SB 5.22: The Orbits of the Planets
In this chapter the orbits of the planets are described. According to the movements of the moon and other planets, all the inhabitants of the universe are prone to auspicious and inauspicious situations. This is referred to as the influence of the stars.
The sun-god, who controls the affairs of the entire universe, especially in regard to heat, light, seasonal changes and so on, is considered an expansion of Nārāyaṇa. He represents the three Vedas — Ṛg, Yajur and Sāma — and therefore he is known as Trayīmaya, the form of Lord Nārāyaṇa. Sometimes the sun-god is also called Sūrya Nārāyaṇa. The sun-god has expanded himself in twelve divisions, and thus he controls the six seasonal changes and causes winter, summer, rain and so on. Yogīs and karmīs following the varṇāśrama institution, who practice haṭha or aṣṭāṅga-yoga or who perform agnihotra sacrifices, worship Sūrya Nārāyaṇa for their own benefit. The demigod Sūrya is always in touch with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa. Residing in outer space, which is in the middle of the universe, between Bhūloka and Bhuvarloka, the sun rotates through the time circle of the zodiac, represented by twelve rāśis, or signs, and assumes different names according to the sign he is in. For the moon, every month is divided into two fortnights. Similarly, according to solar calculations, a month is equal to the time the sun spends in one constellation; two months constitute one season, and there are twelve months in a year. The entire area of the sky is divided into two halves, each representing an ayana, the course traversed by the sun within a period of six months. The sun travels sometimes slowly, sometimes swiftly and sometimes at a moderate speed. In this way it travels within the three worlds, consisting of the heavenly planets, the earthly planets and outer space. These orbits are referred to by great learned scholars by the names Saṁvatsara, Parivatsara, Iḍāvatsara, Anuvatsara and Vatsara.
The moon is situated 100,000 yojanas above the rays of the sunshine. Day and night on the heavenly planets and Pitṛloka are calculated according to its waning and waxing. Above the moon by a distance of 200,000 yojanas are some stars, and above these stars is Śukra-graha (Venus), whose influence is always auspicious for the inhabitants of the entire universe. Above Śukra-graha by 200,000 yojanas is Budha-graha (Mercury), whose influence is sometimes auspicious and sometimes inauspicious. Next, above Budha-graha by 200,000 yojanas, is Aṅgāraka (Mars), which almost always has an unfavorable influence. Above Aṅgāraka by another 200,000 yojanas is the planet called Bṛhaspati-graha (Jupiter), which is always very favorable for qualified brāhmaṇas. Above Bṛhaspati-graha is the planet Śanaiścara (Saturn), which is very inauspicious, and above Saturn is a group of seven stars occupied by great saintly persons who are always thinking of the welfare of the entire universe. These seven stars circumambulate Dhruvaloka, which is the residence of Lord Viṣṇu within this universe.
According to solar astronomical calculations, each year extends six days beyond the calendar year, and according to lunar calculations, each year is six days shorter. Therefore, because of the movements of the sun and moon, there is a difference of twelve days between the solar and lunar years. As the Saṁvatsara, Parivatsara, Iḍāvatsara, Anuvatsara and Vatsara pass by, two extra months are added within each five years. This makes a sixth saṁvatsara, but because that saṁvatsara is extra, the solar system is calculated according to the above five names.
When we take into account that the moon is 100,000 yojanas, or 800,000 miles, above the rays of the sunshine, it is very surprising that the modern excursions to the moon could be possible. Since the moon is so distant, how space vehicles could go there is a doubtful mystery. Modern scientific calculations are subject to one change after another, and therefore they are uncertain. We have to accept the calculations of the Vedic literature. These Vedic calculations are steady; the astronomical calculations made long ago and recorded in the Vedic literature are correct even now. Whether the Vedic calculations or modern ones are better may remain a mystery for others, but as far as we are concerned, we accept the Vedic calculations to be correct.
The stars referred to herein are 1,600,000 miles above the sun, and thus they are 4,000,000 miles above the earth.
Śrīla Madhvācārya quotes the following verse from the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa:
ūrdhva-lokeṣu sa vyāpta
“Lord Viṣṇu, who is the source of knowledge and transcendental bliss, has assumed the form of Śiśumāra in the seventh heaven, which is situated in the topmost level of the universe. All the other planets, beginning with the sun, exist under the shelter of this Śiśumāra planetary system.”
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta purports of the Fifth Canto, Twenty-second Chapter, of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, entitled “The Orbits of the Planets.”