Please allow me to compliment you on your beautiful and inspiration- giving magazine. I have a couple of questions: (1) Three world religions, namely Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, say that God created the world in six days. What does this mean? Is there an explanation to be found in the Vedic scriptures? (2) Why do Krsna's avataras always appear on Indian soil?
via the Internet
OUR REPLY: The complexity of the Vedic descriptions of creation and the time spans involved would suggest that the six-day creation is a simpler explanation for people in general. The idea of a six-day creation naturally raises questions. For example, what "days" are we talking about? The Vedas say that on the heavenly planets one day is equal to our six months. And if we were to use Lord Brahma's days (he is the empowered creator), each one would be 4.3 billion years long. So, even assuming the creation took six days, if those were God's days the creation would have taken a very long time from our perspective.
As for Lord Krsna's avataras always choosing India, the Vedas say that Bharatavarsa (India) is a pious land favored by the Lord. Krsna is a person, so by favoring a particular place when He descends, He's simply displaying His prerogative.
Thank you for your well-presented research article "Advanced Astronomy in the Ancient Vedas" in BTG Nov/Dec 1997 showing how the ancient Vedic text Srimad-Bhagavatam seems to give an accurate map of the planetary orbits known to modern astronomy.
Towards the end of the article Sadaputa Dasa summarizes by saying, "It would seem that Bhumandala can be interpreted as a realistic map of the solar system, showing how the planets move relative to the earth."
Although he seems to show convincingly that the Bhagavatam corroborates modern astronomy, he seems to bring up an even bigger inconsistency. Modern astronomy seems to show that there are many suns and many similar disk-shaped solar systems observable through our telescopes, all contained within this same universe. That seems to be at odds with the Bhagavatam presentation, which says that the plane of Bhumandala, our solar system, extends out to the edge of a self-contained brahmanda, or a universe enclosed by a thick shell of elements surrounding only one sun.
Maha Visnu Swami
SADAPUTA DASA REPLIES: We can see that the Bhagavatam is describing the solar system. Even if we ignore my analysis in the "Advanced Astronomy" article, we can make the simple observation that 4 billion miles is a reasonable figure for the size of the solar system, but it is utterly insignificant compared with the distance to the nearest star, according to modern astronomy.
We should be realistic and recognize that the Bhagavatam is describing the solar system, not the universe of stars and galaxies. The point of my article is that the Bhagavatam is describing the solar system very accurately.
The Bhagavatam mentions stars, but they do not fit into the solar system map I discussed in the "Advanced Astronomy" article. I did not discuss stars in the article, so let me make a few observations about them here:
First of all, the Bhagavatam places the stars within the shell of the brahmanda. This means they must be closer to us than about 2 billion miles. According to modern astronomy, the nearest star is about 4 light-years away. This comes to about 23 trillion miles, or 11,500 times the distance to the shell of the brahmanda. Most stars are much farther away than this. Clearly, the Bhagavatam differs from modern astronomy regarding the distances to stars. Taken literally, the Bhagavatam does not give us a good map of the stars in three-dimensional space.
So, how are we to understand this?
One option is to suppose that the Bhagavatam is not giving literal distances to stars. But in that case, how is the Bhagavatam treating stars? To answer this, I must introduce some background material.
Consider, first of all, the 28 naksatras, said in Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.22.11) to be 200,000 yojanas (eight miles/yojana) above the moon. There is a large literature on the 28 naksatras. They are generally called "lunar mansions" in English, since they mark the daily positions of the moon as it completes its orbit. It takes the moon about 27.3 days to complete one orbit relative to the stars. Thenaksatras serve as a system of markers, like hour markings on a clock, that can be used to measure time using the motion of the moon. The naksatra intervals are associated with star constellations, and one can see what naksatra the moon is in by observing the stars near the moon.
In this application, the distances to the naksatra stars in 3D space are not important. What is important is that the naksatras form a backdrop in 2D against which the motion of the moon can be measured. Therefore, it is significant that the naksatras are placed in the layer just above the moon in Bhagavatam 5.22.11. This is like placing the plate with hour markings just behind the hands of a clock. I propose that this is how the Bhagavatam is presenting the naksatras.
In medieval Western astronomy, the signs of the zodiac and their corresponding stars were treated as marks on the surface of a universal shell (the sphere of fixed stars). They served as a set of reference markers for measuring the movements of the moon and planets (especially in astrology). The Bhagavatam places the naksatras on a plate rather than on the shell, but it uses the naksatras in essentially the same way medieval Western astronomy used the signs of the zodiac. Of course, the Bhagavatam also mentions the signs (called rasis).
Apart from the 28 naksatras, the Bhagavatam mentions the Seven Rsis (the Big Dipper), Dhruvaloka (Polaris), and the stars making up the Sisumara constellation. These stars are also treated in theBhagavatam as markers indicating the passage of time. The Sisumara is like a great clock an essentially two-dimensional construct. The Sisumara's three-dimensional structure is not described. All we have are statements giving the heights of the Seven Rsis and Dhruvaloka as, respectively, 20,800,000 miles and 31,200,000 miles above Bhumandala less than the distance between Mercury and the sun. There is no mention of the modern astronomical finding that stars vary in distance from the earth by many light years. There is no mention that the Milky Way (Akasa Ganga) is a vast disk of stars with a diameter of about 100,000 light years. There is also no mention of many galaxies like the Milky Way distributed over millions of light years of outer space. Do we wish to deny all these things? TheBhagavatam certainly does not refer to them.
I therefore argue that the Bhagavatam is giving an excellent description of the solar system, in the spirit of the ancient and medieval systems. But like them, it is not describing the universe of stars and galaxies. It is treating stars in an essentially 2D fashion.
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