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My Dear Gauranga Pada Swami,

Please accept my respectful Obeisances, All glories to Srimati Vrinda Devi, All glories to Sri Guru Parampara!

Maharaja in Srimad Bhagavatam we find this quote from Srila Prabhupada:

"the total diameter of the universe is approximately 500,000,000 yojanas, or 4,000,000,000 miles".

Yet we find that the distance of a light year is calculated at 5.87849981 ?10 to the power of 12: miles

It appears the diameter of the universe is less than one light year. Please can you explain this Maharaja?

your foolish slave

Gouranga dasa

Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! Pranams and Blessings ! Thank you for this interesting question.

From the book Vedic Cosmology by Sadaputa dasa:

In the Shrimad-Bhagavatam a figure of 500 million yojanas is given for the diameter of the universe. On the basis of 8 miles per yojana, this comes to 4 billion miles, a distance that can accommodate the orbit of Saturn (according to modern distance figures), but that is smaller than the orbital diameters of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Since this figure for the diameter of the universe seems to be quite small, it is interesting to note the purport given by Shrila Prabhupäda to CC ML 21.84:

Krishna said, "Your particular universe extends four billion miles; therefore it is the smallest of all the universes. Consequently you have only four heads."

Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, one of the greatest astrologers of his time, gives information from Siddhanta-shiromani that this universe measures 18,712,069,200,000,000 X 8 miles. This is the circumference of this universe. According to some, this is only half the circumference.

In his Anubhashya commentary on this verse of Chaitanya-caritamrita, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati quotes from Surya-siddhanta 12.90, "The circumference of the sphere of the Brahmanda in which the sun's rays spread is 18,712,080,864,000,000 yojanas" (SS, p. 87). Then he quotes Siddhanta-shiromani, Goladhyaya Bhuvana-kosha: "Some astronomers have asserted the circumference of the circle of heaven to be 18,712,069,200,000,000 yojanas in length. Some say that this is the length of the zone binding the two hemispheres of the Brahmanda. Some Pauranikas say that this is the length of the circumference of the Lokaloka Parvata (SSB1, p. 126).

Here the circumference of 18,712,069,200,000,000 yojanas corresponds to a diameter of 5,956,200,000,000,000 yojanas. This number is much larger than the 500,000,000-yojana diameter given in the Bhagavatam, and we might ask how it relates to it. According to the Bhägavatam (5.20.37),

By the supreme will of Krishna, the mountain known as Lokaloka has been installed as the outer border of the three worlds-Bhurloka, Bhuvarloka and Svarloka-to control the rays of the sun throughout the universe. All the luminaries, from the sun up to Dhruvaloka, distribute their rays throughout the three worlds, but only within the boundary formed by this mountain.

This verse reconciles the statement that the 18-quadrillion-yojana circumference is the limit of distribution of the sun's rays with the statement that it is the circumference of Lokaloka Mountain. We also note that in SB 5.20.38 the diameter of Lokaloka Mountain is stated to be half the diameter of the universe. This is consistent with the statement in Shrila Prabhupada's purport that "according to some, this is only half the circumference." We are thus left with a picture of the universe in which the rays of the sun and other luminaries spread to a radial distance of 2,978,100,000,000,000 yojanas, and are there blocked in all directions by an enormous mountain. This mountain lies halfway between the sun and the beginning of the outer coverings of the universe. This means that the distance from the sun to the coverings of the universe is some 5,077 light-years, where a light-year is the distance traveled in one year by a beam of light moving at 186,000 miles per second and we use the Sürya-siddhanta's 5-mile yojanas.

In Chapters 3 and 4 we will say more about the possible relation between this very large universal radius and the much smaller figure given in the Bhagavatam. At present we will consider what the jyotisha shastras have to say about the radius of the universe. It turns out that the Siddhanta-shiromani, the Sürya-siddhänta, and many other jyotisha shästras give a simple rule for computing this number.

The Sürya-siddhanta gives the following rule: "Multiply the number of ... revolutions of the moon in a kalpa by the moon's orbit...: the product is equal to the orbit of heaven (or the circumference of the middle of the brahmanda): to this orbit the sun's rays reach" (SS, p. 86). If we perform this calculation, we find that the circumference of the brahmanda, or universe, is:

57,753,336 X 1,000 X 324,000 = 18,712,080,864,000,000 yojanas

In The Aryabhatiya of Aryabhata we find the statement that the circumference of the sky (akasha-kaksha) in yojanas is equal to 10 times the number of minutes of arc covered by the moon during one divya-yuga (AA, p. 13). This comes to:

57,753,336 x 360 x 60 x 10 = 12,474,720,576,000 yojanas

When interpreting this figure, we should keep in mind that Aryabhata used a yojana of about 7.55 miles rather than 5 miles. If we convert Aryabhata's figure to 5-mile yojanas, we obtain a universal circumference that is almost exactly one thousandth of the figure cited in Surya-siddhanta and Siddhanta-shiromani. The reason for this is that Aryabhata used the number of revolutions of the moon in a divya-yuga rather than the number of revolutions in a kalpa. (There are 1,000 divya-yugas per kalpa.)

We mention Aryabhata's calculation for the sake of completeness. There are a number of ways in which Aryabhata differs from other Indian astronomers (AA). For example, he is unique in (wrongly) making the four yugas equal in length, and he also suggests that the earth rotates daily on its axis. (All other Indian astronomers speak of the kala-cakra rotating around a fixed earth.) Our main point here is that very large figures for the size of the universe were commonly presented in the jyotisha shastras, and such figures have been accepted by Shrila Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvati Thäkura and Shrila Prabhupada.

Conclusion by Swami Gaurangapada:

As per the above proofs, we can roughly estimate that the full circumference of the universe including the Lokaloka mountain is around 36 quadrillion yojanas. So the diameter of our universe can be estimated to around 12 quadrillion yojanas. And considering one yojana to be anywhere around 5 to 8 miles, we can conclude that the diameter of the universe is around 60 to 96 quadrillion miles which is around 10 to 16,000 light years. The 4 billion diameter given in the Shrimad Bhagavatam is that of the Bhu Mandala only which is the prominent inner part of our universe. And our universe is the smallest universe in this material creation .

Daaso'smi, Swami Gaurangapada.

Jaya Nitai Gauranga Hare Krishna! Wonderful answer Maharaja, amazing! thank you so much, Im very grateful for such a full depth answer.

Your humble servant

Gouranga dasa