Cosmology of the Bhagavata Purana:
Current Research on History, Philosophy, and Science
November 17–19, 2023
“At the foundation of every civilization lies its view of the universe. All of the variegated manifestations of art and culture find their ultimate source and inspiration in how people see themselves in relation to the cosmos.”
Vedic Planetarium and Science Museum brochure (1994) Bhaktivedanta Institute San Diego
The Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies (BIHS) will host a new conference, “Cosmology of the Bhagavata Purana: Current Research on History, Philosophy, and Science,” on November 17–19, 2023. This event is a natural outgrowth of three prior BIHS cosmology workshops – “Puranic Cosmography: Taking the 5th…Canto!” (2019), “Models and Memes and Maps: A Modern Journey through Ancient Cosmography” (2020), and “The Nature of Spacetime and the Evolving Universe: Exploring Puranic Cosmology” (2022). These workshops examined traditional and contemporary studies of cosmological issues located in Sanskrit texts such as the Puranas (notably Srimad-Bhagavatam), the Jyotisa Sastras, and the Mahabharata. They have also inspired publications that feature recent work by ISKCON scholars, such as Purva-paksa: A journal featuring recent work by scholars associated with the Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies, Volume 1 (working title), and Vedic Cosmography in a Modern Context: Virodha-parihara Revisited. The November conference will invite established scholars from around the world to discuss academic analyses in discourse with internal cultural appreciations.
This conference seeks to pursue two goals: First, to fine-tune topics considered in previous workshops and expand research to include additional concerns. These seminars examined correlations between the esoteric cosmology described in the Puranas with both current and traditional conceptions of:
- The nature of spacetime: the origin and fate of the universe
- Contemporary cyclic universe scenarios
- Gravity: the mysterious attraction between all things
- Planetary motion and distances of celestial objects
- Geological time periods
- Jyotisa accounts of the cosmos
- Epistemology of Sankhya.
The second aim is to invite further discussion concerning the following themes:
History and philosophy of cosmology as it bears on the Puranic universe
- Epistemology and ontology of physical cosmology
- Cosmogenesis and the role of consciousness
- Comparative investigations into cyclic universe models of modern cosmology and the Puranas
Puranic and Siddhantic cosmology
- The historical tradition within contemporary discourse
- Models for the universe described in traditional Sanskrit literature
- What is the brahmanda?
- Exploration of specific Puranic metaphors, such as the sun-god’s chariot wheel and Bhu-mandala as a cosmic section
Archeoastronomy and chronology
- Antediluvian civilization
- Megalithic structures as astronomical observatories and sacrificial arenas
- Cross cultural themes in cosmology
Understanding science in sastra: epistemology and hermeneutics
- Faith–science debate / Sastra–science debate
- Determining later additions to Sanskrit texts through language analysis
A main objective of this conference is to network with established scholars familiar with Puranic and other ancient and modern cosmological constructs, with the aim to foster collaborative projects that can lead to a richer understanding of the Vedic view of the universe. This in turn will help develop productive narratives identified with the Puranas for ISKCON projects such as the Museum of the Vedic Planetarium, which will feature descriptions from traditional texts such as the Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The BIHS will publish proceedings to facilitate research intended for constructively exploring human experience in relation to the cosmos.
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