In Vedic cosmology, the universe is comprised of Grahas which means “houses”. In modern cosmology, the universe is comprised of planets, which are balls of matter. This difference manifests in the English language, where it is appropriate to say that a person is in the house, whereas it is stated that people are living on the planet. I realized this difference when the grammar correcting tool I was using indicated that my phrase “in the planet” should be replaced by “on the planet”. This made me think about the differences between Grahas and planets, and this post discusses the nuances of this difference.
There is a significant difference between the ideas of Earth in Vedic and modern cosmologies. In Vedic cosmology, Earth is a “space” inside which a living entity is trapped, like a person under house imprisonment. Most people think that if you can travel from one country to another, then you are free. Similarly, if you can fly in the sky, then you are not trapped in the Earth. Indeed, if you can go into space or travel to the Moon, then certainly you are not bound to the Earth. In Vedic cosmology, instead, you can sit in a spaceship and travel for millions of years in space, and you would still be in the Earth (but not on the Earth).
To understand the Earth, we have to think of the mind. A material scientist can create hundreds of theories that vary in details, but as long as their essence is materialism, then science is “trapped inside materialism”. Materialism is the house, and the theory is a position inside the house. Different theories are like kitchen, bedroom, toilet, study, and so forth, but they are all inside the house.
These houses are infinite in one sense and finite in another. The house is infinite in the sense that there are infinite variations of thinking and perceiving within the same way of thinking and perceiving. This is quite like the ability to create infinite recipes within a certain class of cuisine—Indian, Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, etc. And the house is finite because a certain type of cuisine is only one of the infinite types of cuisines. Therefore, a planet is just like a culture or a cuisine. There is literally infinite variety in that culture or cuisine, and yet, that there are infinite things outside that culture or cuisine.
Therefore, being in the Graha is being inside a culture or cuisine. And transcending that Graha is going to another culture or cuisine. What Vedic cosmology calls the “Earth” is an earthly mindset in which most of the time is spent in three things–earning money, taking care of family, and social life. This kind of mentality doesn’t exist in the higher planetary systems. For instance, nobody in Svarga is going to an office, manufacturing goods, selling them in shops, earning an education or degree, creating innovations or technologies to solve the problems of day-to-day existence. Then what are they doing? They dance, walk in the park, listen to music, and write poetry and songs.
Svarga is infinite in the sense that there are infinite types of songs, gardens, dances, poetry, etc. There are many substyles of these, which are different parts of portions of Svarga. But Svarga is a mindset that life is meant to be lived idyllically. And Bhu-Loka means a mindset that life has to be lived as a struggle for survival. People in this Earthly mindset consider working hard a “natural thing” that everyone is supposed to do. Those living entities in Svarga may look at the Earthly beings and think—these guys are always suffering.
Thus, Svarga is infinite and Bhu-Loka is infinite. And yet they are finite because if you look at things from an outsider’s perspective, then the whole thing seems very insignificant and hence small. Only if you look at it from the inside, it seems infinite. A Graha is therefore infinite from the inside and finite from the outside. What Vedic cosmology calls Graha is a way of thinking, perceiving, intending, judging, moralizing, and enjoying. You can travel far and wide in this Graha, but if the basic style of thinking, perceiving, intending, judging, moralizing, and enjoying is unchanged, then you are still inside that house, trapped in a certain way of thinking, and hence bound within the Graha.
Liberation from that Graha is possible only if we change our way of thinking. When this thinking, perceiving, enjoying, and judging changes, then at the point of death, the soul is transferred to another “house” or Graha, which is another way of thinking. In that new kind of house, the body and mind are tuned to this new way of thinking, and everyone in that house is there because they have the same style of thinking. They get along with others with the same mindset.
Now, we can return to the difference between in and on. A Graha is a house in which you live, and that house looks infinite from the inside. Nevertheless, there is a core part of this house where most of the people live most of the time. That core part of the house is called the Earthly planet in modern science. You can compare this house to a subject like physics, where most of the physicists live in a small portion of all possible theories. Occasionally and rarely, there are some “far out” theories that can be looked at from a distance, but very few people truly believe in or accept such theories. Their “house” is physics, and there is a core part of the house where physicists mostly dwell.
What we call the Earth planet in modern science is the core part of the Earthly Graha. We can go far away from this place, and try to live on Mars or the Moon planets, but going there would not be outside the Earth Graha, although it would be outside the Earth planet. Going to the Moon planet (as seen from within the Earth Graha) is therefore different from going to the Moon Graha. Spaceship travel would not change our way of thinking, perceiving, intending, judging, moralizing, and enjoying. As an illustrative example, astronauts go into space and conduct the same kinds of experiments that people do on earth; they eat the same kind of food; watch the same kinds of entertainment; and talk in the same way. Even as they are far from Earth planet, they are still living inside the Earth Graha—where “in” means a certain flavor, style, and culture of life.
Conversely, those who are living on the Moon Graha are leading an idyllic life. There is no need to go to school, obtain a degree, get a job, open a bank account, save for old age, and die of diseases. There are some people who have finished their life in Svarga and have been reborn in human life on Earth. They get to lead an idyllic life of walk in the park, listening to music, composing poetry, and dancing. They are fortunate to lead a life resembling Svarga even in the Earth. But those people are rare. By looking at their life, we can imagine what Svarga is, but the fact is that even if that opportunity were afforded to people on Earth, most people will continue to want to struggle.
For instance, even if there is abundant food and natural life on Earth, the Earthly mindset will think about how to get more, compete, gather more out of greed, create technologies and businesses. They will not think about an idyllic life and how it is much better than a life of constant struggle. They will rather want to struggle as entrepreneurs, invest to profit, and create a superficial meaning of life out of this competitive struggle. Why? Because that is what Earth means. The struggle for survival is not just forced on us. It is rather what we think life itself is. If we don’t have a struggle, we will necessarily create one. Competition is not just an external necessity; it is an innate need.
Therefore, envisioning a Graha is envisioning an alternative lifestyle and thinking. It is not sitting on a rocket, going to a far-off place, just to replicate the same life of struggle that we are currently dwelling in. Unfortunately, most people think that going to another place in the universe is sitting on a rocket, rather than changing their way of thinking. That rocket travel is all the places inside the Earth Graha because Graha means the thinking that we are tied to.
Thus, the entire universe we observe from our current viewpoint is just Earth Graha. The Moon we see is not the Moon Graha. It is a reflection of the Moon Graha in our Earthly vision or Graha. Just as the picture or image of an apple exists in our head, but it is not the real apple, similarly, the Moon planet we see is not the Moon Graha. When life is envisioned in another way, then we can understand that there are millions of flavors of life, and different Grahas are places meant to fulfill those lifestyles. Then we will realize that the surface we call the Moon and is covered with craters, is not the Moon Graha. It is the Moon planet, inside the Earth Graha, and it currently lies uninhabited just like so many ideas in modern science are presently considered too far off to believe in. But even if we traveled to the moon, and settled a civilization there, with only minor changes to our lifestyle, then we would still be in the Earth Graha.
A Graha is an idea, a culture, and a mindset. And the “space” of the universe is not a collection of physical positions. It is the collection of all the varied ideas about how life has to be lived. That kind of space, where a position is an idea, is quite different from physical positions in space. However, since most people cannot imagine an alternate lifestyle, they think that the different places in the universe are accessible to us through rockets. They may fly for millions of years in rockets, but they will always be inside the Earth Graha.