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ARTICLE : Modern Discoveries in Ancient Works

Posted By Madhava.Kumar@lana.zippo.com (Madhava.Kumar@lana.zippo.com)
1 Jan 1997 14:23:40 -0800

Modern Discoveries in Ancient Works

By : Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati

There are a few scientific discoveries that are not found
mentioned in Varahamihira's "BRUhat-Samhita".

How do heavenly bodies remain in the skies? How is it that
they do not fall? Everybody thinks that it was Newton who
found the answer to such questions. They very first stanza
in the "Suryasiddhanta", which is a very ancient treatise,
states that it is the force of attraction that keeps the
earth from falling.

In Sankara's commentary on the Upanishads there is a
reference to the earth's force of attraction. If we throw up
an object it falls to the ground. This is not due to the
nature of the object but due to the earth's force of
attraction. "Akrasana-sakti" is force of attraction, the
power of drawing or pulling something. The breath is called
"prana" goes up, "apana" pulls it down. So the force that
pulls something downward is apana.

The Acharya says that the earth has "apana-sakti". The
Prasopanishad (3.8) states: "The deity of the earth inspires
the human body with apana." In his commentary on this
Sankara observes that, just as an object thrown up is
attracted by the earth, so prana that goes up is pulled down
by apana. This means that our Upanishads have a reference
to the law of gravitation. There are many such precious
truths embedded in our ancient sastras. Because of our
ignorance of them we show inordinate respect for ideas
propounded by foreigners, ideas known to us many centuries
before their discovery by them. Our Jyotisa is also some
thousands of years old. Even so it foresaw the mathematical
systems prevalent in the world today.

At the beginning of the kalpa, all grahas were in alignment.
But over the ages they have changed their courses. When
another kalpa commences, they will again remain in

The "Samkalpa" we make before the performance of any ritual
contains a description of the cosmos, a reference to the
time cycle, and so on. All this is part of Jyotisha.

Centuries ago, we knew not only about the earth's force of
attraction but also about its revolution round the Sun.
Aryabhata, Varahamihira and others spoke of the heliocentric
system long before Western astronomers or scientists. Until
the 16th century people in Europe believed that the earth
remained still at the centre of the universe and that the
Sun revolved round it (It was in 1543 that Polish
astronomer Nicolans Copernicus published his book in which
he said that the sun, not the earth, be considered the
centre of Universe). They further believed that this was how
day and night were created. If anybody expressed a
different view he was burned at the stake by the religious

"It is the earth that revolves round the sun, not the sun
round the earth," declared Arayabhata. He used a beautiful
term to describe the logic behind his view: "laghava-gaurava
nyaya". "Laghu" is "guru", weighty,big, etc. "Guru" also
denotes a weighty personality, a great man, like an acarya
or teacher, one who has mastered a sastra. If the acarya is
guru, the disciple must be laghu. The student is small and
"light" compared to his guru. So he goes round the latter.
This is based on the "laghava-gaurava nyaya". By adducing
this reason for the earth going round the sun, Aryabhata
combined science with a traditional sastric belief.

In the old days religious leaders in Europe were opposed to
science and even burned scientists as heretics. But today
we join the decendants of the very same people who make the
preposterous charge that the Hindu religion stood in the way
of scientific advancement, that it ignored matters of this
world because of its concern for the other world. As a
matter of fact our traditional sastras wer a storehouse of

"The sun remains still and it is the earth that goes round
it. It is only because the earth revolves round the sun
that it seems to us that the sun rises every day in the east
and sets in the west". This is mentioned in the "Aitaryea
Brahmana" of the Rgveda. The text says clearly: "The sun
neither rises nor sets".

That all learned people in India knew about the earth's
revolution is shown by a passage in the Sivotkarsa-Manjari
by Nilakantha Diksita who was minister to Tirumala Nayaka.
One stanza in this work begins like this: "Bhumir
bhramayati" and from it we must also gather that the
author's great- uncle, Appyya Diksita, also knew about this
truth. What is the content of this verse?

Siva is called "Astamurti". Earth, water, air, fire, space,
the sun and the moon, the yajamana or sacrificer - they are
all the personofication of Isvara. Among them only the
yajamana has no bhramana or motion. All the rest have
bhramana, says Appayya Diksita. That he has said so is
mentioned in the verse in question by his younger brother's
grandson, Nilakantha Diksita.

We see that air has movement, that fire does not remain
still, that water keeps flowing. When we look up into the
sky, we notice that the sun and the moon do not remain fixed
to their spots. As for space, it is filled with sound and
it cannot be still. But the earth apparently stands still.
Even so, says Appayya Diksita, it has motion. "It

Let us now consider the shape of the earth. Europeans claim
that they were the first to discover that the earth is like
a ball, that in the past it had been thought to be flat like
a plate. All right. What word do we use for "geography"?
"BhoogOLa SAStra", not just "bhoo-SAStra". We have known
from early times that the earth is a "gola", a sphere.

we call the universe, with all its galaxies, "Brahmanda".
It means the egg created by Brahma (the cosmig egg). An egg
is not exactly spherical in shape, but oval. According to
modren science the universe too is oval in shape. The
cosmos is always in motion, so observe modern astronomers.
"jagat" is the word by which we have known it from Vedic
times. What does the word mean? That which does not stand
still but is always in motion, that which "is going".

In our country too there were people who refused to believe
that the earth rotates on its axis. I will tell you the
view of one such school of thought. The earth's
circumference is about 25,000 miles. So if it rotates once
in 24 hours then it means it rotates more than 1,000 miles
an hour or 16 or 17 miles in one minute. Those who did not
accept the fact of earth's rotation tried to prove their
point thus: "There is a tree in Mylapore [in Madras].
Imagine there is a crow perched on one of its branches. It
leaves its perch this moment and soars high and, by the next
minute, it perches itself again on the branch of the same
tree in Mylapore. If the rotation of the earth were a fact
how would this be possible? The crow should have descended
to a place 16 or 17 miles away from where it had started.*

[* There is a remarkable similarity between this argument
and the imaginary experience of a famous French writer
recounted by Ya. Perelman in his Physics for Entertainment:
"In his statirical History of Lunar States and Empires
(1657) The witty 17th-century French writer Cyrano de
Bergerac describes an amazing thing which had supposedly
happened to him. Experimenting one day, he was lifted up
into the air with all his retorts. On landing several hours
later, he was astonished to find himself not in his own land
of France nor even in Europe, but in Canada. Strangely
enough Cyrano de Bergerac believed his transatlantic flight
quite possible, claiming that while he was up in the air,
the earth had continued to rotate eastwards which was why he
had landed in North America and not in France]

I have not checked on how this argument was answered. But
when I asked people who know modern science they said:
"Surrounding the earth for some 200 mles is its atmosphere.
Beyond that there are other spheres. When the earth rotates
these too rotate with it." I may have gone slightly wrong in
stating the view of modern science. However it be, there is
no doubt that when the earth rotates, its atmosphere also
rotates with it.

What are called Arabic numerals actually belong to India.
This fact was discovered by Westerners themselves. The zero
is also our contribution and without it mathematics would
not have made any advance. Bhaskaracarya establishes the
subtle truth that any quantity divided by zero is infinity
("ananta"). He concludes on of his mathematical treatises
with a benedictory verse in which he relates zero to the
Ultimate Reality.

When the divisor on decreaing the quotient keeps increasing,
does it not? If you divide 16 by 8 the quotient is 2; if
the same quantity is divided by 4 the result is 4. Divided
by 2, the quotient is 8. Divided by zero? The quotient will
be infinity. Whatever the number divided the result will be
infinity if the divisor is 0. Bhaskaracarya gives it the
name of "khahara". "kham" means zero, "haram" means
division. Bhaskaracarya says: "I pay obeisance to the
Paramatman that is infinity."


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