The Enquirer

by Vraja Kishor dās

Astronomy and Prabhupada

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In his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 15, text 12 Srila Prabhupada makes the following rather shocking statement:

“From this verse we can understand that the sun is illuminating the whole solar system. There are different universes and solar systems, and there are different suns, moons and planets also, but in each universe there is only one sun.”

Prabhupada says that in each universe there is only one sun.

Is Prabhupada an astronomer? Yes, he is Jagad Guru, but is he an astronomer???

“Jagad Guru knows everything, including astronomy!” They protest.

Does Jagad Guru know how to program in PHP?

I am not trying to detract from the glory of Jagad Guru, but I desire to have an accurate conception of that glory.

Jagad Guru himself sometimes answered similar challenges by saying, “I know that php is useless unless engaged in Krsna’s service, therefore I know the most important essence of PHP. That is how Jagad Guru ‘knows everything.'”

I think we need to really embrace this sort of answer.

So, is Prabhupada an astronomer?

No.

Is he Jagad Guru?

Yes.

Doesn’t he then know everything, including astronomy?

Yes and no. He knows the essence of everything. This is different from knowing the details of astronomy.

Now how about this – is there only one Sun in the universe?

I highly doubt it.

But Prabhupada said…

Maybe Prabhupada was wrong.

I am not saying maybe Prabhupada was wrong about anything that is significant to what Prabhupada is all about as the Jagad Guru of Krsna Bhakti! I am saying maybe he is wrong about a detail of astronomy.

Lots of people balk at my attitude on this, in a big, big way. Maybe they are right and maybe I am a demon. But maybe I am just comfortable with the fact that Prabhupada is not a fantasy person. Personally I don’t mind if Prabhupada makes some syntax errors while programming a web-database interface in php and mysql. It doesn’t detract from his glory as Jagad Guru. Neither does him being wrong about something like a moon landing or how many stars are in a universe really bother me. At all.

So, is Prabhupada wrong about this? Is there more than one sun in the universe?

Here is one way that Prabhupada is wrong…

First he says that there are different solar systems. Then he says that there is only one sun in the universe. What is a “solar system?” It is, by definition a number of planets orbiting a star, a sun. Therefore if there are many different solar systems, there are by definition many different suns.

Here is one way that Prabhupada is right…

Perhaps each “universe” only contains one solar system. If each solar system is a collection of bodies orbiting a Sun, and each “universe” consists of one solar system, then it is correct to say that there only one sun in each universe.

This is the view that I personally accept.

My view is that “universe” refers to the bodies collected around a star – the Sun. Thus each universe has one sun. Between each solar system is a huge span of interstellar space. It is my view that this is the three dimensional representation of the causal ocean of Sri Vishnu. In other words each solar system is a “bubble” in the vastness of the ocean of potentiality which is interstellar space.

A galaxy is a clump of these bubbles – sort of like foam in the ocean. It is a greater “universe of universes.” There are thus many, many suns in what we call a galaxy. Between galaxies is an even more gigantic and unfathomable vastness of intergalactic space. I believe this is the pure karana-ocean separating clumps of solar-systems. What we call the “universe” in modern scientific vocabulary is what my personal understanding of the Vedic vocabulary would call a “universe of universes of universes.”

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38 thoughts on “Astronomy and Prabhupada

  1. Parijat Mathur on said:

    You might also be confusing Surya(Sun) with Star(Tara), not all Stars in solar system/universe may qualify as Surya(Aditya).

  2. i don’t think this is the issue.
    there is only one star in a solar system.
    In our solar system this is named Surya after the deity who controls it.
    If you can supply an authorized definition of Tara that would be helpful.

  3. fuc kwit on said:

    your mental speculation will send you to hell along with all the other ego-tripping pseudo-intellectuals who make a show of their nescience…how dare you comment on the Gita or Prabhupada…what kind of ignorant retard is your ‘guru’…if you ever come to Australia I will personally kick your arse and cut your tongue out\

    • I am sorry to have upset you. You feel that saying that Prabhupada is deficient in any knowledge whatsoever is highly highly offensive and wrong? I personally disagree and think that if Prabhupada makes some errors in details it is not at all to the detriment of his glory. We can disagree but I think for you to become violent about it is not great.

  4. Kausalya on said:

    I agree with you in principle. The fact that Srila Prabupada is the purest of devotees, Senapati bhakta and Jagad Guru does not make him God. To think that he has to be perfect in anything else than love of God, knowledge of the science of bhakti and how to attain the everlasting shelter of God, CAN even be a mayavad contamination. The underlying desire behind such an understanding COULD be to oneself become omniscient (like God) after having surrendered to such a, in all respects, all knowing guru.

    Using our intelligence to try to understand how modern science and what can be perceived through telescopes, can be reconciled with absolute knowledge coming from shastra is not speculation as long as we don’t leave out any knowledge that has been given in scriptures. And, of course, we should leave the door open to the fact that we might be wrong. What I can question in your “model” here is: What about the layers surrounding the universes? Each universe is to be surrounded by seven coverings. The first one is earth, followed by water, fire, air, ether, the total material energy and last false ego. Each following layer is ten times thicker than the one preciding it. What does that do with the transparency between the universes? Can we look through these coverings? Are they in some kind of subtle form? You model implies that we can see into other universes from our own.

    • Thank you for the wonderful comment, Kausalya, and question.

      The coverings on the universes are wonderful. I am not a scientist but I can share my thoughts, my attempts to understand – recognizing up front that they are not perfect, but hoping that they at least point towards or aid in a correct understanding.

      I think the question resolves by understanding what “earth”, “water”,”fire” etc really are. Is earth a clump of dirt? Is water a river or ocean? Is air Oxygen, or is it a Oxygen-Nitrogen combination? etc. No, my answer is no. My answer is that the five primordial elements refer to matter in the three states of existence, plus the energy to transform them from one state to another, and the physical grid in which all the states and transformative energy exist.

      The three states are solid, liquid, and gas – “earth, water, and air.” The energy to transform from one state to the other is “fire” and the physical grid in which they all exist is “space”/”ether”.

      Now, how would solidity – for example – look through a telescope??? Is it a physical object which reflects light, or is it actually an abstract STATE of matter? I believe it is an abstract state, that does not, in its abstract form take up normal space and appear to the naked eye.

      I believe that the 7 layers are the “cupboard” of raw materials by which / from which a solar-system/universe is formed under Brahma’s design supervision/ plan.

      The enourmous sizes of these layers in comparison with the solarsystem/ universe within it also seem to equate pretty well to what we observe as interstellar distance.

  5. Sitalatma on said:

    Imagine Narada Muni shows up at a Nasa observatory

    – Just had the most satisfying lunch with Chandradev on the Moon, first class soma-rasa, and we had the sweetest kirtan ever afterwards, wish you were there, guys.

    – What Moon, what Chandradev, what soma-rasa? What are you talking about? Come and look for yourself.

    Narada Muni looks into their telescope and sees nothing. His face is a bit puzzled. He then extends his arm to the Moon, breaks of a piece of Moon cheese and waves it around – he can’t see his own hand in the telescope. He brings his arm back, waves the cheese here, extends his head to the Moon and tries to see it from there. Nothing. He disappears for a few moments and then comes back with glee on his face

    – Just talked to the tech support, they say if you log in with credentials of a telescope the Moon php will serve you nothing but the pictures of dust and rocks. Funny thing, some of those pix were uploaded from your own Hollywood servers forty years ago.

    __________

    My point is that what we think is “objective” reality is nothing of the kind. If you talk of php then you must know that the pages we see in our browsers do not really exist, they are generated on the fly and might change on every refresh, depending on any number of parameters, like your browsing history or the time of the day or wordpress modifying your theme.

  6. Kausalya on said:

    @ Sitalatma. He he he, wonderful! Made my evening.

  7. devotee on said:

    Some freaks need attention and the only way to get in is to criticize Srila Prabhupada. If they have little intelligence they will criticize this corrupted world and they will give Krishna to others instead of making their way to hell.

    • I don’t think that criticizing Srila Prabhupada is the only way to get attention.

      I did say that it is possible for Srila Prabhupada to be wrong about some details of things. For example, did Prabhupada get 100%, A+ on every exam he ever took in school? Did Prabhupada never misspell a word? You interpret this as me “criticizing” Srila Prabhupada. I apologize for causing this distasteful experience for you. Please understand that in my mind it is not at all a criticism to say Prabhupada can lack perfect knowledge of the details of sub-atomic chemistry, etc.

  8. Dear Fellow Followers and Admirers of Srila Prabhupada,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    Saying Srila Prabhupada might be “wrong” is a touchy, emotional thing to do. I did it on purpose to rile up excitement and stir up controversy to pique interest in the subject of the purport. Things have to be done to keep people from dozing off and falling asleep in the middle of the bhagavatam class. ;-) We all have different personalities and do this in different ways. Please don’t kick me away and brand me a danger-to-society if my way of stirring up attention sometimes conflicts with your good sensibilities.

    You may object to this, saying that it opens the door to totally dismissing Srila Prabhupada.

    Any statement on its own is dangerous. Even the statement, “Sri Guru is perfect” is dangerous and can open the door to totally dismissing the Guru. What happens when the Guru’s letter to you is misspelled and your dad says, “See, this man is not perfect!”? Mindless acceptance of any statement is dangerous. We must understand how Srila Prabhupada is perfect and how the potential for being “wrong” does not counteract that “perfection.”

    Some express an opinion that newcomers / neophytes must be protected from dangerous statements which can lead them to dismiss and neglect Srila Prabhupada and his gift. I agree that newborns need special care, but do not feel that this means isolation from all germs. Such an approach makes for an adult with no immunity, no strength.

    I don’t like treating “neophytes” like dummies, to be insulated from all slightly variant viewpoints, free-thinking and challenging problems. If we treat new devotees like dullards, we will get ashrams sparsely populated by a few childish dullards. If we treat them like brahmins capable of holding critical discussion we will get ashrams full of intelligent adults capable of removing the doubts of the people of the world regarding the validity and sublimity of the Krsna Conscious message presented by Srila Prabhupada.

    Doubt is a function of the intelligence. Therefore learning requires doubt. One must doubt the manner in which a subject is understood in order to search for a more complete understanding. Therefore it is good to doubt Srila Prabhupada in so far as this doubt propels us to more clearly serve him by more deeply understanding his message. i feel that newcomers must be taught this to become strong adults capable of serving as powerful preachers and acaryas to deliver Prabhupada’s mission to the world.

    Your servant,
    Vraja Kishor das

    • Sridama on said:

      Well said and reasoned. Glad you wrote this piece. Some of these other responses are a little fanatical….

  9. Arun on said:

    Hare Krishna Vraja Kishor pr.,

    There is a verse in the Mahabharata, which states that anyone who tries to correct his spiritual master, even though he might be correct in doing so, will be born as a dog in his next birth. Our spiritual life begins when we fully surrender to the words of our spiritual master and i should not have the attitude of becoming better than my spiritual master. “Guru more murkha dekhi korilo sasane”, Caitanya Mahaprabhu spoke those words about his spiritual master, so it is always better to remain a fool in front of a spiritual master.

    We are all too small and our intelligence is very tiny and we should not for a moment doubt our spiritual master, just because there is some scientific evidence contrary to the teaching of Srila Prabhupada. Kindly read this following letter of Srila Prabhupada for more clarity.

    “We should train our disciples as well as ourselves in such a spirit that even if the whole world is against us, which is impossible to happen, the Sankirtana Movement must be pushed on without any reference to archeological evidence or any such scientific advancement of knowledge. Besides that, the argument that archeological evidence will lead many people to accept the philosophy of Lord Caitanya has no evidence. For example, the Christian religion principle is now established in archeological evidence, but still it is not that the whole people of the world are attracted by Christian religion. Even a great scientist, Professor Albert Einstein, was Jewish by religion, but because the Christian religion gives evidential proof of archeological discovery, still he did not become a Christian. No religion or no principle is accepted by the whole world; that is a fact. I can give you a statement of Albert Einstein in which he says “The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is in the sensation of the mystical. It is a shower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, he who can no longer stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power which is revealed in the comprehensible universe forms my idea of God.”

    I think that our Hare Krishna Movement is just following the same concept of God by awakening the dormant transcendental emotion of the human being without any consideration of religious faith. In our camp all of my disciples are coming from different faiths, mostly Christians or Jews, and why are they accepting this Sankirtana Movement, unless there is the awakening of mystical emotion described by a great scientist like Albert Einstein.

    If somebody does not accept Caitanya Mahaprabhu for want of archeological evidence, it will not hamper our movement. There is sufficient archeological evidence in this connection, and it can be supplied from various sources which are in India. There is even archeological evidence of Vyasadeva which was recently propounded by one Dr. Cakravarti. I personally saw this in a monthly magazine of Calcutta of the name Mother in which I was giving my articles. If you like, you can inquire from them or such institutes as Caitanya Research Institute, started by my godbrother, Tirtha Maharaja. That is not a very difficult task.

    — Letter to: Janardana — Los Angeles 2 March, 1969

    Tad viddhi pranipatena pariprashnena sevaya
    Upadekshaynti tad jnanam jnaninas tattva darsinah.

    I’m sure you know the meaning of this verse and from what i could see in your post, you are definitely deviating from this very critical point to advance or remain in spiritual consciousness. So, i am not saying that you are a demon, because each one of us has the freewill to think and do whatever we want. But, it just pains me, when i see too many examples of people trying to kill Guru and become Guru. Please do not do that for your sake and the sake of Vaishnava community. We cannot repay Srila Prabhupada in millions of lifetimes and destiny is not in our control. So, let’s be very careful about what we even think, let alone write about our Spiritual master in this way.

    Haribol,
    In the service of Srila Prabhupada.

    Arun Ramakrishnan.
    (An aspiring devotee)

    • Dear Arun Prabhu,

      Thank you for taking the time to write this thoughtful reply.

      Perhaps I was not at all trying to “correct” my spiritual master A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in a detrimental manner. I believe that I am trying to understand my spiritual master.

      In the particular purport under discussion, it is a question of logic, not of empirical science. Srila Prabhupada says that there are many solar systems. Then he says that there is only one Sun in the universe. A solar system is a group of objects centered on a single star, a Sun. So if there are many solar systems there must be more than one Sun. It is a flaw in the wording of the logic of how he presented the idea. The clarification in this case that to clear up exactly how the word “universe” is defined. The logic of Srila Prabhupada’s statement is resolved when we equate a universe with a solar system. Then his statements become logically sound. In other words, then we can clearly understand the essential merit in what he is saying.

      In my heart this is not an offensive correction, but a clarification. In my heart I feel that it is in fact my service as a disciple to clarify what Srila Prabhupada has taught. Please consider what Srila Prabhupada’s own param gurudeva, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur expressed in an English lecture he delivered in 1869.

      “The student is to read the facts with a view to create, and not with the object of fruitless retention. Sudents, like satellites, should reflect whatever light they receive from authors, and not imprison the facts and thoughts just as the magistrates imprison the convicts in the jail! Thought is progressive. the author’s thought must have progress in the reader in the shape of correction or development.

      Here is the full lecture – http://nyckelord.blogspot.com/2005/09/bhaktivinoda-thakura.html

  10. I have a Kindle, and some devotees make Prabhupada’s books available in Kindle format in their original editions, before any revisions were made. I have these editions on my Kindle.

    The recent discussion of the Suns/ Universes and Prabhupada’s authority on practical details related to modern science came about due to a sentence in the CURRENT version of his purport to Gita 15.12. Today I looked on my Kindle at the way the purport was written in the original Gita As It Is 15.12. There is a VERY VERY INTERESTING difference!

    The current edition says, “From this verse we can understand that the sun is illuminating the whole solar system. There are different universes and solar systems, and there are different suns, moons and planets also, but in each universe there is only one sun. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (10.21), the moon is one of the stars (nakṣatrāṇām ahaḿ śaśī). Sunlight is due to the spiritual effulgence in the spiritual sky of the Supreme Lord.”

    The original edition says, “From this verse we can understand that the sun is illuminating the whole solar system. There are different universes and solar systems, and there are different suns, moons and planets also. Sunlight is due to the spiritual effulgence in the spiritual sky of the Supreme Lord.”

    The difference is that the original does not contain the sentence – “but in each universe there is only one sun. Bhagavad-gītā (10.21), the moon is one of the stars (nakṣatrāṇām ahaḿ śaśī).”!!!

    This is extremely important because it is THAT sentence which creates the logical flaw in the purport.

    To summarize: The logical flow of the current edition –

    a) The sun is the only source of illumination in the solar system
    b) There are many suns, moons and planets – because there are many solar systems, there are even many universes.
    c) But in each universe there is only one sun.

    So the introduction of point C makes a logical flaw. If B is true C cannot also be true. If C is true B cannot also be true. So all three, A, B, and C cannot be true at once.

    The reconciliation I suggested was to define “universe” as a solar system. This is a bit of a “patch” because it creates a flaw in point B – the flaw is redundancy (solar systems and universes mentioned separately though they are defined identically). But the flaw of redundancy is less serious than a flaw of contradiction, therefore it is a more desirable interpretation.

    Additionally, the idea that the solar system is actually the “universe” appeals to me for other reasons, but that is not the main point.

    The flow of logic in the original version of Prabhupada’s purport, however, completely fixes this whole issue, because it leaves Point C out entirely! The flow in the original is:

    a) The sun is the only source of illumination in the solar system
    b) There are many suns, moons and planets – because there are many solar systems, there are even many universes.

    This is perfectly sound logic with no flaws.

    I wonder where these additional two sentences (bringing in point C) came from? I will try to inquire from HH Jayadwaita Maharaja and will report back.

    Your servant,
    Vraja Kishor das

  11. Atmanivedana das on said:

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    Hare Krishna. My comment is on the following statement you made in your original post: “Personally I don’t mind if Prabhupada makes some syntax errors while programming a web-database interface in php and mysql. It doesn’t detract from his glory as Jagad Guru. Neither does him being wrong about something like a moon landing or how many stars are in a universe really bother me. At all.

    I must agree with you in as much as your statements are based on the fact that our ISKCON Founder Acarya Srila Prabhupada is only omniscient as much as Krsna wants him to be. Of course, Srila Prabhupada is not God, but an individual soul, albeit a perfect one.

    Now Srila Prabhupada acknowledged that he made errors in his grammar and spelling, etc., and asked for his work to be edited. See S.B. 1.5.11 (“Verses describing the name, form and qualities of Anantadeva, the unlimited Supreme Lord, are able to vanquish all the sinful reactions of the entire world. Therefore even if such verses are improperly composed, devotees hear them, describe them and accept them as bona fide and authorized.”) Thus, the *form* in which a pure devotee makes a substantive statement may be imperfect, but the *substance* of the statement is pure knowledge descending from goloka. “Golokera prema dhana harinama sankirtana…”

    Acknowledging that a composition of Srila Prabhupada may be flawed in its form is completely different from claiming that there may be flaws in the subject matter of Srila Prabhupada’s statements about the constitutional nature of things and living entities in this and other worlds. When Srila Prabhupada makes such statements, we should understand that they must be 100% in line with Krsna’s teachings. Generally such affirmative statements by Srila Prabhupada are confirmed by sastra. Where on occasion Srila Prabhupada says something that is not discussed directly in sastra such as the fallacy of the claim that we visited the moon, then we must accept that Prabhupada knows what he is saying because he understands the implications of sastra and/or that Krsna conveyed such knowledge to him personally. Consider, for example, the famous story in which Srila Prabhupada corrected his disciple and said that he is literally seeing Krsna personally at all times.

    I brought up Srila Prabhupada’s statement regarding our not having visited the moon as an example to shed light on the difference between finding fault in the form of statements made by the completely pure devotee and finding fault in the substance of his statements. I also chose that example because your original post also alluded that you think that a devotee whose intelligence is functioning properly based on knowledge available via science today would consider Srila Prabhupada’s claim that we did not go to the moon to be wrong and due to conditioned understanding. That would indicate that you do not merely think Srila Prabhupada can only make trivial mistakes in form, such as in spelling, but that you think that substantive points that Srila Prabhupada has made in his analysis of how we as human beings are affected by the modes of nature are also sometimes wrong and due to a conditioned vision.

    As soon as one questions the supremacy of the substance of the words of the Founder Acarya of ISKCON even a little bit, one can slide down a slippery slope. I.e., if some things that Srila Prabhupada says are due to a conditioned nature, then why should we have to accept anything he says except that which merely repeats the philosophy of Bhagavatam? As soon Srila Prabhupada applies Bhagavatam philosophy to this world and to our lives, we can mistakenly object that his material conditioning may be the source of such analysis. Such a slippery slope can lead one downhill very, very fast.

    In fact, the reason we need to accept Srila Prabhupada as guru is because he knows how to apply Bhagavatam to our lives. If we don’t want to accept our guru’s analysis of real-life situations, then we need only stick with the book Bhagavatam and cast off the person-Bhagavata. That seems to be where your apparent logic leads, my friend and Prabhu. Yet, that is not what Krsna teaches. Krsna teaches that we must accept guru. B.G. 4.34. Therefore, for someone who accepts Krsna’s teachings, your premise — that Srila Prabhupada makes statements that in some cases are substantively false — must be wrong.

    Your servant,
    Atmanivedana das

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    • Dear Atmanivedana Prabhu,

      Thank you for your well written reply. Please accept my humble obeisances.

      I do not think that whether or not a rocket ship went to the moon or how many stars are in the universe is a matter of significant substance to how Srila Prabhupada operates in my life as a Guru teaching me to love the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore if Srila Prabhupada says we didn’t land on the Moon or if he says we did land on the Moon or if he says we landed somewhere else – it doesn’t matter much to me. It is tangental to his role in my life.

      The issue with the current purport is not up for discussion, frankly. It is logically self defeating.

      Prabhupada’s purport says –

      A) There is one sun per solar-system
      B) There are many solar-systems
      C) There is only one Sun.

      It is not a question of trusting a telescope, having faith in intelligence, or whatever… it is purely a question of absolute logic. If A and B are true, C cannot be true. If C is true A and B cannot be true.

      In my original post I offer a resolution to this logical flaw – which is to understand that Prabhupada is teaching us that a “universe” is equivalent to a solar system. This canges the structure of logic so that it still has a flaw (redundancy) but is freed from the much more serious flaw of self-contradication.

      Furthermore I have found that point C in this logical flow is ABSENT from the “original” version of this purport, which completely removes all logical problems from the purport. I am currently trying to get the help of HH Jayadvaita Swami to dig more deeply into where the flawed sentence came from and why it is in one version of Bhagavad Gita As It Is and not the other.

      Your Servant,
      Vraja Kishor das

      • Atmanivedana as on said:

        Hari bol my friend.

        PAMHO AGTSP

        Like I said, my main point about whether you second guess whether Srila Prabhupada is right about the moon landing being a hoax is not merely about how the truth of that statement affects your life or not, but that by second guessing the acarya whose words we are mandated to accept absolutely on any point tends to lead us to second guess whenever we *think* appropriate. The problem with that slippery slope is that the reason we need guru in the first place is that our conditioned nature, replete with imperfect senses, can cause us to be wrong when we *think* we are right about something–thus preventing us from getting the help we need to stop trusting our conditioned nature and instead to accept knowledge coming from above.

        Although this is not directly on my point, I would like to reply to your point about the apparently flawed syllogism you refer to with A, B, and C. Yes, it would be good to hear from Jayadvaita Maharaja. Even if Maharaja reveals that SP’s actual words contain what appears to be flaws, there may be another explanation–and that is up for discussion! For example, as I think you alluded to elsewhere, SP may be using a word/phrase (solar system) with a different definition from that which is common in English language. A similar example pertains to the book called Dialectical Spiritualism. I think that some devotees misrepresented certain philosophers in the dialogues between them and Srila Prabhupada that are contained in that book. SP correctly responded to the devotees’ versions of the philosophies of those philosophers although those philosophies were not in all cases the same as the philosophies of those philosophers. … So my point is we should always assume that Srila Prabhupada is correct about the substance of his point–and if the form of the expression is flawed or if the wrong word is used, that actually has nothing to do with the substance.

        YS,
        Atmanivedana das

        • Prabhuji,

          I do not require Prabhupada to be an omniscient being. All I require is his mercy. In the course of trying to understand his teachings to the best of my ability I have engaged my critical intelligence. When I discover a flaw, I must explore it. We certainly have imperfect senses, but we must apply simple rules of logic to be able to use intelligence, and without using intelligence, what is the point in sitting in a class or reading a book – merely to clock in and clock out? If the logic is –

          A) There is one sun in every solar system
          B) There are many solar systems
          C) There is only one sun

          That is simply wrong. It is not about having imperfect sentences or not, and it is not about knowing more than the Guru or not. It is simply about undeniable logic. If Prabhupada is correct about everything then he must be correct about A, B, and C. If here is correct about A, then there is one sun in each solar system. If he is correct about B there there are many solar systems – which MEANS that there are many Suns, if A is still correct. Now if there are many suns that means he cannot be correct about C. It’s not even up for debate.

          I have reconciled it. This is my position as a disciple. You are suggesting that it is wrong to even notice the flaw. I do not agree. One cannot apply the intellect to Krsna’s service without notice the flaw. Therefore to reconcile the flaw is the proper activity to engage in the service of Sri Guru. This is what I did in my original post – I reconciled the flaw so that I could learn the truth that Prabhupada was expressing.

          The funniest part is that the number of suns in the “universe” has nothing to do with the real message Prabhupada wants to teach us – which is that the material world is an upside down reflection of the spiritual world, and that we can become more aware of the spiritual origin of this reflected world if we see things like the sun in terms of how they are related to Krsna. What is funny is that obsession with making Prabhupada always literally right to the T with no admittance of any flaw actually seems to distract one from Prabhupada’s message.

          Your servant,
          Vraja Kishor das

          • You have stated, “The funniest part is that the number of suns in the “universe” has nothing to do with the real message Prabhupada wants to teach us ”

            and what causes one to become distracted from Prabhupada message is those who have” obsession with making Prabhupada always literally right to the T with no admittance of any flaw” (Perhaps that is Atmanivedana, myself and others)

            However your post has nothing to do with what “Prabhupada wants to teach us which is that the material world is an upside down reflection of the spiritual world, and that we can become more aware of the spiritual origin of this reflected world if we see things like the sun in terms of how they are related to Krsna. ”

            Your post is about “number of suns in the “universe””

            Nobody here said that Srila Prabhupada is an “Prabhupada to be an omniscient being”
            but the real question is does Srila Prabhupada write and publish content in his books that he knows nothing about? Are these his opinions, or is Srila Prabhupada simply presenting us the information that is present in sastra?

    • Hare Krishna Prabhu thank you for this wonderful reply. I don’t think the PhP is good example as Srila Prabhupada did not write about PhP in his books.

      Not knowing X is one thing
      And preaching about and publishing literature about subject X is a different thing.

      By Srila Prabhupada’s standard such a teacher would be a cheater. Srila Prabhupada has stated that if someone teaches something that the do not know about they are then a cheater. Or at least they can be considered a fool.

      To proclaim that Srila Prabhupada writes in his books topics that he does not know about paints him to be a fool.

      It is wonderful that you have contacted Jayadvaita Swami please keep us updated.

      Lastly I would appreciate the term Srila Prabhuapda rather than just Prabhupada.
      Vraja Kisor Prabhu, I enjoy many of your articles especially the Bhagavad Gita studies but this one does not leave a nice taste.

      • You have brought an interesting argument:

        “Srila Prabhupada says, ‘one who teaches what one does not know is a fool.’ If you say that he writes in his books about topics that he does not know about, are you not than calling him a fool.”

        My reply is:

        Srila Prabhupada never wrote any books about astronomy. Srila Prabhupada is not trying to teach astronomy. Srila Prabhupada’s books are about Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In so far as Godhead includes the universe, Srila Prabhupada discusses the universe sometimes in the course of teaching about Sri Krsna. In so far as discussion of the universe sometimes must intersect with words and concepts that are also discussed by empirical science, Srila Prabhupada sometimes must use the terminology and concepts of such science, and must also comment upon their meanings.

        Thus although Srila Prabhupada sometimes writes about modern science and astronomy in his books about Sri Krsna, he is not teaching us astronomy.

    • Here in **** there is a former devotee who in the past year renounced Krishna consciousness and also abandoned his wife and kids in ***** for fling here. Point is he writes that he could not accept Srila Prabhupada’s literal understanding of the Vedic literature.

      ideas such as

      “Evil influences exerted by solar and lunar eclipses that occur when the Sun and Moon are swallowed by the disembodied head of a demon (sometimes representing an invisible planet), requiring people to either stay home or bathe in a sacred river.

      Ancient battles in which tens of millions of soldiers are slaughtered in a matter of hours, with individual generals killing tens of thousands singlehandedly in mere minutes using mantra-infused arrows.

      Virginal birth, birth from clay pots, and other incredulous types of birth.

      The existence of pious higher beings named suras, in charge of the cosmic administration, and their less fortunate half-siblings the asuras, whose quarrels and lives affect the entire universe.”

      This is the reason he states that he has left ISKCON, Krishna Conscious (and also his family behind)

      He follows this by citing what he considers to Srila Prabhupada’s mistakes.

  12. I have not read all the comments but regarding this topic, His Grace Drutakarma prabhu explains as there are many battleships in a fleet. All of similar structure but there is only one captain’s ship. That is his understanding of the Vedic take on the Sun.

  13. Nityananda Chandra Das on said:

    As per http://vedabase.net/bs/5/52/en the Sun is the king of all the planets

    I’ll find you that lecture of Drutakarma, quite clear.

    • please do read the comments as well.

      I don’t see the relevance of BS 5.52. It’s commentary states that the Sun is the source of all heat in the world. The question remaining is how to define “world”.

  14. lets return to Prabhupada’s exact words…

    “From this verse we can understand that the sun is illuminating the whole solar system. There are different universes and solar systems, and there are different suns, moons and planets also, but in each universe there is only one sun.”

    Now lets mark their logical key points…

    “From this verse we can understand that (A) the sun is illuminating the whole solar system. (B) There are different universes and solar systems, and there are different suns, moons and planets also, (C) but in each universe there is only one sun.”

    Now lets summarize the meaning of each point…

    A – In a solar system there is one Sun, which illuminates everything

    B -( i) There are many solar systems. (ii) there are many universes. Therefore (iii) there are manu different suns, etc.

    C – There is one sun per universe.

    Now to clarify…

    A: 1 solar-system = 1 sun
    C: 1 universe = 1 sun

    Therefore there MUST be only one solar-system per universe.

    B: There are many solar systems

    Therefore there cannot be more than one solar system in a universe, because each solar system = 1 sun. And each universe = 1 sun.

    Therefore one “universe” must consist of one “solar system.”

    The common definition of the universe does not conform to this. The common definition of universe is the sum total of all space, including all galaxies, stars, and solar systems. If we accept the common definition of universe, the logic in Prabhupada’s purport is self-falsifying. Therefore I suggest to adopt this alternate understanding of the word “universe” which is that a “universe” consists of a single solar system.

    It’s a little bit annoying, I must admit, that so few people realize that this is what I did in the original post, and go on to comment that this is what I should do – when it is what I have already done. However I have to live with the fact that i intentionally made my original post emotional, and therefore invited people not to think clearly about what I was writing.

    Next we have some statements in lectures where Prabhupada is recorded saying that each star is not a solar system unto itself.

    “But if you take it for granted that each star is a universe — no. That, according to Vedic literature, that is not accepted.”

    >>> Ref. VedaBase => Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.10-11 — Montreal, July 14, 1968

    What can I say here except I don’t agree. Of course everyone will tend to jump all over this again and get emotional. So let me clarify – I can agree that on some level of subjective perception of the universe there are perhaps no other solar systems in this universe. But I cannot agree that on THIS level of subjective perception that I am endowed with – namely my own eyes and the eyes of my fellow human beings – this is simply not true. We can look and see that there are planets orbiting other stars.

    Pratyaksha- direct empiric observation is not the highest pramana (epistemology), but it is ONE of them

  15. Parijat Mathur on said:

    Each Brahmanda(interpreted as Universe in English) contains many Tara’s(Stars) upto Dhruva Tara(non-moving/slowly moving/axis star) around which it is wrapped, in which there is only one Surya(Sun).

    Surya is a luminary Graha central to our Saura mandal (Solar system) around which it is wrapped. Except at the time of pralaya, where 7/12 Aditya’s(appeared at adikala i.e. the earliest appearing one) appear in the Saura mandal.

    Dhruva lies at tail of Shishumara chakra said to be seat of Narayana.

    Each Brahmanda contains 14 lokas, Dhruva, nine Graha’s(not planets) including Surya, Upagraha’s(those wrapped round a Graha ie Satellites), Nakshatra’s(Star groups), Ketu’s(Dhoomketu’s = dusty Ketu’s + colored Ketu’s i.e. Comets), Tara’s(Stars), Akashganga’s (Galaxies), Ulka’s(Asteroids)

    Surya is considered a Graha though actually he is a Tara & likewise Chandra is considered a Graha though he is actually a Upagraha.

    All such entities constitute Jyotischa-chakra, they all affect events upto Svargaloka.

    Surya does not light up the lokas beyond Svargaloka.

    I do not possess BPHS/other works on Jyotish to comment on meaning of Tara(or even Graha, Surya, …). From a layperson’s viewpoint Tara means what is referred to as Star in English. However Tara is also the name for Brihaspati’s wife(& Chandra’s consort) & is also a Goddess in Shakta shastra.

    To expound on the meaning of words such as Tara, Graha, Surya, Nakshatra … requires knowledge of abstract root words(how/when/for/by whom alphabets a,b,c, … were conceived & their individual significations). This calls for a grammarian Guru.

  16. Parijat Mathur on said:

    ”It’s commentary states that the Sun is the source of all heat in the world. The question remaining is how to define “world”.”

    The World refers to the 3 lokas- {Bhu, Bhuvar, Svarga} lighted up by Surya. This is Jagat/Trailokya referred to as World in English.

  17. Parijat Mathur on said:

    @fuc kwit

    ”your mental speculation will send you to hell along with all the other ego-tripping pseudo-intellectuals who make a show of their nescience…”

    FYI, in this age(kaliyuga), mental paapa karma is excused, it does not count as long as it is confined to the mental realm.

    @Arun

    ”We are all too small and our intelligence is very tiny and we should not for a moment doubt our spiritual master, just because there is some scientific evidence contrary to the teaching of Srila Prabhupada.”

    On an average, human intelligence may be tiny, but those blessed with Sarasvati yoga(dhi shakti) & the like should be able to decode the meaning of the shastras.

  18. Hare Krsna,

    here’re a few hopefully elucidating remarks:

    – If you search for “only one sun” in Vedabase, it gives 16 hits. So Srila Prabhupada was definitely stressing this point and it’s not a mistake.

    – This is the original transcript (OT) combined with comments by BBT devotees from COM conference called TQ some years ago:

    15.12,p.: There are different universes and solar systems, and there are different suns, moons and planets also, but in each universe there is only one sun. [TQ: OT: “From this verse we can understand that the sun is illuminating the whole universe. There are different universes and different suns, moons also, but in each and particular [sic] universe there is one sun, that is clear here.” I wonder where the solar systems and planets are coming from. They don’t make things clearer. What does it mean that there are different planets? Everyone knows that. I suppose Srila Prabhupada meant to say that in other universes there are also a sun and a moon. Planets are all over the place already within this one universe; therefore to say that there are different planets does not fit into this logic. (Dravida das): What does the OT have for jagat in the wbw? Usually “universe” elsewhere. In any case, this looks like Hayagriva getting cold feet again about the Vedic cosmography. “From this verse we can understand that the sun is illuminating the whole universe. There are different universes and different suns and moons, but from this verse it is clear that in each universe there is only one sun.” An interesting sidelight is that “solar system” appears twice in the edited first canto, but not at all in the Delhi version, or anywhere in the pre-1965 writings, for that matter. We should check OT at the other places the phrase appears in edited books and see if Prabhupada actually said “universe.” Sometimes “solar system” may be necessary, of course. (Govinda Madhava das): In the wbw of the OT it says: jagat-the whole world (same as in the book).] As stated in Bhagavad-g…t€ (10.21), the moon is one of the stars (nakatr€Š€m ahaˆ ŹaŹ…). Sunlight is due to the spiritual effulgence in the spiritual sky of the Supreme Lord. [TQ: Shouldn't it say: "Sunlight is due to the spiritual effulgence of the Supreme Lord in the spiritual sky."? (Dravida das): yes] With the rise of the sun, the activities [OT: the beginning of the activity] of human beings are set up.

    The BBT process looked like this: Srila Prabhupada/tape > OT > editor > printed book

    In this passage the editor, Hayagriva P., added “solar systems” and “planets” and subtracted “only one sun”. That’s definitely something an editor can’t do. JAS largely restored the subtracted text but kept “solar systems” there for some reason.

    Btw, Dialectical Spiritualism was also largely done by Hayagriva P. and finished by someone else, possibly Satsvarupa M. BBT won’t print it due to those misinterpretations.

    – Puranic scheme of the universe has only one sun. “Different suns, moons” can only mean in “different universes”, as per OT.

    – Other star systems and galaxies aren’t from other universes, they’re still within this one. This is clear from the description of layers, one of which is a complete darkness, the realm of Mayadevi, as per Arjuna’s (SB 10.89) or Gopa Kumara’s (BBh 2) travels thru them.

    • This IS a very useful comment, thank you.

      So the original transcription says: “From this verse we can understand that the sun is illuminating the whole universe. There are different universes and different suns, moons also, but in each and particular [sic] universe there is one sun, that is clear here.”

      Again this makes the logic flawless. The original editor, Hayagriva, put a monkey wrench in the logic! The logic is now:

      a) There is one sun in the whole universe
      b) there are many universes, so there are many different suns and moons

      “c” in this case is just reiterating “a” – There is one sun in each universe.

      I need to study the puranic cosmology now in more depth, with an eye to understand how observation intersects that cosmology.

  19. Dear Vaishnavas,

    I’ve gotten some very interesting information as a result of the quest I was sent on due to reading the purport of Gita 15.12 on last week. I’ll recap to clarify and then fill you in on the conclusions of my search.

    FIRST –

    I noticed that the purport contained a logical fault. (It is not a question of accepting empirical science over shabda brahman – it is a question of pure logic.) In the purport in our edition of 15.12 Prabhupada seems to present this logic –

    From this verse we can understand that the sun is illuminating the whole solar system. There are different universes and solar systems, and there are different suns, moons and planets also, but in each universe there is only one sun.

    a) There is only one sun in the whole “solar-system.”
    b) There are many universes/ solar-systems, so there are many suns
    c) Each universe has one sun.

    The flaw appears due to the word “solar-system.” A solar system is a group of planets around a sun. There are many solar systems in a galaxy and many galaxies in a universe. Therefore, by pure logic, there cannot be only one sun in a universe with many solar systems, and in point b Prabhupada seems to acknowledge that there are many solar systems.

    NEXT –

    I discovered that the first printed edition of Bhagavad Gita As It Is was very different. In it, the purport to 15.12 read,

    From this verse we can understand that the sun is illuminating the whole solar system. There are different universes and solar systems, and there are different suns, moons and planets also.

    This presented a whole different logic – which was not flawed, but also did not bear the conclusion that there is only one sun in a universe.

    FINALLY –

    I learned that the editing process of Srila Prabhupada’s books went like this.

    1) Prabhupada dictated into a tape.
    2) Someone made a transcript to paper (called the “original transcript”)
    3) An editor went through the transcript to produce a manuscript
    4) The manuscript was published.

    Then, later, HH Jayadvaita Swami reviewed the entire process, re-editing, and therefore re-doing step 3, and new editions were published. The first editor of Bhagavad Gita As It Is was Sriman Hayagriva. The second was Sripad Jayadvaita Swami.

    I learned about the editing of this particular purport. Here is the original transcript of the purport:

    From this verse we can understand that the sun is illuminating the whole universe. There are different universes and different suns, moons also, but in each and particular [sic] universe there is one sun, that is clear here.

    In step three, Hayagriva changed the following words

    From this verse we can understand that the sun is illuminating the whole universe solar system. There are different universes and solar systems, and different suns, moons and planets also, but in each and particular [sic] universe there is one sun, that is clear here.

    Obviously Hayagriva was not comfortable with the “one-sun” puranic cosmology and edited it out of the manuscript entirely. His edit causes the purport to exactly conform with modern scientific observation.

    Later, HH Jayadvaita Swami went back over the process and discovered this discrepancy. But for some reason did not entirely fix it. I am waiting to hear back from him, perhaps he will say something about why. Maharaja’s fix for this edit was to reinstant the final part of the sentence, of course in an edited form, “but in each and particular universe there is one sun.” However he left in Hayagriva’s insertions of “solar systems” and “planets” and particularly it is the “solar system” reference that botches up the logic – at least in my opinion.

    CONCLUSION

    The conclusion is that Srila Prabhupada was clearly presenting the standard puranic cosmology of one sun per universe, without any logical flaws in his presentation.

    At some point in the future I would consider myself lucky to study the cosmology in full detail, with an eye particularly to address or reconcile it towards modern observation.

    Thank you.

    Your servant,
    Vraja Kishor das

  20. Dear Vaishnavas,

    Now it is time to say something about the ancillary point I made in reference to the 15.12 purport. The point I made is that the Guru is not “perfect” in an external, superficial sense of the word. The Guru can make mistakes here and there, but what is important is that the Guru teaches the disciple the subject in which he or she is “guru.” In this case the important part is that Srila Prabhupada teaches us how to cease trying to enjoy the objects of this world, and instead realize that our enjoyment occurs automatically when we submit ourselves as objects to be enjoyed by the supreme enjoyer.

    I stand by that opinion, but I feel now that bringing this opinion up in relation to the current purport is unnecessary. It originally appeared that the purport had a flaw in the presentation of logic, which seemed centered around the way a modern scientific term (“solar system”) was used by Prabhupada. However, having reviewed the purport thoroughly through its original transcript and two major edits I now understand that the logical flaw was introduced as a combination of the two edits, not by the original author, Srila Prabhupada.

    All Vaishnavas are my guru, so in a sense this is still a case of guru making mistakes – as the Vaishnava editors made mistakes in the course of their editing. Again, I feel that it is fine for Guru to make mistakes, so long as the guru never makes the mistake of doing the opposite of what he or she is teaching – i.e. enjoying sense gratification rather than giving everything to the gratification of Krsna’s senses.

    My sincere thanks to those who participated instrumentally in this research.

    Your servant,
    Vraja Kishor das

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