Why does the Srimad Bhagavatam say the moon is larger than the sun?


[This post is a copy paste of my answer from Quora]

Why does the Srimad Bhagavatam say the moon is larger than the sun?

Srimad Bhagavatam 8.10.38, Srila Prabhupada says, “The Sun is supposed to be 93,000,000 miles above the surface of the Earth, and from the SB, we understand that the Moon is 1,600,000 miles above the Sun. Therefore the distance between the Earth and the Moon would be about 95,000,000 miles.”

Answer:

Before we go further, I want to clarify some facts regarding Srimad Bhagavatam:

  1. Srimad Bhagavatam is the 2nd most commented Vedic text after Bhagavad-gita. It has more commentaries by Vedic scholars than the primary Vedas, Upanishads etc.
  2. Srimad Bhagavatam doesn’t most times talks on the material plane. It talks the things on the higher plane (from the perspective of a higher dimensional reality) and mostly on the transcendental plane (above the three modes of material nature).
  3. Srimad Bhagavatam defeats the modern theories of origin of the universe and go beyond it. How? Origin of the universe: Srimad Bhagavatam and the Big Bang Theory
  4. Srimad Bhagavatam is a Spiritual book and it may appear sometimes contradictory to the students of materialistic science but in reality it is not contradictory. It is contradictory on a lower plane (to our 3 dimensional view) but correct and exact from the higher dimensional view because it was given by the liberated souls like Srila Shukadeva Goswami and others. //It may be hard to accept for some materialistic people.

Read the following to know what is the higher view (or the viewpoints of demigods) of Vedic texts like Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita regarding space:

The Vedic perspective or the Vedic knowledge can be divided into three parts. Imagine a circle and three sectors in that circle. One aspect that is harmonious with the modern science, second, which is contradictory to modern science, and the third which is beyond the modern scientific or beyond science at large. For example if we talk about the spiritual world, beyond the material sky.

Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita 8.20 that beyond this material world, there is a spiritual world that is just beyond the scope of science. The primary thrust for studying scripture is for gaining the spiritual knowledge. But along with that there is material knowledge also in the scriptures. The scriptures are not focusing primarily on the material knowledge that can be gotten from other sources also. So when we talk about the scriptural conception of science they are observing from a particular perspective and we are observing from a different perspective. So how the two can be reconciled or integrated that it is a whole body of research. Srila Prabhupada started a Bhaktivedanta Institute, the body of scientific research meant for devotee scientists do specialization and doing research.

In general, I would like to talk about two examples. Say with respect to space, time and the universe the Vedic understanding is that the universe is a multi layered reality. Multi- layered meaning that just like if you have a computer in my computer if I have two users- there is an admin and a user, say there is a child user. The child user has a certain level of access and the admin has a much greater level of access. Say there are 5ooo files in my computer the child may have access to only 500 and the remaining 4500 he has to access through the admin. Similarly the universe is like a multi layered structure like the multi user system and we humans have a certain level of access. So there is much in the universe that we can’t have access to. That does not mean that what we are having access to is wrong or what we are perceiving is wrong.

Like if I look at my computer there may be an E:\ drive, but I can’t see that because that is not accessible to me through my computer at my level of access. There are various ways in which access can be configured. So the E: \ drive is there, but I can’t see it. So what I am seeing is that wrong? Now it is there, but that is just within one segment of the computer. So what science has uncovered in a relative context, it is true and it is true to be recognized. Bhagavad-Gita also talks about how using our faculties we can acquire knowledge and that knowledge is not rejected. But that knowledge has to be harmonized with the spiritual knowledge. So the scriptures talk about primarily transcendental knowledge, along with that they talk about the material knowledge. The primary purpose of that material knowledge is to help us focus on spirituality or help us live a life that is harmonious with spirituality. So the specific ways in which the modern scientific knowledge can be reconciled that will vary. Like I gave the example of computer access. The second example is a variation in observation, depending upon the scale of observation. Say if I take chalk and if I take coal and I make both of them into powder, now one is white powder and the other is black powder. I mix both of them together. What happens? I will get a grayish sort of powder. Now if I see it with a microscope I don’t find any gray powder. I see black granules and white granules. So what it is really? So what we perceive depends on our scale of observation. Similarly, in the Vedic science they are describing the matter and the material world in a different scale of observation. And we are seeing it in a different scale of observation. So how the two are to be reconciled, there has to be investigated for that. Some of you can be the pioneers in that research. Specially the world today needs and blend of science and spirituality. Martin Luther king said, “We have guided missiles, but misguided men”. Our scientific knowledge has outrun our spiritual power. Especially in India the young generation has the greatest opportunity to do this. Because by education and by training we can develop a scientific aptitude and by culture and upbringing still there is a lot of spiritual roots in India. So buy both of them coming together we can make a remarkable contribution to the humanity.

–Ref: How can we understand scientific concepts like space and time from the Vedic perspective? – The Spiritual Scientist

Coming back to the question.

Why does the Srimad Bhagavatam say the moon is larger than the sun?

Srimad Bhagavatam 8.10.38, Srila Prabhupada says, “The Sun is supposed to be 93,000,000 miles above the surface of the Earth, and from the SB, we understand that the Moon is 1,600,000 miles above the Sun. Therefore the distance between the Earth and the Moon would be about 95,000,000 miles.”

Well, the purport (question detail) doesn’t say the moon is bigger or larger than the Sun. But, you are right, In Srimad Bhagavatam 5.24.2, it is said the Moon is Bigger than the sun. How?

Dr. Richard L. Thompson (Disciple of Srila Prabhupada and co-author of, famous book “The hidden history of Human Race”) Says:

A: This is another case of an apparent contradiction. Since we have practically no information, we cannot make a definite statement. But it is possible that the larger sizes of the moon and Rahu may have to do with the higher-dimensional aspects of these planets.

The Sürya-siddhanta gives a diameter of 2,400 miles for the moon. This is close to the modern figure (see Section 1.e).

—An excerpt from Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy

Why it should be related to higher dimensional aspects? Because the Verse SB 5.24.2 does not talk from the perspective of ordinary humans or 3 dimensional reality.

But, if you read properly the purport of Srimad Bhagavatam 8.10.38, then you can understand that Srila Prabhupada says the moon is above the Sun.

Q: The Vedic literature says the moon is higher than the sun. How can this be?

Answer by Dr.Richard L. Thompson: In Chapter 22 of the Fifth Canto, the heights of the planets above the earth are given, and it is stated that the moon is 100,000 yojanas (measurement unit) above the rays of the sun. In this chapter, the word “above” means “above the plane of Bhu-mandala.” It does not refer to distance measured radially from the surface of the earth globe. In Section 4.b we show that if the plane of Bhu-mandala corresponds to the plane of the ecliptic, then it indeed makes sense to say that the moon is higher than the sun relative to Bhu-mandala. This does not mean that the moon is farther from the earth globe than the sun.

For example, if point A is in a plane, B is 1,000 miles above the plane, and C is 2,000 miles above the plane, we cannot necessarily conclude that C is further from A than B is.

—An excerpt from Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy

Hope this helps.

Hare Krishna!

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