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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?

  • 3
    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
  • @sv. Then you didn't express that in the comment below answer... – Rakesh Joshi Oct 24 '18 at 13:09
  • @RakeshJoshi I didn't because an answerer can clarify what Wikipedia might be referring to. Another answer can still cite something from the Vedas. – sv. Oct 24 '18 at 13:13
  • @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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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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