Nov 30, 2017 IRELAND (SUN)
To Prahlada Nrsingha dasa, Caitanya dasa, Sadusanga dasa and Guru-Krishna dasa: Dear devotees, thank you for your kind responses to our articles on the topic of the Earth. I very much appreciate that you have taken the time to read through the articles and to consider the arguments that have been made. In this first part of three papers we will attempt to answer the questions asked by Sadhusanga dasa, and will reply to Caitanya dasa and Prahlada Nrsingha Prabhu in a separate paper.
Sadusanga dasa's inquiry is as follows:
"The main issues I am grappling with are the apparent contradictions that we see in other segments of Bhagavatam itself. Directly below are some of YOUR QUOTES in reference to the Earth based on your understanding of the 5th canto. Then below that are some DIRECT QUOTES from different segments of the Bhagavatam (including a couple purports by Srila Prabhupada himself on this issue). Please note the apparent contradictions. Your interpretation of the Earth is that it is not a globe and does not float 'in space'. However, many other verses in the Bhagavatam suggest the contrary.
Can you kindly explain these contradictions so that I may understand? I'm sure I am missing something, and it is probably something simple and obvious. Thank you for this clarification on these topics."
Reply: Thank you again for the question as it helps everyone come together to understand the issue. I shall quote the verses that you cited in a moment; and then attempt a reply to your inquiry by looking at the following 4 areas:
(1.1) According to Srimad Bhagavatam the planets float in space due to vayu (air), not gravity.
(1.2) According to Srimad Bhagavatam the Earth is an exception from the other planets and is held by Ananta-sesha, not by air or gravity.
(1.3) The historical context for Srila Prabhupada's usage of the terms 'Earth planet' and 'Earth globe.'
(1.4) Did Srila Prabhupada reject the flat-Earth concept?
We will look at parts 1.1 and 1.2 in this paper, and will come back to sections 1.3 and 1.4 in a following paper.
Our main guide in understanding this issue of the Earth is, of course, His Divine Grace, Srila Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Since the concept of the Earth as a great circular plane is not one that Srila Prabhupada ever preached about, devotees may naturally be doubtful to hear that the Earth of Srimad Bhagavatam is described as such (and thus not as a globe floating in space). When we hear Srila Prabhupada speaking about Bhumi as 'the Earth planet' or 'the globe,' or when we read these words in one of Srila Prabhupada's translations, we naturally assume the Earth of Srimad Bhagavatam is the same as our modern idea of Earth as a round globe-shaped planet floating in dark space. But there is a problem! The Earth described in Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhu-mandala) is not described as a round globe-shaped planet floating in dark space with a circumference of 24,900 miles; it is described as a 4 billion-mile diameter circle with a depth of hundreds of thousands of miles. It is not floating in space, but is held by Ananta-sesha. We need then to first understand why Srila Prabhupada did not speak of this extraordinary Earth concept, and why he translated verses about the Earth in a manner that leads us to believe that the Earth is a planet floating in space just as the scientists present it. In the first two parts of this paper we will look at the verses translated by Srila Prabhupada and cited by Sadhusanga Prabhu that seem to suggest that the Earth is indeed floating in space like the other planets. I assure the devotees that the original verses of Srimad Bhagavatam do not describe any such thing. In the second two parts of the paper we will, therefore, attempt to explain why Srila Prabhupada presented the Earth as a globe when the Srimad Bhagavatam itself does not describe it as such.
(1.0) THE PLANETS FLOAT IN SPACE DUE TO AIR, NOT GRAVITY
Sadhusanga Prabhu quoted the following translations and purports in regard to the Earth planet apparently floating:
"The Lord placed the earth within His sight on the surface of the water and transferred to her His own energy in the form of the ability to float on the water. While the enemy stood looking on, Brahma, the creator of the universe, extolled the Lord, and the other demigods rained flowers on Him (SB 3.18.8)
"…Not only the earth but many, many millions of planets are floating in the air, and this floating power is endowed upon them by the Lord; there is no other possible explanation…."
Out of fear of the Supreme Personality of Godhead the rivers flow, and the ocean never overflows. Out of fear of Him only does fire burn and does the earth, with its mountains, not sink in the water of the universe (SB 3.49.42)
3.29.42 Purport segment: (reference to how planets 'float in the air above the Garba Ocean) "… It is said here that the planets do not sink. Since they are floating under the order or energy of the Supreme Godhead, they do not fall down into the water which covers half the universe. All the planets are heavy, with their various mountains, seas, oceans, cities, palaces and buildings, and yet they are floating. It is understood from this passage that all the other planets that are floating in the air have oceans and mountains similar to those on this planet."
In the first verse presented by Sadhusanga Prabhu, the scene depicts Lord Varaha lifting the submerged Earth and then causing the Earth to float on the Garbhodaka Ocean. We must remember that this is an exceptional circumstance for the Earth as Bhumi is otherwise held up by Ananta-sesha. The normal situation is that Ananta-sesha floats on the surface of the Garbhodaka Ocean and He holds the Earth above Him on one of His hoods. Ananta-sesha is specifically holding the Earth, not the universe itself, as Srila Prabhupada often translates. We shall present the relevant verses momentarily that describe this situation.
In his purport to the verse cited above (SB 3.18.8), Srila Prabhupada takes this instance of the Earth floating on the water merely to expound on the power of Krishna who causes all the other planets to float in space. As with all of Srila Prabhupada's translations and purports, it is his overwhelming desire to impress upon the reader the reality of Krishna's ruling power throughout the universe. It is true that Krishna makes all the planets float, but the Earth is an exception and that is a detail we have to look at. First, how the stars and planets are held in place is explained in the verse below. This is a long and detailed verse, but I need to quote so that we can understand how the planets are moving:
"When bulls are yoked together and tied to a central post to thresh rice, they tread around that pivot without deviating from their proper positions—one bull being closest to the post, another in the middle, and a third on the outside. Similarly, all the planets and all the hundreds and thousands of stars revolve around the polestar, the planet of Maharaja Dhruva, in their respective orbits, some higher and some lower. Fastened by the Supreme Personality of Godhead to the machine of material nature according to the results of their fruitive acts, they are driven around the polestar by the wind and will continue to be so until the end of creation. These planets float in the air within the vast sky, just as clouds with hundreds of tons of water float in the air or as the great shena eagles, due to the results of past activities, fly high in the sky and have no chance of falling to the ground (SB 5.23.3)."
Here it says that the past good karma (karma-nirmita) of the living entities (who form the stars and planets), along with the controlling power of vayu (vayu-vasah), under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (purusha) keeps the planets (graha-adayah) and other luminaries (jyotih-ganah) in their respective orbit, so that they do not fall to the Earth (bhuvi—on the ground; na—not; patanti—fall down). The grahas thus traverse in their orbits and revolve in the sky like clouds that are moved by the wind (kramanti—revolve all around; nabhasi—in the sky; yatha—exactly like; meghah—heavy clouds; syena-adayah—birds such as the big eagle; vayu-vasah—controlled by the air).
The planets are thus held not by gravity, but by vayu or the manipulation of air (avalambya—taking support of; vayuna—by the wind; udiryamanah—being propelled). Srila Prabhupada thus disputes the gravity theory in a very important purport to this verse which can be found here.
This verse and purport will be one of the foundational statements for our spiritual scientists to defeat the globe theory which practically rests on the idea of gravity. According to the scientists, space is a vacuum with no air present; but here we learn that cosmic winds operate in space and are both holding and moving the planets in their orbits. [Incidentally, in the years 1969-72, the American government presented to the world that their astronauts made successive trips through the vacuum of space and landed on the surface of the moon. For followers of Srimad Bhagavatam, this one verse proves that the whole presentation was fake (as Srila Prabhupada consistently argued). We will later write a paper on this whole issue of the Moon Landing Hoax, but, for the moment, let everyone take note that Srimad Bhagavatam does not present space as a vacuum. Cosmic winds operate in space under the direction of Vayu and keep the planets afloat and in their respective orbits].
The acharyas comment on the above verse as follows:
"Oxen tied to a thrashing pole with a three stringed rope, move in circles around the central pole—some of them tied from inside and others tied from outside. In the same manner, the celestial bodies which are tied to the kala-chakra from inside and outside move in circles around Druva, propelled by their karma and the forces of pravaha Vayu. They resemble birds in the sky and do not fall. The karma of jivas and the properties of matter such as the wind are manifold and wonderful and are responsible for holding these bodies in the sky (Commentary by Viraraghava to SB 5.23.3)
Just as oxen tied to the central pole of the threshing floor move in their respective positions, so do the stars and planets fixed by Ishvara [the controller] in the proper positions within the kala-cakra move by their own karma [the results of fruitive activities] and propelled by Vayu [wind or the demigod of wind, Vayu] (Commentary by Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura to SB 5.23.3)
The same idea is further clarified. As oxen tied to a pole do not violate their path and position, so do the stars and planets move around Dhruva, driven by Vayu and assisted by their own karma. They are attached to the kala-chakra by ropes of wind from inside and outside and they do not fall because of these reasons. The same thing is further elaborated. The association of prakrti (matter) and purusa (the living entity) is so complex that it produces wonderful events. This is one of the reasons for their not falling." (Commentary by Sri Bhagavatacharya 5.23.3)
Here we learn about a very personal aspect of the universe—that the stars and planets all have personal existence behind them, and karma is one of the factors that enable these luminaries to orbit in the celestial regions.
"They do not fall like us because they have done excellent deeds in the form of the worship of Vishnu. As a result of these, they are endowed with extraordinary powers" (Commentary by Yadavarya to SB 5.23.3)
I doubt that modern astronomers would factor karma as one of the reasons why planets stay in orbit.
Since the planets and other luminaries rotate in the sky by the force of karma and the manipulation of air (not gravity), then what about the Earth; is the Earth also held up by air? The answer is no. The Earth as always is in her own separate and unique category. The great Earth circle (Bhu-mandala) is held up by Ananta-sesha.
(1.2) THE EARTH IS HELD BY ANANTA-SESHA, NOT BY AIR OR GRAVITY
It should be noted first of all that the Earth (Bhu-mandala) is in its own separate category from the nine planets (grahas) and other luminaries in the sky. In both Vedic and ancient Greek and Roman cosmology, the Earth is not considered a planet like the others. We have discussed the point briefly in the introduction to the previous paper.
Sukadeva Goswami states that the grahas and other luminaries are held up and rotate by the control of wind. The Earth by contrast is not floating, but is held aloft from beneath by Ananta-sesha. We shall now look at the relevant verses that describe the difference:
There are many verses in Srimad Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta that describes Ananta-sesha holding the Earth; we shall discuss seven of these verses. To put these verses in context, let us bear in mind that Sukadeva Goswami begins his description of the universe in chapter 16 of the fifth canto. We are soon to learn that the Earth (Mahi—the great one) is actually the largest feature in the universe, and thus most of the description about the universe is actually centered on the Earth. Chapters 16-19 describe the features on the external surface of the Earth such as the seven islands and oceans; chapters 24 and chapter 26 describe what is within the depths of the Earth—the seven subterranean realms and the hells; chapters 21-23 describe what is above the Earth such as the planets and stars; and chapter 25 describes how the Earth is held up. Chapter 25 is a continuation of all that has been spoken about the Earth so far, and now Srila Sukadeva explains how the Earth is held in place:
"yasyedam ksiti-mandalam bhagavato 'nanta-murteh
Sukadeva Gosvami continued: This great universe, situated on one of Lord Anantadeva's thousands of hoods, appears just like a white mustard seed. It is infinitesimal compared to the hood of Lord Ananta." (SB 5.25.2)
Here Srila Prabhupada translates ksiti-mandalam as universe, but both context, as well as the name itself (ksiti—earth), tells us that it is a reference to Ananta-sesha holding the Earth. The context is that Sukadeva Goswami is in the course of describing the features above and below Bhu-mandala. Here he informs us that Bhu-mandala is held from below by Ananata-sesha who resides on the surface of the Garbhodaka Ocean. The Garbhodaka Ocean is within the universe; thus Ananta-sesha is holding the Earth, not the universe itself.
The acharyas in their purports to these verses also confirm that Sesha is holding the Earth (Bhu-mandala), not the universe itself:
"Even the name of Ananta is fully justified in Him because of His infinite strength. Ananta means boundless which is evident since He bears the entire Earth effortlessly on His head like a mustard seed." (Commentary to SB 5.24.2 by Bhagavatprasadacarya)
"He is called Ananta because of His infinite strength indicated by His bearing the Earth on His head like a mustard seed." (Commentary to SB 5.24.2 by Yadavarya)
"The entire Earth rests on one of his thousand hoods like a mustard seed. Thus because of His infinite strength, He is called Ananta." (Commentary to SB 5.24.2 by Viraraghava)
In translations, Srila Prabhupada often wants to convey more than the particular verse is literally saying, and here Srila Prabhupada is once again emphasizing the supreme might of Krishna who supports the entire universe. However, the verse specifically informs us that it is the Earth circle (ksiti-mandalam), not the universe itself that is held by Ananta-sesha. Ksiti means Earth and mandala means circle, thus ksiti-mandala is just another way of saying Bhu-mandala or Bhu-gola. Srila Prabhupada even translates it as such in a different verse:
Ksiti is a common Sanskrit name for the Earth and Srila Prabhupada consistently translates it as such throughout Srimad Bhagavatam, for example:
"Lord Brahma said: When the unlimitedly powerful Lord assumed the form of a boar as a pastime, just to lift the planet earth (ksiti-tala)" (SB 2.7.1)
That the name ksiti means the Earth is confirmed in all Sanskrit dictionaries. Thus the names ksiti-mandala or ksiti-tala is just another way of saying Bhu-mandala or Bhu-gola. The Earth (ksiti-tala) that was lifted by Varahadeva as mentioned in the above verse (SB 2.7.1) was, in fact, the entire Bhu-mandala which became submerged in the Garbhodaka Ocean. Again, it requires that we understand what is meant by the Earth when we come to understanding whether Varaha lifted the Earth circle, or a so-called Earth globe. So what was the size and shape of the Earth that Varaha-deva lifted from the Garbhodaka Ocean—was it a great circle, or a small globe? And what does Ananta-sesha hold—an Earth circle, an Earth globe, or as Srila Prabhupada translates—even the universe itself? In order for us to avoid endless speculation on these types of question, we should follow Hridayananda Goswami's common-sense and humorous advice "When all else fails, read the instructions!" The method to understand the Earth is simply by following Sukadeva Goswami's description.
Both Bhu-mandala and Bhu-gola are names used at the very beginning of Sukadeva Goswami's description of the Earth starting at chapter 16 of the fifth canto; and these two names are again used in chapter 25 to inform us that Ananta-sesha is holding that self-same Earth. So let's go through that sequence: At the beginning of chapter 16, King Pariksit states:
"uktas tvaya bhu-mandalayama-viseso yavad
O brahmana, you have already informed me that the radius of Bhu-mandala extends as far as…" (SB 5.16.1)
Here the name Bhu-mandala is invoked, and Pariksit Maharaja goes on to ask further details about the nature of this Bhu-mandala. Sukadeva Goswami had previously mentioned (at the beginning of canto five) about the formation of the seven islands and oceans on Bhu-mandala by King Priyavrata. Now King Pariksit wishes to know in detail about these islands and other features of Bhu-mandala. In response to his inquiry, Sukadeva Goswami says:
Here Sukadeva Goswami says that he will explain about the principal features of the Bhu-gola with the names, measurements, and characteristics of the various places upon and below the Earth. In both these verses the names Bhu-gola and Bhu-mandala are invoked as names of the Earth. The acharays confirm in their commentaries to this verse that Bhu-gola is a reference to the Earth, not the universe itself, as some try to misconstrue. Sukadeva Goswami then begins his description of the Earth (bhu-golaka) which covers many chapters, and when we come to chapter 25 he confirms that this Bhu-mandala/Bhu-gola is held by Ananta-sesha. Here it says:
"murdhany arpitam anuvat sahasra-murdhno bhu-golam sagiri-sarit-samudra-sattvam
Because the Lord is unlimited, no one can estimate His power. This entire universe, filled with its many great mountains, rivers, oceans, trees and living entities, is resting just like an atom on one of His many thousands of hoods. Is there anyone, even with thousands of tongues, who can describe His glories?" (SB 5.25.12)
Again for reasons already stated, Srila Prabhupada has translated Bhu-gola as 'universe,' but Bhu-gola is a specific reference to the Earth as Srila Prabhupada himself has translated on other occasions, and as confirmed by the acharyas in their commentaries to the above verse:
"The Earthen sphere along with mountains." (Commentary by Sridhara Swami to SB 5.25.12)
"Even a man endowed with a thousand faces canot describe the greatness of Sesha who bears on His head the Earth like a mustard seed." (Commentary by Viraraghava to SB 5.25.12)
"Even Sesha's bearing of the Earth on His head is due to Hari's presence in Him." (Commentary by Vijayadhvaja Tirtha)
"The Earth rests like an atom on only one head" (Commentary by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura)
Since the diameter of Bhu-gola is calculated as 4 billion miles (see SB 5.20.38), Ananta-sesha is certainly not holding a globe of 24,900 miles circumference. Thus, we have yet another example of why the name Bhu-gola cannot possibly be used in connection with such an assumed creation as an Earth globe floating in space. The Bhu-gola is 4 billion miles in diameter and is held by Ananta-sesha.
The next verse invokes the name Bhu-mandala and states again that Ananta-sesha holds this Bhu-mandala on His hood:
Lord Siva continued: All the great sages accept the Lord as the source of creation, maintenance and destruction, although He actually has nothing to do with these activities. Therefore the Lord is called unlimited. Although the Lord in His incarnation as Sesha holds all the universes on His hoods, each universe feels no heavier than a mustard seed to Him. Therefore, what person desiring perfection will not worship the Lord?" (SB 5.17.21)
Although in all three verses Srila Prabhupada has translated names for the Earth as the universe itself, both context of what is being described, as well as the name itself tells us that Ananta-Sesha is holding the Earth.
Here the name for Earth (Bhu-mandala) immediately tells us that Ananta-sesha is holding the Earth itself which Sukadeva Goswami has been describing in the course of chapters 16-26 of the fifth canto. Ananta-sesha is not holding the universe itself, nor the assumed Earth globe of 24,900-mile circumference. Although the Earth's diameter is usually given as 4 billion miles (SB 5.20.38), it is actually just short of that figure. In Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura's commentary to SB 5.20.38, he says that the Earth sphere (Bhu-mandala) is just short of 4 billion miles in diameter which allows for some space between the end of the Earth plane and the shell of the universe.
"The celestial sphere and the terrestrial sphere [vertical and horizontal spheres are both 500,000,000 yojanas [4 billion miles]...The diameter of the Earth is 3,400,000 yojanas [27,200,000 miles] short of 500,000,000 yojanas [4 billion miles]...This facilitates the serpent Sesa to hold the Earth aloft and the elephants to hold the Earth in position" (Commentary by Visvanatha Cakravarti to SB 5.20.38)
The diameter of the Earth is therefore just short of 4 billion miles across which is the overall size of the universe. If the Earth plane was touching the shell of the universe there would be no need for Ananta to hold it. Ananta-sesha wishes to hold the Earth as his sport or pastime—not out of necessity, but because it is His own pleasure or lila to do so: yo lilaya ksmam sthitaye bibharti (SB 5.25.13). We shall discuss this verse in detail later.
This gap between the end of the Earth and the shell of the universe also allows for the Earth to be submerged in the Grabhodaka Ocean. The entire Bhu-mandala is then raised by Lord Varaha which is another of the Lord's extraordinary pastimes beyond the comprehension of the mundane mind.
There are further verses in Srimad Bhagavatam that describe the same pastime of Ananta-sesha holding the Earth, but again we need to understand the translation in context:
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead holds all the universes on His heads like seeds of mustard. I offer my respectful obeisances unto You, that Supreme Personality, who has thousands of hoods." (SB 6.16.48)
bhu-mandalam—the huge universe; sarshapayati—become like seeds of mustard; yasya—of whom; murdhni—on the head; tasmai—unto Him; namah—obeisances; bhagavate—the Supreme Personality of Godhead, full with six opulences; astu—may there be; sahasra-murdhne—who has thousands of hoods."
Here the word Bhu-mandala has again been translated as universe, but as previously explained it is a name and reference to the Earth itself. We presently look at a brief description of Bhu-mandala as described by Sukadeva Goswami.
Again the Kauravas say:
"O unlimited one of a thousand heads, as Your pastime You carry this earthly globe (bhu-mandala) upon one of Your heads. At the time of annihilation You withdraw the entire universe within Your body and, remaining all alone, lie down to rest." (SB 10.68.46)
"tvam—You; eva—alone; murdhni—on Your head; idam—this; ananta—O unlimited one; lilaya—easily, as a pastime; bhu—of the earth; mandalam—the globe; bibharshi—(You) carry; sahasra-murdhan—O thousand-headed Lord"
The above verse was not translated by Srila Prabhupada, but the same conception of the Earth as a globe has been continued by his disciples. Here Bhu-mandala has been correctly identified as the Earth, but Bhu-mandala is not an 'Earthly globe' as has been translated; it is a great 'Earthly circle.'
In all the above verses related to Ananta-sesha, Srila Prabhupada has translated names for the Earth to mean the universe itself, and thus some confusion may incur regarding the situation of the Earth itself. The translation can affect our understanding of whether the Earth is a small globe floating in space or whether it is a great circle held by Ananta-sesha. Srila Prabhupada instructed us to study the details of the fifth canto in order to make a working model of the universe and that is what we are doing here. Such a study requires defining names and terms. Names mean something; and we should understand the meaning of the names invoked. If in conversation, we refer to events in America, our shared understanding of what America means, tells us that the event is happening in America, not China. America is America, and China is China. They are two distinct places with different size land mass, populations, etc. We cannot start simply calling China by the name of America and hope that everyone will understand what we mean. Similarly, the names Bhu-mandala, Bhu-gola, ksiti-mandala, etc., are names for the Earth. The description accompanying these names informs us about the size, characteristics, and other features of this particular part of the universe. We should understand the meaning from the description given by Sukadeva Goswami in Chapters 16-20 of the fifth canto, and not confuse the term by relating it to some other feature of the universe such as the imagined Earth globe, or even the universe itself. It was perhaps due to Srila Prabhupada's simple desire to glorify Krishna that he went beyond the specific and literal meaning of the above verses describing Ananta-sesha holding the Earth specifically, and not the entire universe per se. However, it is only by studying the details of such verses in order to understand their specific meaning that we will be able to fulfil Srila Prabhupada's wish of being able to make a working model of the universe. Again, we need to explain the point that the translation can affect our understanding of whether the Earth is a small globe floating in space or whether it is a great circle held by Ananta-sesha. Clearly the verses are describing that Ananta-sesha does indeed hold the Earth circle (bhu-mandala) and not the universe.
If devotees want to continue to quibble that Bhu-mandala or Bhu-gola or Ksiti-mandala may refer to the universe and not the Earth, then we may as well abandon all meaning for names, and start referring to the sun as the moon, or America as China, or Adolf Hitler as Mahatma Gandhi. Names exist for a reason—so that we can identify one thing from another.
One has to watch out for numerous examples where Srila Prabhupada translates Sanskrit names for the Earth in ways that although always glorifying the Lord, are not always contextually accurate; for example:
"prthivi dharena yei sesa-sankarsana
Sesa Sankarsana, who holds all the planets on His heads" (CC Adi 6.95)
prthivi—planets; dharena—holds; yei—that one who; sesa-sankarsana—Lord Sesa Sankarsana
Clearly, Srila Prabhupada in his translation wants merely to emphasize the supreme might of Sankarshan who does indeed sustain and support everything by His integrating power. However, when we look at the literal translation of the verse, the name used is prthivi which is a reference to Earth in the singular (there is only one prthivi (Earth). Srila Prabhupada consistently translates prthivi as the Earth through-out his Srimad Bhagavatam translation. Among the many Sanskrit names for the Earth, the name prthivi describes her as 'the vast one,' 'the broad or extended one,' and 'she who is spacious with abundance of wealth for living beings,' etc. Again, this particular name for the Earth indicates vastness which indeed is the nature of the Earth disc being of colossal proportions. It is this one huge Earth that Ananta Sesa holds on his head.
Srila Prabhupada was certainly not wrong in conveying the idea that Ananta-sesha is supporting all the planets. Certainly it is by Sankarshana's energy that all the universe is supported (see Cc. Madhya-lila 20.259-260). However, for us to get an exact understanding of what is going on regarding the situation of the Earth, it's necessary to point out that Ananta-sesha specifically holds the Earth alone on His head, whilst the other planets (grahas) and luminaries are held and move by air, as we have previously discussed. The Earth is thus stationary and does not move in an orbit around the sun, as scientism presents. Unlike the modern presentation of Earth as a small globe-shaped planet going around a massive sun, the Srimad Bhagavatam describes that the sun is tiny in comparison to the massive Earth plane below it. The Earth does not go around the sun; rather, the sun orbits in a circle above the great Earth circle at a distance of 800,000 miles [the sun is about 120 million miles away from our position on the Earth plane, but it orbits 800,000 miles above the Earth's surface].
WHAT SRILA PRABHUPADA CALLED THE 'EARTHLY PLANETARY SYSTEMS' ARE JUST PART OF THE ONE EARTH CIRCLE
When Srila Prabhupada talks about Ananta-sesha holding all the planets on His head, or when he talks about 'the Earthly planetary system,' what is most likely intended by Srila Prabhupada's conception of 'the Earthly planets,' is simply the seven islands of Jambudwipa which form part of the huge Bhu-mandala landscape and which are the abode of the human beings. The bhu-lokasya are not different Earth globes that float in space, but are just part of the great Earth itself.
There is only one Earth; but the Earth is so massive and fantastic that the description of its other areas may well seem like a description of other planets. To appreciate this explanation of Srila Prabhupada's terminology, let us look at the following examples wherein Srila Prabhupada used this term 'earthly planets'
"Those situated in the mode of goodness gradually go upward to the higher planets; those in the mode of passion live on the earthly planets; and those in the abominable mode of ignorance go down to the hellish worlds" (Bg 14.18)
"O son of Mitra, kindly describe how the planets are situated above the earth as well as underneath it, and also please mention their measurement as well as that of the earthly planets." (SB 3.7.26)
The Sanskrit and synonyms are:
"tesam samstham pramanam ca bhur-lokasya ca varnaya
please mention their situation (samstham) and measurement (pramamam ca) as well as that of the earthly planets (bhur-lokasya)."(SB 3.7.26)
One may be wondering what these 'Earthly planets' are. From the terminology, one may be under the impression that there are other globe-like Earth planets floating in dark space such as one those seen in a Star Wars movie with Jedi knights flying in a space ship from one to the other. However, the word bhuh-lokasya which Srila Prabhupada translates as 'earthly planets,' are nothing other than the Earth's seven great islands which cover over 200 million miles and contain innumerable regions like our own Earth area. There is, otherwise, nothing conforming to the idea of 'the Earthly planetary system.' The sapta-dwipa (seven islands) are massive circular islands on the surface of Bhu-mandala, and are neither islands in space, nor the continents of our own Earth as Srila Prabhupada suggested. In previous papers we have presented the evidence for this understanding of Bhu-mandala as one vast continual landscape. For example, see the section: Planets as Globes in Space by Sadaputa dasa which can be found here.
Sukadeva Goswami begins his description of the Earth with Jambudwipa the central island of Bhu-mandala. Jambudwipa is circular in shape and has a diameter of 800,000 miles in breadth. Mount Meru stands in the center of Jambudwipa. The island itself is surrounded by a salt water ocean that is also 800,000 miles in breadth. Bharata-varsha is one of the nine regions of this super-sized continent. Our own area of the Earth is situated somewhere in the vast region of Bharata-varsha: