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How to visualize the Hindu lokas, Satya-loka or Brahma-loka, Pātāla-loka etc.? What exactly are they? Are they like planets or galaxies made up of atoms and chemical elements?

I am not asking why these lokas exist. I am just asking how to visualize these lokas. How to explain to someone who's new to Hinduism what a loka really is?

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    Science is not that developed yet to describe all kinds of truths that pervades this magnificient and ever mysterious universe.Asking scientific explanations for everything is like asking a toddler how to solve a differential equation. – Rickross Feb 7 '16 at 7:40
  • See this answer. – The Destroyer Feb 7 '16 at 8:04
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    Scientifically speaking, lokas are planets but located in different galaxies. Our earth is in Milky way, other lokas like Satya loka, Rasatala and others are situated in other galaxies. – Chinmay Sarupria Feb 7 '16 at 9:09
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    My personal thought on Loka is that it could be a planet, moons (chandra loka) or even stars (Surya loka). So you could say a place with a civilization. – Sisir Feb 7 '16 at 9:46
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    Yes they are planets. – Chinmay Sarupria Feb 9 '16 at 5:40
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‘Alternate Reality’

Planets, Stars, Constellations, Galaxies and other cosmic structures are ‘Matter & Energy’ form of the universe that we know. However current scientific community strongly align with the existence of Dark Matter and Dark Energy which is yet unproven.This builds a good premise to safely assume that there are gaps in our current scientific understanding of the cosmos.

Scientifically speaking, are ‘lokas’, planets or galaxies? If it is like a planet or galaxy, why doesn't it have its own sun, moons (like in other planets of Solar System), stars and constellations?

To draw a parallel with modern science, Hindu cosmology talks about horizontal & vertical planes of existence in alternate dimensions. ‘Loka’ in particular relates to the vertical worlds. ‘Urdhva Lokas’ are meta-physical realms of existence in Higher Dimensions of reality. ‘Bhu-Loka’ is our 4 dimensional reality and ‘Adho-Lokas’ are worlds in Lower dimensions.

What am I, a small creature measuring seven spans of my own hand? I am enclosed in a potlike universe composed of material nature, the total material energy, false ego, ether, air, water and earth. And what is Your glory? Unlimited universes pass through the pores of Your body just as particles of dust pass through the openings of a screened window (Srimad Bhagavatam 10.14.11)

To answer your question, each ‘loka’ is an alternate universe in higher or lower dimensions. It can have physical reality like ours (planets, sun, moon, stars etc.) as mentioned in the above verse but it is at different levels of consciousness (astral planes).

How does the scientific view of galaxies and planets allude to this?

Current scientific view of galaxies and planets has mostly focused on material universe. However, it is actually the study of galaxies and related weak gravitational force which has puzzled scientist to seriously consider alternate dimensions.

https://press.cern/backgrounders/extra-dimensions

Furthermore, theoretical proof of famous ‘String Theory’ requires 10 or more dimensions. A break through in any of these active researches will bring science a step closer to Hindu cosmology.

In summary, the idea of ‘Loka’ might not be exactly how modern science would perceive it but the fundamental relation to scriptures is the existence of physical reality in alternate dimensions.

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There is a lot of confusion when it comes to Lokas. People identify with their material bodies and therefore assume that the material sensual universe is the be all of everything. Lokas do not exist on the physical plane, therefore they are not observable by material scientific instruments. Remember that one of the reasons that your body is cremated is because your subtle body detaches itself from the material body. You are not the body! Why would it be necessary to go to a physical location if you are no longer attached to a physical body?

Remember also that the physical elements are combinations of the subtle elements. For example, the subtle element water does not directly equate to the physical element water; the physical element water is a combination of different subtle elements in different proportions (although predominately the subtle element water). It is the subtle body that goes to the various heavens.

Swami Vivekananda writes (Complete Works V5 pp 101-103, Available here under the heading Epistles – First Series, letter LVII Blessed and Beloved – (http://cwsv.belurmath.org/volume_5/vol_5_frame.htm):

…but Mr. Tesla was charmed to hear about the Vedantic Prâna and Âkâsha and the Kalpas, which according to him are the only theories modern science can entertain. Now both Akasha and Prana again are produced from the cosmic Mahat, the Universal Mind, the Brahmâ or Ishvara. Mr. Tesla thinks he can demonstrate mathematically that force and matter are reducible to potential energy. I am to go and see him next week, to get this new mathematical demonstration.

In that case, the Vedantic cosmology will be placed on the surest of foundations. I am working a good deal now upon the cosmology and eschatology (That is, doctrine of the last things — death, judgement, etc.) of the Vedanta. I clearly see their perfect unison with modern science, and the elucidation of the one will be followed by that of the other. I intend to write a book later on in the form of questions and answers. (This was never done. But from his lectures in London in 1896, it is easy to see that his mind was still working on these ideas. (See also Vol. VIII Sayings and Utterances & Letter to Mr. Sturdy.)). The first chapter will be on cosmology, showing the harmony between Vedantic theories and modern science.

Brahman equate to The Absolute

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Mahat or Isvara equates to Primal Creative Energy

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Prana and Akasha equates to Force and Matter

The eschatology will be explained from the Advaitic standpoint only. That is to say, the dualist claims that the soul after death passes on to the Solar sphere, thence to the Lunar sphere, thence to the Electric sphere. Thence he is accompanied by a Purusha to Brahmaloka. (Thence, says the Advaitist, he goes to Nirvâna.)

Now on the Advaitic side, it is held that the soul neither comes nor goes, and that all these spheres or layers of the universe are only so many varying products of Akasha and Prana. That is to say, the lowest or most condensed is the Solar sphere, consisting of the visible universe, in which Prana appears as physical force, and Akasha as sensible matter. The next is called the Lunar sphere, which surrounds the Solar sphere. This is not the moon at all, but the habitation of the gods, that is to say, Prana appears in it as psychic forces, and Akasha as Tanmâtras or fine particles. Beyond this is the Electric sphere, that is to say, a condition in which the Prana is almost inseparable from Akasha, and you can hardly tell whether Electricity is force or matter. Next is the Brahmaloka. where there is neither Prana nor Akasha, but both are merged in the mind stuff, the primal energy. And here — there big neither Prana nor Akasha — the Jiva contemplates the whole universe as Samashti or the sum total of Mahat or mind. This appears as a Purusha, an abstract universal soul, yet not the Absolute, for still there is multiplicity. From this the Jiva finds at last that Unity which is the end. Advaitism says that these are the visions which rise in succession before the Jiva, who himself neither goes nor comes, and that in the same way this present vision has been projected. The projection (Srishti) and dissolution must take place in the same order, only one means going backward, and the other coming out.

Now as each individual can only see his own universe, that universe is created with his bondage and goes away with his liberation, although it remains for others who are in bondage. Now name and form constitute the universe. A wave in the ocean is a wave, only in so far as it is bound by name and form. If the wave subsides, it is the ocean, but those name and form have immediately vanished for ever. So though the name and form of wave could never be without water that was fashioned into the wave by them, yet the name and form themselves were not the wave. They die as soon as ever it returns to water. But other names and forms live in relation to other waves. This name-and-form is called Mâyâ, and the water is Brahman. The wave was nothing but water all the time, yet as a wave it had the name and form. Again this name and form cannot remain for one moment separated from the wave, although the wave as water can remain eternally separate from name and form. But because the name and form can never he separated, they can never be said to exist. Yet they are not zero. This is called Maya.

The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (IV. iii. 38, and IV. iv. 1-2) describes how the various organs of a man withdraw from the body at the time of death. In the Chandogya Upanishad (V. 10. 1-4) it describes the journey after departing the body. It also describes how when a jiva, who goes to heaven, is wrapped in a thin body of water and dwells in lokas with a thin body of water.

Water, however, does not mean the gross element water. As pointed out in Sankara's commentary to Chandogya Upanishad (V. 4. 2) (Swami Gambhirananda translator):

…[it is] sraddham, faith in the form of water—(the subtle water which is the result of the oblations poured in the Agnihotra sacrifice, is called faith because it is offered with faith…And it is well-known that ‘faith indeed is water; those waters having started from faith (and being associated with special sanctifications) ascend upward.’ (The gods pour as an oblation, that faith in the form of water.)

So the jiva, wrapped in the subtle waters of faith, ascends to the lokas, which are on a spiritual plane, not the physical plane of the observed universe.

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    Please post this answer here, as most likely, this will be closed as duplicate of the other as that was asked first. – sv. Feb 7 '16 at 19:24
  • As suggested here "The general rule is to keep the question with the best collection of answers, and close the other one as a duplicate." its not necessary that question asked later should be made duplicate of question asked earlier. At last its moderators decision to close. – user4780 Mar 12 '16 at 13:44

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