Vedic Cosmography

By Prishni Devi Dasi, Richard L. Thompson Archives - 13.5 2017

Hari Sauri Prabhu Interview Discussing Sadaputa Prabhu and Vedic Cosmography

As one of the founding members of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, Sadaputa dasa left a large collection of historical materials pertaining to the early achievements of the BI during its pioneering unified phase. Part of the mission of the Richard L. Thompson Archives (RLTA) is to make these historical ISKCON materials readily available to the public, and specifically, to devotees interested in this form of outreach. As a side project, we have also conducted a series of oral history interviews with many leading ISKCON devotees involved with the Bhaktivedanta Institute since its inception.

One such devotee is Hari Sauri Prabhu, well known throughout ISKCON for his direct service to Srila Prabhupada, and for his long legacy of prominent service on behalf of our society. He is a founder and co-director of the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre in Kolkata, and member of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium executive committee. Over the many years he has been involved with several Bhaktivedanta Institute themed projects, along with being a personal friend of Sadaputa Prabhu. The following is an excerpt from my interview with Hari Sauri Prabhu, which took place in Mayapura on February 28, 2016.

Prishni: Hari Sauri Prabhu, if you’d be kind enough to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and how you met the devotees

Hari Sauri: I was born in England in1950, emigrated to Australia in 1971, and met the devotees on arrival. Then I joined the Sydney temple in February 1972, got initiated April the 9th, spent 3 years in Oz, and then moved to India, becoming Prabhupada’s personal servant in November 1975. I served as GBC in Australia from April 1977 – 1984, and have written a 5-volume book , A Transcendental Diary: Travels with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada. Currently I’m the co-director and founder of the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre in Calcutta. I’m also an MVT trustee and I’m a member of the executive committee for the development of exhibits for the TOVP.

Prishni: What are your earliest memories of Sadaputa Prabhu?

Hari Sauri: I first met Sadaputa in 1976 when Prabhupada was visiting Washington DC – that was his last American tour – and the members of the newly formed Bhaktivedanta Institute were gathered in Washington for a series of meetings to formulate their preaching strategy. Rupanuga, Madhava, Ravindra Svarupa, Bhakti Svarupa Damodara, and Sadaputa Prabhus were there. Prabhupada called Sadaputa a mahatma because he was using his knowledge of mathematics in Krishna’s service. His brain was working on a totally different level than everyone else’s, and Prabhupada appreciated it.

Prishni:  When did you next encounter him?

Hari Sauri: San Diego in 1990: Sadaputa had just come out with Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy, and had already established his branch of the BI [Bhaktivedanta Institute] there. I was the manager/editor for BTG at that time, and we were getting articles from Sadaputa. Forbidden Archeology was nearing completion and I wanted to see what we could do to help promote his work. Sadaputa was a brilliant author and philosopher and cosmologist, but he wasn’t very good at self-promotion – he left that to others. So in 1991 we started talking with Sadaputa about building a science museum.

Prishni: Had there been any prior work on this idea?

Hari Sauri: The task of making a planetarium in the Mayapur Temple had been given to the BI in 1976 by Prabhupada, but everybody shied away from it. Some BI members had come to the conclusion that it was not possible to show the Fifth Canto in the Mayapur Temple, but Sadaputa had taken Prabhupada’s instruction about the planetarium very seriously, so he refused to give it up. Then when we read Vedic Cosmography, we suddenly realized that the Fifth Canto could actually be decoded and presented in an understandable way, and from that point we were quite optimistic about it.

So Narayana, Advaita Candra, Sadaputa, and I formed a team, and started up a company called the Vedic Cultural Foundation, with the aim building a medium-sized science museum. Narayana Prabhu was funding us. We toured quite a few places in America with Sadaputa and we observed what was being presented in the various sizes of science museums; then we developed a plan for building one of our own. And on our travels, we visited Washington D.C and we saw there’s a lot of land there at Potomac, so in 1991 or 92 we came to Mayapur, made a presentation to the GBC, and they gave approval to build the science museum on the Potomac land. At that point Harikesa Maharaja was one of the officials, perhaps the GBC of Mayapur, and was deeply involved in what might be the 4th or 5th attempt to design the big temple for Mayapur. So Harikesa was involved and he had a new disciple, Pada Sevanam dasa, who was in charge of developing the design for the Mayapur Temple. We introduced him to Sadaputa – he wasn’t aware of the work Sadaputa was doing – and from that meeting Sadaputa was officially added to the TOVP development team. He spent quite a few years working with Harikesa, developing not just the planetarium but about 55 or 56 different science exhibits to illustrate different points from the Bhagavatam which he could then compare to modern scientific understanding of the universe

Prishni: And the Potomac project . . .?

Hari Sauri: Right about this time Narayana’s business went broke and basically that just took the wind out of our sails and we weren’t able to move forward with it. But the concession for us was that Sadaputa then linked up with the Mayapur project through the TOVP development committee. I saw it as Krishna’s arrangement, that he brought Sadaputa back to Mayapur and he became part of the team again. After that I wasn’t involved. So basically, my involvement with Sadaputa directly was about a year and a half.

Prishni: So then how did it go with Sadaputa and the TOVP committee?

Hari Sauri: Well, with Harikesa leaving in 1998, the funding dried up and Sadaputa was cut adrift. It wasn’t really until 2008 that I met with him again. I had been asked the year before to become the coordinator for developing new exhibits in the TOVP, so I organized a meeting with all interested parties in Gainesville, I think in June 2008. Ravindra Svarupa with his secretary Sraddha devi, Sadaputa, Drutakarma, Brahmatirtha, and Jayapataka Maharaja all came. We discussed in general about what kinds of exhibits we wanted, but the one significant thing we had on the list was the creation of the chandelier.

We realized that if we’re going to have this giant chandelier that Prabhupada had described then we would have to build it before we installed the deities. We needed somebody to design the chandelier, so Sadaputa was hired to do that. And so, he did. He came up with a basic design, that might have been August or September 2008. Just a few days before he left his body, he sent out to us his preliminary plans for the chandelier, and that was it – he was gone.

So, that plan was not wholly adopted, but good portions of it are included in the current plan. In 2007, a two page letter written by Prabhupada listing 15 items to be included in this planetary chandelier suddenly pops up out of nowhere; it’s the most complete, detailed description that we have of what Prabhupada actually wanted. So, that’s formed the basis of what we’re planning now, but Sadaputa did the primarily model. You can also talk with Antardwip Prabhu, who’s currently heading up the chandelier project. Antardwip is a real scholar, he really knows what he’s talking about, and he’s thoroughly studied everything Sadaputa did.

Prishni:  Can you describe your overall impression of Sadaputa and his work?

Hari Sauri: Personally I always felt, as everybody did, that he was a genius. You know, I watched him one time in Alachua: Somebody was giving class and he’s scribbling stuff down in a notepad. I was thinking that it was a very simple, straight-forward class – it’s interesting that Sadaputa’s making notes. So after the class I decided to ask him what he was writing, and he says, ”Oh, I was just working out how much fuel it takes to propel a rocket of this size to a certain distance in orbit from the earth.” He was doodling. That was the kind of brain he had.

But I always liked the fact that Sadaputa could deal with quite a variety of different scientific disciplines. He knew the inside and out of them, and he could articulate very powerfully from different disciplines. So I always appreciated that he wasn’t narrow – he was very broad in his thinking, and at the same time, though, he was expert in presentation, giving things in such a way that regular scientists had to accept him because of his command of the language and of the concepts involved. They couldn’t refute him scientifically. He was very rigorous, so that we have to thank him for, that he brought that rigor into our own exhibit development. And we’re very much aware of Sadaputa’s contribution.

The TOVP will have three levels of exhibits, and on the top fourth level is a 23-meter tilted dome theatre which is going to be presenting Vedic cosmology. We have toyed with the idea of naming that theatre after Sadaputa. I think that would be proper, just to recognize his contribution. But the simple fact is, if he had not actually spent ten years in the 1980’s really deeply studying the Fifth Canto, we would be nowhere – we would be simply bewildered as to what is to be done. Nobody wanted to talk about the Fifth Canto, but with Sadaputa, when his book came out everything changed; it was a major scene changer. It really fit the pieces together: this stuff is intelligible, we can present it, we can do what Prabhupada wanted and challenge the scientists. He gave us the belief that we could actually do it. So you know I really think it has to be recognized. I’d love to see his name on the platinum theatre.

Prishni: Yes, so would I. And is there anything else you would like to share?

Hari Sauri: Well, I think one of the things that I always appreciate is that this person was schooled in the most atheistic traditions possible, but somehow or another he appreciated Prabhupada and became a full-time devotee. He was fully surrendered to Prabhupada; he accepted whatever Prabhupada told him and that was his motivation – he was working to please Prabhupada. I just appreciated him as a person: he wasn’t puffed up at all, no arrogance, you could sit with him and talk about any topic and he would be able to share what he knew.

He was a bit of a personal friend I’m happy to say. We had that one and a half years working together on the science museum, then I didn’t see him for a number of years. But when I finally saw him again in 2008 I actually I didn’t tell him I was coming. I was in Alachua and asked Sthita-dhi-muni if I could go along with him and surprise Sadaputa at one of their regular fortnightly discussions. Then when I walked in, he immediately got this brilliant smile, “Hari Sauri, Haribol!” He got down and offered obeisances and embraced me. I was really happy; I mean, I really considered him to be far superior to someone like me, but he was really genuinely happy to see me as an old friend. That was 2008—it was very nice.  [end of interview]

Other Project News: As RLTA continues it’s efforts to reprint all of Sadaputa’s books, we are pleased to announce that his groundbreaking work, Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy, is now available on Amazon as a new printing. This work was initially  published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust during the 1990s in three printings, while the full text has been continuously available as part of the Bhaktivedanta Archives VedaBase. For a list Sadaputa’s books presently available, please view the Richard L. Thompson Amazon author’s page.

RLTA is also assisting the Krishna Institute, based here at New Raman Reti in Alachua, along with the Bhaktivedanta Institute of Gainesville, in organizing a seminar exploring the mysteries of Fifth Canto cosmography. This workshop is designed by Murali Gopal dasa, who holds a PhD in Quantum Physics and interned at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. It promises to offer participants “powerful access to a fundamental understanding” of the topic. Bhakti Caru Swami and Brahmatirtha Prabhu will attend and share their many realizations and experiences with Srila Prabhupada “that will hold everyone spellbound and inspire an enthusiastic commitment to delve deeply into understanding Vedic cosmography and astronomy.” Not only that, now there is facility for an international audience, too! Nandini Kishori devi dasi, a New Raman Reti IT expert, has set up the event for live video streaming so that online participants can view presentations and engage in class discussion. For more information about schedules and registering, please view the Krishna Institute Unraveling the Mysteries of the Sacred Universe website for details.

You can also contact me directly with questions at: prishni108@gmail.com

Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy on Amazon.com link: https://www.amazon.com/Vedic-Cosmography-Astronomy-Richard-Thompson/dp/0...