There is an old Bengali saying: He is a dwarf but he wants to touch the moon. Something similar is happening in India’s space program. India’s position today is such that we have convinced ourselves that we are backward and need to do something spectacular so that the whole world, especially the West, applauds us. It is indeed pitiable that all the criteria for so-called advancement are devised by Western scientists and philosophers, and we are just aping them. It’s like the West says “jump” and instead of asking “Why?” we are asking “How high?”
The twentieth century was celebrated as the century in which man conquered outer space. With the launch of the Sputnik by the Russians the entire American nation trembled in fear of an imminent invasion from outer space. This gave rise to the space race which ultimately bled the Russian economy dry and ended with the demise of the Soviet Union itself.
Srila Prabhupada, on being told that an American astronaut has landed on the moon immediately dismissed it as humbug, much to the amazement of his young disciples. He presented many strong arguments as to why this is not possible. Here are a few of the strongest objections:
1. The moon is considered one of the planets of the heavenly kingdom. One can be promoted to this planet by executing different sacrifices recommended in the Vedic literature, such as pious activities in worshiping the demigods and forefathers with rigidity and vows. But one cannot remain there for a very long time. Life on the moon is said to last ten thousand years according to the calculation of the demigods. The demigods’ time is calculated in such a way that one day (twelve hours) is equal to six months on this planet. It is not possible to reach the moon by any material vehicle like a Sputnik, but persons who are attracted by material enjoyment can go to the moon by pious activities.
2. There are undoubtedly different planetary systems for different persons. As stated in Bhagavad-gita (14.18), urdhvam gacchanti sattva-stha: persons in the mode of goodness can go to the upper planets. Those in the modes of darkness and passion, however, are not allowed to enter the higher planets.
Indra, King of the higher planetary system, has the power to push down any conditioned soul attempting to go from the lower to the higher planets without proper qualifications. The modern attempt to go to the moon is also an attempt by inferior men to go to Svargaloka by artificial, mechanical means. This attempt cannot be successful. It appears that anyone attempting to go to the higher planetary systems by mechanical means, which are here called maya, is condemned to go the hellish planets in the lower portion of the universe. To go to the higher planetary system, one needs sufficient good qualities. A sinful person situated in the mode of ignorance and addicted to drinking, meat-eating and illicit sex will never enter the higher planets by mechanical means.
3. The adaptability of organisms in different varieties of planets is described in the Brahma-samhita as vibhuti-bhinnam, i.e., each and every one of the innumerable planets within the universes is endowed with a particular type of atmosphere, and the living beings there are advanced in science, psychology, etc., according to the superiority or inferiority of the atmosphere. Vibhuti means “specific power,” and bhinnam means “variegated.” Scientists who are attempting to explore outer space in an attempt to reach other planets by mechanical means must realize that organisms adapted to the atmosphere of the earth cannot exist in the atmospheres of other planets. As such, man’s attempts to reach the moon, the sun, or Mars will be completely futile because of the different atmospheres prevailing on those planets. Individually, however, one can attempt to go to any planet he desires, but this is only possible by psychological changes in the mind. Mind is the nucleus of the material body. The gradual evolutionary progress of the material body depends on psychological changes within the mind. The change of the bodily construction of a worm into that of a butterfly and, in modern medical science, the conversion of a man’s body into that of a woman (or vice versa) are more or less dependent on psychological changes.
4. Both the material and spiritual worlds belong to Lord Sri Krishna. We are not proprietors of anything. It is all the property of the Supreme Lord, just as everything in the state belongs to the government, either in the prison house or outside the prison house. Conditioned life is just like life in a prison house in this material world. A prisoner cannot freely change from one cell to another. In free life one can go from one home to another home, but in prison life one cannot do that but must stay in his cell. All these planets are like cells. We are trying to go to the moon, but it is not practical by mechanical means. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that one should not try to change from one cell to another. That will not make anyone happy.
5. They are trying to go to the moon, but actually they do not know what it is. If they understand what the moon is, why do they come back here? If they knew perfectly what the moon is, they would have resided there by now. They have been trying for the last twenty years to go there and stay, but they are simply saying, “Not this, not that. There are no living entities, and there is no possibility of our living here.” Thus they can report on what is not on the moon, but do they know what is there? No, they do not.
According to the Vedic literature, the moon is regarded as a star. The scientists say that the stars are all suns, but according to Bhagavad-gita the stars are of the same nature as the moon. In Bhagavad-gita (10.21) Lord Krishna says, naksatranam aham sasi “Of stars I am the moon.” Thus the moon is just like the many stars. What is the nature of the moon? It is bright because it reflects light from the sun. Therefore although the scientists say that the stars are many suns, we do not agree. According to the Vedic calculation, there are innumerable suns, but in every universe there is only one.
6. The moon is too cold for the inhabitants of this earth, and therefore ordinary persons who want to go there with earthly bodies are attempting to do so in vain. Merely seeing the moon from a distance cannot enable one to understand the real situation of the moon. One has to cross Manasa Lake and then Sumeru Mountain, and only then can one trace out the orbit of the moon. Besides that, no ordinary man is allowed to enter that planet. Even those admitted there after death must have performed the prescribed duties to satisfy the pitas and devas. Yet even they are sent back to earth after a fixed duration of life—on the moon.
7. Srila Prabhupada says “They are claiming they have gone to moon planet, this, that. But according to shastra, they are all cheaters. They cannot go. It is not so easy thing. Just like to enter any country, there are so many rules and regulations for immigration. And you want to go to the Chandraloka without any restriction! Just see. Chandraloka is the planet of the demigods. There the people live for ten thousands of years, they are so advanced. Their comforts are thousand times better than this standard of comfort. And you want to go there without any passport and without any visa. From common sense, can you enter anyone’s country simply because you have got aeroplane?”
8. Because our main business is sense gratification we cannot enjoy all these senses fully in one kind of body. There is some defect. Just like we are trying to gratify our senses by flying to another planet, moon planet. This is another sense gratification. We are meant for this planet. We are bound up by conditions. Artificially we are trying to go there. And making so many plans: “There will be intermediate station, and the petrol will be carried from here,” and this and that. Simply spending money. Just childish. The children spoil their time and energy in certain playing. Similarly, this is going on because it is a sense gratification. That’s all. “Let us go, how it is, moon planet.” You have no business there. You cannot do anything there. You cannot live there, but still, “Let us go, let us go. And spend all the money, taxpayers’ money, spend like water.” This is going on.
9. “Just like people are trying to go to the moon planet, that is an ambition. But they are trying to fulfill the ambition wrongly. That is not the way, to manufacture some machine and enter into the moon planet by force. That is not possible. You have to undergo certain rules and regulations so that after quitting this body you are allowed to get a particular type of body suitable for a particular type of planet.”
10. “Just like we are studying the moon. So many scientists were engaged to study the moon. Every day we read something about moon. And in Bhagavata you see that the moon is very cold planet, and there people drink soma-rasa. And the other day I was reading in the paper, the temperature is 200 degrees less than zero. So you can imagine how cold it is. So how can we go there? You cannot go to even Canada because when it is below zero degrees, you are so unhappy. 200 degrees below zero…you’ll die, immediately.
– Syamananda Dasa