I found the article "Advanced Astronomy" [November/December] by Sadaputa Dasa (Dr. Richard Thompson) fascinating and educative. However, such articles lose creditability if they have fundamental or trivial errors. In various tables, the author lists the sun under the heading "PLANET." We all know that the sun is not a planet but a star. Similarly, the author lists the moon as a planet. I do realize that the ancient sastras [scriptures] may have listed these as planets. But I believe that Dr. Thompson is trying to demonstrate the accuracy of the numbers, concepts, and ideas found in these Puranic sastras, and their similarities to modern cosmological understanding. I feel that mathematical, statistical arguments lose credibility quickly if the author makes simple errors.
I also find very confusing the author's use of words like "higher" for lokas [planets] such as Brahma-loka and Krsnaloka. The universe has no such thing as higher and lower. All the stars and planets are on the surface of the universe. The universe is like a balloon, expanding in all directions.
I feel, however, that Dr. Thompson is pursuing a profound message, and I would encourage him to continue in this effort. To my knowledge, no other panditas or Vaisnavas have tried to present in scientific ways the complex concepts, thoughts, and ideas written in the Puranas.
Nirmal Ghosh via the Internet
SADAPUTA DASA REPLIES: You suggest that I am claiming that the sun and moon are planets in the modern sense of the term, i.e., that they are small, cold bodies orbiting a central star. But obviously I am not saying that. You understand this yourself, as shown when you say, "I do realize that the ancient sastras may have listed these as planets."
Yes, I am referring to the sun, moon, and Mercury through Saturn as the seven planets in the traditional sastric sense. Perhaps I should add that I am using "planet" to translate the Sanskrit word graha.
As for higher and lower planets, or lokas: That the planets in the solar system orbit roughly in one plane does allow one to define a sense of direction. "Higher" means away from this plane in the direction of celestial north, and "lower" means away in the direction of celestial south. This definition of higher and lower matches the usage of these terms in the sastras. One should understand that thesastras are referring to the solar system.
By the way, the stars and planets are not "on the surface of the universe." The curved space-time of general relativity is like a balloon in a metaphorical sense, but one should not take this literally. Actually, Einstein's space-time is a higher-dimensional Reimannian manifold. It does not lie within 3D space.
I should add, also, that several other members of the Krsna consciousness movement are actively presenting Puranic ideas in a scientific manner.
Recently, while going through the Eighth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, I came across a verse that confounded me, even though I tried hard to swallow what was expounded in the purport to the verse.
Chapter Five, verse thirty-four, states:
somam mano yasya samamananti
divaukasam yo balam andha ayuh
iso naganam prajanah prajanam
prasidatam nah sa maha-vibhutih
"Soma, the moon, is the source of food grains, strength, and longevity for all the demigods. He is also the master of all vegetation and the source of generation for all living entities. As stated by learned scholars, the moon is the mind of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. May that Supreme Personality of Godhead, the source of all opulences, be pleased with us."
The translation rendered is absolutely fine, but it is the purport I find hard to accept, although I know that Srila Prabhupada's purports are infallible, having been directly inspired by his meditations on Lord Krsna. The part I can't logically accept reads, "Unfortunately, modern so-called scientists, who do not fully understand the moon, describe the moon as being full of deserts. Since the moon is the source for our vegetation, how can the moon be a desert? The moonshine is the vital force for all vegetation, and therefore we cannot possibly accept that the moon is a desert."
This purport was certainly written by Srila Prabhupada after man landed on the moon and the visitors to the moon found nothing out there but desert. The live telecast cannot be ruled out as a hoax, as millions saw it with their own eyes. Somehow or other, I still believe that Srila Prabhupada was correct, but that certainly is a leap of faith. In other words, I am simply accepting it because I believe that the Vedic scriptures are apauruseya of divine origin but to accept it logically, I can't.
And how do I explain it to my friends? Apauruseya? They will probably laugh in my face. Nevertheless, I still believe there is a rational explanation, and it is my hope that you can offer me one.
Though these little issues may seem to go unnoticed, they actually turn people off more than other, major issues, because to the modern scientific mind the concept of axiomatic scriptural truths is fairly inconceivable.
K. Sanjay Kumar
REPLY BY KRSNA KAPA DASA ADHIKARI, Bhaktivedanta Institute, Alachua, Florida: Though the moon may appear to be only a desert, there is more to the moon than we in human bodies are permitted to see. The demigods in higher planets have more developed sense perception and are able to see other dimensions of the universe, dimensions inaccessible to humans. The descriptions of cosmography in the Bhagavatam are typically from the demigods' perspective.
Sadaputa Dasa, in his Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy, compares looking at the moon knowing only its three-dimensional position to looking for an address in New York City given only the street and avenue but not the floor. Just as there is a big difference between a penthouse apartment and the basement, there is a great difference between the heavenly abode of Candraloka, full of godly opulence, and the desertlike moon we see.
No Dodging on Clones
I am a member of the Pandava Sena, the youth group affiliated to Bhaktivedanta Manor, England. On behalf of all of us here, I would just like to say we were very impressed with the article on human cloning ["From the Editor," May/June '97].
All the key questions were addressed. No dodging of important questions. The answers were straight, logical, and to the point. No beating around the bush and no answers like "It's Krsna's arrangement," which at least by our generation are perceived as dodging the issue. Well done!
P. S. Watch out for Pandava Sena on the Web!
Krsna Is So Great
I've been subscriber to Back to Godhead for the last year. I'm very fortunate indeed to have come across such a magazine. I know that Krsna is so great and so loving towards His devotees. Here in Russia I am very happy to see how Russians are deeply involved in Krsna consciousness. The temple in Moscow is doing its best to serve its devotees. In my life I've come across a lot of difficulties, where every problem melted away by the grace of Murari [Krsna]. I cannot pen down everything, but I can say that Vasudeva Krsna is so great, so great. May His blessings be always with you to prolong your great service in the footsteps of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.
N. Suren Nimalan
We continue to receive what for us is an astonishing number of letters about Urmila Devi Dasi's article "Children and Pets" [July/August '97]. Nearly all the mail is negative. The writers take various stands:
• Urmila's wrong. Pets are good for kids. Or at least ok.
• Urmila's right, but too heavy. Why make such a big deal of a small thing like having a pet? Lighten up, Urmila. Other things are worse.
• Urmila's right, but impractical. Strict Vedic standards like not having pets in your house are hard rules to impose on children born in the West. In the Vedic setting, a family has land and animals. But New York City isn't Vrndavana. Lighten up, Urmila!
• Urmila's right, but intolerant. Live and let live. Lighten up, Urmila!
• Urmila's right, but the strategy's wrong. We want people to be attracted to Krsna consciousness. Why turn them off? Urmila! Lighten up!
Even our staff has divided opinions on this one, some speaking for being more sensitive and gentle with our readers, others for "telling it like it is." Urmila Devi Dasi stands her ground. The editor is on her side.
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