Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
There are a few scientific discoveries that are not found mentioned in
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. The very first stanza in the Suryasiddhanta, which is a very
ancient treatise, states that it is the force of attraction that keeps
earth from falling.
In Sankara's commentary on the Upanisads there is a reference to the
earth's force of attraction. If we throw up an object it falls to the
This is not due to the nature of object but due to the earth's force of
attraction. "Akarsana-sakti" is force of attraction, the power of
pulling something. The breath called "prana" goes up, "apana" pulls it
down. So the force that pulls something downward is apana. The Acarya
says the earth has apana-sakti. The Prasnopanisad (3. 8) states: "The
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
our Upanisads contain 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
them. Our Jyotisa is also some thousands of years old. Even so it
the mathematical systems prevalent in the world today.
At the beginning of the kalpa, all grahas were in alignment. But over
ages they have changed their courses. When another kalpa commences,
they will again remain in alignment.
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 Jyotisa.
Centuries ago, we knew not only about the earth's force of attraction
also about its revolution round the sun. Aryabhata, Varahamihira and
others spoke of the heliocentric system long before the 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 around it.
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
"It is the earth that revolves around the sun, not the sun round the
earth", declared Aryabhata. He used a beautiful term to describe the
behind his view: "laghava-gaurava nyaya". "Laghu" means light, small,
and "laghava" is derived from it. The opposite of "laghu" is "guru",
weighty, big, etc. "Guru" also denotes a weighty personality, a great
like an acarya or teacher, one who has mastered a sastra. If the acarya
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
nyaya". By adducing this reason for the earth going
round the sun, Aryabhata combined science with a traditional sastric
In the old days religious leaders in Europe were opposed to science and
even burned scientists as heretics. But today we join the descendants of
the very same people to make the preposterous charge that the Hindu
religion stood in the way of scientific advancement, that it ignored the
matters of this world because of its concern for the other world. As a
matter of fact our traditional sastras are a storehouse of science.
"The sun remains still and it is the earth that goes round it. It is
because the earth revolves round the sun that it seems to us that the
rises every day in the east and sets in the west". This is mentioned in
Aitareya Brahmana of Rgveda. The text says clearly: "The sun neither
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 of Tirumala Nayaka. One stanza in this work begins like
"Bhumir bhramayati" and from it we must also gather that the author's
great-uncle, Appayya 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
moon, the yajamana or sacrificer--they are all the personification
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,
We see that air has movement, that fire does not remain still, that
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
sound and it cannot be still. But the earth apparently stands still.
says Appayya Diksita, it has motion. "It revolves".
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
had been thought to be flat like a plate. All right. What word do we use
for "geography"? "Bhugola sastra", not just "bhusastra".
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
created by Brahma (the cosmic egg). An egg is not exactly spherical in
shape, but oval. According to modern 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
thought. The earth's circumference is about 25, 000 miles. So if it
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
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.
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 miles 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
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 established the subtle truth that any quantity divided by
zero is infinity ("ananta"). He concludes one of his mathematical
with a benedictory verse in which he relates zero to the Ultimate
When the divisor goes on decreasing 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
zero? The quotient will be infinity. Whatever the number divided, the
result will be infinity if the divisor is 0. Bhaskaracarya gives it the
"khahara". "Kham" means zero, "haram" means division. Bhaskaracarya
says : "I pay obeisance to the Paramatman that is Infinity".