Bhagavata cosmology consolidates and summarizes the descriptions of universal geography presentedin srimad bhagavatam, Bhugola varnanam Surya-siddhanta, Ramayana, Mahabharata, visnu Purana, Vayu Purana and other books. This book reconciles this scriptural understanding and the modern understanding by drawing parallels between them.
This book systematically presents the process and purpose of the creation of universe and the variety of living entities pupolating it. It briefly outlines the structure of the universe, with its horizontal and vertical divisions, as presented in the bhagavata Purana. The 2D and 3D pictorial representations, flow charts and summary tables in this book reveal the working of the universe by explaining the passing of day and night, the phases of the moon, the passing of seasons and the eclipses and many more.
Srila Sukadeva Gosvami says that the expansion of the Supreme Lord's material creation is unlimited. It is not possible even for a person with the lifespan of a devata to understand it by words or mind. But in order to answer the querry of King Pariksit that he wants to know the details of the structure of the universe, Sukadeva Gosvami presents a general description of the principal regions, such as Bhu-goloka (Bhuloka), with their names, forms, measurements and various symptoms (SB 5.16.4). Srila Sukadeva Gosvami himself admits that to give full details of this material universe would be impossible, and then what to speak of us with our insignificant limited understanding. Nevertheless, this is an attempt by a team of students at Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha, Govardhan Ecovillage, to understand and describe the structure of the universe, or brahmdnda, as described in the fifth canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha is a two-year, full time study course at Goverdhan Ecovillage. It covers the systematic study of Srimad- Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya Caritamrta translated and commented by Srila Prabhupada.
As part of the two-year curriculum of this Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha course, we have undertaken this project to understand and present the Structure of the Universe, as described in the Vedic texts, in a pictorial way. This has started with an intention to come up with a 3-D working model, which presents the Structure of the Universe and the movement of various planets, such as the sun and the moon, in an understandable and simple way. We have tried to draw a parallel between the Vedic understanding of the Universe and the Modern understanding of the Universe. The commonalities and differences of the above two descriptions are presented for the consideration of the reader.
In doing this, we have drawn information from the following sources: (1) The commentaries of various Acaryas on various Puranas, specifically the Srimad- Bhdgauatam (2) The commentary of Srila Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura on the Srimad-Bhdgavatam (3) Other writings in the Vedic tradition, including the Surya-siddhdnta and Bhugola varnanam of Srila Vadiraja Tirta Svami, and (4) Modern Western science about the description of the Solar System.
Our aim is to share an easy-to-understand presentation that will harmonize the descriptions of the Vedic texts and the descriptions of modern science related to the descriptions of the universe. This will help the reader to appreciate that the descriptions given in the scriptures are not mythical but factual.
This book primarily constitutes a preliminary study of the Vedic Cosmology as described in the Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhdgavatam, supported by the descriptions given in Srila Vadiraja Tirtha swami's "Bhugola varnanam", The later part reconciles both the Vedic and Modern approaches in describing the Structure of the Universe.
The book includes the study of-
(1) The Structure of Bhu-mandala as presented in Srimad-Bhdgavatam.
(2) The Structure of Fourteen-planetary System.
(3) The movements of sun, moon and other planets (primarily the nava-grahas).
(4) The calculations of the Vedic Calendar (Traditional Indian Calendar).
(5) The Science behind the Eclipses and the change in the Seasons.
According to acaryas we should accept the cosmological statements in the Srimad-Bhagavatam as authoritative and simply try to appreciate them. We will therefore adopt the working assumption that even though these statements may seem very hard to comprehend, they nonetheless do present an understandable and realistic description of the universe. To simplify these descriptions of the Srimad-Bhagavatarn, we have reffered to various acaryas commentaries and quoted them all through the book, specifically Srila Vadiraja Tirta Svami's "Bhugola varnanam", This will help the reader to appreciate the descriptions of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
It is my earnest desire, that this book can enable the reader to effectively appreciate the "Mystery behind the working of the Universe." It is also our hope that thise book along with the tiny 3-D Model of the Universe (Vedic Planetarium), can practically demonstrate the Working of the Universe. Thus, we can effectively present Krsna Consciousness in the context of Vedic Cosmology. This, of course, was the plan of Srila Prabhupada for the Temple of Vedic Planetarium (TOVP) in Sridhama Mayapura.
Modern Western science is based on the idea that nature can be fully described by a single, rational world-model. However, the Srimad-Bhagavatam points out that no person of this world is capable of fully describing the material universe "even in a lifetime as long as that of Brahma" (SB 5.16.4). Thus the Vedic approach to the description of nature is based on the strategy of presenting many mutually compatible aspects of one humanly indescribable complete whole. This is the approach used in Srimad-Bhagavatam while explaining the details of cosmology. The Universe described in the Vedic literature is higher-dimensional and beyond the range of our sense perception, thus it cannot be fully represented within three-dimensional space or within sense perceivable pictorial description. This requires the understanding of higher dimensional representation.
It was Srila Prabhupada's earnest desire to explain the complex descriptions of the Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam through the construction of a very large "Vedic Planetarium", a working 3-D Model. Srila Prabhupada also desired that detaile information shall be presented on open verandas at different levels by means of dioramas, charts and films, etc. This is evident from Srila Prabhupada's letter given below.
"Now our Ph.D.'s must collaborate and study the Fifth Canto to make a model for building the Vedic Planetarium. My final decision is that the universe is just like a tree, with root upwards. Just as a tree has branches and leaves, so the universe is also composed of planets which are fixed up in the tree like the leaves, flowers, fruits, etc .... So now all you Ph.D.’s must carefully study the details of the Fifth Canto and make a working model of the universe. If we can explain the passing seasons, eclipses, phases of the moon, passing of day and night, etc., then it will be very powerful propaganda" (letter from Srila Prabhupada to Suarupa Damodara ddsa, April 27, 1976).
Keeping all these viewpoints in mind and to fulfill the desire of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, many of his followers did lot of research to understand and explain the cosmology presented in the Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam in scientific way. In the initial days, His Grace Sadaputa Prabhu (Richard L. Thompson) presented his explanations in his book "Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy" and attempted to bridge the gap between the western and the Vedic science I astronomy. In the introduction of that book, he says "In this book we will discuss the cosmology presented in the Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and try to clarify its relationship with other prominent systems of cosmology" both ancient and modern." Later on His Holiness Danavir Goswami (Dr. Dane Holtzman) also did lot of research on the cosmology presented in Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Puranic literatures. He presented the traditional Vedic astronomy through his various books such as " Vedic Cosmology, Puranic Cosmology and Bhugola Tattva, Acaryas Commentaries on Fifth Canto, etc ... " Taking inspiration from the works of these great scholars and taking references from their books, we have tried to describe the structure of the Universe as it is presented in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Puranas.
His Grace Drutakarrna Prabhu (Michael A. Cremo) is a research associate of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, specialized in history and philosophy of science. He authored 'Human Devolution' and co-authored 'Forbidden Archaeology - The Hidden History of the Human Race'. He lectures to academic and popular scientific audiences around the world in a continuing challenge to Darwinian evolution. He says that, "Most of the scientists and academics, though supporting the theory of evolution, are more open-minded and willing to consider alternatives. I see a new consciousness emerging that integrates science and religion into a cohesive paradigm of reality." When he was asked about his perspective on 'the change in the popular subjects such as human origins being taught in school textbooks', he responded saying that, there should be some diversity of ideas in the science curriculum and the views of the supporters of the alternatives should also be presented neutrally in a small minority of textbook pages and classroom time. This would reflect the actual realities in the world of science today and it would also respect the value of intellectual freedom. He further says "I find the university students very receptive to the idea that alternatives to the theory of evolution should have a place in the science curriculum. These young students will eventually become the new generation of leaders in the world of science and education. I ask them to work for change in the science curriculum."
Taking inspiration from his thoughts we are trying to present a Vedic alternative to the Modern Cosmology, the Bhagavata Cosmology, based on the descriptions given in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vedic literatures. Let the reader carefully study these Vedic descriptions and compare it with the modern understanding of the Cosmology.
People in general see the 'words of the revealed scriptures' through their 'experience in this world'. One of the purposes of presenting this book is to enhance this perspective and develop a more harmonized way of approaching the revealed scriptures, especially when it comes to the complex description about the creation, cosmology and astronomy. Therefore, studying these Vedic descriptions will enable us to 'experience the world' through the 'words of the revealed scriptures'.
Srila Prabhupada would often say that, only when one understands the greatness of the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna properly, then only one can invest ones firm faith in Him. Otherwise one may mistake Lord Krsna to be one of the many demigods, or a commom man like us, or a powerful historical personality, or a myth only. Thus unless one understands Supreme Lord Sri Krsna's greatness properly one cannot appreciate His sweetness of Vrndavana, Otherwise there is a great chance that one will end up considering Lord Krsna's sweet pastimes of Vrndavana to be simply some mundane activities or some fairy tales narrated to entertain the mind. Or one may end up developing the mentality of sahajiyas, who simply try to enter into Krsna-lila artificially without considering one's current conditioning.
Srila Prabhupada always recommended that a sincere reader of Srimad- Bhagavatam must always start reading with the First Canto and then progressively go to the Tenth Canto, instead of directly jumping to Tenth Canto. Because without understanding the position of Lord Krsna, which is systematically described and established in the first nine Cantos of Srimad- Bhagavatam, if one directly enters into Tenth Canto pastimes, he / she is sure enough to be bewildered by seeing Lord Krsna's human like pastimes, which appear to be very ordinary, or one may consider His Super Human feats to be simply an exaggeration. Thus there is a great danger in directly jumping to Tenth Canto simply to relish Vrja-lila without firmly establishing oneself in the siddhanta properly.
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