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.

Vanity thought #1676. Looming

Sometimes you just can’t avoid it, destiny just looms over you and you have no choice but to follow it. Some try to rebel but it never ends well and karma always gets its way in the end. Some might rebel not against karma per se but against one of the competing influences, like the duty to do homework and the urge to hang on the phone just a little longer. In this case you might rebel either against the Facebook or the chores but it isn’t a rebellion against karma because it’s a false choice.

We appropriate various ideas in our minds as our own and reject others as foreign but they are all inside our minds, they are all our karma. It’s like modern elections where you seemingly have a choice between Republicans and Democrats but they are both going to do what the Wall Street tells them anyway. So what if you happened to pick the “winning side”? Both propositions were losing and the election thing was just a distraction to make your loss sound sweeter. That’s the kind of stuff you’d hear among Bernie’s supporters but I’m not going to write about politics today, because karma.

Today’s ekādaśī and I was thinking about writing something from the scriptures of from vaiṣṇava history but then got to read a lot of stuff about looming and other refraction effects and the choice was made without even asking me. It was looming over my mind all along.

The other day I proposed a thought experiment where Earth’s gravity would bend the light so that it follows Earth’s curvature. To the observers on such Earth it would appear to be flat and they would be able to see any distant objects no matter how far away, provided the atmosphere didn’t mess with optics. Turns out it’s not very hard to imagine it really happening, but not due to gravity, of course.

Under normal conditions the light passing through atmosphere already refracts a little and bends downwards, adding some 8% to the distance to the horizon. It is possible to calculate exact atmospheric conditions that would bend it indefinitely, letting it circle around the Earth and make it appear to be totally flat. All that is needed is sufficient temperature inversion.

Ordinarily, the air gets colder with altitude and inversion means the opposite is happening – there’s a layer of hotter air over cold air near the surface. Actually, if the layers are clearly separated then another effect could happen called ducting. In ducting rays of light reflect from the inversion boundary back towards the surface and there’s a small range of angles where they don’t hit the ground after being reflected but miss it and hit the inversion mirror again like the middle rays in this illustration (it’s hosted on the site I read this stuff from):

A ray of light travelling at a tad higher angle would exit immediately and a ray traveling a tad lower would not reflect when it hits the curved inversion layer many kilometers later. In the small range where rays follow the duct they can hop indefinitely, however. This is known not so much to Flat Earthers or land surveyors but to radar operators who sometimes can see objects thousands kilometers away. At the optical wavelength the moisture in the air would not allow to see that far but radar waves are not affected by it. On the other hand, radar frequencies need more precise conditions for ducts to occur while optical waves are more tolerant.

In ducting the image would often appear zoomed or stretched or inverted because rays of light would often intersect and form focal points, as you can see in the above picture. Still, the point is that it is possible to see far far beyond the horizon if the atmospheric conditions are right.

Looming is a different effect in that it allows for some features of ducting without forming the duct itself where the image would flip, stretch or zoom. In looming there aren’t hops either, just constant bending of the light so that it follows parallel to the surface.

First thing – rays don’t exist, they are a theoretical construct, what we meant to say is a “band” of light which has some width. When such a band of light bends around the surface it means that its upper portion travels faster then its bottom one. It’s pretty much the same when you turn your car right and left wheels have to spin a little faster because they have to cover more distance. This is what we need atmosphere to do – to slow down the bottom part of the light band so that it makes a turn around Earth’s curvature.

From here on it’s just mathematics – how much slower and, if we attribute this difference in speed to the difference in temperature, how big the temperature inversion should be. Turns out not outrageously big – about 1 degree Celsius for 10 meters of altitude. I have a room in the house were, when I turn the air-conditioner on, there’s always 3 degree difference between opposite ends so 1 degree per 10 meters is not that big of a gradient.

Of course when we are talking about nature and altitude there are no air-conditioners to cool off the bottom layer but 1 degree difference between the surface and, say third floor, would not be noticed by many people. If we are talking about tallest buildings in the world, however, in many of them the top floor would be at a water boiling temperature if inversion persisted at this rate. Normally, the air gets colder at a rate of 6 degrees per kilometer so top floors of the tallest buildings are maybe 3-4 degrees cooler than than the ground. For Burh Khalifa it’s 6, wikipedia says. Summers in Dubai are hot, at 40 degrees Celsius on average, so, at a rate of 1 degree per 10 meters it needs 600 meters to reach boiling temperature so their highest occupied floor at 584 meters would be hot enough to cook just by putting your pots outside.

We don’t need these extreme conditions for looming to happen in the Australian video I’m talking about because we don’t need the light to bend indefinitely and we don’t need a wide band of it but we still need some serious temperature inversion to be there. Was it present? Hard to say, meteorology is even more complicated then optics and refractions, but typical conditions need some geographical boundaries to keep cold air at the surface trapped, like in mountain valleys, or the hot air must be blown over from somewhere else, or the surface air must be cooled by the ocean itself, which is why looming is more common in the polar regions.

In this case, assuming the video was shot in the beginning of December 2015, the ocean was already pretty hot at 24-25 degrees and the weather was also at its hottest, reaching 30 on some days. There wasn’t any temperature space for even hotter air to come over to create the inversion. If the winds were blowing from the land where it’s usually hotter than over the sea then we could have had hot desert air covering cool ocean air at the surface but winds in that time were coming from the East, from the Pacific, so that is out, too.

Bottom line, there’s probably a reasonable explanation for this phenomenon but it requires specific conditions that don’t appear to be present. A real meteorologist, however, might explain it better and point to signs ignored by laymen like me. I’m not even sure we CAN prove that the Earth is flat from such observations just as we can’t prove transcendence exists by using material senses. For everything that happens in this world there’s always a rational explanation and so it might be for flat Earth “evidence”, too. In any case, it’s fun to analyze the creation and contemplate limits of our perception. It should also be fun for the demigods to look at us circling around our Earth, unable to break out and see the worlds for what it is.

Vanity thought #1675. Flat out mad

The Earth is hard to figure out. Atheists behave like they know everything but it’s just pretense, they simply lull themselves into a false sense of security and devotees, sorry to say, aren’t much better. When we come across some mysterious phenomenon we all try to explain it away with utmost confidence, we all try to preserve the authority of our chosen ideology, be it atheism or Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The video I was discussing for the past couple of days is a prime example of that.

So far it looks like it was an extreme case of “atmospheric refraction”, it’s certainly not the proof that the Earth is flat in a sense that flat Earthers claim it is but there’s no adequate scientific explanation either.

The video has gathered quite a lot of comments, btw. The latest one smugly tells us that we’ve just been schooled in the atmospheric effect called “looming”. Yeah, I heard about that, too, but it doesn’t explain anything. Next time these Australian guys might get a real telescope, look due East, and see Chile. How? Because “looming”? What is it? A magic word that answers all questions, pretty much like “God”? That would make atheism awfully convenient. It’s just a not so clever way to walk away feeling superior without actually saying anything.

Does it prove that the Earth is flat? No, it only demonstrates that in that particular case Earth’s curvature was not observable. It doesn’t prove curvature’s non-existence. Here’s a thought experiment to demonstrate what might be going on.

Imagine the Earth was as dense as a black hole but not quite. Imagine that light going parallel to its surface would be bent by Earth’s gravity to follow its curvature, pretty much like our conventional satellites that stay in orbit without falling down. Our satellites are much slower than the light, of course, but if the Earth had much greater mass it could require the speed of light to stay in its orbit.

The observers in such a case would be able to see any object on Earth’s surface no matter how far it was, provided they had good optics in their cameras. They would never see Earth’s curvature and they probably would not even suspect it’s there. For them light would propagate in the shortest and quickest route and that’s what they would consider “straight”. To the observers outside of Earth’s gravitational pull, however, it would be seen as curved. They would look at laser beams on Earth, for example, and clearly see how they bend to follow the surface.

I don’t know what would happen if the observers on the Earth got optics powerful enough to see the light making a full circle, they would see the back of their own heads then. It’s interesting to speculate what they would imagine their Earth’s shape would be then but I’m not going to engage in it now.

Back to the video – what we see is that due to some freak of nature the light got bent and we got to see an island that would normally be 1 km below the horizon. Does it really matter why it happened? To us it looks like the Earth is flat in this case, it’s what we observe. We can speculate whether its gravity, contortions in time-space continuum, or perfect conditions for extreme atmospheric refraction. The point is that the Earth looks flat to us but not to observers who are outside of the influence of that particular effect just as observers in space would see lasers bending around the Earth in my hypothetical example.

How should we react to that? I know how atheists react and I know how dissenters react in such cases, too. It’s all the same – they trot their favorite theory and claim to have explained everything. In flat Earthers case they completely re-imagine the world as a flat disk surrounded by a wall of ice, otherwise known as Antarctica, which keeps oceans from spilling over. Honestly, people in that camp are flat out mad.

I don’t know what their individual reasons for believing in flat Earth are, some might be in just for the fun of it, like members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but most, I suppose, look for an explanation to some real life phenomena that science fails to provide, like in case of this video, for example.

They think that because they see Earth’s flatness on one particular occasion then it must be true for all observers all the time and then they accuse everyone who has a different experience of lying. Now they are just stubbornly deny everything that is scientifically rooted in Earth as a globe, starting with satellites and space travel. They honestly think that the entire job of NASA and all other space agencies around the world is to sit and produce tons of fake footage purporting to show results of their otherwise non-existent space exploration.

Just like with atheists, they refuse to open their minds to other possibilities and insist on their selected theory being totally adequate. In our case we also have Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and I would expect devotees to settle on what is said there even if we can’t comprehend Bhāgavatam model of the universe in full but no, they have to go out and engage in that Flat Earth nonsense.

Yesterday I mentioned part 2 and said it was disappointing but I didn’t mention the real reason I felt so let down. After the segment with flyover the author went into incomprehensible rant about some art installation that showed a model of a flat Earth with masonic Mount Meru in the middle. Yes, someone might have made a model of a Flat Earth, the idea isn’t exactly new, or it could be a replica of United Nations’ flag and emblem. Or it could, indeed, be some shady Masonic monument. It doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter to us and watching that devotee go out of his way to talk about it was a huge let down. He destroyed any credibility he might have had after his part 1. He was completely mental.

Nevermind that, though, his heart is in the right place and he IS Kṛṣṇa’s devotee, that’s all that matters. We are not after intelligence or even coherence, as long as people see themselves as Kṛṣṇa’s servants they ARE perfect despite any idiosyncrasies.

Vanity thought #1674. Mirages

The maker of the flat earth video I discussed a couple of days ago has uploaded Part 2 and it was a huge disappointment for me.

It started promisingly, though – they took a flight in a small airplane around the same area where they made their flat Earth observations in the part 1 but, sadly, the island in question, Moreton, could not be seen due to foggy atmosphere so it was impossible to say whether it appears in direct line of sight if observed from an airplane.

Google’s “earth view”, I must note, is not an actual view from a satellite but a 3D model of the same flat map, so if North Strabroke obstructs the view between their observation point and Moreton on a flat map it would obstruct it in 3D model as well, but 3D does look spectacular, can’t deny it.

It did appear to me that the shore is bent more inwards in this long static frame than on Google map but I think it’s just a matter of perspective. In Google 3D model the shape of the shore looks identical. The most interesting part lies to the north, out of the frame, and we couldn’t see that far during this flight.

This means that the problem with Moreton island being unobstructed is still a mystery, but there’s more luck with rational explanation for the apparent absence of the Earth’s curvature.

There are several possible phenomena that could explain it. I already mentioned atmospheric refraction, then there various kinds of mirages, and, finally, there’s something called looming.

Atmospheric refraction requires the air above the water to be significantly hotter. The video was uploaded at the end of March but there’s one point there where the author mentions renaming that observation point into “Flat Earth Lookout” and gives a date for it – 10-12-2015. We can read it as October or as December but on October 12 there were storm warnings for the area and the weather generally wasn’t as clear and sunny as in the video, so it must have been beginning of December. The date didn’t come from the camera, though, it was superimposed by the author and might reflect the date he was doing his “renaming” during editing rather than the date the video was shot.

Assuming it was beginning of December, which is summer in Australia, the sea temperature is pretty high, 24-25 degree Celsius, and the maximum temperature recorded last December was only 30. The difference is rather small and it should not produce an extreme case of atmospheric refraction.

Under normal conditions refraction moves the horizon by 8%, I understand, but when conditions are just right it might allow people to see objects hundreds kilometers away, wiki says. In this case the horizon moved back from 11 miles to at least 76 miles, nearly 700 percent comparing to the usual 8 while the temperature difference between sea and air is unremarkable.

Mirages could be of different kinds here, something like superior mirage or Fata Morgana but, as far as I can see, mirages are inherently unstable and should always distort the image in one way or another, especially as time passes. In the video, however, no distortions are visible at all so I don’t think mirages are a good explanation here.

Then we come to looming which fits in every way but, unfortunately, lacks scientific explanation for it in that wiki article. If they mean that it’s a common atmospheric refraction event then proper conditions should be there but I just discussed that everything looked pretty normal.

What’s interesting about looming is that if the Earth was larger and so had lesser curvature light would naturally bend downwards and run parallel to the surface at all times. If that were to happen we might conclude that the Earth was indeed flat – if we define propagation of light as a straight line and everything that deviates from it as curved or bent.

This is an interesting proposition because that’s what we normally do, it’s our classical perception of the world where we judge things as curved or straight according to the line of sight. I should add that sight and light are one and the same here, I’m not talking about some special beams or lasers but general light as it’s reflected of the objects and travels towards our eyes. We always assume it to be straight.

In theory of relativity, however, time and space are intrinsically linked so the shape of space, ie the path of light, depends on its speed. Things might look perfectly straight to us but not to an outside observer. There aren’t any actual outside observers outside our time-space continuum but we can theorize about how things would look to them.

With atmospheric refraction or looming, however, we CAN accept the position of an objective observer outside the influence of factors contributing to the effect. We can increase our altitude, for example, and raise above the extreme temperature gradient that allows for refraction, or we can wait it out until conditions change.

Unlike a hypothetical observer outside the influence of time, we CAN see how light propagates in a straight or a curved line depending on the air-temperature continuum it travels through. This makes us laugh at people who think the Earth is flat just as people outside of time can laugh at our perception of days and years, or distances. Inside our time-space continuum we think that the universe is gazillion kilometers wide and it would take gazillion years traveling at the speed of light to reach its other side but for the light itself the distance doesn’t exist – by definition – light doesn’t travel, it’s always already there – because it doesn’t take any time for it to go from one end of the universe to another.

Hmm, so light is just like Brahman – all pervasive and outside the influence of time. We see it as taking time to go from one place to another only due to our relatively slow speeds, or due to our conditioning, in KC speak. Interesting, huh? Perhaps there’s a scientific explanation for the universe that is totally aligned with Vedas. Actually, there MUST be such a scientific explanation because it’s the reality. Our problem is that we never live up to the absolute demands of the scientific method, hence science is never complete and always have space for progress. Or we could just become liberated instead, if we really want to know, but that is a subject for another day.

Vanity thought #1671. Digging up dirt

I’m waiting for scientific response to yesterday’s Flat Earth phenomenon, it might not be forthcoming, however. It’s hard to imagine how seeing that island would be possible either because it should be obstructed or hidden behind Earth’s curvature. In the meantime, let’s look at something else.

Yesterday’s video came accompanied with some other claims. One was, iirc, that instead of bending into a sphere, Earth’s surface expands four times to keep its flat shape. I don’t know what to say to this, it wasn’t mentioned in the video and there aren’t any clues why that might be the case. Another claim was that Lord Varāha lifted not the globe Earth but the disk of Bhū-maṇḍala. That we can investigate.

As far as I can see from clicking on various relevant chapters in the Third Canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the text mentions bhū-maṇḍala only once and it was in the prayers by demigods. Bhāgavatam uses great many words to refer to Earth there but usually they do not define it as either a globe or a flat disk. The selection of words, however, is interesting in itself and might give us some clues to what had actually happened.

Another problematic area is that Bhāgavatam, and specifically the conversation between Vidura and Maitreya, combine two different stories of Lord Varāha into one. I don’t remember the exact inconsistency but I don’t think it has any bearing on flat vs globe debate about Earth’s shape. Anyway, let’s see how Bhāgavatam addresses the Earth in that story/stories.

One popular word is gām, it’s what Maitreya called the Earth himself in the very beginning in his own words rather than repeating words of others (SB 3.13.16), like Manu and Brahmā. Actually, the very first mention was mahī in the previous verse but it probably derives from mahā, meaning great, a rather generic adjective. Anyway, gām appears a million times in our books and it clearly relates to “go” – meaning go, just like in English. I’m kidding, of course, but Sanskrit go is all about wandering around, which is what cows do.

Once again, without deep knowledge of Sanskrit we are reduced to taking literal translation which do not always convey the root meanings of words. We think of a cow as an animal of a certain shape and the one that gives milk, too, but in Sanskrit principal meaning of cow is to wander about and graze peacefully, I believe. Cows don’t impose themselves on anyone and they have no other purpose in life but to wander around and eat their grass. They don’t defend the property like dogs do, they don’t carry people like horses, they don’t hunt, they don’t beg, they don’t come into the house to be petted, they aren’t interested in anything else but walking around in search of food. That’s what I heard from farmers, too.

This choice of word for the Earth, gām, indicates its purpose, too – a place with idyllic pastures for cows to enjoy, not a place to fight battles or display prowess or practice meditation – the universe has other planets better suited for those other purposes.

Another word that appears a couple of times is dharā, another common name for the Earth that appears a million times in our books. Dharā means providing support, the same root as dharma. The Earth as dharā matches very well with the Earth as gām. It supports peaceful life – these cows need something to graze on, right?

There’s one other word that was used several times, mahīm, but it looks the same as mahī and doesn’t convey any specific information, just an acknowledgement of Earth’s importance. Another word that doesn’t seem to be significant is pṛthvī – quite a common name for the Earth but it was given to it after Mahārāja Pṛthu, at the time of Lord Varāha incarnation it probably was still unknown but was admissible in the conversation of Maitreya and Vidura. There were also bhū and bhūvaḥ, words I can’t attach any particular meaning to.

Finally, we come to a group of words which refer to Earth as earth, the material element. There were various derivation from “kṣ-” like kṣmām or kṣitī which appear numerous times, and two other words that refer to earth itself – avanim and urvīm. Both are used to talk about soil, things like river beds etc – the earth, clay, dirt, that kind of thing.

So, when the Earth was lost at the bottom of the ocean what was actually missing is a peaceful place suitable for cows, sustaining life, and the earth as the material element itself. When Lord Varāha dived in He was looking after Earth by smell – a property of the earth element, though the word used in that particular verse was pṛthvī.

I’m not saying that we should take this story metaphorically but we can’t dismiss these particular features being lost either. Why? Because I’m afraid we are extending our own interpretations of what the Earth is to the story, especially when we think that it was a globe normally floating near the shore of Jambudvīpa that got drowned and then dug up by the Lord. It’s not a shot at our semi-official model of the universe but just a reminder that we are trying to place OUR concept of Earth into Bhāgavatam narrative while we should be going the other way – try to understand what Earth is from Bhāgavatam POV and ignore everything we know about it ourselves. I bet it would be a lot easier to reconcile things if we approach these topics with this attitude.

Lord Brahmā’s body is made of pure intelligence, they say, and other demigods probably don’t have an earthly bone in their bodies, too, only air, fire, and water, so the loss of earth as an element didn’t affect them at all but if this element can’t sustain life of cows then it becomes totally useless. Was the Earth inhabited at the time? Possibly not, possibly it just became mud at the bottom of the ocean and to perform its two other functions of sustaining life and cows it needed to be dug up and shaped into Bhū-maṇḍala. There are verses talking about Lord Varāha balancing it on the end of His tusks, however, which means the Earth already had some sort of a shape when it was rescued.

Another interesting point is that Hiraṇyākṣa told Lord Varāha that the Earth belonged to the lower regions and so the Lord had no right to take it away and that particular verse (SB 3.18.3) is filled with double meanings, just read the purport. Maybe demons had plans for using it down there, which would make sense if they were talking about the Earth as clay but not as much if they were talking about a globe or even Bhū-maṇḍala.

Speaking of Bhū-maṇḍala – the verse is there (SB 3.14.41) while there’s no mention of the Earth as a globe. Maybe it was the entire disk of Bhū-maṇḍala that fell down but then I’m not sure that would make sense, too – isn’t Bhū-maṇḍala too big to fit at the bottom of the universe? Or maybe it lost its shape and became a lump of clay and demons thought they could make whatever they wanted out of it?

So many speculative thoughts, it’s confusing.

Vanity thought #1670. Drowning in Flat Earth arguments

As I sat down to type this post I saw that another video cropped up purporting to scientifically prove that the Earth is, indeed, flat. With all the pauses and replays an hour of my life was gone and I’m still on it because even with their poor presentation what they show there should be impossible to see.

Video starts with a long intro and, along with Śrīla Prabhupāda, it’s dedicated to one of the Gauḍīya Maṭha ācāryas. Ex-ISKCON, okay, doesn’t really matter for our purpose. They shot it at a view point in Eastern Australia looking up north along the Gold Coast. The footage is raw and one has to figure out himself what they are up to. They also never stated clearly what exactly they wanted to prove and what would constitute such proof. Was it about the curvature of the Earth or something else?

If the point was the curvature then some numbers should be in order – how much of a building or a ship, for example, should be hidden by curvature at what distance. I’m not going to do this math myself and no one will but there are curve calculators out there and the one that I used was this site. Locating their observation point on Google Maps was not difficult (here) and the elevation at this point, according to this site is 83-84 feet, plus another 5 feet for the height of the camera, and we are ready to calculate. The place they concentrated most of the time was this cliff and if you have your google maps open its easy to find – zoom out until Brisbane comes into view, zoom a little more to see Moreton Bay and Moretone Island National Park, and the cliff we are looking for is at the northern tip of the Moreton island. Switch to Earth view rather than Map to confirm, right click, measure distance to the observation point and it shows some 78 miles. Punch these numbers into curvature calculator – 78 miles, 88 feet elevation, and the hidden “amount”, or hidden height, should be 2,949.8 feet, or nearly 100 meters.

This is where it shouldn’t compute because according to elevation finder map, if you locate that Moreton Island cliff there and click on what looks like its highest points, you get only about a hundred feet elevation, or thirty meters. The highest I got was 36 meters or 120 feet which is in order of magnitude less than what should be hidden by Earth’s curvature, and we not just see the top of the island but what looks like the entire cliff. We can’t see the beach but whatever is obscured is minuscule compared to the visible part of the cliff.

One way to explain it is an optical effect called Atmospheric Refraction which bends rays of light downwards, making objects appear higher than they really are. The image on this wiki page models it nicely even if math below is incomprehensible. Could it be enough to raise the Moreton cliff some three thousand feet above where it really is? There’s another wiki page which gives approximate values for refraction when calculating distance to the horizon and it’s a laughable 8%. Distance to the horizon is not the same calculation but, if you look at the diagram on the curve calculation site, moving the horizon 8% farther back is not nearly enough to reveal the entire Moreton cliff, so that’s not it.

It beats me how seeing that Moreton cliff could be possible according to modern science, perhaps I should ask some experts and see what they say but that would take time and giving them the link to the raw video won’t be enough, I have to think of an acceptable presentation, too.

And that’s the problem with this particular video – it’s impossible to follow without some serious effort and a degree of trust that they are not cheating in some way. I trust them, skeptics might not. They make you look at a notebook screen in the broad daylight to show locations they are looking at in Google Earth. It’s possible to find the places, distances, and elevations in Google Earth, btw, I just don’t think I have it installed. The speaker rattles off a bunch of Australian places you can’t make on the notebook screen, sometimes the view is obscured by someone’s hand, and at one point he asks his friend to confirm that they are, indeed, looking at Moreton cliff. “You want me to do what?”, his friend exclaims, which makes him into a not a very reliable witness. The guy was there and he was still unable to follow what was going on.

Then some other two dudes walk up and strike a conversation and they do not sound like participants in a serious experiment to proof absence of Earth’s curvature at all. They talk about all kinds of things under the sun, never forgetting to offer a personal opinion on everything, and I was glad when they finally left. Why did we have to observer their departure in detail? This kind of distractions makes the case even harder to follow.

In the second half the video switches to looking from a balcony of a high rise apartment building not very far from the original observation spot but whatever they were hoping to see in their camera just wasn’t there. They panned and zoomed several times with no luck, so another major time waster.

What I initially missed in all this banter was the fact that Moreton island should not be visible at all, and not just because of the curvature but because it should be behind North Stradbroke island which is much much taller than Moreton cliff. In elevation finder I got 113 meters or 372 feet altitude on the very first click – three times taller than Moreton. If you are still on that Google map page, the direct line of sight betwen Moreton and the observation point should cross right through North Stradbroke. North Stradbroke has its own cliff but it looks nothing like Moreton’s, which matches exactly with what we see in the camera. We are not looking at North Stradbroke and think it’s Moreton.

Okay, perhaps this anomaly could be explained by flat maps which, over long distances, must distort the shape of the objects and so what looks straight on a flat map is not straight on the surface of the Earth itself. Fine, but Google maps also offers a satellite view which, by the looks of it, shows the real life vistas over real life terrain shot from high above the surface. It’s what the Earth should look like from a satellite, after all. This view is 3D so we can zoom and pan and tilt and so I get this image here:


There’s a Brisbane pin there but the two pins I mean are the norther tip of the Moreton island and the observation point. Total distance shown is the distance between these two pins. You can clearly see that North Stradbroke island should intrude and hide Morton behind, and the line of sight passes through its highest area so it’s not like we are looking over it. In the camera view there’s absolutely nothing in between the observer and Moreton:


How’s that possible? Beats me, and right now I’m too lazy to search through the video for the North Stradbroke, there must be a shot where they panned along the coastline until the reached Moreton, maybe I’ll find it later.

For now it’s enough – the Earth looks like its lacking curvature and Google maps, including satellite imagery, does not seem to correspond to reality. Let me ponder this for a bit, I got no words to say.

Vanity thought #1657. Coexisting with science

One of the bog standard arguments for scientific method is “peer review”. It’s also their go to argument against any proposition from religionists – has it been “peer reviewed”? Usually the answer is not and the proposition is dismissed out of hand.

We are not scientists, everyone seems to agree, and so we need to defer to the authorities. Our authority in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is śāstra and ācāryas but for atheists it’s “peer review”. Hmm, see – there’s not much difference between us at all.

This is the part that we usually miss, and with some over-the-top arrogance, too – that our search of the Absolute Truth is infinitely superior to that of scientists. It isn’t, we all are just poking in the dark under the influence of the same material guṇas.

Any search for the Absolute Truth must follow the same principles, only forms are different. Our form, in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is certainly different from that of atheists but as long as they follow the same principles they’ll keep progressing no matter what. That’s just how the material nature works – you follow dharma, meaning principles, and the universe responds.

This rule alone won’t bring anyone to see Kṛṣṇa, of course, but we are dealing with much smaller targets here. Even as devotees we aren’t hoping to see unmanifested pastimes in Vṛndāvana, we are not quite sure what we really expect while in this body in terms of realizing the Absolute Truth. We pray to be engaged in service and develop our nascent devotion but that doesn’t say anything about how much of the Absolute Truth we are going to know. We could go for yoga siddhis and that would surely impress the hell out of atheists but, as devotees, we are not praying for that and so are very unlikely to develop these supernatural abilities.

When talking to the atheists we discuss the low hanging fruit like evolution, creation, or the shape of the universe. We can cite śāstra and we can speculate but we are not going to actually KNOW these subjects, they are not going to be revealed to us while we are still in our bodies. Scientists, otoh, are making some real progress in their inquiries. We say Darwinism is misguided, they say that they actually went out, saw the fossils, examined their relations, examined gene mutations, and so they base their conclusions on the stuff they KNOW. They can prove it, they say. We have nothing to offer but parroting books. It’s not going to be an illuminating discussion.

We, of course, can challenge their knowledge and find massive holes in it. They’d say they are aware and they are trying to deal with the problems. We can say that their solutions are not going to work in the long run, they’d say it’s better than doing nothing like we do and if we are so sure that our knowledge is superior we should put our money where our mouths are. In this case it could mean to build a functioning society on Kṛṣṇa conscious principles or it could mean displaying actual knowledge rather than quoting books.

The thing we miss is that they pursue their goals legitimately, or at least that was the initial idea. We have gurus, they have professors and mentors. We say tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet, they say you need to go and study, you can’t just make bold pronouncements yourselves. You need to be authorized to speak for science.

Funny how they have to say these things to Christian scientists who often come up with suspicious studies confirming their Biblical version of events. Christian creationists can’t parade as scientists without going through the necessary saṁskāras, I don’t know why they don’t understand this in Christianity and have to be taught by atheists.

It turns the entire discourse upside down – we pretend to be scientists and make bogus claims and they tell us to get lost because we don’t follow dharma. We have the best intentions, of course, but dharma is dharma – to get results having “good intentions” is not enough.

To further complicate things our results are always going to be good precisely because of good intentions but these are not results the scientists are looking for. They want proof of creation or of Flat Earth while we get Kṛṣṇa’s mercy at the end of our lives. We can’t produce what they want and they won’t appreciate what we have, which makes for a pointless discussion.

We can remedy this problem by not trying to outdo science on scientific terms but the temptation is very strong. The examples from HH Badrinarayan Svami’s class I mentioned yesterday fall into this category – we are not talking from our books, we are talking science back to scientists themselves. In such cases they are very likely to expose our scientific ignorance, we can’t beat them at their own game.

The story about Parkes observatory is the case in point – we want to hear how they thought they studied red dwarfs colliding but it was only a microwave in their own canteen, and they would tell us that it’s not what happened and they knew all along that the source of signals was local. We can’t win arguing about dark matter either because its existence only opens the possibility, it doesn’t show any positive proof of transcendence or existence of heavenly realms. We can’t cite dark matter as proof of three headed elephants.

So, there are two things to keep in mind here – we are not pursing the same goals as scientists do and we can’t meaningfully engage with them on their own terms. They make progress and it can’t be disputed, they study under the guidance of their gurus and they serve and offer full respect to their masters. Universe awards them for that and it doesn’t give us the right to claim we know better than them. We don’t, not in their field of inquiry.

There are two exceptions, however – our own scientists working under the orders of Śrīla Prabhupāda are obliged to engage with scientists, and we can use their own bloopers to highlight how they are not following their own rules properly instead of challenging them on what they know is right.

I mean don’t use their mistakes to argue that NASA and a hundred of other governments all around the world are perpetuating a massive hoax about sending satellites into space. One or even a dozen photoshopped images is not a proof of that. Dark matter doesn’t prove Mount Meru but it does give us some space for our “mythology” where science can’t disprove us yet.

We have to be careful with these things and don’t overstretch or will make fools out of ourselves in science’s eyes and that would be the exact opposite result of what we want.

Vanity thought #1656. How it works, or rather doesn’t

In his recent class in Māyāpura HH Badrinarayan Svami got a few anecdotes reserved for science and I think they perfectly illustrate why scientists are going to remain perpetually in the dark and why their approach to acquiring knowledge is fundamentally flawed.

They, just like us, are never going to find the true form of the universe but they will insist on the wrong model being correct instead, which is a worse form of ignorance. We might be stubborn in our addiction to being right and victorious but it’s nothing compared to the stubbornness of the scientists.

There’s a reason for that – contrary to what modern education leads us to believe the actual source of knowledge is personal character, just as Kṛṣṇa gave a list in Bhagavad Gītā (BG 13.8-12):

    Humility; pridelessness; nonviolence; tolerance; simplicity; approaching a bona fide spiritual master; cleanliness; steadiness; self-control; renunciation of the objects of sense gratification; absence of false ego; the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age and disease; detachment; freedom from entanglement with children, wife, home and the rest; even-mindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events; constant and unalloyed devotion to Me; aspiring to live in a solitary place; detachment from the general mass of people; accepting the importance of self-realization; and philosophical search for the Absolute Truth – all these I declare to be knowledge, and besides this whatever there may be is ignorance.

Modern education values academic achievements instead. Why such a discrepancy? Because people forgot what schools are for and take character development for granted. Afaik, alumni of great British public schools always remember the character building parts of their education, that’s what separates these schools from the rest. Students there are taught discipline, honesty and other moral values first and foremost and then academic excellence accompanies naturally follows.

It’s like Kṛṣṇa and goddess of fortune. He is the reservoir of all good qualities and fortune is a decoration. Learning is also controlled by a female – Sarasvatī, and she favors those who make appropriate sacrifices. If a person performs his duties AND also studies hard then Sarasvatī will grace him with results. If he doesn’t perform his duties then his studies will be in vain.

Even in science nothing comes without hard work and intellectual honesty. If one deviates from his pursuit of truth then sooner or later he’ll fall off the path and settle on some administrative position. He might still get grants and cash in on his earlier success but as a scientist he will be finished.

So, either in Kṛṣṇa consciousness or in science character forms the foundation on which everything else grows. Modern education, however, tends to forget that. Results are judged by test performance and it’s test results that get awarded. Character building, otoh, is very hard to quantify. College education has become a necessary step towards success in life and everyone wants it, and then capitalism does the rest.

They need to process a maximum number of people with minimal expenses. Students bring money, money brings facilities, facilities attract bright scientists, and so they need to process as many students as efficiently as possible. Investing in character assessment is not profitable for their workflow and so modern colleges are not designed for that. Maybe it helps to screen the applicants but after than they need to retain their students and keep milking them for money for as long as possible.

Without proper character their academic achievements become worthless, they are just degrees on their walls, something to brag about but without any real substance. Scientists need to publish to stay in the game and so they publish a lot just for the sake of publishing, not to advance actual science.

They are all playing the game and stakes are very high. Tenured positions which provide some sort of a safety and allows one to concentrate on science itself rather than politics or collecting diplomas are very rare and once a person has jumped through all the hoops to get there his character is completely destroyed by politics and he can’t do science anymore, only enjoy the spoils of his victory.

With millions of people paying unbelievable amounts of money to get college education professors who “made it” naturally become very defensive and tweak the system to sustain and protect themselves. Their motto might be “question everything” but they are not going to question themselves and they won’t allow anyone else to do so either. When one’s livelihood is at stake it’s not the time to be intellectually honest.

That’s how we came to the examples cited by Badrinarayan Svami. First was about “dark matter”, which constituted about 90% of the mass of the universe. There are different ways to calculate it and mass and energy are interchangeable. The highest number I’ve seen on wikipedia was 95.1%. Besides that, the visible part of cosmos accounts for only about 10% of non-dark matter, which makes it 0.5% of the total.

I suppose we can allow to extrapolate our knowledge of visible matter to the rest of it but that gets us only to 5%, and when we come to 95% comprised of dark matter we are completely in the dark, pardon the pun. Scientists don’t know what it’s made of, it’s completely imperceptible and so we can call it “transcendental”. Yet when we talk about messages from transcendental realm the scientists get up in arms and scream that it’s impossible. What about 95% of the universe being some mysterious imperceptible substance? They never talk about it to the public that and they never allow themselves to be seriously questioned about it either. They have some ideas about it and they impose them as dogma. One must approach this problem according to their directions and one must present explanations that do not involve anything remotely religious. It doesn’t matter if religious explanation might make more sense. In any case, the authority of the science must not be undermined or the entire system would collapse.

And we are not talking about some isolated phenomena, we are talking about 95% of the entire universe they have no idea how to perceive but which, according to scientists, still has no place for God because they haven’t seen Him. It’s just one giant bluff, a self-imposed delusion they can’t let go off and are willing to protect by any means necessary.

Another example was of the Parkes observatory in Australia (it’s the one that was entrusted with monitoring Moon landings) but it was somewhat misleading. Mahārāja made it sound as if for seventeen years they’d been writing lots of scientific papers about some stars colliding only to discover that their sensors were recording staff warming up their lunches in the microwave oven. The actual story is not so dramatic. They’ve figured that the source of the radiation was in the five kilometer radius, they knew it wasn’t some distant stars, but it took them many many years to finally locate it. The microwave oven emits these burst of “perytons” only when people open it before the timer runs out and there aren’t many people working and eating at that facility in the first place, the whole observatory is automated, so finding that connection was difficult.

The point still stands, however – they have no idea what they are actually seeing with their radio-telescopes and any number of objects in the universe can present them with false recordings. In this case the staff warmed their meals randomly but other objects in the universe can do it on schedule and scientists can easily misattribute their findings to something else. If it takes them a decade to rule out a microwave oven in their own kitchen imagine how long could it take them to realize that they’ve been spoofed by aliens or demigods?

I mean whoever has the facility and desire to fool them can do so with total impunity. If demigods decide to hide from their telescopes they are never going to find them. It would make no trouble for demigods to make the universe look lifeless either. The fact is that scientists have no facilities to detect this illusion and if they accidentally do approach the truth the demigods can always make them worry about their salaries and positions instead. There’s simply no way the scientists can win this battle, not with their eroding moral values and other character faults.

This path is hopeless.

Vanity thought #1655. Stubborn asses

Yesterday’s last point that we are simply not destined to see the true form of the universe is actually pretty important. We might agree with it theoretically, on principle, but that doesn’t stop us from trying again and again.

Some devotees are not interested in these debates, of course, but indifference should not be confused with enlightenment. It’s lethargic and animal like, that’s all. Pets around the house also don’t participate in intellectual dinner talks, and neither are women, for that matter. I mean traditionally it’s the gentlemen who retire with expensive drinks and cigars and indulge in highbrow talks on abstruse topics.

Discussing the true shape of the universe is our equivalent of that. One might say it’s demeaning to women but I’d argue it’s equally critical of men, too. It doesn’t lead to enlightenment, it’s narcissistic self-absorption and mutual adulation, that’s all. The fact that people are arguing doesn’t matter, these “gentlemen” usually had different opinions, too. High intelligence of your opponent speaks of the quality of your own intelligence, too. I think that’s how the phrase “insulting to one’s intelligence” came about – we all like enemies worth debating, we want our intelligence to be stimulated by the fight.

I don’t want to offend devotees discussing the Flat Earth issue but some of their arguments have become just like that – insulting to one’s intelligence. This assessment puts me together with the same “gentlemen” I was just criticizing here, no one above that, otherwise we would be able to see the Mount Meru with our own eyes. I realize that I shouldn’t be critical but that’s how mind and intelligence work in the material world, and that brings me back to the initial point – we are not destined for greatness in Kali yuga, no matter what we try.

We can’t free ourselves from offensive attitude and that prevents us from developing love of Godhead. This much we know and agree on, but the same principle applies to attaining all other forms of knowledge, too. We can’t see the universe for what it is because of our material impurities and our diminished intelligence. By intelligence here I don’t mean the intellect but the ability to control one’s mind. We just don’t have it in Kali yuga. The material element of intelligence becomes affected by the lower guṇas and as a result it does not perform up to its potential.

The śāstric statement that intelligence is born our of false ego covered by the mode of passion confuses things even further, but, regardless, unless intelligence acts and the mode of goodness it will not produce knowledge. Under the influence of passion it will produce initial illusion of attaining the desired result but in the end it’s destined to fail, and under the influence of ignorance there’s no hope whatsoever.

Modern science is driven by passion, it gives us hopes and fuels our aspirations but sooner or later it realizes that it was on the wrong path and needs to correct its course with new and better theories. Somehow wannabe philosophers of science think it’s a feature and not a bug but we should know better. Science is good at making promises and that’s what it lives for – for the initial adrenaline rush of a discovery. When it eventually fails they justify themselves by pointing out at various inventions that came out as practical applications of their theories. Quantum mechanics gave us brain scans and lasers, for example, and modern medicine without this technology wouldn’t be modern. It totally justifies our theoretical research and once we get to play with lasers the fact that quantum theory is still not reconciled with relativity stops to matter.

That’s what we, the common folk, need the science for – for the amusing and occasionally useful gadgets. These days people can’t imagine life without mobile phones, they consider them not only useful but essential to their well-being, but it’s only a matter of perspective. CAT scans and other medical advances could be considered absolutely useful but, just like with everything in the mode of passion, they only create initial promises of healthy and trouble free life.

With better diagnostics come better drugs, with better drugs come inevitable side effects that need to be treated by other drugs, and at the end of the day we have the US spending more money on drugs than other countries spend on food or military. It’s not progress, it’s an expensive addiction. That is the inevitable result of acting under the mode of passion – results never commensurate with investments.

The sad truth about addiction is that it overpowers remains of our intelligence. Sometimes we can’t even admit that we are addicted. It’s not only about alcoholics either – some people can’t admit they are addicted to their phones, some can’t admit being addicted to internet games, addictions take many forms and often are very hard to spot for the person affected. Even when we realize we are doing something wrong the mind and senses are too strong to resist and we try the same thing over and over again and regret our decisions every time.

That’s why we can’t let go of our attempts to understand the world. We might concede our inability to comprehend the spiritual realm but we assume everything inside the universe as fair game. We want to know everything here and we do not accept our limitations. If not us then our followers will pick up the fight and discover new phenomena or better explain the existing ones.

When it comes to śāstra we retain the same attitude – the books are there to be studied and they would provide us with better knowledge. In some aspects they would intersect with modern science and then we hope to defeat the scientists with our superior and infallible sources. That’s what we hope to achieve with Vedic Planetarium anyway.

Śrīla Prabhupāda had no illusions on this matter – TOVP was meant to impress the common folk and give them the alternative to science. He also wanted to defeat Darwinism for that reason. What effect it was supposed to have on devotees, however, was never clear. Why are we arguing about this as if it would change anything in our service? For us the main part of TOVP is the deities, not planets suspended above them.

What drives us here is the same motivation as the one that drives materialistic scientists. We can hear that the universe is inconceivable even for the demigods but it doesn’t stop us. We can hear that in Kali yuga its true form will be hidden but it doesn’t stop us. All this knowledge was meant to achieve is impressing outsiders but right now preaching is the last thing on our minds. And for what little achievement do we accuse each other of disloyalty to Śrīla Prabhupāda? It sounds foolish, doesn’t it?

Vanity thought #1654. Like donkeys

Our inability to comprehend the true nature of the universe is fascinating. Not only we can’t see it we can’t even imagine it. I mean scientists can create models of multidimensional things we are never going to see but when it comes to the universe we are still drawing blank. Our abstract thinking somehow fails us completely here.

We have a pretty clear description in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, of course, all we need is someone to read it thoroughly and explain what the universe looks like according to śāstra and that’s all, but still it doesn’t work.

There are details and discrepancies, of course, like whether the Earth is a globe or an island on a flat disk, and paṇḍitas can argue about them if they want. We’d feel better if we saw them arguing – that would look just like a scientific debate and usually those discussions end with some sort of progress. Debates are harbingers of scientific breakthroughs, it means that our knowledge is evolving, never mind it’s still incomplete.

Even in Vedic times there were huge difference of opinions and, as Prabhupāda often told us, one cannot be considered a proper muni until he has his own theory. Spiritually speaking these theories are useless but materially they are still comforting.

What happens instead is that even in our own vaiṣṇava circles the debate is descendingin into hurling personal insults and praising one’s own devotion. Not so much one’s knowledge but one’s allegiance to Prabhupāda. Both sides quote from him and both sides accuse each other of not accepting his clear words on the subject. Actually, his words weren’t clear enough for us to understand but that’s the accusation anyway.

True to Kali yuga form we’ll probably continue down this road and I’m afraid someone would severly criticize whatever model they’ll put on display at TOVP, which will split our community even further. It won’t even matter if the TOVP model would be correct or the closest to reality, our mutual enmity ignores such trivial concerns, we only need to prove the other side wrong.

At this point I happen to be indifferent to the fight and so I can afford to be puzzled by our failure of imagination. We don’t have a single consistent theory on how to reconcile Bhāgavatam descriptions with our direct experience. Explanations like “it’s illusion” don’t work as they are no explanations at all.

I mean it’s a cop out phrase that can explain away anything under the sun, it’s meaningless here, it’s a tacit admission that we have no idea how this illusion works exactly. We have no idea whether there are gradations to this illusion or whether it flips on in full like a switch. We have no idea how one’s perception would change if the illusion was withdrawn either.

Mount Meru and other islands of Jambūdvīpa are made of matter and so they should be perceptible to our senses. Demigods and sages who can see them have the material eyes given to them by material nature so theoretically it should be possible for us to see them, too, but it isn’t.

If we talk about spiritual reality then we understand that it’s attained by bhakti and that it’s transcendental to material senses. We can’t possibly see Kṛṣṇaloka with gross material senses but that should not be the case with Mount Meru and Himalayas.

If we say that they are made of subtle matter then the question is – what subtle matter? We don’t have subtle matter in our classfication. We have mind, intelligence, and false ego, true, but in one of the articles I quoted yesterday it was said that demigods’ bodies are made of the same five gross elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth, but mixed in different proportions. Celestial beings have half their body made of fire while we have mostly earth and water. Why can’t we sense that fire, which we understand as “energy” in scientific terms?

There were times when demigods were visible to humans but only on special occasions. How do these occasions influence our material senses? What exactly changes in our perception? We have no idea. We have no idea what needs to be ajdusted to see a hundren thousand kilometer high Himalayas. What needs to be adjusted to see Ganges falling from the top of the Mount Meru instead of gashing from under the glacier?

There’s a promising explanation that demigods live in a different dimension and scientific model of multi-dimensional universe is already there. It’s very complicated but possible to predict how objects from other dimensions would look in our view. We can put ourselves in the shoes of stick people drawn on a piece of paper and imagine how they would perceive objects like lines and circles, or outright intrusions like piercing the paper with a sharp pencil. Mathematicians have already figured formulas and created abstract models of objects from multidimensional universe. We can’t visualize them, of course, but we can calculate their movements and sizes and everything else we need.

We are not so lucky with the world of the Bhāgavatam, however. So far no one has speculated what a demigod’s hand would look like if it pierced into our reality, for example. Also dimensions are not a material element. There are directions, ten of them, but they are all visible to us here and I’ve never heard of celestial planets having more of them than us here on Earth. We simply do not have a word for “different dimension” in our literature.

If we wanted to find this world of the demigods we would have no idea where to look at all. We can’t figure out what it is that we are lacking, either from scientific or śāstric point of view. According to our books it’s the matter of insufficient purity but purity is not a material element either, it’s just a different combination of material guṇas.

Maybe we are like donkeys, or rather city horses from two hundred years ago – we are wearing shores on our eyes, always have, always will, and we do not even realize that we are wearing them. It’s a part of the world where we’ve never seen anything at all, it’s not in our catalogs, we’ve never even tried to look there, it just doesn’t register with our eyes.

In case of donkeys – they are too absorbed in chasing the carrot in front of them that they do not look left and right where grass grows for free. It’s not that they don’t have the vision – they are too busy too look, they are blinded by hunger.

Maybe that’s more like our position here – we are too blinded by our desires and various attractions to look at the world right next to us. The perfect material vision comes to yogīs who learn to withdraw their attention from world affairs, after all. It comes as a result of a mechanical process of aṣṭāṅga yoga, that’s how Mount Meru etc gradually appears in human vision.

I’m not advocating wasting time on mechanical yoga practice but those of us who desperately want to figure out the universe should be aware that there IS a way to see the universe as it is. They don’t look like their are ready to put their money where their mouths us and follow it for themselves, and i’s impossible to succeed in this endeavor in Kali yuga anyway,

The point today is that it’s not our eyes that fail us but it’s our consciousness. It gets consumed by low quality desires and as a result we can’t see what’s otherwise right under our noses. It’s like a magic trick where the magician diverts our attention and we simply don’t look where the real stuff is going on. Of course this particular magic trick is done on the scale of an entire planet with seven billion residents on it but it’s still uses the same principle of diversion.

And, finally, we’ve been put into these deluded bodies and these bodies are not going to behave in any other way. They will always be absorbed in distracting thoughts, it’s not our choice anymore, not in this lifetime, not going to happen. It’s the same reason we will also never be able to live under water or fly like birds. None of it is a big loss, however, we should concentrate on developing our devotion instead and for that we have all the blessings.