Vanity thought #1719. Flat Earth argument gone flat

Mayesvara Prabhu put out the second part of an argument in favor of the Flat Earth and I think it deserves consideration. Why, though?

In the big scheme of things the shape of the Earth is irrelevant to our mission. We’ve been pushing it for fifty years now and the best of those years were the ones when we were blissfully unaware the problem existed. Flat, round, donut shaped – people need to chant the holy name anyway and it’s the chanting and genuine care for people’s spiritual well-being that made our society successful. Lord Caitanya didn’t puzzle Himself over the shape of the Earth and neither should we.

On the other hand, ever since Śrīla Prabhupāda decided to build a Temple of Vedic Planetarium in Māyāpura the matter was always on our minds. We had been postponing solving it because building that massive temple requires a lot more than proper model of the cosmos. There’s a space reserved there for this model to hang from the ceiling, whatever it is – means our astronomers still have time to decide whether the Earth would be a ball in space of an island in the ocean.

As the temple goes up, and rather quickly, postponing starts to look more like procrastination. If we were to choose today it would be a political rather than scientific decision, sadly. We still have time, though, and work of devotees like Mayesvara is becoming extremely valuable day by day. I must admit, his argument is pretty persuasive. In this latest installment, however it looks flat, pardon the pun.

This new article is long but short on substance, in my view. It could have been condensed to a couple of paragraphs augmented by quotes from Śrīla Prabhupāda conversations and it doesn’t offer any new perspectives or clues to flat vs round debate. We’ve seen it all before in the links Mayesvara helpfully provides himself.

The part about NASA faking Earth photos could have been excluded altogether – it’s not a plot hatched by governments of dozens of countries participating in space program. Mayesvara might believe that it is but the scale of this conspiracy makes it impossible. The Earth does look like a globe from space and there WERE people looking at it from spaceships. Let’s leave Moon landings for now, but rockets do go into space and place satellites there and it all works because the Earth is round, not flat.

References to some secret expedition by Admiral Byrd do not help Mayesvara’s case either. It’s basically one book that has no credibility. Admiral Byrd was a famous explorer who was the first to flew to the North Pole (though some say he didn’t actually reach it), and who then led a massive, multi-ship expeditions to Antarctica. The alleged secret trip to North Pole where he observed “indeterminable land extent beyond” happened, according to the author of the book, right when Admiral was on the other side of the Earth preparing for “Operation Highjump” which involved dozens of ships and airplanes and about four thousand people. He could not have sneaked out, led another expedition to the Pole on the other side, and came back without anyone noticing his absence. Maybe there are good arguments that it indeed happened and that he indeed observed a mass of land beyond the North Pole (there’s obviously a mass of land, Antarctica, stretching beyond the South Pole already) but I’m not aware of any and Mayesvara Prabhu doesn’t offer any clues.

Anyway, the Flat Earth theory is based on Bhāgavatam and therefore it must be true but we have no good arguments against experiences of NASA or traveling around the world, to the Poles and beyond, so far. Saying that it’s all a conspiracy is not a solution, but let’s suppose it is. That would mean that people at NASA know the correct shape of the Earth, as well as people at space programs all around the world. As well as people who actually fly over the North Pole between Asia and North America -see Polar Route. Where is the evidence of their knowledge, however? How could they keep people flying from Dubai to San Francisco from taking pictures with their cellphones and then posting them on the internet? It’s silly and sticking to this argument doesn’t do Mayesvara Prabhu any favors.

There must another solution to this problem but it would wait for another day.

What Mayesvara Prabhu nails in his article is our involvement in this debate vis-à-vis Śrīla Prabhupāda. His opponent insists that any disagreement with Prabhupāda’s quotes about Earth as a globe is a deceitful herecy while Mayesvara Prabhu shows the dynamics of this issue and gives us a much better understanding of what Śrīla Prabhupāda really wanted.

Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t know whether the Earth was flat or round and when pressed by his disciples he referred them, which means all of us, too, to the description in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Bhāgavatam speaks of Bhū-Maṅdala, of course, with islands in the ocean rather than balls in space, or balls floating in the ocean, as depicted in one of videos referred in Mayesvara’s post.

At one point Śrīla Prabhupāda told his disciples to put ads in the newspapers, looking for a qualified Vedic astronomer, who would be able to clear this issue for us. That search yielded some results but it certainly hasn’t settled Flat vs Round debate for good and it didn’t explain why the Earth looks round to modern science.

There was absolutely no question of Prabhupāda rejecting research in this area or advocating Flat Earth model, in fact he WANTED his disciples to pursue it until it was resolved. We still haven’t been able to do it, however. There was a moment there when Tamāla Kṛṣṇa Gosvāmī felt that he was asking too many questions and disturbed Śrīla Prabhupāda but Prabhupāda insisted that it was not the case. This inability to provide a clear answer bothered him and cost him at least one night of translation work but at no point he wanted this questioning to stop and he delegated this service to his disciples. If we undertake it now to the best of our abilities we won’t become heretics either.

Of course in the grand scheme of things it’s not terribly important but I don’t want to look at the model of the universe that will be put on display at TOVP and think “it’s politics, the universe does not look like it’s presented here, we know it, we know that we have no clue how it looks actually, but we hide it from our visitors for preaching purposes”. In my view that would be terrible. At the end of the day it might be acceptable as a temporary solution, though. It’s all in Lord’s hands and it will all work out according to His plan. Our job is to try our best and leave results up to providence.

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