knot you could hold in your hand. So you can imagine having it up there and you can easily inspect it and see everything that is there. So, that is how the universe appears to Brahma. And yet he was not aware of the innumerable universes outside of this universe at one point. So, at the present time, we have certain ideas about the nature of this universe which may seem to contradict the account given in the Bhagavatam. So, I thought I'd mentioned something briefly about that.
For example, right now there's the expanding universe model. And that is tied in with the idea that the universe was created in a Big Bang. The scientific conception is that everything is moving apart from everything else with the speed proportional to the distance. So the whole thing is expanding. So, then the scientists extrapolate backwards and say that if you go backwards in time, everything has to be approaching everything else. So, at a certain point, everything has to be together at one location. So, then the universe must've originated by an explosion coming out of one point.
So, this is their current theory and they tend to teach this to people as though it were the revealed truth. In fact, you'll find that many people today simply believe it. They take it that, well, this is the truth according to science. I've spoken to college professors and so on, who wouldn't think of doubting the Big Bang theory. As far as they're concerned, that's the way things are.
So, the interesting thing about this is that there's considerable evidence to suggest that maybe the universe really isn't expanding as they thought for the last fifty or so years. Actually, this expanding universe idea started in the 1930s on the basis of analysis of something called the redshift of light. What time is it right now?
Audience: Five o' six.
RTL: Yeah, well I won't go into detail as to what that is. But basically, this redshift is a phenomenon that they observe in which light changes its colour. And they interpret it as evidence that this universal expansion is taking place. The idea that they have is the greater the degree of this redshift, the greater the rate at which the object is moving. And they say that if we look at different galaxies and so on in the universe, it stands to reason that the dimmer and fainter they are, the further away they must be. Of course, you can think of problems with that immediately.
But they'll say on the average, that must be; that the dimmer they are, the further away they are. And they also observe that the dimmer they are, the greater the degree of this redshift. So they say, “Aha, that means the further away they are, the faster they're moving away from us. So that means that the universe is exploding, it's expanding. The further away something is the faster it's going which means that's something that was moving faster. So, therefore, it's gotten further away. You can see an explosion at any one time. If something's going twice as fast as another thing then it's twice as far away at that point.” So that's how they reason.
But recently, well not actually recently, but over the last say twenty years, evidence has been accumulated to suggest that this redshift doesn't have anything to do with the speed at which something is moving away. Evidence is now being found to indicate that the redshift is an intrinsic property of these galaxies. That it has something to do with the substance they're made of. There are all kinds of evidence... [break] perfect sensory observations. One gets certain information about what's out there in the universe and it's very limited information. You see some light coming in and you see that it's coming from some little fuzzy thing that you observe in your telescope and you see, well it has a certain degree of redness. You can measure that. So you make thousands of measurements like that and list them in tables and then you speculate about it and say, “Well, that little fuzzy thing must be a galaxy made of stars and each star has planets and so forth and worlds like this one. And the redshift must be due to the fact that it's moving away from us and so forth.”
But then someone else comes along, looks at the same material, the same sensory data, and observes a pattern in the data that no one had seen before, because all kinds of patterns can be there in a huge mass of data. And says “Well, no this must be entirely wrong.” So, the whole thing goes out the window. So, actually, when it comes down to it, as far as we know, these little galaxies might be little glowing things mounted on the shell of the universe with different degrees of redness depending on how big they are. I don't seriously say that's necessarily the way it is, but it might even be like that. It might be like lanterns hung on the inside of the shell. I'm not proposing that seriously. Actually, the ancient Greeks had an idea like that. But the point is that using our senses we create sort of castles in the sky, arrangements of illusion and then people wind up being taught these things as the truth, so that all kinds of highly educated people take it for granted that the Big Bang theory is, that's true. Science has ascertained it.
So, when reading about these brahmandas and so on, emanating from the pores of Maha-Vishnu, one may seem to find many amazing statements there. But actually, from the basis of empirical knowledge, we have practically no idea of what's going on in the universe. So, it's a good thing to keep in mind. But I'll stop there. Any questions or comments? Yeah?
Question: Why does our universe have... [unclear].
Answer: Well, maybe not a significance to the number in particular. But Krsna has unlimited potencies and thus in his creation, it's not that everything is exactly the same just like so many automobiles coming out of an assembly line. But He can create universes with unlimited degrees of complexity and so on. There's no bound to it.
So, in particular, it's said that He's created universes in which the Brahmas have varying numbers of heads. Now, Brahma’s developed four heads to look in the four directions it is said. So, this suggests that a universe in which the Brahma has millions of heads ought to have millions of directions in which to look. I haven't read an explicit statement of that but in any event certainly, such a Brahma has a much vaster capacity to operate than one with just four heads. Yeah?
Q: In regards to the Big Bang theory, how do scientists explain that everything came from a central point and exploded outwards then all the planets are in spherical shapes. In our experience, if we have something and we blow it up, not everything turns to be a spherical shape?
A: Well, there are some problems with that idea. Of course, they will say that once you have some matter in a lump and it's separate from other matter, given the nature of gravity, it will tend to form a spherical shape. And the reason for that... what can I say is to give the reason? The force of gravity is symmetrical. Let's look at it that way. So, if you rotate your coordinate system or your perspective for looking at a thing, gravity stays the same. It pulls the same way in all directions.
So, imagine that you have an oblong shape, well that's sticking out in one part and it's different in another, but gravity pulls the same in all ways. So, it will tend to produce a shape that looks the same no matter how you rotate. It will tend to pull in the high spots and then the low spots will tend to bulge out and you wind up with a sphere which is rotationally symmetric. So once you've got an irregular lump, then to go from there to a sphere is not so hard to explain.
Now the question is, how do you get these lumps? Actually, originally it was Immanuel Kant who proposed the nebular theory for the formation of the solar system. He started with a cloud of gas, which is separate from other clouds of gas. And he said, “Well, such a cloud of gas will tend to contract since all the parts of it will pull into one another.” And so in the center, it will contract to form the sun, but some gas would be leftover going around the outside. And somehow or other that will break up into little clumps which then become the planets moving around in orbits.
Well, actually no one has ever really explained mathematically how that's supposed to work. It's not clear that you're really going to get, first of all, those clumps forming. Why shouldn't it just remain distributed forever, smeared out into gas or dust? So, it really hasn't been shown that you're going to get those clumps and if you get them, it's not clear why they should go around in these nice orbits. Why don't they just fall into the sun, in which case they'd be gobbled up immediately? So, that's a very speculative area and people bring in all kinds of ideas to try to explain that. But no one has solved the mathematics for it thus far.
But then just consider that starting gas cloud separate from other gas clouds. For gravity to pull it in, it has to be separate from the rest of the gas in the universe. If it's all just extended uniformly, then gravity has nothing to pull together. Because the thing would be pulled as much in this direction as it would be pulled in this direction so it won't go anywhere. Everything's just uniform. So how do you get the clumps of gas?
Well, that's a problem. Nowadays, they like to speculate that the shock-wave from a supernova going through the gas somehow forces the gas to form clumps. But that means you already had a star anyway if you had a supernova, so you had some clumps in the first place. Then there's the question of how you get the galaxy starting with the Big Bang and that's one of the great and unexplained questions. Because indeed if everything is flying apart from everything else, how do you get it to come together into galaxy-sized hunks? And in fact, they have worked out the mathematics for that. And the simple answer is that it doesn't work. You don't get galaxies. But they know that somehow, you have to get galaxies. So they propose other explanations.
For example, they will say that maybe neutrinos have mass and a vast number of these neutrinos were swarming about and maybe they form clumps somehow and then the galaxies are gravitationally pulled in around the masses of neutrinos. So, they speculate all kinds of things. These neutrinos are completely invisible by the way. So nobody knows is the answer.
Q: So also, just like we have to have galaxies, we have to have gravity, that force of gravity. So if you have nothing, you have a lump. Where does gravity come from... [unclear]?
A: Well, they'll say that gravity is an inherent property of matter. Ultimately they have to postulate some inherent properties and say, well that's the original cause. So you see if we say the original cause is Krsna. Somebody will say, "Well what caused Krsna?" So that's the same question you're asking about gravity. So, the point is that anyone who analyzes the question of where everything came from is going to have to postulate some original cause. Now the question is what is the nature of that original cause?
So they'd like to say the original cause is some kind of impersonal force. But then they have to explain on the basis of an impersonal force, how we get everything, including ultimately the scientists who are trying to explain it in that way. So, there are real problems with that program even though everyone is now being given propaganda that, that has been successfully done, that is, things can be explained that way. So we would propose that a better explanation is that everything is coming from something higher. That is, this explanation says everything is coming from the lowest thing, from gross inanimate matter and its properties. As a result of these properties, everything else builds up somehow. But we would propose that actually there's something higher and everything is coming down from that and it can be argued that that's actually more reasonable. Yeah?
A: Well, one more question. I think it's getting late.
Q: Okay. Given the following precepts that the Russians and Americans are enemies, how can we understand that they seem to both be presenting bogus propaganda? That a scientific point of view. One example would be the trip to the moon.
A: So, did we go to the moon or not? And…
Q: In other words, we got two enemies, they're both saying that we went to the moon. It seems like in the scientific field there's like a cooperation even if the state... [unclear].
A: Well, of course, this is a somewhat controversial question. Here's the question of what they really did with regard to this moon flight. You know, in one purport in the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada says they went to Rahu. But in other places, he has made other statements. And what I gathered from that is that what Srila Prabhupada is really saying is that we know on the basis of the Vedic descriptions that on the surface of the moon there are rivers of nectar and there's a celestial civilization there preceded over by Soma, who's the moon God and so on and so forth. So they couldn't have visited that because they don't report having seen anything like that. So since they couldn't have visited that, they didn't go to the moon. But, what went wrong? Where's the flaw in what they're saying? So there are different possibilities.
One is that they may have gone to the physical location where the moon is in some kind of spaceship and not have been able to enter into the celestial realm that is there. To back that up you can point out that according to the Bhagavatam there are celestial realms here on the earth and you can walk to that physical location on two feet and you won't see anything.
For example, in Badarikasrama Vyasaudeva is there. Narada Muni goes there regularly. Millions of Indian pilgrims go there every year, but they don't normally see Vyasadeva or Narada Muni but Madvacarya did. So the idea is that it's possible to go to the physical place and not see what's there. So it could be like that, or it could be that they went to Rahu. Well, in that case, you couldn't just accidentally go to a planet the existence of which you don't even know. So, in that case, the demigods must've shunted them over to Rahu if you want to use that explanation. But I think Srila Prabhupada probably was just proposing that is, you know, one alternative.
Another alternative is that well they went up there, but the demigods just put them in illusion. Now, demigods certainly have the capacity to do that according to Vedic literature. For example, when Yudhisthira left his body, actually he didn't leave his body. He left the earth in the same body and went to the heavenly planets. However, as soon as he arrived there he found that he wasn't in the heavenly planets after all that he was in hell. And he was seeing these horrible events taking place on this hellish planet. But actually, he was in the heavenly planets after all. Indra just created an illusion to test him and there's a whole story behind that. And we see different demigods such as Indra taking forms of birds and so on and so forth. So the demigods obviously have the power to generate a total illusion, which is more spectacular than any Hollywood movie just by willing it. So, they could have done that to the astronauts.
And then another theory is that, well, maybe they didn't leave the earth, but maybe it's a hoax or illusion created by the powers of the government plus Hollywood. So, well that's, that's another theory. It's been pointed out that Space Odyssey 2001 was financed by NASA for example. And you might ask, why would they want to finance fictional movies like that? Then the suggestion is, well, they needed that Hollywood technology in order to fake a moonshot and have the astronauts seeming to climb down on the surface of the moon and so forth. So in that case, there's the question of whether or not there's an international conspiracy and this gets one into the really speculative ground.
There's the John Birch society. Obviously, you may have heard of their propaganda. I have no knowledge about it whatsoever as to whether anything along those lines is true or not. It occurs to me that if one did know that such things are true and one does come to know about them, then one is in trouble.
Q: The moon is supposedly, according to the Western scientists 249–250,000 miles away from the earth, but then based on the Srimad-Bhagavatam is not true.
A: Well, what we understand from the Srimad-Bhagavatam... That brings one to the whole discussion of the Fifth Canto and the structure of the universe. So I should say a few things there. That description is very far out, but it is not necessarily far out in the way that one initially thinks it is.
For example, when the Srimad-Bhagavatam refers to the distance of the moon from the earth. The earth that it's referring to in modern Western terms is really the plane of the solar system. Maybe some devotees aren't immediately aware of that point. But the earth that’s being described is Bhu-mandala. So Bhu-mandala is a disc two billion miles in diameter. So you can imagine it sort of in the grossest way as being like a phonograph record. So where is that disc?
Well, that disc occupies the plane followed by the sun's orbit. So if you want to see where that disc is, just watch where the sun goes in the morning, it will rise out here, go up like that, go down like that. So that plane is passing along that area through the sky. So according to the Fifth Canto, that plane is not just a p-l-a-n-e type plane. It's a p-l-a-i-n plane occupied by continents, oceans and so forth. But obviously, we don't see that.
It's interesting to note by the way that in all kinds of ancient traditional cultures around the world, there's the description that the band of the Zodiac is the earth and the celestial realm is towards the North celestial pole from that. And the lower realm of the universe is towards the South celestial pole. You'll find that in all kinds of different cultures. Even American Indian, African, ancient Mediterranean and so on and so forth.
So anyway, the relation of the moon to that Bhu-mandala is being given. And this is also a very complex topic. There is a group of literatures known as astronomical Siddhantas, such as Surya-siddhanta, Siddhanta-siromani and so forth. Srila Prabhupada refers to them in a few places in the Chaitanya-caritamrta. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati in fact was named Bhaktisiddhanta because he was doing work translating the Surya-siddhanta into Bengali, for example. So, in these literatures, you can find a figure for the distance to the moon – it comes out to about 247,000 miles. That's the same as the modern scientific figure.
So one can see that the whole issue is a more complicated thing than might seem to be there at first sight. It's not that Vedic literature is necessarily saying that the moon is at some unusual distance, but it's saying something else, which is even more unusual than that, namely that, well, for one thing, just one among many. It's saying that this realm, which we think is outer space in this particular region of the sky, it's actually an inhabited region of oceans and continents, so on and so forth. So, it's probably getting a bit late. We'd better stop there. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!