Vedic Cosmology Seminar 3
Thompson’s third lecture on Vedic cosmology continues the discussion of potential connections between Puranic descriptions of Bhu-mandala, and a concept of the earth as a globe. The nature of space and time, redshift analysis, the dynamics of lunar travel, along with a variety of paranormal phenomena, are all considered to help bridge the gap between apparently conflicting frames of reference.
TRANSCRIPT: Vedic Cosmology Seminar 3. Philadelphia ISKCON - July 3, 1986 / (063)
. . . And the other is that the earth is this gigantic disc about 4 billion miles in diameter. So these are two very different descriptions. Now yesterday in the description of Jambudvipa I was indicating that there is some point of contact between the earth globe that we normally experience and this Bhu-mandala disc, and that must be in what is called Bharata-varsa within Jambudvipa. So the question is what might the nature of that contact be, or that connection. So in order to give some idea as to what that connection might be like I am going to introduce some ideas concerning the way space is looked at in the Vedic literature. So these ideas should provide a basic framework for showing how one can understand the relation between something like this small earth globe and the large earth disc.
So there are various ways of approaching this. I think the simplest way to approach the Vedic concept of space is to consider the position of Krsna as described in the Vedic literature because the most radical statement made about the nature of space made in the Vedic literature involves the description of Krsna Himself. So the statements about space that we will have to make to reconcile these apparently contradictory statements about the earth are mild in comparison to what you have to accept in order to understand Krsna.
So it follows from that if one already is accepting the basic philosophy concerning the position of Krsna then he won't have trouble with these other things. So to indicate what I mean I’ll cite one verse here from the Brahma-samhita. This verse is:
eko 'py asau racayituṁ jagad-aṇḍa-koṭiṁ
yac-chaktir asti jagad-aṇḍa-cayā yad-antaḥ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi (Bs 5.35)
So the translation is:
“He is an undifferentiated entity as there is no distinction between the potency and the possessor thereof. In His work of creation of millions of worlds, His potency remains inseparable. All the universes exist in Him and He is present in His fullness in every one of the atoms that are scattered throughout the universe, at one and the same time. Such is the primeval Lord whom I adore.”
So this is the description of the nature of Govinda in the Brahma-samhita. This verse in particular is describing the relation between Krsna, or Govinda, and space. And what it says is quite interesting, because there are two basic statements. One is that all of the universes exist within Govinda, or Krsna. Now I haven't given yet a complete description of the structure of the universe. hus far we have just considered the position of the earth. But just to give a very quick summary, this Bhu-mandala plane described in the Fifth Canto of the Bhagavatam is enclosed within a spherical shell. Actually there are a series of seven shells surrounding this plane and all the other entities that enter into the universe, and this is referred to in the Vedic literature as the Brahmanda. So Brahmanda literally means the egg of Brahma. Anda means egg and it refers to the fact this is a spherical shape. nd Brahma is the creator demigod, sort of the engineer created by Krsna who then creates all the various structures within the universe including the bodies of the different living beings and so forth. So according to the description in the Vedic literature there are innumerable brahmandas. It’s not that there is just one. Actually various descriptions are given. he most graphic perhaps is that the brahmandas are described as bubbles of foam within an ocean. So you can just imagine the Atlantic Ocean and all the tiny little bubbles of foam within it, and you can imagine each one of them to be one of these universal eggs. So that’s the description of the material manifestation given in the Vedic literature.
So there are actually infinitely many of these universes and they are residing in something called the Causal Ocean. So the statement here is that all of these universes are within the transcendental body of the Supreme Lord. But then the statement is also made that the transcendental form of the Supreme Lord is contained within every atom within each of these universes. So the idea of an atom is there in the Vedic literature. And the word for an atom is paramanu. Actually that’s from parama and anu. Anu means something small and paramanu means the very smallest possible thing. So this idea of atoms is there.
So it is stated that the Supreme Lord is present in His fullness within every atom. So now if you think about that, you could see that well, if you take a given atom like the one I have here, then Krsna must be fully present within that atom; that means all the universes including this universe and that atom are within Krsna. So, and then within Krsna that atom must be there, and within that is Krsna, and then within that there are all the universes again, and also that atom is there, and so you can go on like that.
So, the main point to make here is that first of all this is not possible if you require all forms to exist within three-dimensional space. Now the idea that forms exist within three-dimensional space, as far as I am aware, is more or less a legacy of Newton and Descartes and Galileo and people of that tradition. Even in the middle ages in the scholastic tradition people were not thinking of space in the way we do today. So the current idea of space, that everyone is more or less absorbed on an intuitive level, is that every point that exists, at least in the material world, has an xyz coordinate. You have a vertical axis and two horizontal axes, x, y and z, and so with each point there is a value of x, y and z that identifies where that point is.
So one might naively think then that if Krsna has a form, as you see in different pictures and so on, then that form must be made of points, which in turn is make up lines and curves and so on, and each point must have an xyz coordinate and so forth. Well if that's true then the statement made in this verse simply couldn't be true, because this is saying that all the points in the universe are inside Krsna and He is also within every one of the points. So you get a total impossibility.
So the point is though that the Vedic literature requires a different concept of space. Actually this western concept of space takes space as the absolute basis of everything else. That is, space is given in the beginning and different forms are manifested within space, and a given form is relative to space in the sense that it occupies a certain location, and then you can imagine shifting that form to another location and so on.
So actually Newton expressed this in a very clear way. He actually introduced the idea of absolute space. So then actually later on, just to say a few words about physics, Einstein changed that a little bit and he introduced absolute four-dimensional space in which the three-dimensional continuum became relative because it could shift in various ways, depending on the viewpoint of the observer. So this was a novel concept. And then quantum mechanics has introduced infinite-dimensional space to define atoms. I won't go into that but it's actually a fact that to describe, say, a carbon atom in quantum mechanics, you need at least 18 dimensions. And to describe two carbon atoms you need at least 36 dimensions. So even modern physics has gone beyond the idea of everything having a position in three-dimensional space. Actually in modern physics the idea now is that everything is existing in an inconceivable infinite-dimensional space and what we perceive are projections, so to speak, into three dimensions. That’s actually the situation in modern physics and it’s all expressed in a very abstract way.
So the Vedic concept of space then is that Krsna is actually the basis of everything, and He determines space rather than space being there a-priori and Krsna being then placed within it. And Krishna’s situation is that He has immediate access to all locations. So from Krsna’s point of view everything is right there. So we say that God is all-pervading. So one way of looking at that is that space is spread out and God is somehow at every point. But then another way of looking at it is saying, well, God is in one place and somehow space is right there where He is. Just another way of looking at the same thing.
So this basic idea has some practical implications as it turns out. Namely, that if from Krsna’s point of view everything is all in one place, then by restricting that point of view you can have a situation in which you have differing degrees of access to points in space. Now I will give you a practical example of that. There is something called prapti-siddhi which is described in the the Vedic literature. And according to prapti-siddhi a yogi who has mastered this siddhi, or acquired it, can reach out with his hand and touch the moon with his finger. So that would seem to indicate that for the yogi the moon is right there. Now to us the moon is a very great distance away. Of course one might try to explain this by saying that somehow the yogi’s arm becomes very elongated and goes up through the stratosphere and keeps stretching out and finally reaches the moon.
But evidently it doesn't work that way if you read the various descriptions. For example a yogi sitting here could reach and pick pomegranates from Afghanistan and they would be in his hand here. So there again one can say, well, the arm stretched all the way to Afghanistan and then the pomegranates come all the way back through the air. Well, it’s not like that, but somehow there is a direct connection between here and Afghanistan and the yogi knows how to take advantage of it. So the idea then is that this involves a restriction that our, that backwards, that from Krsna’s point of view everything is immediately accessible. Krsna can confer upon a yogi that potency to a limited degree and to him things then become accessible to an extent that they are not accessible to us. And we of course have been given a certain degree of access to different points.
So the result is, depending on the degree of access that one is given by Krsna, one will experience space in different ways. So for one person the moon is very far away and for this yogi the moon is immediately accessible to him and so forth. So that’s one aspect of the nature of space as described in the Vedic literature. Actually in the Eleventh Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam there is an explicit description of these various siddhis, such as the prapti-siddhi, in which it is explained that one acquires these siddhis by obtaining from Krsna minute, you might say fractions, of His potency in different respects. So for example this prapti-siddhi enables one to gain direct access to different locations.
So in addition to the idea that there are different levels of access to points in space, there is a further idea that there are whole realms of space that are full of variegated reality which we don’t have direct access to, but which we could have access to, if we were granted that potency. So perhaps the most striking example of that in the philosophy of Krsna Consciousness is the idea that the spiritual world is fully present in Vrindavana in India. So for example, there is a graphic portrayal of that in what’s called Brahma-vimohana-lila where Brahma first has some doubts about the status of Krsna. Krsna was playing in Vrindavana as a cowherd boy. He seemed to be merely a human child and Brahma of course had heard that this is the Supreme Lord. And so he had somehow some doubts about that. So he played a trick on Krsna, I won’t go into the whole story. But after he had done that, at a certain point Krsna revealed the true situation of Vrindavana and His own position to Brahma.
So at that point Brahma was able to see that the unlimited expanse of the spiritual world that was right there in Vrindavana. That was revealed to him, and it's described that this revelation was so mind boggling to Brahma that he practically fainted. He couldn't maintain his consciousness in the face of this experience.
So the idea then is that the total spiritual reality is right there in Vrindavana; and depending on one’s level of consciousness one may see simply the material continuum as we are accustomed to experiencing it, or one may be able to perceive the total spiritual reality. And in fact there are various degrees in between these two extreme points. There is a whole hierarchy of levels of perception that one might attain.
So the idea here, when I am describing the spiritual world, by the way, I am not referring to some sort of abstract or impersonal sort of concept, but actually the spiritual world is full of variegated reality. There is another verse in the Brahma-samhita which directly describes that. Well, I will just read the English. This is:
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor who is tending the cows, yielding all desire, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of purpose trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of lakṣmīs or gopīs.” (Bs 5.29)
So this is the description the variegated reality of the spiritual world. So that is actually there in Vrindavana in India according to the philosophy of Krsna Consciousness. But if one has a normal level of human sense perception then he won't be able to see that. So the basic idea to derive from this is that there are different levels of perception and at different levels one can see different aspects of reality. And at different levels of perception one will be able to see more space than we see now, at higher levels that is, and see different realities that are present in these additional, so to speak, regions of space; and one may also be able to see space as we know it in a different way. For example one may be able to see the total distance from here to the moon as being just a couple of feet for example So all these different possibilities are there and it's all a function of the level consciousness that one has.
So this is the basic outlook on space in the Vedic literature. So what I would like to do is practically apply some of these ideas to the description of the universe given in the Vedic literature. So I have quite a number of points to go through here. I’ll try and do this in some kind of systematic order. The first thing to do is to relate the small earth globe with the large continuum of the earth. So in this write up I have here I described what I call the principle of correspondence. Namely that there is a relationship of correspondence between regions on this earth of our experience and regions in the Bhu-mandala disc. Specifically there is a correspondence between this earth globe and Bharata-varsa. Srila Prabhupada, in a number of places, indicates that the earth as we know it corresponds to Bharata-varsa, although there is a slight qualification I have to put on that. Basically at different times, let's put it this way, the basic concept here is that we are seeing this earth globe using our present senses. So we see it laid out in a certain way within space and that is determined by our particular level of consciousness. At a higher level of consciousness one could see it differently. One would be able to experience a larger continuum and see more variegated phenomena within that continuum. At the highest level one could directly perceive the whole disc of Bhu-mandala and travel to different parts within that domain.
So in the Bhagavatam the indication that you see in the different stories is that different personalities at different times have operated on different levels of consciousness and had different degrees of access to this whole region. For example some Vedic kings that are described in the Bhagavatam were kings of Bhu-mandala as a whole. For example this is true of Maharaja Priyavrata. It’s described that he ruled the whole of Bhu-mandala. In fact he personally created the seven ring shaped islands and oceans that I was describing yesterday. So that was his position. Then there were other kings who ruled over all of Jambudvipa it is described, for example Maharaja Agnidhra who is actually the son of this Priyavrata. And then there were others who ruled over all of Bharata-varsa. In each case it is said that they ruled the entire world. But evidently the world for them varied depending on their particular situation.
So Srila Prabhupada has pointed out that at one time the entire earth as we know it was part of Bharata-varsa. But with the progress of the Kali-yuga political subdivisions occurred and different parts were split off and different cultures diverged from the original Vedic civilization until finally things were whittled down to the present situation that you see in India. Actually in one purport Srila Prabhupada just extrapolated backwards the historical process that you see with the partition of Pakistan from Hindustan. Actually it’s a fact that if you go back not too far in history you will find that Indonesia was all, had basically Hindu civilization. There are very large Vishnu temples in Cambodia for example, Angkor Wat and so on. Also Afghanistan was part of the whole section of India and so on. And the idea is that if you go back into the remote past, going back a few thousand years BC you would find the whole earth having more or less one culture. Although of course you can even see from the Bhagavatam that within that culture there was a lot of variety. It’s not there was just one homogenous cultural form. But even within India there was considerable variety.
So the idea then is that the earth as we experience it corresponds to Bharata-varsa. And to see it as being part of Jambudvipa one would have to go to a higher level of consciousness. Now this basic idea ties together quite a few things in the Bhagavatam which can appear to be somewhat bewildering. Just to give one example: You will find in the Bhagavatam that the numbers given for human populations in India in the past tend to be rather large, and historians tend to take this as just another piece of evidence showing that the Hindus simply engaged in completely irresponsible speculation and that they were simply steeped in a mythological dream world which had no contact with reality. This is the basic historical outlook on the Hindus. One reason that they say this is that in the Bhagavatam you read about these mountains that are 80,000 miles high and so on. And so people will say, “Oh come now, mountains 80,000 miles high! These people were totally out of touch with reality! How did they even get around you know? They were going around on chariots and so on and they thought that they are actually able to go up mountains 80,000 miles high? My goodness!” So this is the kind of response.
Actually in the history of the British Empire in India there is a fellow named Lord Macaulay who took advantage of this kind of thing to establish a program for oppressing the brahminical class in India because he said that these people are totally out of touch with reality, and we have to help them by first of all by wiping out their culture and bringing them European culture. So this was explicitly used. So another aspect of this is these very large population figures you will see. Now for example it is stated in the Krsna Book that one king living in Dvaraka named Maharaja Ugrasena had ten quadrillion personal bodyguards. So this statement is there. Now years ago I made a calculation for that. I have it in here some place. Probably won't be able to find it very quickly. But you can calculate how many square feet there are on the surface of the earth and I seem to recall that the figure was actually 5.6 quadrillion square feet on the surface of the earth if you count all the oceans and you just pave over everything say with asphalt so it’s all level. So that means there is less than one square foot for each of these personal bodyguards if you try to fit them into ordinary space. Of course the point should be considered that these bodyguards were living in Dvaraka which is another manifestation of Krsna’s spiritual realm. So actually that means in Dvaraka there is an infinite amount of space. The same thing is true for Vrindavana as I was just indicating. If the whole spiritual world is there then actually the amount of space in Vrindavana is infinite although it seems to be only a few miles.
So but likewise for even different parts of Bharata-varsa you see gigantic population figures which are given in the Bhagavatam. So what I would suggest here is that here we have the Bharata-varsa as perceived on a somewhat higher level. So the idea then is basically that there are different levels of perception. Now there are many examples one can give of this. Another interesting one that I thought I would describe is the descent of the river Ganges from the spiritual world. Now of course we know the Ganges as a river in India and you can trace the Ganges back to its source; and in fact there was a Back to Godhead article not too long ago in which, I forget, yeah, Jagatguru Swami went to the source of Ganges. It shoots out from sort of a cave lined with ice far up in the Himalayas. So it seems like melt water from a sort of glacier that is situated there. So it comes out as a little stream and gradually it gets bigger as it goes down into India. But according to the Vedic literature the Ganges actually begins with a hole which was kicked into the surface covering of the universe by an incarnation of Visnu named Vamanadeva. So this hole is in the covering of the universe in the direction of the polestar, if you want to know where the hole is. So the water from the Karana Ocean comes through this hole, and it is spiritual because it touched the foot of Lord Visnu as it came through because He kicked this hole through the coverings of the universe. By the way, it takes quite something to do that kicking because the coverings are exceedingly thick. It’s in the order of well, what is it, one followed by about 20 zeros or so, billion miles according to one calculation. We will get to that later.
But anyway the description in the Bhagavatam is that this water comes down through the Brahmaloka which is the topmost stratum of the universe. I was describing yesterday that there are fourteen levels within the universe and this Bhu-mandala that we have been discussing is one of those levels. So the topmost level is Brahmaloka. In the Bhagavatam it is stated that Brahmaloka is indescribable using the mundane mind or mundane words. So this is also an indication of higher dimensional nature of even this material world, because Brahmaloka is also part of this material world but it is described that using our mundane concepts we can't even describe it. And actually in the Mahabharata there is a description of Brahmaloka given by Narada Muni which really conveys this because it is the closest thing that I could see which is a description of something which is multi-dimensional. He is describing that it extends in all kinds of different directions and is continually expanding and all kinds of remarkable features there.
So the water of the Ganges goes down to Brahmaloka. From there it falls down to the planets of the seven sages, sapta-rsis. By the way these correspond to the stars in the big dipper if you want to see where they are up in the sky. And from there it is described that a celestial spacecraft carried the water, tankers, down to the moon. So the water is conveyed by a series of tankers. It’s an interesting system. Yeah right, so it’s brought down to the surface of the moon. From there it falls to the top of Mount Meru. You might wonder how that happens. Does that mean the moon is above Mount Meru? Well of course, no it isn't, but nonetheless it falls to the top of Mount Meru. There the Ganges divides into four streams and one of them called Alakananda goes to the South and eventually falls down on to the top of the Himalaya Mountains and then makes its way down into Bharata-varsa. And in the course of that it falls on the head of Lord Siva who, actually there is whole story behind how that happened, but Lord Siva has the water of the Ganges falling on his head, and that's why in pictures of Lord Siva you always see this sort of fountain coming out of his head. Actually that corresponds to the Ganges. Actually what's described is he traps the Ganges in his head and then he lets it out. So the fountain is the Ganges coming out and then it goes down into India.
So of course we don’t see that. If you go up into the Himalayas you will see the Ganges issuing as a tiny little stream out of this mass of ice. So we don’t see any of these events. So the idea is that this is an example of this higher dimensional aspect of space as described in the Vedic literature. Now it is described however that yogis can take advantage of the Ganges as a method of travel. And this also indicates something of the nature of space. Actually the Ganges doesn't stop simply when it comes to the earth but it goes all the way down to the Patalaloka. There are also seven parallel strata going down and the lowest of these is called Patalaloka.
So it is described that a yogi who is sufficiently accomplished can enter the Ganges at any point within the universe. Say he can enter the Ganges in Satyaloka and he can emerge in Patalaloka. In fact the four Kumaras did this on one occasion. They were going to visit Garbodakasayi Visnu. So they were up in Satyaloka at that time. So they just went into the Ganges and then emerged in Patalaloka which is right next to where Garbhodakasayi Visnu is. And it's described that their hair was wet from having been in the Ganges. So similarly it's described that a yogi could enter the Ganges in India, say at Allahabad, and emerge in the celestial planets; or he could come back from the celestial planets and emerge somewhere in India.
So if you think about what is happening here you can see that here we have a mode of travel through space which is quite different from what we are accustomed to thinking of. Essentially it is a transcending of the limits of three-dimensional space because you go in at one point and come out at a completely different point. But it's not that one swims under water the whole distance or anything like that. And in fact when going from the celestial planets to the earthly Ganges we don’t even understand how the connection works. And we don’t see that connection.
So this is the basic type of situation described in the Vedic literature. Now it turns out that the Ganges is not unusual in this regard. In another place Srila Prabhupada points out that the five sacred rivers of India, the Ganges, then there is Narmada, and a series of other rivers, also flow in these celestial planets. There is a description, for example, that a battle occurred between the demigods and a personality named Vrtrasura, who was a great demon, and this occurred alongside the Narmada river. But Srila Prabhupada points out that this was not the earthly Narmada River but this occurred in the Svargaloka. So the Narmada River is flowing in Svargaloka and it’s also flowing in India and there is a link. But one can't understand that link in terms of ordinary space.
So this, briefly speaking, is the basic, I think, way one can understand how it can be that you can have a small earth globe and also have this gigantic disc.
Now in the course of this I should mention another interesting point that Srila Prabhupada makes which I will document here and that is, wherever I have it, that's the trouble with having so many space marks. This is that, just as somehow or other this earth globe is part of this large disc, so the whole disc can be thought of a set of globes. Srila Prabhupada makes this statement about seven different times in the Bhagavatam. So it's quite interesting the way that fits together. But in several places he describes the, let's see, here we are, Bhu-mandala as a system of globes. Let’s see, perhaps the most complete description is given here. This is from the Krsna Book where Krsna and Arjuna are travelling through outer space heading toward the edge of the universe. So, “Seated on His chariot with Arjuna, Krsna began to proceed north crossing over many planetary systems. These are described in the Srimad Bhagavatam as sapta-dvipa (and sapta-dvipa means seven ring shaped islands that I was describing in Bhu-mandala). Dvipa means islands. All these islands are sometimes described as in Vedic literature as dvipas. The planet on which we are living is called Jambudvipa. Outer space is taken as a great ocean of air and within that great ocean of air there are many islands which are different planets. In each and every planet there are oceans also,” and so forth.
So there are a number of others similar descriptions. For example, sometimes the planets in outer space are called islands, etc. The various planets, divided into fourteen lokas--these are these fourteen plane like strata--are called islands in the ocean of space. As Priyavrata drove his chariot behind the sun he created seven different types of oceans and planetary systems which are altogether known as Bhu-mandala or Bhu-loka.
So these different indications essentially are saying that this Bhu-mandala plane can also be thought of as a system of globe-like planets. So on one level of understanding one can see the whole thing as a plane. On another level it breaks down into globes according to these descriptions. So this is the nature of the Vedic concept of the universe.
So alright, 4:56 already. I think what I will now do is go on to a related topic and that is the question of distances within the universe. Now as I was saying, the disc of Bhu-mandala is described as being four billion miles in diameter. And the first shell of the covering of the universe is a sphere also given as four billion miles in diameter. In other words, Bhu-mandala goes right out to the edge. So if everything is enclosed within a shell like that, then it would seem you have a limited volume of space. Now I should just briefly give the description of the shells of the universe, very briefly. As I was indicating the other day in answer to one question, the material elements are created in a process in which one proceeds through successive stages from subtle to gross. You begin with a kind of sound which does not propagate through any material medium, or gross material medium, you go from there to ether and from there to air, fire, water and earth. So there is a series of shells surrounding the universe and these are shells of the successive elements. So as you go into the universe from outside you go from more subtle elements to grosser elements and finally the innermost shell is of earth. So essentially what this amounts to is that all the different elements for the universe are manifested in the various, in the very centre, and as you go out the manifestations of the elements becomes partial to different degrees until finally, at the outermost limit of the universe, everything is completely subtle. At that point you move on to the Causal Ocean, which is on a spiritual level of existence.
So the description then in the Bhagavatam is that the innermost shell of the universe, within which all the different variegated phenomena take place, extends four billion miles. So then one might say this is really very cramped! How can that be? So one will find other descriptions however and, for example, here is one purport in the Caitanya-caritamrta. In this purport Srila Prabhupada says:
“Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, one of the greatest astrologers of his time, gives information from the Siddhanta-siromani that this universe measures . . . ,”
. . . well, a certain number of miles.
Now the number is (oh my goodness), well, it has seventeen digits. Actually this number has to be multiplied by eight. The number is 18,712,069-200,000,000. So it's a seventeen digit number and this has to be multiplied by eight because the original number is in yojanas. So this distance is the circumference of the universe. And then the statement is made, “according to some this is only half the circumference.” So I looked into it actually and in fact there is, as far as I can see, there is a very good reason to think that this actually is half the circumference according to the texts. It’s described in the commentaries on the Caitanya-caritamrta by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, which is of course where Srila Prabhupada is getting this information. So that comes out to a radius for the universe about 4000 light years, which is quite a bit bigger than two billion miles.
So one may ask well how then can such a thing be? Well, what I would suggest here is that this figure is actually being taken from the jyotisa-sastra, which I was describing initially as being a description of how things appear to our gross material senses. So the description in the Bhagavatam, on the other hand, is basically on the level of sense perception of demigods and yogis. So as I was saying, there is a hierarchy of levels of perception. So on the highest level, namely Krsna’s level, everything is right in one place. All of the universes, both spiritual and material, are right there where Krsna is. So on the level of the demigods, that degree of access to locations in space is not present. But they have a much greater degree of access than we do.
[audio break] . . . in about four or five different places that even if you could travel for millions of years at millions of miles per hour you could not reach the highest planet within the universe. This is specifically Satyaloka. Now according to the description in the Bhagavatam, Satyaloka must be two billion miles away. So actually even if you even went at the speed of a regular jetliner it would take you about four hundred to five hundred years to go two billion miles, what to speak of what happens if you could go millions of miles per hour. But nonetheless Srila Prabhupada several times makes this statement. In one place he says even if you could go faster than the speed of light for forty thousand years you wouldn't be able to even approach the highest planet in the universe.
So there is an indication here that distances occur on different scales, and also there are explicit descriptions in the Bhagavatam that there are different scales of time within the universe. For example there is a story of one rather remarkable Vedic king called Kakudmi who wanted to obtain a very nice husband for his daughter. So he decided he would ask Brahma to provide a husband. So he took his daughter with him. The daughter was named Revati. And he went to Brahmaloka to personally ask Brahma to select a husband for her. So the ordinary run-of-a-mill king cannot really do this. But apparently this king Kakudmi could travel to Brahmaloka. So when he arrived in Brahmaloka he found that Brahma was listening to a concert being put on by the Gandharvas and so he was not available. So he waited until the concert was over, and then Brahma asked him, “Well what can I do for you?” The king expressed his desire and Brahma then laughed and said that, “All the different possible husbands that you had in mind for your daughter have died many millions of years ago. In fact your entire society has vanished into dust in the course of time. All your relatives and family members and all of their descendants have died millions of years ago and you cannot even find a trace of the history of their lives. It's all completely passed away.” So it turns out that about 120 million years had passed. ut Brahma said that, however, it turns out that Balarama was still present on the earth just at that time, and so he suggested to this king that if you go back to the earth right away your daughter can marry Balarama, which suggests also that this was not an ordinary daughter.
So this is a story of travel to Brahmaloka. So it seems that from the point of view of the king only a few hours had passed. But from the point of view of earth time many, actually 120 million, years had passed. o there are transformations both of space and of time within the material universe according to the Vedic description.
So let’s see. What I would suggest is that that can reconcile some of the apparent contradictions regarding the various dimensions given in the universe. These dimensions given in the Fifth Canto are appropriate for yogis and demigods and so forth. However from point of view of a person who is obliged to travel within the limitations of the gross human form one may find that things are quite different.
So let’s see, I’ll just cover a couple of additional points. There are many topics actually to discuss. One thing I thought I would describe here is the whole question of space travel and whether or not we went to the moon since that's always a topic that comes up. So in the Bhagavatam there are many references to space travel. And in fact it seems that the more advanced beings would travel without using any kind of vehicle. Simply by the power of their minds they could transfer themselves to any desired location. This again ties in with this theme of having different degrees of access to points in space depending one’s level of consciousness. So other beings, even on the level of demigods, make use of vehicles of different kinds. And it turns out there are different kinds of what you could call spaceships. Actually the word “spaceship” even exists in Sanskrit. It’s kapota vayu. That’s a spaceship. And it seems that some spaceships are made entirely of the mind element. hese are mind ships, if you would. And then others are made of grosser elements. And they have also different degrees of access to different parts of the universe. For example, it is described that one yogi named Kardama Muni created the flying city using yogic power. And this became the envy of the demigods because even though the demigods could fly about through the celestial realm in different kinds of vimanas, or spaceships, still this Kardama Muni could go way beyond where they could go and he could enter into realms that they had no access to.
So there are many different descriptions like this. And it’s indicated that even people from the earth on some occasions have been able to go flying to these other planets, including celestial planets. For example, it's described that in a different Kali-yuga there was an incarnation of Buddha during a time when the people of the earth were flying to different planets in, it’s said, “well constructed spaceships,” and they were bombing the other planets. In fact, actually, this is just what people would do if they could manage to fly to other planets. As soon as they found something living there, they’d drop bombs on it. But anyway, it is described, on this occasion Buddha appeared amongst these people and he attracted their minds by dressing in a very attractive way; and then he preached on the principles of nonviolence. So this is interesting because the historical Buddha that we know, of course, also preached the principles of nonviolence, but it was completely in a different setting. No one was flying around in spaceships and he didn't dress attractively. He appeared as an ascetic. In fact he almost starved himself to death. So you see these pictures of Buddha as a near skeleton and so forth.
So the indication then is that even in the Kali-yuga people were flying about in spaceships that were actually able to reach the celestial planets. Now normally, however, in the Kali-yuga there is a quarantine placed on this earth by the demigods. This is actually described in Vedic literature. If you go back prior to about 5000 years ago you will find that there was regular travel between the earth and the different celestial realms, and also between the parts of the earth that we know and the different parts of the Bhu-mandala. So there was regular travel and there are many different descriptions of vimanas or airplanes. For example it is described that in the kingdom of Maharaja Uttanapada, who lived in the Satya-yuga, airplanes with golden domes were seen floating above his capital city and so forth. So this is a standard kind of description. And the demigods would typically come to the earth. So there was regular communication. In fact I think it's described that in one of the sacrifices carried out by Maharaja Yudhisthira denizens of the Vayu planets were helping with the cooking in the kitchen. So I don't know, maybe they are good cooks there in the Vayu planets.
So in any case that all stops with the beginning of Kali-yuga and communications with the demigods is cut off. Actually it is interesting, there is a fellow named, what's his name, Jaynes, who wrote a book called something like The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, in which he argues that if you go back a few thousand years ago on the earth everyone was schizophrenic and was hearing voices which they took to be the voices of the gods, because he examined various early cultures, both Indian and Babylonian and Greek and so on. And he found that in the earliest writings of these cultures it seems that everyone was always talking to demigods and demigods kept playing a role in people’s lives. And then he noted that at a certain point in history demigods don’t seem to be around anymore and the people begin lamenting that the gods aren't favouring them anymore and so on. So he describes this whole thing. In fact he uses the Old Testament of the Bible as an example of a gradual progression from a stage in which demigods were readily available to a time when they weren’t available any more and people were sort of left to their own devices.
So that's actually the description in the Vedic literature, that in the Vedic civilisation this regular communication existed with different parts of the universe, but then this was cut off in the Kali-yuga. So this brings us to the whole question of the nature of the moon. I’ll end with this description. Srila Prabhupada has many times said that nobody ever went to the moon. So in this write up I went through the Bhagavatam to find the different places where Srila Prabhupada has said this and essentially his basic point is that first of all they would not be able to fly to the moon because of the limitations on their sensory capacities, that is, the kind of vehicle you need to fly to the moon cannot be constructed by people of the earth today. You can't get there by building a machine out of nuts and bolts and so forth. That’s one basic theme that he stresses. And the other theme that he stresses is that the demigods have entry requirements. There is a passport control for entering planets such as the moon and they won't allow people to go there who are not qualified. So therefore the astronauts could not have gone. So how are we to understand this?
And then the third thing that Srila Prabhupada says is that in the Vedic literature it's described that the moon is a heavenly planet. Actually the moon is part of the Svarga-loka according to the Vedic literatures. So there is a celestial realm there, a very beautiful and opulent civilization in which demigods are living and so forth. So obviously the astronauts do not report having seen anything like that. So therefore they didn't go to the moon.
So Srila Prabhupada makes these three basic points. ow in a couple of places he gives some suggestions as to how it could be that they think they went to the moon, whereas actually they didn’t. But he doesn't make any definite statement. e throws out a couple of suggestions at different places. What he definitely says is that they couldn't have gone because the methods for going there are not possible for them, the demigods wouldn't let them in, and it's a heavenly planet and they didn't see anything like that. So therefore they couldn't have gone. So that's his basic case.
So one can then consider various possibilities as to how it might be that they didn't go. So one possibility is of course that they might not have even left the earth. That is there might be a moon hoax. ctually there is a whole literature on this. You can find books about the moon hoax. Ihave read some of this. Some points can be made. Actually as I suggest in this paper, although I won't go into here, there is good evidence, I would say some photos emanating from NASA are faked. So why would they fake photos? It makes you begin to wonder a little bit about their honesty. But there is evidence of that. I have one photo of a lunar module on the surface of the moon here which I can discuss with you if you like, but there is evidence that that photo is not genuine. But, so that's one possibility.
Another possibility is that they went flying off into space in a rocket, Apollo spacecraft, but the demigods diverted them in some way. Now in fact, this could be very easily done by demigods. Just to give an indication, it’s described that after leaving the earth Maharaja Yudhisthira was taken to a heavenly planets; and even though he was in the heavenly planets he found himself entering into a hellish region, and there is a whole story behind why this happened. But he found himself in this horrible place in which there were very large blades of grass that were razor sharp and foul, fetid swamp with sort of dank smoke floating through the air, and the cries of agony echoing through the air, sort of this dark, horrifying region. So he experienced that he was in this place. Well, it turned out actually he wasn't in such a place at all, but Indra had projected this for him. So a demigod such as Indra has the power to just generate a whole realm which doesn't actually exist, but which one experiences as though it did exist. So that’s a possibility. A thing like that could be done if demigods are really out there.
And then another thing to consider is that if one went to the physical three dimensional location of the moon, would one actually enter into the celestial realm that is there? So this is analogous to the point I started with about Vrindavana. If you go to Vrindavana in India, will you see the spiritual world there? Well, of course, the celestial kingdom on the moon is material but the same principle can apply here, that one has to come to the proper level of sensory function in order to actually enter into the celestial realm. So this corresponds to Srila Prabhupada’s point that you can't get to the moon by an ordinary mechanical vehicle. So these considerations can be made concerning the moon flight. As to what is really, as to what really happened, of course, one cannot definitely say. At least I can't, but one can consider these different possibilities. So there are a lot of other things to discuss but I think I’d better stop there. And any questions or comments?
Answer: Well at least there is an analogy you can make. Now in Einstein’s theory of relativity one thing that can happen is that according to the theory, if in a spaceship, you went out into space, and say went around in a big circle at a very high speed within, say, 99% of the speed of light, so you went around, of course you have to speed up for a while, you went around in this big circle, came back and then came back to the earth, then it could be set up so that for you the experience took two years and you were two years older at the end of that period. But from the point of view of the earth you would come back say a million years later. According to the theory that’s possible; you can work out the mathematics of it. So this seems to be an analogy to the kind of thing that the Bhagavatam was describing about the experience of King Kakudmi going to Brahmaloka.
So, and in fact, it should be noted that Einstein has gone beyond the ordinary three-dimensional idea of space. He has his scheme as an arrangement in which space can be rotated into time. I won't go into that, but that’s how his scheme works. So I think one could say that modern physics gives some hints of the ideas expressed in the Vedic literature. I don’t think it goes beyond hints but there is something to it. Yeah?
A: Well, Einstein’s scheme is essentially like this: You see in physics time is represented as a geometrical dimension. Now this is another whole subject of discussion because how can it be that time corresponds to points on a straight line? In any case, in classical physics you have three-dimensional space and then you have a time line, and that’s a separate thing. What Einstein did was combine the two together to get a four dimensional space which he called spacetime. And just as you can rotate something in three dimensional space, so that say the vertical dimension gets rotated partly into the horizontal dimension, in Einstein’s scheme you can rotate something so that the spatial dimensions get rotated into the time dimension. So, and this produces very strange transformations. So that’s the way his theory works. But he does introduce the idea of something higher dimensional. Yeah, you had?
A: No, you don't see them either. So there is a lot that we don’t see.
A: No, we don’t see those globes. So basically the main difference between the Vedic cosmology and modern cosmology is Vedic cosmology is saying that there is a lot there that we don’t see.
A: There has to be some differential rotation there. That's the only thing I can understand. In other words, it's not just one rigid plate in that case. Couldn't be! If part is rotating and the other part is not. There has to be a relative rotation between the earth and whatever corresponds to the ecliptic. So that's one implication, that you need to have that.
A: That would seem to be the case as far as I can see. Now mind you this is a construction I am making. The Bhagavatam simply describes the layout of Bhu-mandala; and it describes how the sun is moving and how the planets are moving and so on. And this fits the picture of what we see the sky if you take Bhu-mandala to be located in the plane of the ecliptic, and as I mentioned, this Bhagavatam commentator Vamsidhara also is saying the same thing. So that implies then if that is so, there has to be a differential rotation.
1:10:00 A: Yeah you do, because differential rotation means, here we have the earth fixed. Now we are experiencing this earth as a small globe, so imagine a globe here. The whole extent of Bhu-mandala is in this plane of the ecliptic. It's rotating around. So the motion of the sun that is produced there is exactly the motion that we see. And it's the same as the motion described in the jyotisa literature. So the understanding then of day and night is identical with the understanding that we normally have. There is no difference there.
A: Well, the thing is how does, yeah you see the thing is on, if you see Bhu-mandala, if you see Jambudvipa as being a disc then the geometry seems to be quite different. Now I haven’t answered here the question of how you go from geometry that goes in sphere to geometry that goes in a disc. I am taking that that is occurring on a higher dimension. Now I can make analogies that make sense out of that. They are only analogies that I am making however. What you have in the Vedic literature is descriptions of things from different perspectives. You don't have a detailed description of how the different perspectives link together. Ultimately, now you see, if you go into the whole mathematics of topology, the ultimate description would have to be an exhaustive account of all the different perspectives and how their edges join up, so to speak.
But in any case, I will just give you an example of how you reconcile a two dimensional rectangle with a two dimensional circle, just for the sake of argument. Yeah, let’s say we have a two dimensional circle, a regular circle and a rectangle. These are both two dimensional figures. Well, here is how you can reconcile them. Consider a cylinder. So you look at it from one side and you see a cylinder and you look at it from the other side and you see a rectangle. So by making analogies like that, somehow or other, the globes are related to the disc.
Now the point is, as far as sunlight streaming in and day and night are concerned, the basic description in terms of the disc and motion the sun gives motion for the sun in three dimensions corresponding to what we see. Then given the globe geometry, that accounts for day and night and the passage of the seasons, summer and winter and so forth. And it also accounts for what people experience in the southern hemisphere, namely that the seasons are reversed and so on. So what it is like when you go to the Jambudvipa level, where you can cross over from Bharata-varsa to the next varsa and so on, to go through all those nine varsas which are all inhabited by demigods, that is difficult to conceive in terms of our experience what that must be like.
You see as I was saying yesterday the different varsas of Jambudvipa other than Bharata-varsa are all places for demigods and beings nearly on the level of demigods. So obviously we don't experience anything like that. And if we travel around on this earth we know that we just go around the globe and we come back to where we were. So somehow, though, you can travel and just keep on going. I mean literally speaking here is what happens: you go north on Bharata-varsa and eventually you come to a place that’s not Bharata-varsa anymore. It’s a different varsa and demigods are living there. So how can that be? It's like going north of the North Pole. So that's essentially the kind of thing that's involved. Yeah?
A: Nothing reliable that I have heard of. Of course there is the good old story about Admiral Byrd, but I have never seen anything reliable on that. No, as far as material evidence is concerned, if you want to look into that, which of course brings you into a whole controversial realm, I would say there is material evidence of the kind of mystical travel that I have been talking about in which you can go from A to B without crossing the space in between. You can find evidence for that. Now of course as far as modern science is concerned there is no truth in any of that. But I know personally some scientists who have reported evidence like that and got, have gotten, into trouble with their colleagues for it. For example, the head of the physics department in Birkbeck College in London claims that he has seen the teleportation of objects. Now what is teleportation? In fact it is this prapti siddhi phenomena that I was talking about. You have an object like this watch here, and you have it disappear from here and appear over on the floor over there. It's not that it went very fast from here to there, but it just vanished here and appeared there. Now he says he’s got evidence of such things happening. This is connected with the phenomena called poltergeists, which is another whole thing to go into. So how could that happen?
Now of course you know there are the various yogis in India like the Satya Sai Baba who have these tricks of manifesting Rolex watches in their hands and so forth. Of course one explanation is that they have very voluminous sleeves in which they manage to balance a collection of watches and sacred ashes and other items, and bring them out one at a time. But another explanation, which has some favour in various circles, is that Satya Sai Baba actually has this prapti siddhi. So when he manifests a Rolex watch in his hand it's not that he created it out of the ether or something, which he might like you to believe, but he had it somewhere else and it just zip, somebody, or it was somewhere else, and he teleported it, to use the, to use that term. So there is material evidence of that kind of thing. Yeah?
A: Well I don't know. I have read at least one Bermuda triangle book, I guess it was the one by Berlitz. I wasn't too impressed because the size of the Bermuda triangle is a good percentage of the Atlantic Ocean; and the fact that lot of things sink there is somehow just not that surprising. But I may not be doing justice to it. But yeah, you can get into all kinds of different literature and different things along these lines.
I would make one point that is interesting to me. There is extensive documentation of something called “out-of-body experiences.” This is quite interesting. Quite respectable people have documented this kind of thing. It seems that a lot of people, when they nearly died due to some crisis, maybe an automobile accident or heart attack or something like that, report after being revived two types of experience. One is they will say that they were looking down on their body from some perspective up in the air somewhere and they saw all kinds of things that were going on. Now some of these things are verifiable. For example, a person who has had a heart attack while in a hospital may say that I was looking down on my body, and two physicians ran in and one of them got real nervous and he turned pale and he ran out. And the other one said this to him and then turned and started doing something with this machine. In other words, the one guy freaked out because he couldn't handle it or something, which is unusual in a, not something which will happen during any case where a physician tries to resuscitate a heart attack victim. And then it will turn out, yes indeed, that did really happen in this occasion. And supposedly when this happened the person had been unconscious due to cardiac arrest for a period of a minute or something like that. So supposedly he simply wasn't conscious and couldn't have been seeing anything.
So there are things like this. But then beyond that, in these out-of-body experiences people typically report visiting some other realm, and there are very consistent descriptions of what this is like. Now these reports are not verifiable. You just have their word for it. But people from all different walks of life and so on, consistently report being transported to another realm and they describe this and so on. So that seems to be consistent with the idea that there are variegated realms of existence which we don’t see but which somehow you can see under different circumstances. So that’s material evidence and it has all the drawbacks of material evidence. Most scientists and medical doctors and so on would be very content to dismiss all this as hallucination. That’s their explanation for this. And then you can argue about that. Yeah?
A: Oh yeah, I have seen that mountain.
A: Well, it's a fact that Srila Prabhupada from time to time reported seeing things that we can't see. For example, once while giving a lecture, I think in London, Narada Muni came to the lecture theatre. So, oh, I hadn't heard that one. But I don't know. But, well that fits in consistently with the whole thing I have been describing. So, and of course, well, there are all kinds of accounts you can have of what yogis have experienced and what they can do and so forth. So there are all these things.
A: Well, he may tell you, that's, you have to be careful there but, well in any event, of course I don’t think it is necessarily true that a person on a higher spiritual level will have to develop these mystic siddhis, although it is described that they tend to come naturally with the development of bhakti and they are regarded as encumbrances. This is the general description given in the literature on yoga. That if one tries to advance spiritually, that is in terms of, to advance in spiritual consciousness, one will tend to automatically acquire various yogic powers and so forth. If one then succumbs to the temptation of using them and begins travelling about to different realms and so forth, one will be diverted from the spiritual path, and essentially that's just another material trip. So therefore one should not use them. That's the injunction which is given. So of course, personally I haven’t that problem yet, but . . . Yeah?
A: Well yeah, according to Vedic literature the universe expanded from a very small size. However there is no indication that the universe is expanding in the way that the scientists are thinking of it as expanding. And in fact, it's interesting, right now we have a project to do a video in which we hope to interview a number of astronomers who argue that the universe really isn't expanding. In fact there is a great deal of empirical evidence which suggests that the expanding universe theory doesn't work. That's a whole subject to go into. For example there is the quantization of the redshifts. The idea is that light from distant galaxies is shifted towards the red in proportion to the distance. If you take the red shift as a Doppler shift, that means the galaxies are moving away with velocities proportional to how far away they are; and this is what happens in a explosion. If you have an explosion and things are flying out then after time t, things going at a certain speed are at a certain distance; then things twice as far are twice the distance because they are going twice as fast. So things should be moving away at a speed proportional to how far away they are in an explosion. So they say, “Well, that's what we see in redshifts.” So interpreting them as Doppler shifts indicating velocity, therefore the universe is exploding, hence in the past at some time everything must have been packed together into one point. So therefore the whole universe must have exploded out of a point. And that's the Big Bang theory. So the indication though is that the rate of recession of these galaxies, the rates are always multiples of a fixed rate. In other words, they are quantized in levels of redshift, which completely goes against the idea of these things being Doppler shifts due to motion. So that would indicate the universe isn't expanding, but the redshifts are due to something else.
So actually it is worth bringing this up because in modern astronomy, or any astronomy for that matter, essentially all you have to go on is light coming in from out there and radio waves and different kinds of electromagnetic radiation. So then what you do in astronomy is you say, “Let us assume that out there things are operating according to certain laws.” So what the astronomers do is they say, “Let's take the laws that we learn from studying matter in the laboratory here in the earth. Let’s assume those laws work out there. If that is true, what must be going on to produce the light that we see?” Now by working backwards in this way they figure out what must be out there, and that's how they build their picture of the universe. But now, what if the laws governing what's happening out there are different from the laws governing matter in the laboratory? In that case anything could go. Anything could be happening, because depending on what the laws are, different kinds of things could be happening to produce the light that we see. For example, if a redshift must be produced by a Doppler shift because we know, that measuring things on the earth we know, that motion can produce a shift in the light frequency. So if the redshift must be produced by a Doppler shift, then when we see a redshift and say, “Ah! A Doppler shift! Therefore things are moving.” But if the redshift is quantized that suggests that it must be produced by something completely unknown. SOne can then even seriously raise the question, “Is it really possible to deduce what it is just from the light?” So I don’t know if anyone is prepared to give a simple answer to that, whether it is actually possible or not.
So in discussing the Vedic model of the universe, one theme here is that things are not necessarily happening according to the laws that we know. You need new laws of physics in order to describe all of these things. For example, if there is a continuum out there in which variegated forms exist, mountains and rivers and beings walking around and so on, but we don’t see it, then you need new laws of physics to describe that.
So I’ll stop there.
Jaya! All glories to Srila Prabhupada!