Flat-Earth or Globular Earth

BY: MAYESVARA DASA - 10.6 2019

Part One

The following is the first part of a response to Danavir Goswami's article, "Flat Earth or Globular Earth?".

We welcome this public statement by Danavir Goswami as it brings the discussion of the Vedic Earth into the open, and provides an opportunity for the Hare Krishna community to become better informed of the contending arguments regarding the nature of the Earth as it is described in Srimad Bhagavatam and related Vedic scriptures. Please bear in mind that regardless of what the modern world may think the Earth to be, this debate focuses on what the Srimad Bhagavatamand related Vedic texts describe the Earth to be. Although ISKCON continues to be present the Earth globe-idea as part of 'Vedic cosmology', there is, in fact, no description of such an entity in any of the original Vedic scriptures, and specifically in Srimad Bhagavatam.

As we shall demonstrate, the idea that Srimad Bhagavatamdescribes the Earth to be a globe floating in space has evolved mainly because those disciples of Srila Prabhupada who have been writing on the subject have failed to understand and explain the differences between the modern and Vedic world-views, and have instead simply superimposed their own Western assumptions about the Earth unto the original Vedic texts. This debate will provide an opportunity for the devotee community to hear a public response to the baseless, mistaken, and misleading arguments that have been presented so far by Danavir Goswami, and others, in their claim that the Vedas reveal the Earth to be a globe that floats in space.

I apologize to the reader who has to wade through such long papers in order to get a proper understanding of the Vedic Earth. The Vedic flat-Earth concept is actually very simple and straight-forward to understand, but due to the many tangled and convoluted arguments that have been presented by members of ISKCON in order to merge the Western understanding of the Earth with the ancient Vedic cosmological system, it requires some time and effort to untangle the numerous speculations that pass in the name of 'Vedic cosmology.' It behooves those responsible for the Temple of Vedic Planetarium to take the time to carefully both sides of this debate. Since hundreds of millions of dollars are to be spent on building and maintaining the Temple of Vedic Planetarium, the responsibility is upon ISKCON's leadership to ensure that the exhibitions and preaching connected to the Temple Of Vedic Planetarium accurately reflect the Vedic cosmos as described by Sukadeva Goswami. If Danavir Goswami (on behalf of the management of The Temple Of Vedic Planetarium, and ISKCON's spiritual leaders) cannot clearly establish that the Vedas describe the Earth as a globe floating in space, all involved may be culpable in perpetrating the very illusion that Srimad Bhagavatam has appeared to destroy. Srila Prabhupada's transcendental anxiety for the proper depiction of the Vedic cosmos is expressed in the following statement, in which he also gives full license to study and present the Sanskrit and English descriptions of Srimad Bhagavatam's fifth canto:

"We must exactly follow the description of Bhagavatam. As we are going to spend many crores of rupees, and there will be those who will try to find fault in our presentation, 'Caesar's wife must be above suspicion.' I have explained whatever I could already in my books. Now my brain is no longer able to work properly. You young men can tax your brains to understand the Sanskrit and English descriptions and present them." (TKG's Diary: Prabhupada's Final Days, May 30 1977)

In the first part of this paper we will address the question of whether Danavir Goswami is following shastra (Vedic scripture) and parampara (the disciplic succession) in regards to his understanding of the shape and size of the Earth. I must emphasize from the beginning that in pointing out the mistakes in Danavir Goswami's article, I do not intend any disrespect to Danavir Goswami who is a good-standing member of ISKCON. My disputation is confined to this one area concerning Vedic cosmology on which we have our differences.

The question and answer with Danavir Goswami begins as follows:

"Question #1: Many people (flat earth supporters) say that Bharata-khaṇḍa [our earth planet] is flat because it is just an island (dvipa) as it is mentioned in Visnu and Vayu Puranas, not as a globe. What is your opinion of the flat earth theory?...

Danavir Goswami Answer #1:

We don't find a description in the sastras of Jambudvipa as being spherical—circular yes, spherical no. Regarding the earth we live on which is called Bharata-khaṇḍa, it appears that it is a completely round sphere. Here is the evidence using sastra caksus (seeing through the eyes of the sastras- scriptures) and hearing from the acaryas. Below see a quotation from Siddhanta siromani and a note (commentary) by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura..."

 

DETERMINING THE SIZE OF 'THE' EARTH

We shall look in detail at the specific 'evidence' provided by Danavir Goswami in the third part of this paper. The first thing that struck me about Danavir Goswami's article was that he responded to a question his 'opinion of the flat-earth theory' by immediately pointing the inquirer to measurements for the supposed Earth globe. In his reply Danavir Goswami does nothing to inform the person of the measurements of the Vedic Earth (Bhu-mandala) as it is described by Sukadeva Goswami in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Whilst it is true that Danavir Goswami is specifically talking here about Bharata-khanda, how can anyone possibly be expected to come to an informed decision about the size and shape of our local Earth area (in Bharata-varsha) if they are not first informed about the context of Bharata-varsha's location in the larger Earth-circle landscape that is revealed in the Srimad Bhagavatamand other Puranas.

Moreover, since very few people in the modern world are even aware of the Vedic Earth-circle conception (Bhu-mandala), why is the emphasis and focus here on providing evidence for an Earth globe? Surely the emphasis and focus should be put on directing the inquirer to an explanation and description of the extraordinary Earth concept revealed in Srimad Bhagavatam. What exactly is the emphasis of Danavir Goswami and the management of the Temple of Vedic Planetarium regarding the presentation of the Earth in Vedic cosmology? Is the emphasis to prove that the Earth is a globe of 24,900 miles circumference, or is the emphasis to inform the people of the world that the Earth has a diameter of pancasat koti yojana (4 billion miles)? Since the Temple of Vedic Planetarium is meant to be a presentation of Srimad Bhagavatam's cosmology, surely the point of emphasis should be on Srimad Bhagavatam's description of the Earth as a continual landscape with a diameter of 4 billion miles—a landscape that is covered in varieties of fantastic mountains, rivers, trees, animals, people, and civilizations—surely this should be the point of emphasis. Is that not news for the people of the world? Does it not call into question everything we believe about the world we live in?

The problem is that devotees writing on the subject of Vedic cosmology—although appearing to address and discuss Bhu-mandala in their writings, lectures, and video presentations—seem to have little or no comprehension, realization, or faith that our own area of the Earth really is just a small part of a greater Earth landscape that continues for hundreds of millions of miles across the center of the universe. Since this description does not match with the iconic image of an isolated globe-shaped planet floating in dark space, the general emphasis in ISKCON's presentation of 'Vedic cosmology' is to pay lip service to Bhu-mandala, whilst focusing on 'evidence' that maintains everyone's faith in the current Earth-globe paradigm. The undue emphasis on establishing 'evidence' for the Earth-globe distracts everyone else from understanding and appreciating the awesome revelation of the Earth's true nature as it is actually described in Srimad Bhagavatam. In ISKCON's presentation of 'Vedic cosmology', the physicality of the Bhu-mandala landscape is tactfully described as belonging to a nebulous 'other dimension'. Discussion of Bhu-mandala is kept at the level of it being an abstract concept, rather than as the real and radical description of the world we all live upon. Depictions of Bhu-mandala resemble cold geometric diagrams rather than an actual landscape. It should be noted that when the Earth is depicted as the familiar isolated globe floating in space, the rest of Bhu-mandala is 'impersonalized', demoted, and quietly vanished from the scene, and hence from the mind. Since the Earth-globe model hides the true form (rupa) of Bhu-mandala, the cosmology and so-called science supporting this false construct of reality can be analysed as part of an intrinsically impersonalist ideology of non-Vedic origin. We shall elaborate on the connection between the globe idea and impersonalism in a later paper.

Although Danavir Goswami claims to be presenting evidence using shastra caksus (seeing through the eyes of scripture) and 'hearing from the acaryas', he, in fact, has not followed the disciplic succession in this regard at all. I say this because on the occasion when Pariksit Maharaja asked Sukadeva Goswami about the size, shape, and characteristics of the Earth, Sukadeva Goswami replied by informing him about the entire Bhu-mandala (Earth circle), which includes a description of Bharata-varsha (our local Earth area), and its relative size and location within the greater Earth-circle landscape. The commentaries by the acharyas all follow this description. When someone asks a member of ISKCON a question about their 'opinion of the flat-Earth theory', it begs the question of what is 'the' Earth. As we shall elaborate upon later, members of ISKCON generally think of 'the' Earth as an Earth globe, and for the most part have no idea that 'the' Earth of Srimad Bhagavatam is a completely different conception of reality. The duty of a representative of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya (and specifically one claiming to present the Vedic cosmology) is to first inform the inquirer of the shape and size of 'the' Earth as it is revealed by Sukadeva Goswami in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Once that is established, one can proceed to describe the location, measurements, etc. of Bharata-varsha on a map of the Vedic Earth, specifically its place in Jambudvipa (the colossal central island of Bhu-mandala). One has to then point out that the location of Bharata-varsha in Jambudvipa is at odds with the idea that our Earth is a planet floating in space. Having established a context, one can then make an argument as to why this suggests that our known Earth is simply part of a greater Earth landscape (a flat-Earth), or in Danavir Goswami's case, why he thinks Bharata-varsha is an isolated globular planet that floats in space.

Danavir Goswami has not provided the inquirer with any information about the greater Earth-circle (Bhu-mandala) as it is described by Sukadeva Goswami, and thus there is no possibility for the inquirer to analyse whether the statements from Surya-siddhanta or Siddhanta-siromani are indeed referring to an Earth globe that floats in space, or simply to a smaller circular area of the greater Earth-circle plane.

Let's look at the difference between Danavir Goswami's reply regarding the Earth, and that of Sukadeva Goswami when he was asked a similar question about the measurements/size (manatah), shape (rupa), and characteristics (laksanatah) of the Earth by Pariksit Maharaja. In Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 5, Chapter 16, verses 1-2, Maharaja Pariksit requests Sukadeva Goswami to describe the measurements and characteristics of the Earth.

"King Pariksit said to Sukadeva Gosvami: O brahmana, you have already informed me that the radius of Bhu-mandala extends as far as the sun spreads its light and heat and as far as the moon and all the stars can be seen.

My dear Lord, the rolling wheels of Maharaja Priyavrata's chariot created seven ditches, in which the seven oceans came into existence. Because of these seven oceans, Bhu-mandala is divided into seven islands. You have given a very general description of their measurement, names, and characteristics. Now I wish to know of them in detail. Kindly fulfil my desire." (SB 5.16.1-2)

This is a very specific question requesting 'measurements', 'characteristics', and all other details (sarvam) of the Earth. The word sarvam (all details) also refers to the shape of the Earth. Indeed Sukadeva Goswami specifically mentions in his reply that he will describe the rupa or shape of the Earth. Most importantly the name Bhu-mandala (Earth circle) is particularly invoked here by Pariksit Maharaja, along with its characteristic central feature of seven islands (sapta-dwipa) and seven oceans (sapta-sindava). These names and features are important as we shall see later. In reply to this question, Sukadeva Goswami states that there is no end to the Lords material energy, but that he will try to explain the principle regions of the Earth (Bhu-gola).

"The great Rsi Sukadeva Gosvami said: My dear King, there is no limit to the expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead's material energy. This material world is a transformation of the material qualities [sattva-guna, rajo-guna and tamo-guna], yet no one could possibly explain it perfectly, even in a lifetime as long as that of Brahma. No one in the material world is perfect, and an imperfect person could not describe this material universe accurately, even after continued speculation. O King, I shall nevertheless try to explain to you the principal regions, such as Bhu-goloka [Bhuloka], with their names, forms, measurements and various symptoms." (SB 5.16.4)

The Sanskrit synonyms for this verse are: bhu-golaka-visesam—the particular description of Bhuloka; nama-rupa—names and forms; mana—measurements; laksanatah—according to symptoms; vyakhyasyamah—I shall try to explain.

From this point in the discussion, Sukadeva Goswami's begins his fascinating description of the great Earth-circle with all her amazing and gigantic features. Sukadeva Goswami's explanation of the size (mana) and form (rupa) of the Earth covers ten chapters of the fifth canto of Srimad Bhagavatamand leaves us in no doubt as to whether the Vedic Earth is globe-shaped planet floating in space, or a flat circular disc that is held by Ananta-sesha. By flat we mean a landscape that continues along a horizontal plane, as opposed to a landscape that curves around the surface of a globe. We shall discuss the specific details of the shape of the Earth in part two of the paper. In today's part one we shall focus on descriptions for the size of the Earth.

In the above article, Danavir Goswami presents a footnote from Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakura regarding four different measurements for the size of a small area of Earth. Danavir Goswami presents this as his first piece of evidence for a globular-shaped Earth. In this paper we shall demonstrate that there is only one Earth in the Vedic cosmos, and it is not a globe. We contend that the foot-note provided by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati is not part of any discourse regarding the shape of the Earth, and has been taken entirely out of context of the Srimad Bhagavatam's measurement of the Earth at 4 billion miles. We shall discuss the specific details of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura's foot-note in part three of this paper. For the moment let us hear from Sukadeva Goswami about the nature of the Vedic Earth. In reply to King Pariksit's question about the size of the Earth, Sukadeva Goswami says:

pancasat-koti-ganitasya bhu-golasya (SB.5.20.38)

Here Sukadeva Goswami measures the bhu-gola (Earth) at pancasat-koti. A koti is ten million (10,000,000) and pancasatmeans fifty; so fifty multiplied by 10 million is five hundred million >yojanas (500,000,000). One yojana is equal to 8 miles. Thus, 500 million x 8 miles = 4 billion miles (4,000,000,000). The other Puranas consistently affirm this colossal size of Bhu-mandala. For example, the Siva Puranastates:

"O great sage, therefore, along with this universe, the Earth is fifty crores of yojanas (4 billion miles) in extent inclusive of all continents and mountains. This world is the support in due course of all living beings. It has more attributes than all other elements have." (Siva Purana Uma-samhita, chapter 18, verses 76-77)

The Brahma Purana says:

"This universe extends to fifty crores of yojanas [4 billion miles] along with the Andakathaha, dvipas, oceans, and mountains. O excellent Brahmins, this Earth is the support of all worlds. It is superior to all other creations, it is noble and excellent." (BP18.99)

From Brahmanda Purana:

…Now I shall recount the extent of the Earth in yojanas.

The extent and girth (circumference) of the Earth consisting of seven continents has been reckoned in proper measure in the Puranas...

The entire Earth is remembered as fifty crores of yojanas[4 billion miles] in extent. (Brahmanda Purana 1.2.21.8-12)

The Linga Purana states:

"The Earth along with all its oceans is stated as extending to fifty crores of yojanas." (Linga purana 49.2)

Again the Kurma Purana states:

"The Earth along with the oceans and seven continents extends to fifty crore of yojanas [4 billion miles] all round." (Kurma Purana chapter 45.5)

Again the Garuda Purana states:

"The Earth is situated like a boat floating on water. It is fifty crores of yojanas [4 billion miles] in extent". (Garuda Purana, 1.54.4)

The asuras or demons occasionally also take control also of the vast Earth:

"There was a powerful demon named Raktasura. He was the son of Mahisha. With a huge body and powerful arms, he was another Hiranyaksha. He had two sons named Bala and Atibala. They defeated all the Suras with Devendra and Agni as their leaders. In the entire region of the three worlds, they established their suzerainty without fear and apprehension. Thirty-three warriors were glorified as the leaders of their army. Ferocious by nature, they were great warriors leading a thousand Akshauhinis. They had huge bodies and stout shoulders like lions. Those mighty ones were wicked by nature... The Earth extending to fifty crores of yojanas in area was thus occupied by them. On coming to know of this, the Devas were distressed in mind due to fear." (Skanda chapter, Book 7, section 1, chaper 119, verse 6-14) (Prabhasa kanda, prabhasa-kshetra-kanda, chapter 119)

Every other Purana confirms the same measurement. The misunderstanding caused by falsely associating the Earth globe of 24,900 miles circumference with the Earth circle measured at 4 billion miles diameter, is pointed out by Bhakti-prema dasa in the following discussion with Srila Prabhupada and several disciples:

Devotee (2): Srila Prabhupada, previously we painted in the art department...Just like Varaha lifted the earth, and the earth was a globe, and we showed also a globe of the earth. How does that relate to this? Previously, when we painted, we showed the earth a ball. So now the artists will be very confused. How it fell in the Garbha Ocean as a ball? 
Yashodanandana: It depends on what we mean by earth. The Western conception of earth is just five continents and a few oceans, but according to Bhagavatam, earth means Jambudvipa, because earth is connected with Jambudvipa. 
Devotee (2): So whole Jambudvipa fell. 
Bhakti-Prema: Bhagavata describes the height of Himalayas, eighty thousand miles. 
Prabhupada: No, about this Earth globe. 
Bhakti-Prema: About the Earth it describes four billion miles. 
Tamala Krishna: That means Jambudvipa. 
Bhakti-Prema: No, that means complete Earth, four billion miles. That [Jambudvipa] is eight lakhs miles [800,000 miles], Jambudvipa. Tamala Krishna: Four billion is the universe. 
Bhakti-Prema: Bhu-mandala! 
Tamala Krshna: Bhu-mandala! Oh, the Bhagavatam describes Bhu-mandala as Earth. 
Prabhupada: Oh. 
Yashodanandana: Bhumi. 
Bhakti-Prema: ...has come right from the ocean, from the bottom of the ocean. 
Prabhupada: So explained there. Then this question is solved. 
Tamala Krishna: Yes. The whole Bhu-mandala fell. 
Bhakti-Prema: So the universe is round, and from bottom of the Garbhodaka ocean to top of Satyaloka there is four billion miles. Then the again, from east to west again is another four billion miles. Because Bhu-mandala is situated in between the earth. 
Prabhupada: Explain. He'll explain. 
(Showing of Planetary Sketches, 28 June, 1977, Vrindvana)

Bhakti-prema dasa rightly points out that the diameter of the Earth is four billion miles, and that it was the entire Bhu-mandala (not some so-called Earth globe) that fell into the Garbhodaka Ocean. Srila Prabhupada affirms: "So explained there. Then this question is solved." Bhakti-prema dasa also corrects the misunderstanding of Yasodanandana Prabhu and Tamala Krishna Goswami regarding Jambudwipa. Jambudvipa is the name of the central island of Bhu-mandala, not the name of the Earth itself. Unfortunately, the following conclusion didn't arise at the time: since the Earth is 4 billion miles in diameter, and the central island of Bhu-mandala is Jambudwipa which is 100,000 yojana (800,000 miles) in diameter, then Bharata-varsha (which is part of the island of Jambudwipa) cannot be a separate globe-like planet floating in space. From the description, Bharata-varsha is just a tiny area that is situated on the Earth's massive plane; it is not described as a planet floating in space. In part 3 of this paper we shall look in detail at Danavir Goswami's 'evidence' for the idea that part of the Earth's landscape manifests as a Earth globe in space. In this opening reply we wish to first establish that there is only one Earth in Vedic cosmology, and this Earth is described as a circular landscape with a diameter of 4 billion miles in diameter. The issue is that modern devotees of Krishna have a different conception of what 'the Earth' is. In the minds of modern devotees, the word 'Earth' is associated with a globe floating in space; in the minds of the rishis (who reveal the Puranas) the word 'Earth' is associated with Bhu-mandala. The Earth-globe and the Earth-circle are two radically different conceptions of reality.

Only 500 years ago, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his followers were still describing and measuring the Earth according to the description given in the Puranas. The measurement of the great Earth circle at 4 billion diameters is confirmed by Srila Krishna dasa Kaviraja in the Caitanya-caritamrita:

pancasat-koti-yojana prithivi-vistara
yanra eka-phane rahe sarshapa-akara

TRANSLATION

The universe, which measures five hundred million yojanas in diameter, rests on one of His hoods like a mustard seed. (Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila, 5.119)

Athough Srila Prabhupada translates the Sanskrit word for Earth (prithivi) as 'universe', the Sanskrit name prithivi is a specific name for the Earth. The verse unquestionably glorifies Ananta-Sesha who specifically holds the prithivi or Earth which is five hundred millions yojanas in diameter (pancasat-koti-yojana). The Vedic Earth is in a separate category from the nine grahas (planets). Unlike the nine planets which float and move in space by the power of Vayu (wind), the great Earth-circle which spans the center of the universe is stationary, and is held not by wind or so-called gravity, but by Ananta-sesha. The list of verses describing Ananta-sesha holding the Earth is discussed in one of our previous paper entitled "Does the Earth Float in Space?"

The above verse from Caitanya-caritamrta informs us that as recently as five hundred years ago in India, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers were still identifying the Earth as the Bhu-mandala with a diameter of 4 billion miles, and not as a small Earth globe. The conception of Bharata-varsha as a globe floating in space is not mentioned anywhere in the writings of the biographers of Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, nor by any of His prominent followers such as the six Goswamis. Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu speaks of the Earth in these terms:

"The sun moves across the zodiac day and night and crosses the oceans between the seven islands one after the other." (Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila 20.387)

Here it mentions sapta-dwipa ambudhi or seven islands and oceans of the Earth. The sapta-dwipa are the islands created on Bhu-mandala by Priyavrata Maharaja (see: Srimad Bhagavatam, 5.1.31-33). The Skanda Purana measures the Earth's seven islands and oceans in the following way:

"Thus the seven continents and the oceans together extend to twenty-five million three hundred and fifty thousand yojanas (202,800,000 miles) O son of Pritha." (Skanda Purana, 1.ii.37.22b)

This figure corresponds to the calculation of the seven islands and oceans given in Srimad Bhagavatam as can be seen in the following diagram from Srila Prabhupada's original edition:

 

 

The distance from Mount Meru to the edge of the clear-water ocean surrounding Pushkara-dvipa is measured above at 202,800,000 miles. One can read the description of Jambudvipa and the other six islands in chapters 16-20 of Srimad Bhagavatam's fifth canto. Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's reference to the seven islands and oceans adheres to the commonly accepted Puranic description of the Earth, and there is otherwise no mention in the writings from this time that any part of the Earth (such as Bharata-khanda) is globe-shaped. It is otherwise commonly accepted that Bharata-varsha is part of Jambudvipa. Srila Sanatana Goswami, for example, writes that King Yudhisthira was the emperor of Jambudvipa:

"By sacrifices like the Rajasuya and Ashvamedha, he has earned pious credits great enough for attaining the world of Lord Vishnu. And while still in this world, he rules the entire sphere of Jambudvipa." (Sanatana Goswami, Brhat Bhagavatamrta, 1.4.113)

Jambudvipa is the first of the Earth's circular-shaped islands and is measured at 100,000 yojana (800,000 miles) in diameter. Since King Yudhisthira ruled the Earth from Indraprastha in India, the above verse again informs us that our known Earth is surrounded by more of the Earth-circle, and is not an isolated globe floating in space. The reader may like to consult a previous paper entitled "The Vedic History Reveals a Greater Earth Plane", which discusses the rule of King Yudhisthira in Jambudvipa.

Moreover, the statement below from Chaitanya-charitamrta clearly expounds that contact with the greater Earth or Bhu-mandala has been on-going despite knowledge of Bhu-mandala being practically expunged from the consciousness of modern Hindus. In the following verse the Chaitanya Caritamrita mentions that pilgrims from the seven islands were visiting Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu during his stay at Jagannatha Puri:

"Dressed in different ways, people from the seven islands (sapta-dwipa) and nine khandas (nava-khanda) visited Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu." (CC Antya-lila 9.9)

The verses cited above raise an obvious question: if pilgrims from the seven islands of the Earth (measuring a distance of 202,800,000 miles) were coming to see Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in India only 500 years ago, where is the rest of this Earth in relation to the so-called Earth planet that is otherwise depicted as an isolated globe floating in dark space? The description of Bhu-mandala's seven islands and oceans clearly reveals our area of the Earth to be surrounded by other parts of the Earth landscape. How do supporters of the globe explain this? The globe model depicts an isolated planet floating in space, whilst Srimad Bhagavatam depicts a vast Earth landscape stretching from India to distances beyond most people's comprehension. The above account of pilgrims coming from Jambudwipa and other islands of Bhu-mandala to see Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in India, certainly creates an elephant in the room for the supporters of the globe idea. In any case, the above verses, clearly indicate that in the 15th century when Krishna das Kaviraja Goswami wrote the Chaitanya-charitamrta, the devotees of Krishna at that time were still referring to 'the' Earth as the colossal Bhu-mandala. In contemporary ISKCON, the devotees of Krishna think of 'the' Earth as a globe floating in space. Something is amiss!

To anyone who has no understanding or appreciation of a spiritual reality, (and particularly the mind-blowing nature of Vedic teachings which tend to simply melt the brain of both atheists and mundane religionists), the description of an Earth that is a circular disc spanning 4 billion miles in diameter may sound so ridiculously exaggerated and comical that the modern reader may simply dismiss it as something that emerged from a drug induced psychedelic trip, rather than from any real science, or even spiritual revelation. One can't get any more 'far out', than the idea of a 4 billion mile circular-shaped Earth that is held up by the divine serpent Ananta-sesha. The devotees of Achintya (The Lord who is inconceivable) can alone appreciate and glorify His wonderful and astounding creation. Sukadeva Goswami, Srila Krishna dasa Kaviraja, and Vrindvavana dasa Thakura all glorify Ananta-sesha as the holder of the Earth-circle. We hope at some point to write a paper on Ananta-sesha and the Vedic Earth.

But leaving aside the question of belief for the moment, one cannot even begin to 'believe' or have 'faith' in the Vedic concept of the Earth, unless one is first presented with an accurate account of what the Vedic rishis and devas actually describe the Earth to be. In reply to his 'opinion about the flat-Earth theory', Danavir Goswami has completely neglected the Puranic measurement of 'the' Earth and pointed his inquirer instead to the modern Earth-globe concept. This is a clear departure from the procedure established by the rishisand devas. The cosmological sections of all the major and minor Puranas follow the same sequence to that of the Srimad Bhagavatam in that someone will ask a question in relation to the Earth, and a deva or rishi will answer by describing Bhu-mandala. For example in the Vishnu Purana, Maitreya asks a similar question about the Earth of Parashara Muni:

"Maitreya said, "You have related to me the creation of Svayambhuva; I am now desirous to hear from you a description of the Earth: how many are its oceans and islands, its kingdoms and mountains, its forests, and the cities of the gods, its dimensions, its contents, its nature and its form". "

In all of these dialogues, the questioner will always ask for specific details of the Earth's dimensions, nature (characteristics), and form (shape). The description of any particular thing is important because if one has a description of the shape, size, and characteristics of a specific thing, it enables one to discern one to compare or contrast that particular thing with any other object. The description of a car, for example, allows us to distinguish a certain type of transport from another, such as a boat or an airplane. The description means there can be no possibility of mistaking one thing for another. In the case of the Earth, the description by the Vedic devas and rishis allows us to compare and contrast the ancient Vedic description of the Earth with the modern one. By comparison we can see that the two concepts are radically opposed in terms of size, shape, and nature. Again, let us compare Danavir Goswami's reply to an inquiry about the Earth, with Parashara Muni's reply to Maitreya's similar question about the size and shape of the Earth:

"Parashara replied, You shall hear, Maitreya a brief account of the Earth from me; a full detail I could not give you in a century. (Book 2 chapter 2)

After describing the seven great islands and oceans and other features of the Earth, Parashara concludes:

"such Maitreya is the Earth, which with its continents, oceans and exterior shell is fifty crores of yojanas [4 billion miles]. It is the mother and nurse of all creations, the foundation of all the worlds, and the chief of all the elements." (Book 2 chapter 2)

A study of the various Puranas reveals that when a question is asked about the size and characteristics of the Earth, the same answer is always given, and the Earth is always associated with the seven cosmic-sized islands and oceans of Bhu-mandala of which Bharata-varsha is described to be only a very small part. Since the shape of the Vedic Earth is described as circular (mandala, valaya, etc.) and its measurement is fifty crore yojana (4 billion miles) there should be no reason for confusing or conflating the Bhu-mandala with the supposed Earth globe, or for with-holding the true size of the Vedic Earth from an inquirer. It is thus telling that when Danavir Goswami is asked his 'opinion about flat-Earth theory', he replies by directing the inquirer to measurements for the supposed Earth globe idea, and not to the measurements for Bhu-mandala which, of course, is the Earth in question. This manner of thinking and teaching is in stark opposition to the original speakers of the Puranas, who when asked about the shape, size, and nature of the Earth, always reply with the understanding that Earth means Bhu-mandala and nothing else. Bharata-varsha is consistently explained as part of the landscape of the Earth and never as an isolated planet that floats in space.

The same identification of the Earth with Bhu-mandala is continued down through the centuries as is evident in the purports by the Vaishnava acharyas in their commentaries to Srimad Bhagavatam's cosmological section. In this large collection of commentaries, the acharyas never once make any argument, or provide any 'evidence' for the idea that Bharata-khanda is a globe floating in space. The absence of any mention of an Earth globe by the acharyas is not because these great masters of bhakti-yogi like Sridhara Swami, Jiva Goswami, Visvanatha Cakravati Thakura, etc., were living in the pre-scientific age and thus ignorant of the Earth globe. No! The great acharyas do not discuss the idea of an Earth globe because there is no mention of any Earth globe floating in space by Sukadeva Goswami, the speaker of Srimad Bhagavatam. Sukadeva Goswami does not mention an Earth globe floating in space because such an entity doesn't exist in Krishna's creation. In Krishna's creation, the continents of our Earth area are resting on the flat surface of Bhu-mandala and surrounded by other areas of the greater Earth circle. Srimad Bhagavatam presents an entirely different conception of reality. The attempts to merge the modern Earth-globe idea with Srimad Bhagavatam's original description simply covers the reality that Sukadeva Goswami is attempting to explain. Ironically, it was Danavir Goswami who edited and published ISKCON's edition of the acharyas commentaries on the fifth canto. As we have noted in previous papers, through-out this translation, the huge Bhu-mandala of 4 billion miles diameter is erroneously translated as the 'Earth globe' and not the 'Earth circle', thus creating a misconception about the Vedic Earth that has led to confusion among the devotee community. See our previous debate on this point with Rajasekhara dasa on the size and shape of the Earth.

Despite Rajasekhara dasa's arguments and contentions being thoroughly refuted in the above debate, and despite being unable to reply further, he unfortunately continues to propagate the same errors and misconceptions to his unwitting audience. We invite Rajasekahara dasa or any other proponent of the Earth globe idea to come onto the Sampradaya Sun where the arguments can be debated in an impartial manner, and where everyone can get to see the unfounded and fallacious nature of the so-called evidence for a Vedic Earth globe.

 

WHEN YOU THINK OF 'THE EARTH', WHAT DO YOU THINK OF?

Regarding Danavir Goswami's arguments for the Earth globe, we certainly strongly disagree with his own assessment that he is 'seeing through the eye of shastra'. On the contrary, Danavir Goswami's focus on the idea that Earth is a globe, fails to inform the inquirer about the Earth as it is actually described by different rishis and devas through-out the various Puranas, and particularly as described in our Bhagavata Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam. We have already mentioned that when the Vedic rishis and devas are asked to explain the Earth, they reply by informing their inquirer about the Bhu-mandala, and not some supposed Earth globe. In other words, when the rishis think of 'the' Earth, they think of Bhu-mandala, and they describe that reality to the inquirer. The rishis always identify and describe Bharata-varsha as part of 'the Earth' (Bhu-mandala) not that it is identified as 'the' Earth itself. Among the members of ISKCON generally, 'the' Earth is still associated with the supposed Earth globe and not with Bhu-mandala. Thus when a member of ISKCON thinks of'the' Earth he or she thinks of the supposed Earth globe, and for the most part does not have any understanding of Bhu-mandala. The devotee community are either kept ignorant on this subject or are misled, as with the presentation by Danavir Goswami that directs his inquirer away from the Earth-circle concept in favour of the modern Earth-globe idea. Bhu-mandala is left in the background and relegated to some nebulous 'other dimension'.

When members of ISKCON come away from any lecture, book, or exhibition, on Srimad Bhagavatam's 'Vedic cosmology' they do not come away with the understanding that Srimad Bhagavatam describes our own area of the Earth as being surrounded by more lands and oceans belonging to a greater Earth landscape; rather they come away with the idea that Srimad Bhagavatam teaches that the Earth is an isolated globe that floats in space. The devotees are not taught to question the present Earth-globe paradigm, nor is their understanding of what is real brought into harmony with the reality of the Earth described by the rishis and devas. The Earth globe ideology is promoted as the 'reality', and meanwhile the actual reality of the Bhu-mandala is lost behind the rhetoric of it being 'too subtle' to see, or in 'another dimension', and thus not capable of being comprehended. This has obvious implications when it comes to understanding the measurements cited by Danavir Goswami for a smaller Earth area. If in one's mind the word 'Earth' is associated with the supposed Earth-globe, and if one 'believes' that this is the reality, then naturally one will think that the measurements cited in Surya-siddhanta, etc., are references to said Earth-globe. Contrarily, if one believes Bhu-mandala is the reality and associates the word 'Earth' with that concept, then the smaller measurements given in Surya-siddhanta will be understood as references to local areas of the colossal Earth-circle which is unquestionably a flat-Earth model. We will discuss this point in more detail in the second and third parts of this paper.

To show the implications of ISKCON's members wrongly associating the word 'Earth' with an Earth globe, rather than with Bhu-mandala (Earth-circle), let us try and understand the point with a different example. Supposing an initiated member of the International Society for Krishna consciousness is asked a question about 'God'. One would expect that any initiated member of ISKCON would immediately associate the word 'God' with Krishna, and respond to the question accordingly—at least trying to help the inquirer understand something about Krishna's form and personality. The association of the word 'God' with the personality and form of Krishna distinguishes a Krishna conscious person from say a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist who all think of the word 'God' in very different ways, and whose answer to the question would leave a very different conception in the mind of the inquirer. Likewise, if an initiated member of ISKCON said that "I am God" or "We are all God", or "Sai Baba is God", other members of the society could quickly grasp that such a person had not quite grasped the siddhanta or conclusion of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya to which they belong, and that the 'devotee' had somehow developed the wrong understanding of the word 'God'. When the great rishis think of the word 'God' they think of Krishna, as confirmed by Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita:

"Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages (rsayah sarve) such as Narada, Asita, Devala and Vyasa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me." (Bg 10.12-13)

Arjuna here confirms that the great rishis who speak the Puranas all identify Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In other words, when the rishis think of 'God', they think of the personality of Krishna and have no second conception in mind.

In the same way, the great rishis—who are responsible for revealing the nature of Krishna's creation—all describe 'the Earth' as Bhu-mandala, and they have no second conception of the Earth. When the rishis think of 'the Earth' they think of Bhu-mandala. Why then do members of ISKCON coming in the parampara from Brahma, Vysasa, and Narada not think of the Earth in the same way? With few exceptions, practically every member of ISKCON will think of 'the Earth' as a globe floating in space rather than as the colossal Bhu-mandala landscape (of which the continents of our known Earth in the area of Bharata-varsha is simply a small part). For the most part the association of the word 'Earth' with the iconic Earth globe image is, of course, due to the unremitting education/conditioning/indoctrination of the people of the world into that idea. Specifically within ISKCON, the conflation of the Vedic Earth (Bhu-mandala) with the modern Earth globe conception is due to the fact that Srila Prabhupada translated Sanskrit names for the Earth in the conventional manner as 'Earth globe' or 'Earth planet', and also spoke of the Earth as the familiar planet floating in space, not as the colossal Bhu-mandala that is held by Ananta-sesha. Disciples and followers of Srila Prabhupada may feel they have no reason to think any differently of the Earth.

However, what is less well known are a number of factors that explain why Srila Prabhupada spoke of the Earth in the conventional sense as a globe in space, rather than as the colossal Bhu-mandala; these can be summarized briefly as follows: (1) Due to various historical circumstances, knowledge of Vedic cosmology had been practically covered over in India, and Srila Prabhupada in several discussions and purports stated that he was not so familiar with the subject (2) It was only after Srila Prabhupada translated the fifth canto in 1975 that the inspiration came to present Vedic cosmology at a Temple Of Vedic Planetarium (TOVP) in Sri Dhama Mayapur (West Bengal). The presentation of Vedic cosmology at the TOVP would obviously require a very detailed study of the cosmological descriptions contained in Srimad Bhagavatam and related Vedic texts, and Srila Prabhupada delegated the research to his disciples. It was only at that point that the disparity between the globe idea and Bhu-mandala gradually became apparent. (3) Despite some initial discussion between Srila Prabhupada and his disciples on the nature of the Earth, a clear picture of Bhu-mandala had not emerged by the time of Srila Prabhupada's entering samadhi in 1977 (4) Until this point, Srila Prabhupada had for the most part, simply referred to the Earth in his translations, purports, and discourses in the conventional manner as a globe floating in space. However, (and this is a very big however), after Srila Prabhupada translated the fifth canto in 1975, he was absolutely insistent that the Bhu-mandala and other aspects of the Virat-rupa be presented 'exactly' according to Srimad Bhagavatam. Thus, although Srila Prabhupada for the most part spoke of the Earth in the conventional manner and understanding of the day as a globular planet floating in space, there are no grounds to conclude that he was attached to this Earth-globe paradigm.

Srila Prabhupada's dedication to Sukadeva Goswami and the disciplic succession is demonstrated by absolutely insisting that the Earth be presented in the TOVP as it described in Srimad Bhagavatam regardless of what so-called scientists think:

Bhakti-prema: So how we will expose it (Vedic cosmology) before scientists? 

Prabhupada: We do not require to satisfy the scientists. We have to describe according to our book. That's all. If they can understand, let them understand. Otherwise... It is not our business to satisfy the so-called scientists. We are giving the real description. 
(Room Conversation, June 18, 1977, Vrindavana)

It was Srila Prabhupada's ultimate intention to counteract all materialistic speculations regarding the Earth and the rest of the universe by exhibiting the Bhu-mandala as it is in the Temple Of Vedic Planetarium. In a letter to Mr. S.L Dhani, Srila Prabhupada writes:

"Now here in India, we are planning construction of a very large "Vedic Planetarium" or "Temple of Understanding". Within the planetarium we will construct a huge, detailed model of the universe as described in the text of the fifth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam..."

Srila Prabhupada then goes on to list 15 parts of the exhibition which will depict various areas of the material and spiritual world. Second on the list is the Earth or Bhu-mandala with its various features. Srila Prabhupada's letter reads as follows:

"The planetarium is planned to be approximately 400 feet high and will have floor space of approximately 90,000 sq. ft. The model will depict (from bottom to top)

1) The lower planetary system 
2) The earthly system (Bhu-mandala with Sumeru in center, seven islands (saptadvipa), seven oceans (sapta-samudra), Manosattara Pravata, Lokaloka Parvata, Aloka-varsa. 
3) The Bhuvarloka (Siddha-caranadi-loka) 
Etc..." 
(Letter to S.L. Dhani, November 14, 1976)

Here we see clearly that the Bhu-mandala concept of Earth is the one that Srila Prabhupada intended to be exhibited in the TOVP. The seven islands of Bhu-mandala are mentioned here. These islands form the inhabited area of the Earth and cover a distance of over 200 million miles. Jambudwipa is the first island of Bhu-mandala measuring 100,000 yojana (800,000 miles). Bharata-varsha is on the southern side of this super-continent. Bharata-varsha is thus located on the plane of Bhu-mandala, it is not described as a separate planet floating in space. There are not two Earths.

 

THERE IS ONLY ONE EARTH

ISKCON's identification of the Earth with the supposed Earth globe is a problem because it means everyone living in that paradigm is living in a different paradigm from Krishna Himself. As we shall read in the section below from Garga Samhita, Krishna states that there is only one Earth in the universe—and it is certainly a fact that the one Earth created by the Lord as described by Sukadeva Goswami in chapters 16-26 of the fifth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam is not a small isolated globe floating in space. In part three of this paper we shall discuss Danavir Goswami's extraordinary claim that the nine islands of Bharata-varsha became nine Earth globes, but for the moment let's hear the following history from Garga Samhita, wherein Krishna explains to Anarta that there is only one Earth in the universe. The following narration comes from canto six, chapter nine of the Garga Samhita (Sri Dvaraka gamana-karana). Here Narada Muni explains to Bahulasva the sweet history of how Krishna's transcendental city called Dvaraka arrived on the Earth.

"Sri Bahulasva said: Glorious Dvaraka City is famous in the three worlds. Sri Krishna the original Supreme Personality of Godhead resides there. I have heard that Dvaraka City was manifested from Lord Krishna's transcendental body. How and when did it come to this Earth O master please tell. Sri Narada said: "Excellent! You have asked an excellent question. By hearing the reason for Dvaraka's arrival on this Earth even a great sinner or even a murderer becomes pure at heart. There was a king named Saryati who for ten thousand years ruled the Earth (Bhuvi) according to religious principles. Saryati had three very pious sons sons: Uttanabarhi Anarta and Bhurisena. To Uttanabarhi King Saryati gave the eastern part of his kingdom to Bhurisena he gave the southern part and to Anarta he gave the western part. King Saryati said to them: "This entire Earth (Mahi) is mine. I rule and protect it according to religious principles. I am most powerful. I have conquered this Earth by my own power. In the future you three will also rule and protect this Earth".

Hearing his father's words the middle son Anarta who was very wise laughed and spoke words of great wisdom. Sri Anarta said: "You do not own this Earth. Nor do you rule and protect it. Nor did you conquer it with your own power. Only the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the all-powerful ruler of this Earth. The Earth is Lord Krishna's property. He rules and protects it. He conquered it with His great power. No one is powerful like Lord Krishna. He creates maintains and destroys this universe. He is the Supreme Brahman. He is time the master of all that subdue. He has entered within all living entities and all elements. He is the shelter and resting place of all living entities and all elements. He is the entire universe. He is the object of all sacrifices. He is the most perfect Supreme Personality of Godhead. Out of fear of Him the wind blows. Out of fear of Him the sun shines. Out of fear of Him Indra gives rain. Out of fear of Him death moves on the Earth. O king please become free from pride and false ego and with all your heart worship Sri Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead".

Wounded by the arrows of his son's words and his lips trembling in anger even though what he was confronted with was the truth Saryati spoke to his son Anarta. Saryati said: "Fool get out! Why do you talk as if you were my teacher? You may not live any place in my kingdom. Take help from this Krishna you worship. Will He not give you some new land not now a part of the Earth?" Sri Narada said: Addressed in this way respectful Anarta said to the king: "I will not live anywhere in your kingdom which extends to all the countries of the Earth."

Banished by his father Anarta went to the seacoast and entered the ocean where he performed austerities for ten thousand years. Pleased by his loving devotion Lord Krishna appeared before him and said: "Ask for a boon." Overcome with love and the hairs of his body erect with joy Anarta quickly stood up and with folded hands bowed before Lord Krishna's lotus feet. Sri Anarta said; "I offer my respectful obeisances to You who are Lord Vasudeva. I offer my respectful obeisances to You who are Lord Sankarsana Lord Pradyumna and Lord Aniruddha. I offer my respectful obeisances to You who are the master of the devotees. I who was banished by my father now take shelter of You. O Lord please give me a country where I may reside; a country outside my father's kingdom of the Earth. I offer my respectful obeisances to the Supreme Personality of Godhead who removes the sufferings of the surrendered souls and who mercifully gave to Dhruva Maharaja the best of all abodes".

Sri Narada said: Then the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is kind to the downtrodden and who was pleased at heart with His glorious mouth spoke words deep like thunder to poor Anarta who was bowing down before Him.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: "I am pleased by your devotion but I do not have another Earth in this universe to give you. O king what should I do to grant the boon you ask. Therefore O mighty one I will place on this Earth an eight-hundred mile portion of my pure and glorious Vaikuntha world".

Sri Narada said: O king of Videha after speaking these words the Supreme Personality of Godhead who loves His devotees took His Sudarsana-cakra lifted up an eight-hundred mile portion of Vaikuntha and placed it in the ocean filled with fearful sounds. O king in this way after ten thousand years Anarta attained a kingdom with all the opulences of Vaikuntha and a dynasty with many noble sons and grandsons. (Garga Samhita, Canto 6, chapter 9)

In the above verse the Lord says:

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: I am pleased by Your devotion but I I do not have another Earth in this universe to give you. O king what should I do to grant the boon you ask"."

sri-bhagavan uvaca—the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; anya—another; na—not; medini—earth; loke—in the world.

Danavir Goswami has also published a translation and commentary on Garga Samhita. I don't wish to be smart, but why is the chief ideologue on ISKCON's Vedic cosmology not even following his own book? Since there is only Earth (Bhu-mandala), any second conception of the Earth (such as an Earth globe) is clearly a pretender.

If any devotee thinks the one and only Earth mentioned by Krishna is a globe floating in space, and that the rest of Bhu-mandala belongs to some hidden nebulous realm from another dimension, or that Bhu-mandala is a description of some other category such as Sadaputa dasa's identification of Bhu-mandala with the solar system (???), then that devotee has a very clear case of mistaken identity. If we think 'the' Earth is a globe floating in space, then we are living in a world of illusion—at least according to Krishna. Next to the importance of knowing who you are, is the importance of knowing where you are. All members of ISKCON can likely recall the dawning of spiritual realization when they first heard Srila Prabhupada's forceful preaching: "You are not this body. You are spirit soul". The experience of awakening from maya and understanding we are not the body, is only matched by awakening to the understanding that the Earth we live on is not a globe floating in space. Srimad Bhagavatam has manifested to reveal the truth of the world we live in. According to Srimad Bhagavatam we live on the Bhu-mandala, and there is more of the Earth-circle all around us. Surely this great revelation should be the point of emphasis. The expression 'can't see the wood for the trees', means that a person becomes so involved in the detail of something that they do not notice what is important about the thing as a whole. In this case, the energy, focus, and emphasis by most devotees writing on Vedic cosmology has been to prove that the Earth is a globe, when their actual mission is to loudly proclaim the extraordinary nature of the Earth circle as it revealed in Srimad Bhagavatam. In this regard I paraphrase the concluding words from Bhaktin Emily. I quote Emily as an example of a new generation of young devotees who do not accept the globe ideology, and who have innate faith that the Earth is as described in Srimad Bhagavatam:

"Before the elections politicians will meet and have a televised debate, but only superficial concerns are ever spot-lighted and discussed at length. Whilst everyone is focused on relatively trivial concerns, the more important issues (like endemic political and economic corruption) are completely over-looked. The overall political and economic system remains unchallenged. Likewise, Bhu-mandala is the elephant in the room—it's the thing to be discussed, its the idea that changes everything, but nobody is ready to address the real implications of this concept, and the current fictitious globe goes on unchallenged. The emphasis should be placed on this previously unfathomable, amazing beyond words, totally awesome new paradigm that propels people's beliefs and understanding of Sri-Krishna in a way that we are beyond blessed to be even present to witness. Why then, would we not be celebrating? Krishna has revealed His universal form in an age when so many people are desperately seeking enlightenment. We have the means to share the information on how important a favourable birth in Bharata-varsha is. We have the means to visually show how big this Earth is, and how ultimately necessary it is for everyone of us to use this experience to continue on our Krishna conscious journey, knowing that another in another birth we could be stuck in this arrangement for tens or hundreds of thousands of years. It is one thing getting the measurements and form of the Earth right, but it is quite another to measure the impact this will have on our world at large and how far this information will go towards freeing people from the clutches of maya. ISKCON is now in the perfect position to be the groundbreaking forerunner of sharing truth in the world. The question is, will they step up to the mark?"

In this opening part of our reply to Danavir Goswami, we have established that the 'one and only' Earth (according to Srimad Bhagavatam and various other Puranas) is measured at 4 billion miles diameter. In part two of this paper we shall establish that the shape of the Vedic Earth is a flat circular disc. Having established a context, in part three we shall explain that the measurements provided by Danavir Goswami for a smaller area of Earth, are not references to a supposed Earth globe that floats in space, but simply measurements for a local area of this greater flat-Earth landscape.