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Wikipedia article on Brahmagupta, the Indian mathematician and astronomer, claims the following.

In chapter seven of his Brahmasphutasiddhanta, entitled Lunar Crescent, Brahmagupta rebuts the idea that the Moon is farther from the Earth than the Sun, an idea which had been suggested by Vedic scripture.

So where in the Vedas is this claim made?

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    it also states [clarification needed] so not sure if needed for this sentence or the following one. – Just_Do_It Jan 10 '18 at 19:21
  • @RakeshJoshi This question is specific to the claim made in Wikipedia about Vedas/Vedic scripture. I don't think Puranas are Vedic scripture – sv. Oct 24 '18 at 13:08
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    @sv. Then you didn't express that in the comment below answer... – Rakesh Joshi Oct 24 '18 at 13:09
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    @sv. The question is about Wikipedia or vedas ? If You are referring to vedas then this answer is not relevant. But you haven't raised any objection so i am downvoting question. – Rakesh Joshi Oct 24 '18 at 14:06
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    @sv. I am not saying about my answer. The question itself has a biased assumption that the idea came from vedic scripture instead of any scripture. Coming to my answer, i want to update it if i find any other scriptural statements that containing idea moon is nearer than sun. – hanugm Sep 5 '19 at 3:32
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I think Wikipedia is using "Vedic scripture" as a metonymy for Hindu scripture in general. It is the Puranas which have statements that seem, at least on the surface, to indicate that the Moon is farther from the Earth than the Sun. Here is what this chapter of the Vishnu Purana says:

The sphere of the earth (or Bhúr-loka), comprehending its oceans, mountains, and rivers, extends as far as it is illuminated by the rays of the sun and moon; and to the same extent, both in diameter and circumference, the sphere of the sky (Bhuvar-loka) spreads above it (as far upwards as to the planetary sphere, or Swar-loka). The solar orb is situated a hundred thousand leagues from the earth; and that of the moon an equal distance from the sun. At the same interval above the moon occurs the orbit of all the lunar constellations. The planet Budha (Mercury) is two hundred thousand leagues above the lunar mansions. Śukra (Venus) is at the same distance from Mercury. Angáraka (Mars) is as far above Venus; and the priest of the gods (Vrihaspati, or Jupiter) as far from Mars: whilst Saturn (Sani) is two hundred and fifty thousand leagues beyond Jupiter. The sphere of the seven Rishis (Ursa Major) is a hundred thousand leagues above Saturn; and at a similar height above the seven Rishis is Dhruva (the pole-star), the pivot or axis of the whole planetary circle.

And here is this chapter of the Srimad Bhagavatam says:

Thus the time the sun takes to rotate through half of outer space is called an ayana, or its period of movement [in the north or in the south]. The sun-god has three speeds — slow, fast and moderate. The time he takes to travel entirely around the spheres of heaven, earth and space at these three speeds is referred to, by learned scholars, by the five names Saṁvatsara, Parivatsara, Iḍāvatsara, Anuvatsara and Vatsara. Above the rays of the sunshine by a distance of 100,000 yojanas [800,000 miles] is the moon, which travels at a speed faster than that of the sun. In two lunar fortnights the moon travels through the equivalent of a saṁvatsara of the sun, in two and a quarter days it passes through a month of the sun, and in one day it passes through a fortnight of the sun.

But many people interpret these statements differently. See, e.g. Richard Thompson's book "Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy", which interprets these statement as referring to heights above the orbital plane as opposed to actual distances from the Earth.

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  • "At the same interval above the moon occurs the orbit of all the lunar constellations."..."above the lunar mansions" - what are these lunar constellations/mansions? 'But many people interpret these statements differently' - I'm interested in what the Vedic/Puranic people thought about this especially since Wikipedia says "Brahmagupta rebuts the idea". – sv. Jan 11 '18 at 17:00
  • It's referring to the 27 Nakshatras. – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 11 '18 at 17:57
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The actual statement referring by the question is from the book titled Mathematics of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, and Islam: A Sourcebook. The particular statement is

Brahmagupta discusses the illumination of the moon by the sun, rebutting an idea maintained in scriptures: namely, that the moon is farther from the earth than the sun is. In fact, as he explains, because the moon is closer the extent of the illuminated portion of the moon depends on the relative positions of the moon and the sun, and can be computed from the size of the angular separation α between them now-a-days.

It does not mention the name or type of the scripture that contain the idea that the moon is farther from the earth than the sun is. So we cannot say explicitly that the idea came from vedas only. Based on the information available, the idea can be from any (Hindu) scripture.

In this context I am providing some explanations from some scriptures or texts that deals with the idea that sun is nearer than moon. But it should not always be interpreted as the physical sun and moon as we use them now.


Explanation I:

The moon and sun in yogic parlance are related to the names of mandalas inside the human body. It is evident from many yoga scriptures that surya mandala comes before chandra mandala, which should not be confused with astronomical objects.

Consider the following paragraphs from the text named Tirumantiram by Tirumular for clarification

Paragraph 1

669: Beyond the Eight Siddhis in the Moon's Nectar

By eight-limbed yoga are Siddhis eight attained

When breath is in accord controlled;

But when Kundalini fire is through the Central Nadi coursed up,

And the Sun's mandala passed

Beyond that is the Moon's

Whence flow the ambrosia that may swilled be.

Paragraph 2

746: The Days it Takes the Yogi to Traverse Adharas and Mandalas

The days that take to pierce the Centers nine are this:

Twentieth day adharas six;

Twenty-fifth day Seventh Center of Fire Mandala

Twenty-sixth day the Eighth Center of Solar Mandala

Twenty-seventh day the Ninth Center of Lunar Mandala

--These the days for yogi's Prana to reach Centers nine

Since the mandala of surya(sun) is nearer to muladhara than chandra(moon), a yogi can reach surya mandala first and then chandra mandala, which is farther.


Explanation II:

The following are the words by swami Vivekananda, which expicitly states that the solar sphere is observable universe and the sphere next to observable universe is lunar sphere, which is not same as the moon.

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.

He explicitly told that This is not the moon at all probably to clarify the wrong interpretation of statements from scriptures that sun is nearer than moon to earth.

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  • This looks more like a comment on my answer than an answer to the question here. In the question, I did not mention anything about yoga, siddhi or mandala. – sv. Sep 3 '19 at 18:31
  • @sv. Yeah, question is asking answer from vedas only. Since the quote you provided from Wikipedia itself not authentic and hence I posted the relevant answer. I heard that sun and moon in Yoga should not be confused with sun and moon in sky. I will update it whenever i find it. Second point is that although you did not mention yoga in the question, the actual idea of sun nearer than moon came from yoga only... – hanugm Sep 4 '19 at 3:28
  • 'the actual idea of sun nearer than moon came from yoga only' - No, I think you are conflating the two. See the other answer: "Above the rays of the sunshine by a distance of 100,000 yojanas [800,000 miles] is the moon". It's talking about the physical world, the physical Moon and Sun, not yoga, chakras and other meta-physical concepts. – sv. Sep 4 '19 at 3:54
  • @sv. Okay, 1) The question by you is not explicitly citing any reference to the vedic slokha saying sun is nearer to moon (physically) 2) The answer by you is not saying about physical or yogic sun and moon explicitly (I hope yogic parlance can be applied here) 3) It seems that Keshav Srinivasan answer is more in to physical planets... I am not sure about the interpretation to his answer. But it can be another question that whether physical sun is nearer to physical moon. So, it may not come under your question... – hanugm Sep 4 '19 at 4:08
  • "But it can be another question that whether physical sun is nearer to physical moon. So, it may not come under your question" - this is what my question is, read it again. Brahmagupta was a mathematician, so why will he talk about yogic concepts in a maths book? Like I said, you're confusing my question with my answer. Your answer here is a commentary on my answer and doesn't answer my question about physical Moon & Sun. – sv. Sep 4 '19 at 16:03
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Brahmagupta is probably referring to the claim made in The Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad which suggests the departed soul first goes to the Sun because it's closer to Earth than the Moon:

Section X - The Path of the Departing Soul

Verse 5.10.1:

1. When a man departs from this world, he reaches the air, which makes an opening there for him like the hole of a chariot-wheel. He goes upwards through that and reaches the sun, who makes an opening there for him like the hole of a tabor. He goes upwards through that and reaches the moon, who makes an opening there for him like the hole of a drum. He goes upwards through that and reaches a world free from grief and from cold. He lives there for eternal years.

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The Moon that shastras are talking about is not the small satellite of Earth called modern Moon we see from Earth. This Moon is the higher adjacent orbital above the Sun that may/may not be perceived from this Earth. In the Vedic astrology there are 12 houses which are ruled by Sun and Moon while 10 houses are ruled by five planets twice. The arrangement is:

enter image description here

enter image description here

Vishnu Puran's astronomy (which Brahmagupta failed to understand) are talking about the arrangement of planetary orbits above Sun (situated at fifth plane/house in horoscope) and which are houses 11-4 and cant be seen from earth(because they are not luminaries unlike Suns/stars) but through yoga or astral travel, hence the same orbital planes reflect in the Vedic horoscope of everyone and in the same order.

The sphere of the earth (or Bhúr-loka), comprehending its oceans, mountains, and rivers, extends as far as it is illuminated by the rays of the sun and moon; and to the same extent, both in diameter and circumference, the sphere of the sky (Bhuvar-loka) spreads above it (as far upwards as to the planetary sphere, or Swar-loka). The solar orb is situated a hundred thousand leagues from the earth; and that of the moon an equal distance from the sun. At the same interval above the moon occurs the orbit of all the lunar constellations. The planet Budha (Mercury) is two hundred thousand leagues above the lunar mansions. Śukra (Venus) is at the same distance from Mercury. Angáraka (Mars) is as far above Venus; and the priest of the gods (Vrihaspati, or Jupiter) as far from Mars: whilst Saturn (Sani) is two hundred and fifty thousand leagues beyond Jupiter. The sphere of the seven Rishis (Ursa Major) is a hundred thousand leagues above Saturn; and at a similar height above the seven Rishis is Dhruva (the pole-star), the pivot or axis of the whole planetary circle.

5 - Hundred thousand leagues above earth = Sun of 5th orbital house/plane

4 - Hundred thousand leagues above Sun = Moon of 4th orbital house/plane

3 - Two hundred thousand leagues above Moon = Mercury of 3rd orbital house/plane

2 - Two hundred thousand leagues above Mercury = Venus of 2nd orbital house/plane

1 - Two hundred thousand leagues above Venus = Mars of 1st orbital house/plane

12 - Two hundred thousand leagues above Mars = Jupiter of 12th orbital house/plane

11 - Two hundred and fifty thousand leagues above Jupiter = Saturn of 11th orbital house/plane

Hundred thousand leagues above Saturn = Ursa Major

Hundred thousand leagues above Ursa Major = Pole Star Dhruva (434 light years from earth as per modern science)

while the houses from 6th to 10th house represent the orbital planes visible to modern science through the today's telescopes and reflected micro copies of above planets located between the Pole star's and the Sun's axis.

enter image description here

6 - Below Sun = Mercury of 6th orbital house/plane

7 - Below Mercury = Venus of 7th orbital house/plane

8 - Below Venus = Mars of 8th orbital house/plane

9 - Below Mars = Jupiter of 9th orbital house/plane

10 - Below Jupiter = Saturn of 10th orbital house/plane

Note that Vishnu Purana and BPHS are narrated by sage Parashara who is well-versed in astrology and astronomy. Further, earth's satellite Moon is rejected because its in the orbit of earth but not the Sun itself while Uranus, Neptune, Pluto etc., are rejected in astrology because they are not visible from earth and their macro copy doesnot exist between the Pole star and the Sun.

Wherever earthy substance exists, which may be traversed by the feet, that constitutes the sphere of the earth, the dimensions of which I have already recounted to you. The region that extends from the earth to the sun, in which the Siddhas and other celestial beings move, is the atmospheric sphere, which also I have described. The interval between the sun and Dhruva, extending fourteen hundred thousand leagues, is called by those who are acquainted with the system of the universe the heavenly sphere. These three spheres are termed transitory: the three highest, Jana, Tapa, and Satya, are styled durable.

Now, the axis between Pole Star and Sun with the above astrological planets of houses/orbital planes 11-4 is called Swarga/Swaha Loka or 5th loka out of 14 lokas while the earth is on 7th loka Bhura and the space between Sun and Earth is the 6th loka Bhuvan as explained in the Vishnu Puran. These three lokas i.e. Bhur-Bhuva-Swaha are occupied by humans, Pitras(ancestors) and Devas(Gods) souls respectively.

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