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Krishna Institute of Alachua Hosts “Mysteries of the Universe” Workshop

By: for ISKCON News on May 31, 2017

Group activities ate the "Mysterious Universe" Workshop

On May 21-22nd, the Krishna Institute in New Raman Reti Florida along with the Bhaktivedanta Institute of Gainesville, organized a lively onsite and online workshop titled, “Unraveling the Mysteries of the Sacred Universe, Level 1.” Bhakti Caru Swami, ISKCON’s GBC Chair, opened the workshop on both days with an inspiring talk sharing his realizations on the significance of Prabhupada’s outreach program engaging this subject. Brahmatirtha Das, the president of BI of Gainesville who in 1977 participated in the original Bhaktivedanta Institute Vrindavana “Life Comes From Life” Conference along with Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami, Sadaputa Das, and others, similarly offered his insights on Sadaputa’s contribution to appreciating scientific information in the Bhagavatam.

Janmastami Das, the director of the Krishna Institute, noted that over forty members attended onsite at the Alachua Learning Academy, while an additional twenty live streamed online from around the world, thanks to the technical expertise of Nandini Kishori devi dasi.

Murali Gopal Das led the attendees of the workshop. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from Ohio University, and served an internship at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He recently completed his last semester in Advanced Sanskrit Studies at Columbia University. As a member of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, he develops courses on bhakti, Vedic cosmography, consciousness and physics which he presents at universities and international conferences, while he also serves as an outreach member for the Manhattan "Bhakti Center” neighboring Prabhupada’s original ISKCON temple at 26 2nd Avenue. Murali Gopal’s present research interests include Puranic cosmology and cosmography, Vaisnava philosophies, quantum field theories, general relativity, quantum information theory, consciousness studies, and the philosophy of mind.

The workshop, sponsored by both the Krishna Institute and Bhaktivedanta Institute of Gainesville, offered multimedia presentations, along with discussions and class activities designed to facilitate a general appreciation and encourage personal realizations, so that the participants would be able to:

  • Relish reading the Fifth Canto’s cosmography by acquiring a working mental picture of the universal structure described in the texts and purports.
  • Understand the role of interpretations.
  • Recognize what we understand and don’t understand yet of this cosmography.
  • Constructively address issues like flat earth theories, geocentric vs heliocentric views, and distances to the sun and the moon.

Murali Gopal giving a presentation

As a launch pad for presentation and discussion, the workshop utilized research drawn from the first four chapters of Sadaputa Das’s pioneering book, Mysteries of the Sacred Universe, which expanded upon his earlier groundbreaking work presented in Vedic Cosmology and Astronomy, originally published in three printings by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and included as part of the Bhaktivedanta Archives VedaBase program. Both books are now available in new printings on Sadaputa’s author’s page as a result of the cooperative efforts of the Richard L. Thompson Archives and the Institute for Vaishnava Studies publishing division. 

Hari Sauri Das, executive committee member on the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium and director of the Bhaktivedanta Research Center, noted in a recent interview:

“Sadaputa had taken Prabhupada’s instruction about the planetarium very seriously  . . . when we read Vedic Cosmography, we suddenly realized that the Fifth Canto could actually be decoded and presented in an understandable way, and from that point we were quite optimistic about it. . . . I always liked the fact that Sadaputa could deal with quite a variety of different scientific disciplines. . . . I always appreciated that he wasn’t narrow – he was very broad in his thinking, and at the same time, though, he was expert in presentation, giving things in such a way that regular scientists had to accept him because of his command of the language and of the concepts involved.”

During the workshop, Murali Gopal made intricate and scientifically complex subjects easy to understand. Participants in the interactive program enjoyed presentations balanced with humor and fun exercises, while acquiring in-depth knowledge of both the sastric tradition and contemporary perspectives. Gurudev Allin, a second generation ISKCON devotee live streaming from Hawaii, noted:

This workshop and the perspectives offered by Murali Gopal offers valuable assistance in attempting to understand one of the most perplexing parts of the Srimad-Bhagavatam which has caused a lot of misunderstanding and confusion among devotees and caused a crisis of faith among some, leading to devotees leaving the movement entirely. This workshop builds on Sadaputa Prabhu’s work in a constructive way.

Mahavisnupriya, another online participant wrote:

This course helped me to go deeper in my understanding of the 5th Canto.  [It] helped to look at a different understanding of greater possibilities for the explanations given in Srimad-Bhagavatam and to contrast those with the verdicts of modern day science. I was aided in gaining a new perspective and a new paradigm shift in thinking about these subject matters. I learned how various angles of vision can both be true and non-contradictory. I will be looking forward to Level 2.

(Level 2 will be scheduled for after the summer. Check with the Krishna Institute for details.)

While contemplating this subject matter, it may also be useful to keep in mind Sukadeva Gosvami’s introductory statement to Puranic cosmology found in Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.16.4:

There is no limit to the expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s material energy. The material world is a transformation of the material qualities, yet no one could possibly explain it perfectly, even in a lifetime as long as that of Lord Brahma.

Prabhupada added in his purport that “the material world  . . .  is unlimited and impossible for anyone to know or describe.” He noted how “Sukadeva Gosvami admitted that to give full details of the expansive material universe would be impossible, but nevertheless, he wanted to offer “as much knowledge as he had received through the parampara system.” 

As Prabhupada also pointed out, “the Brahma Samhita (5.3) confirms [that] the limits of the expansions of Govinda  . . .  cannot be estimated by anyone, even a person as perfect as Brahma, what to speak of tiny scientists” dependent on conditional sense perception and its technological extensions. Prabhupada then concludes with a recommendation to his readers, “We should therefore be satisfied with the information obtainable from Vedic sources as spoken by authorities such as Sukadeva Gosvami.”

With that mood of humble conviction as a guide, participants at the workshop relished hearing and chanting about the unlimited expansions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as presented by Srila Prabhupada in his analysis of the Fifth Canto and elsewhere within the Vedic tradition, with a view toward offering an insightful, authentic treatment in light of contemporary discourse.

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For more information on the topics discussed in this workshop, you can view two videos produced by Sadaputa Das titled, “Mysterious Orbits” and “Mysteries of the Sacred Universe” on the Sadaputa Digital Channel, or contact Murali Gopal Das with questions.

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