In Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 15, text 12 Krishna says: yad āditya-gataṁ tejo jagad bhāsayate ’khilam – “The light of the sun illuminates everything.”
In his commentary on this, 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?
Is he Jagad Guru?
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.”